With just hours to go before the August 31 deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. citizens, allies, and military from Afghanistan, the situation at Kabul airport is deteriorating quickly. In the early hours of Monday morning (August 30), several rockets were launched from a vehicle, apparently aimed directly at the troops overseeing the evacuation. Reports state that the C-RAM missile defense system intercepted the projectiles and that no injuries were recorded. But as the clock ticks down, the very real danger of one final parting blow against American forces becomes all too present.
Just hours earlier, a U.S. drone strike took out a vehicle that was initially believed to contain a large amount of explosives. U.S. Central Command later issued a statement, saying, “We are confident we successfully hit the target.” It continued, “Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time.” Government sources now suggest that the vehicle was transporting “multiple” suicide bombers.
Reports from on the ground in Kabul say the drone strike killed a number of locals. According to a CNN journalist based in Afghanistan, nine members of one family were killed, the youngest being just two years old. A neighbor said that “We are not ISIS or Daesh, and this was a family home — where my brothers lived with their families.”
Captain Bill Urban, of U.S. Central Command, said that “We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties. It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further.” He added, “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
A spokesman for the Taliban released a statement condemning the strike, saying it was “not right to conduct operations on others’ soil.”
A Final Rebuke
While American and allied military personnel are focused on leaving the airfield with as little risk to outbound planes as possible, the numerous insurgent terror groups operating just outside the perimeter appear keen to strike a final blow to the retreat. Not only would such an attack be considered a warning, but it would also be a significant propaganda victory for the attackers … especially as no serious retaliation could take place.
Due to the certitude of the Biden administration that all personnel must be off the ground before September 1 and the news that a regular diplomatic presence would not remain in Kabul, it will prove challenging to evacuate the American citizens and the Afghan allies who are not lifted out in time. Any open retaliation for attacks launched in the next 24 hours could have grave consequences for those left behind.
Read more from Mark Angelides.