Aug. 27 (UPI) — The U.S. military continued to evacuate thousands of people from Kabul on Friday, where crowds of Afghan civilians desperate to escape rising violence returned a day after two suicide bombings killed dozens, including U.S. service members.
Evacuations were disrupted for a time on Thursday after bombers from the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, an offshoot of the Islamic State terror group, attacked a gate at the airport and a nearby hotel.
There are still thousands of Americans and Afghan supporters in Afghanistan hoping to leave the country. Evacuations on Friday ramped up ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s deadline to complete the withdrawal on Tuesday.
The White House said Friday that 12,500 more people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since Thursday morning. The evacuees were taken by 35 military flights and more than 50 coalition flights.
The administration said U.S. forces have evacuated about 105,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14.
U.S. officials said 13 American troops were killed in Thursday’s explosions, which came as U.S. and coalition officials were expecting a possible terrorist attack.
Authorities say IS-K is a rival group to the Taliban, which now govern Afghanistan, and likely carried out the attack to embarrass U.S. forces and Taliban rulers.
Up to 170 people were killed in the attacks and dozens more were hurt.
U.S. officials say they are preparing for more potential violence at the airport in Kabul and elsewhere from IS-K or other militant factions.
In a national address Thursday, Biden stuck to his plan to complete the evacuations by Tuesday, but promised that the suicide attacks would not go unpunished.
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive,” Biden said. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
When asked Friday what Biden specifically meant by the state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied bluntly.
“I think he made clear yesterday that he did not want them to live on the Earth anymore,” she told reporters.
She added that she didn’t think Biden would require congressional authorization to retaliate for the attack.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the attacks will not stop the U.S. military from completing the evacuations.
“We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” Lloyd said, according to The New York Times. “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”
“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue,” U.S. Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said, according to The Washington Post.
Psaki said the United States was working to determine a mechanism to evacuate any other Americans or Afghan allies who still want to leave the country after the Aug. 31 deadline. Ultimately, she said, “I don’t think we can guarantee” their removal.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced Friday that three more U.S. military bases will temporarily house Afghan refugees.
“Today the Department of Defense can announce that it has authorized Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Fort Pickett, Va., and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to provide additional support to the U.S. mission to evacuate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their fanilies and other at-risk individuals,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.