Afghanistan: Rockets fired at Kabul airport as US approaches withdrawal deadline
Aug. 30, 2021: Rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday as US troops raced to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuate allies under threat from ISIS attacks.
President Joe Biden has set a Tuesday deadline for the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, drawing attention to his nation’s longest-running military conflict, which began in response to the 9/11 attacks.
The flights, which have evacuated more than 120,000 people from Kabul airport, will officially end on Tuesday when the last withdrawal of thousands of US troops takes place.
But US forces are now focused on getting themselves and US diplomats out safely. The ISIS group, a rival of the Taliban, is the biggest threat to evacuation after a suicide bombing near the airport last weekend that killed more than 100 people, including 13 US soldiers.
Biden warned that more attacks were likely, and the United States said it carried out an airstrike on an ISIS-made car bomb in Kabul on Sunday night. Rockets were then fired at the airport on Monday morning.
The White House confirmed that the airport had been hit by a rocket, but said operations were “uninterrupted.”
“The president has reaffirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the White House said in a statement.
Taliban official at the scene said he believed five rockets had been fired, and all were destroyed by the airport’s missile defence systems.
While there were no reports of fatalities or airport damage from the rocket attacks, they caused greater anxieties for locals already traumatised by years of war.
Last week’s suicide bombing at the airport led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.
The ISIS threat has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.
On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance. “He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
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