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U.S. Strikes Explosive-Laden Automobile in Kabul

WASHINGTON — A U.S. navy drone strike blew up a automobile laden with explosives in Kabul on Sunday, Protection Division officers mentioned, hours after President Biden had warned that one other terrorist assault in opposition to the Afghan capital’s airport was “extremely possible.”

The strike, which got here two days earlier than Mr. Biden’s deadline to withdraw from the nation, eradicated an imminent risk to Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport from the Islamic State Khorasan group, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command mentioned. The group had claimed accountability for the suicide bombing on the airport on Thursday that killed 13 American service members and as many as 170 civilians.

The spokesman, Capt. Invoice City, mentioned that Central Command was conscious of stories of civilian casualties after the strike on Sunday.

“We all know that there have been substantial and highly effective subsequent explosions ensuing from the destruction of the automobile, indicating a considerable amount of explosive materials inside that will have prompted further casualties,” he mentioned. “It’s unclear what could have occurred, and we’re investigating additional.”

He added, “We might be deeply saddened by any potential lack of harmless life.”

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, mentioned that civilians had suffered casualties within the strike and {that a} home had been focused. “We’re investigating the rationale of the airstrike and the precise variety of casualties,” he mentioned.

The strike adopted a retaliatory strike on Friday for the suicide bombing, which was one of many deadliest within the almost 20 years for the reason that U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Earlier on Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul had mentioned that there was a “particular, credible risk” to the airport space. State Division officers have issued a number of related warnings in latest days.

A U.S. official mentioned the navy shot down rockets utilizing a counter-rocket system after 5 had been aimed on the Kabul airport on Monday. There have been no preliminary stories of casualties, and the airport remained open, based on the official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate operational particulars.

As American troops transfer to finish their withdrawal, the Pentagon has shifted its focus from vetting and airlifting Afghan and American civilians to bringing its personnel house. On the similar time, U.S. intelligence sources are refining goal websites for attainable drone strikes on suspected Islamic State militants, specifically suicide bombers aiming to assault the airport.

The strike on Sunday, which was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone working from a base within the United Arab Emirates, demonstrated the diploma to which American intelligence officers have refined their goal checklist, protection officers mentioned. A Hellfire missile fired from the Reaper hit the automobile roughly two miles from the airport, a navy official mentioned.

Primarily based on the secondary explosions after the drone strike, the navy assessed that there have been one to 3 individuals within the automobile sporting explosive vests. There could have been different explosives within the automotive, making it a vehicle-borne bomb itself, two protection officers mentioned.

Previously 24 hours, the US has evacuated about 2,000 individuals on navy transport planes, together with greater than 100 Americans. The navy decided that there have been nonetheless about 250 People in Kabul who had expressed a want to go away.

Jake Sullivan, the nationwide safety adviser, talking on “Fox Information Sunday,” mentioned the variety of Americans in Kabul could also be nearer to 300. “There are some individuals who have chosen, to this point, to not depart and that’s their proper,” he mentioned.

“They aren’t going to be caught in Afghanistan” after Tuesday, Mr. Sullivan added. “We’re going to be certain that now we have a mechanism to get them in another country ought to they select sooner or later to come back house.”

Navy officers mentioned that that they had no indication that Mr. Biden would ask the navy to remain previous Tuesday to get extra People or weak Afghans in another country.

However the drone strike on Sunday demonstrated how harmful the final two days in America’s 20-year struggle could be, protection officers acknowledged. The strike follows the one on Friday on a automobile in Nangarhar Province, close to the Pakistan border, which the Pentagon press secretary, John F. Kirby, mentioned killed two “high-profile” Islamic State militants — one a “planner” and one a “facilitator.”