Several rockets were fired on Monday at Kabul airport, on the penultimate day in Afghanistan of US troops, rushing to complete evacuations amid threats of further attacks.
The jihadist group Islamic State of the Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for these attacks. “Caliphate soldiers attacked Kabul International Airport with six rockets,” the group said in a statement.
In the morning, AFP staff at Kabul had heard the noise of rockets flying over the Afghan capital, but then without being able to specify their origin or their objective.
A senior security official who worked for the government toppled two weeks ago by the Taliban had indicated that the rockets had been fired from a vehicle in northern Kabul, where the airfield is located.
Residents near the airport confirmed that they heard the sound of the missile defense system being activated and that they saw shrapnel falling from the sky, indicating that at least one rocket was intercepted.
The White House, which confirmed the attack, assured that the evacuation continued without interruption.
Threats against the Kabul airport remain “real” and “concrete,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.
“Now we are in a particularly dangerous moment”. Kirby told reporters. “The threats are still real, they are active, and in some cases they are very specific.”
US Army General Hank Taylor said that since August 14 more than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul, including 5,400 Americans.
US President Joe Biden set Tuesday, August 31, as the deadline to withdraw his forces from Afghanistan and culminate two decades of a military operation launched in retaliation for the attacks of September 11, 2001.
But US troops are now more focused on their own exit and that of their country’s diplomats.
“The president reconfirmed the order that commanders redouble their efforts to do whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the White House said in a statement.
WHO medical aid
The return of the Islamist movement of the Taliban to power, from which they were expelled in 2001, triggered an exodus of terrified Afghans trying to flee thanks to a huge airlift led by Washington.
A plane with medical aid from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Afghanistan on Monday, the first since the country is in the hands of the Taliban.
In a statement, the WHO said that the plane, provided by the Pakistani government, arrived at Mazar-i-Sharif from Dubai with 12.5 tons of medicines and medical supplies on board.
It is the first shipment of medical supplies to land in Afghanistan since the country is under Taliban control, the WHO said.
The group Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K), rival of Taliban, poses a significant threat on this final stretch, as demonstrated by the suicide attack on the airport on Thursday, which claimed more than 100 lives, including those of 13 US soldiers.
An AFP photographer on Monday captured images of a destroyed vehicle with a device still visible in the back seat.
The car was hit by a US drone attack 2 km from the airport.
During the war in Afghanistan, the United States was accused of killing civilians in its airstrikes, one of the reasons that led them to lose local support. The same thing could have happened on Sunday.
In recent years, the IS branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan has carried out some of the worst attacks in these countries, massacring civilians in mosques, squares, schools and hospitals.
Although both the Taliban and the IS are radical Sunni movements, they maintain a deep enmity and both claim to be the true standard bearers of the Jihad (Islamic holy war).
Thursday’s bombing, the deadliest blow against the United States in Afghanistan since 2011, pushed the Taliban and US forces to strengthen their cooperation to protect the airport.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the passenger terminal, handing them over to US soldiers for evacuation.
Return of the Taliban leader
The radical Islamist movement, which had given refuge to the jihadist group Al Qaeda, promises to offer a more moderate version of the fundamentalist regime they imposed between 1996 and 2001.
Many Afghans, especially those who worked with the foreign missions or the overthrown government, do not believe in this new Taliban version and tried to flee in the evacuation operation deployed by the Western powers.
On Sunday, the Taliban revealed that their supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, was in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, and planned to offer a public appearance soon.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.