President Joe Biden declared that the Islamic extremists behind the Kabul attacks that resulted in dozens of American and Afghan deaths will be brought to justice.
Muslim terrorists launched two attacks in Kabul aimed at people trying to flee the country, killing 13 U.S. Marines and one Navy Corpsman and at least 60 Afghan civilians, as well as wounding scores of others.
The White House remained silent for several hours after the terror attacks, with Biden's Press Secretary Jen Psaki canceling the noon press corps briefing until after the president's speech at 5:25 p.m. Eastern time.
At a press conference held in the East Room of the White House on Thursday evening, Biden directly addressed those behind the attacks, believed to be an Islamic State group known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).
The president declared: “we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
“We will not forgive, we will not forget,” said Biden. “I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command.”
“[Our commanders on the ground] made it clear that we can and we must complete this mission and we will," the president said. "And that’s what I have ordered them to do. We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.”
Biden said he has ordered American military leaders to coordinate attacks on ISIS-K, stressing that “we will respond with force and precision." He added that “these ISIS terrorists will not win.”
The president also hailed the U.S. Armed Forces, holding a moment of silence for those who lost their lives. The Catholic politician quoted a line from the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
“American military has been answering for a long time. ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me,’” he continued. “Each one of these women and men of our Armed Forces are the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice of volunteering to go into harm’s way, to risk everything; not for glory, not for profit, but to defend what we love and the people we love.”
Biden also said the Taliban has a “mutual self-interest” in getting people out of Afghanistan and defeating ISIS. He said there is “no evidence of collusion” between the two groups, but many military experts disagree.
During a Q&A the president confirmed that the U.S. has indeed given the Taliban a list of Afghan allies, U.S. citizens and green card holders they want to be evacuated, a move that some defense experts fear will lead to the torture and execution of many Afghans.
On Thursday, a suicide bomber carried out the first attack near the Abbey Gate entrance to Hamid Karzai International Airport where Afghans and Westerners are boarding flights to flee the country. Over 104,000 civilians, mostly Afghans, have been evacuated by the U.S. and its allies since Aug. 14.
The second attack was a car bomb near the Baron Hotel, which is near the Abbey Gate and where British troops process Afghans before boarding flights out of the country. It's also where 169 U.S. citizens were rescued last week after they were unable to make it through the Taliban checkpoints.
For its part, the Taliban condemned the suicide attacks in Kabul that occurred because the terrorist group allowed ISIS-K suicide bombers to pass through their checkpoints, enabling them to carry out the mass killings.
“We strongly condemn this gruesome incident and will take every step to bring the culprits to justice,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Many have been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of American personnel and Afghan sympathizers. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chair of the House Republican Conference, claimed that “Biden has blood on his hands.”
“The buck stops with the President of the United States. This horrific national security and humanitarian disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden’s weak and incompetent leadership. He is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,” tweeted Stefanik.
In a poll taken after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the Trafalgar Group found that nearly 70% of likely U.S. voters disapproved of Biden’s handling of the situation.