A U.S. airstrike killed a member of the Islamic State”s affiliate in Afghanistan early on Saturday in retaliation for a suicide bombing at Kabul airport that killed 13 Americans and scores of Afghans.
A U.S. defence official told AP that the drone strike came as a further attack was being planned by the militant group against the airport, where a mass evacuation of refugees is currently underway.
President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, 20 years after the American-led invasion of the country following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
U.S. Central Command said the drone strike was conducted in Nangahar province against an IS member believed to be involved in planning attacks in Kabul.
It is not clear if the individual was involved directly in the suicide bombing outside the gates of Kabul airport on Thursday, as crowds of Afghans desperately tried to join the ongoing evacuation.
Biden declared Thursday that perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide.
“We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
But officials have also warned that further attacks are likely as the U.S. withdrawal progresses.
“[The Pentagon] advised the president and vice president that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
On Friday, the self-proclaimed acting president of Afghanistan told Euronews that Taliban rule won’t last long because their methods are “unacceptable to the people”.
Amrullah Saleh was vice president before the Taliban takeover earlier this month, which prompted President Ashraf Ghani to flee.
Saleh, speaking from the Panjshir Valley, an area of the country not currently under Taliban control, told Euronews: “The law of the Taliban is Islamic Emirate, unacceptable to the people of Afghanistan and the election of a leader by a group is unacceptable. It is impossible for Taliban rule to last long in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, Italy’s final evacuation flight of refugees from Afghanistan has landed at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.
The Italian Air Force C-130J with 58 Afghan citizens aboard arrived Saturday morning, some 17 hours after it departed from the Kabul airport and after a planned stopover.
Also aboard were Italy’s consul and a NATO diplomat who had coordinated evacuations at the Kabul airport.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy was prepared to work with the United Nations and with countries bordering Afghanistan on what he described as the “more difficult phase.”