President Joe Biden on Thursday vowed to make terrorists “pay” for the deadly attacks that killed a dozen U.S. service members and wounded many others when ISIS militants set off multiple bombs outside of Kabul’s main airport earlier in the day.
“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,” Biden said during an evening news conference. “I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command.”
The president said that he believes the U.S. knows who the attackers are and that the military will “get them, wherever they are.” Biden said he told his commanders he would grant additional forces if needed to respond to the latest attacks, while acknowledging there might be more to come. But for the time being, he said military leaders had agreed to stick to the mission as designed.
“I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities,” the president said. “We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and a moment of our choosing. Here’s what you need to know. These ISIS terrorists will not win.”
“We have some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today,” Biden said. “You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out. My heart aches for you, and I know this. We have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you, families of those heroes.”
The president went on to say the U.S. would complete its mission to get “as many people out” as possible while meeting the tight Aug. 31 deadline. When pressed on what he would say to Afghan allies who may not get out in time, he replied: “We’re going to continue to try to get them out. It matters.”
“We will not be deterred by terrorists,” Biden said. “We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.”
The Thursday attacks also wounded at least 15 troops, the Pentagon said, targeting the area outside of Kabul’s airport where thousands of people have gathered amid a massive evacuation effort. Videos from the scene viewed by POLITICO showed dozens of bodies splayed outside of the airport, and the reported death toll continues to rise — at least 60 Afghans were killed and more than 140 others were wounded in the bombing, according to The Associated Press.
Biden praised the troops for conducting an evacuation “unlike any seen in history,” while acknowledging that the operation has been “messy.”
“I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late,” Biden said, before taking a jab at his predecessor. The reason the U.S. didn’t see any attacks under former President Donald Trump, Biden said in response to a reporter’s question, was because Trump struck a deal with the Taliban to have U.S. troops exit by May 1.