U.S. drone targets car bomb in Kabul 2 days before exit deadline

By Allen Cone & Darryl Coote
Smoke billows at the scene after an explosion near the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Photo by EPA-EFE
1 of 5 | Smoke billows at the scene after an explosion near the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. Photo by EPA-EFE

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Two days before the deadline for removing all U.S. personnel from Afghanistan, evacuations from the Middle Eastern country decreased and the Kabul capital was rocked with an explosion close to the airport in a drone's defensive strike of a suspected car bomb.

The bomb caused a significant secondary explosion and revealed a substantial amount of explosive material linked to Islamic State-Khorasan Province, CNN and The Washington Post reported.


"U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport," said Capt. Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesman.

"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats."


Images and video showed dark smoke billowing from a house or compound in a mainly residential area.

The vehicle was next to a building and contained one suicide bomber, a U.S. official told CNN.

Late Saturday night, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs issued an immediate warning for U.S. citizens to evacuate areas near the Kabul airport due to a "specific, credible threat."

The Taliban, which has taken over Afghanistan, condemned the drone strike.

Bilal Kareemi, a Taliban spokesperson, told CNN that it was "not right to conduct operations on others' soil," and U.S. should have informed the Taliban of the decision.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, confirmed that two "high-profile ISIS targets" were killed Friday during a drone strike undertaken in Afghanistan.

Approximately 2,900 people were evacuated from the capitol Kabul from 3 a.m. EDT Saturday to 3 a.m. ET Sunday, the White House announced. They were carried out by 32 U.S. military flights, which carried approximately 2,200 evacuees, and nine coalition flights with 700 people.

From Friday into Saturday, approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday at a briefing slowing evacuation numbers would coincide with the retrograde process.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the administration is still actively working to evacuate about 250 American citizens from Afghanistan who have indicated that they want to leave the country.

About 50 evacuations of Americans took place in the past day for a total of 5,500.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Sunday that President Joe Biden has tapped the department to lead coordinating efforts to resettle vulnerable Afghans.

The interagency unified coordination group will be led by Robert Fenton Jr., who served as a regional Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator since 2015, to conduct immigration processing, COVID-19 testing and resettlement support, the department said in a statement.

"This mission reflects the best of who we are as a country and our department is honored by the trust the president has placed in us," Mayorkas said.

Meanwhile, dozens of countries on Sunday committed to continuing with evacuating fleeing nationals and Afghans from the Middle Eastern country.

In a statement, 98 countries, including the United States, said they are committed to "ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan."


The countries said the Taliban have reassured them that all foreign nationals and Afghans with travel authorization will be allowed to depart the country.

"We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries," they said.

Blinken also told ABC news the United States will not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Tuesday. He said re-opening the embassy will depend on the Taliban's behavior "in the weeks and months ahead."

Biden attended the dignified transfer of American service members killed in Thursday's attack at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

In a statement, Biden praised the 13 service members killed in the attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, saying they were "heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far."

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