The hunt is on for the ISIS terrorists behind the suicide bombing that killed 13 American service members at the Kabul airport — and the US is prepared to take military action against them, Gen. Frank McKenzie said Friday.
“If we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them,” McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said at a press conference held by the Pentagon. “We are prepared to take action. 24-7 we are looking for them.”
US troops will use unmanned drones and airplanes around the airport’s perimeter, and work with the Taliban on road closures to stop future bombings, he said.
“We have extremely active threats against the airfield,” he said, adding anticipated attacks may involve rockets, suicide vests and car bombs. “The pattern is multiple attacks and we want to be prepared for that.”
McKenzie’s “working assumption” is that a single person was passing through a security gate leading to the Kabul airport Thursday when they detonated a suicide vest — sparking the devastating blast.
But the attacks won’t change the US plan to leave Afghanistan Aug. 31 and to evacuate thousands of Americans in the meantime, McKenzie said.
“Our number one mission is to get as many American citizens and other evacuees out as possible,” he said. “ISIS will not deter us from accomplishing our mission, I can assure you that.”
At least 111,000 people have been evacuated from the Kabul airport since Aug. 14, the week the Taliban took control of the city, US officials said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Friday it will open more military bases to temporarily house 50,000 Afghan nationals who are applying for Special Immigrant Visas or are found to be at risk.
“The Defense Department will continue to support the State Department in providing temporary housing, sustainment and support inside the United States for a capacity of up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at-risk individuals,” Kirby said at a briefing.
Roughly 7,000 Special Visa Applicants are already being processed in the US, he said.