After nearly 20 years, U.S. armed forces officially withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. 31, 2021. This withdrawal marks the end of the longest war in U.S. history, which began in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On Thursday, Aug. 26, a suicide bomber denoted a bomb at the Abbey Gate in the already chaotic scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed thirteen U.S. service members and left at least one-hundred and seventy Afghans dead. This bomb attack, which was carried out by the terrorist group known as “ISIS-K,” was followed by an assault led by gunmen.
It is still unknown how a person carrying a bomb was able to get through a Taliban checkpoint and come into such close proximity with U.S Marine Officers. In the wake of the swift collapse of Kabul, the U.S. military has been working around the clock to evacuate U.S. citizens and those Afghans who helped America in the last twenty years, but those on the ground in Kabul have described the work as extremely dangerous. Marines have been left with no choice but to push through large crowds of desperate people in order to sort through who has the proper paperwork and credentials to be evacuated.
The suicide bomber is believed to have been wearing an atypically larger bomb vest. Most average around 10 to 20 pounds, but the one denoted at the Abbey Gate is believed to have been about 25 pounds. The bomb unleashed lethal pieces of metal shrapnel that wounded at least 15 other U.S. service members and many other Afghans in the crowd.
In the wake of the attack, President Biden addressed the nation, poignantly declaring, “To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” In line with Biden’s remarks, the military announced late Friday evening that it had carried out a drone attack against an ISIS-K target in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. United States Navy Captain Bill Urban said initial calculations indicate that the unnamed target was killed and no known civilian casualties have taken place. This airstrike carried out by the United States is believed to have been “preemptive” according to military officials. They believe that this individual was planning more attacks in Kabul.
In the wake of Thursday’s bombings, crowds, though noticeably smaller than in days past, continued to swell outside the airport on Friday, as desperate Afghans and stranded American citizens tried to evacuate before the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden. Some describe standing in sewage and seeing “blood and pieces of flesh and torn-off clothes on the ground” as they waited outside the airport. Until Tuesday’s deadline, the mission of American service members remained extremely dangerous, and the threat of more attacks, officials have warned, is imminent.
On Friday in the early afternoon, the bodies of the 13 U.S. service members were flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. President Biden has said that the lives lost “were given in the service of liberty, the service of security, and the service of others. Like their fellow brothers and sisters in arms who have died defending our vision and our values in the struggle against terrorism, of the fallen this day, they are part of a great noble company of American heroes.”
Prior to the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, officials at the Pentagon acknowledged that evacuating all American citizens and Afghan allies still in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly unlikely. The American evacuation mission at the airport in Kabul remained a rapidly evolving situation through Aug. 31 deadline. Following the deadline, the Biden administration stated that “90 percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave” before the deadline. As for the remaining 10 percent, President Biden stated that the U.S. officials “remain committed to get them out if they want to come out.”