US begins reprisal attacks despite thousands still stranded in Afghanistan
The strike came at a time hundreds of Americans and Afghan allies remain stranded in the strife-torn country, raising the specter of a hostage situation. Washington was also undeterred by intelligence projections that there could be more suicide bombings at Kabul airport, causing US officials to advice its nationals and allies to avoid coming to the airport.
"US military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner," Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for the US Central Command, said in a statement on Friday, adding, "Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties."
It was not clear if the so-called planner specifically played a role in organising or carrying out the airport attack. US defense officials later told CNN that the planner was "associated with potential future attacks at the airport," and his home was surveilled until his wife and children left before the Drone strike was ordered.
The drone attack came even as US and Nato allies appeared to have pulled the plug on the formal Kabul airlift because of a combination of suicide bombing threats, US and its allies advising their citizens not to come to the airport, and Taliban cutting off access.
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Fissures between the US and its allies seemed to grow deeper over Washington botching the withdrawal, and the Biden administration continued to get a roasting at home, including from lower rank US military personnel seething with anger over the loss of their colleagues.
A Marine officer who posted a video on social media calling out senior leaders for the fiasco in Afghanistan was relieved of command, and Republican critics of the President continued to make a case for his impeachment, resignation, and removal from office, citing poor decision making.
In a video post that went viral, Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a 17-year veteran in the Marines, castigated the US military leadership for vacating Bagram military base before evacuating everyone, saying, “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up'."
Announcing that Scheller was being relieved of his duties due to a "loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command," a Marine spokesman told the media that there is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.
"This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine," the spokesman said.
At the back end of the airlift process, thousands of Afghan evacuees are having to spend 10-12 hours in incoming aircraft parked on the tarmac of Washington Dulles airport as US immigration officials are struggling to improvise a screening system that will ensure a safe passage into American society.
The US has airlifted more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan in August, with many of them undergoing processing in third countries before they are moved to America. Some 14000 Afghan refugees have been flown into Washington, and after immigration clearance, they are being housed in military bases and warehouses pending integration into the US -- a prospect that has caused disquiet in the anti-immigration right-wing.
Former President Donald Trump, who initially said "civilians and others who have been good to our Country ... should be allowed to seek refuge," changed tack this week, asking, "How many terrorists will Joe Biden bring to America?"
August 28, 2021, 5:45 pm