U.S. Conducts Airstrike On ISIS-K Planner In Afghanistan After Kabul Attack, Pentagon Says

Topline

The U.S. military said Friday it carried out an airstrike against Islamic State-Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K or IS-K, likely retaliating against the Afghan-based terror group after it bombed the Kabul airport Thursday and killed 13 American troops plus over 100 civilians who were attempting to flee the country.

Key Facts

The strike targeted a planner for IS-K located in Afghanistan’s northeastern Nangarhar Province, an area IS-K once used as a stronghold, Capt. Bill Urban from U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Urban says the strike — which he called an unmanned “over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation” — appeared to kill its target.

No civilian casualties are known, Urban added.

Key Background

An attack Thursday by a suicide bomber at an entrance to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the U.S. is conducting a massive air evacuation operation, killed 13 U.S. service members, the Pentagon says, and multiple news outlets say over 160 civilians were killed. The Pentagon blamed the bombing on Islamic State, whose Afghan affiliate is known as IS-K and treats both the United States and the Taliban as adversaries, and the group quickly took credit for the deadly attack afterward. President Joe Biden vowed to retaliate Thursday: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said in a speech.

What To Watch For

More strikes. The United States is pulling its final troops from Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending its 20-year-long military presence in the country. But despite the withdrawal, Biden administration officials said they would maintain the ability to conduct “over-the-horizon” strikes against terrorist groups in Afghanistan, likely relying on a U.S. base in another country.

Tangent

The United States has struck IS-K targets for years, often with the help of the former U.S.-backed Afghan government or part of a tacit cooperation with the Taliban.

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