U.S. drone strike kills two high-profile ISIS members following deadly attack in Kabul

Key Points
  • The Pentagon said the strike targeted two ISIS-K members believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul.
  • Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said that there were no known civilian casualties from the strike.
U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby (R) and Army Major General William Taylor (L), Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, participate in a news briefing at the Pentagon on August 23, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Saturday that two high-profile ISIS-K targets were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan. The development comes less than two days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul's airport, resulting in the deaths of 13 American service members.

The Pentagon said the strike targeted two ISIS-K members believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said Saturday that there were no known civilian casualties following the strike.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. did not notify nor coordinate with the Taliban ahead of the strike. He added that the Defense Department did not notify other countries in the region nor U.S. lawmakers.

The latest revelation comes as Western forces complete a colossal humanitarian evacuation mission, which is slated to end in three days.

"We are going to complete this mission by the end of the month," Kirby said, adding "nothing has changed about the timeline for us."

"We will do this in as safe and orderly way as possible and that includes being able to continue to evacuate right up until the end," Kirby said.

The Pentagon also confirmed that the U.S. military in Kabul has begun its retrograde, or withdrawal, process from the country. Kirby said that less than 5,000 service members remain in the country, adding that the U.S. would no longer provide an exact number due to security conditions.

In the last 24 hours, Western forces evacuated 6,800 people out of Kabul on 66 military cargo aircraft flights. Since the mass evacuations began on August 14, approximately 111,900 people have been airlifted out of Afghanistan.

About 117,500 people have been evacuated since the end of July, including about 5,400 U.S. citizens and their families.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday that approximately 500 Americans are still seeking evacuation.

Evacuees wait to board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 23, 2021.
Sgt. Isaiah Campbell | U.S. Marine Corps | via Reuters

President Joe Biden has previously said that ISIS-K posed a growing threat to the airport, adding that this was why the United States will withdraw its military from Afghanistan by the end of the month.

"I've repeatedly said this mission was extraordinarily dangerous, and that's why I've been so determined to limit the duration of this mission," Biden said Thursday at the White House.

"We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation," Biden said, adding "America will not be intimidated."

Biden addresses ISIS-K attacks outside airport in Kabul, Afghanistan

Biden addressed those responsible for the attack, saying, "We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay." The president said that he ordered the Pentagon to "develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities."

"We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and at the moment of our choosing," Biden said, indicating that the U.S. had leads on the ISIS-K leaders who ordered the attack.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the president's national security team warned on Friday that "another terrorist attack in Kabul is likely." She added that U.S. military commanders on the ground "are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul Airport."