WASHINGTON — It was precisely what President Biden feared most.
His resolution to finish America’s longest conflict was pushed, he had stated repeatedly, by his dedication to not sacrifice even yet one more member of the army on behalf of an effort he had lengthy believed was not within the pursuits of the United States.
But on Thursday morning, the withdrawal he set in movement claimed the lives of 13 U.S. troops, together with scores of Afghan civilians — the primary American casualties in Afghanistan in 18 months and the deadliest day there for the U.S. army since 2011.
In searing remarks from the East Room of the White House Thursday night, Mr. Biden pledged to “hunt down” the terrorists who claimed credit score for the bombings on the Kabul airport however stated the frantic, harmful evacuation of U.S. residents and allies from Afghanistan would proceed for a number of extra days.
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive,” Mr. Biden stated, utilizing language that had grim echoes of warnings President George W. Bush made after the terrorist assaults on Sept. 11, 2001. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
America’s tumultuous exit from Afghanistan has dragged down Mr. Biden’s approval rankings, and the bombings on Thursday certainly will open him as much as political criticism. But it was unclear what the injury could be to his presidency in the long run, as he exits a conflict that almost all Americans need out of as effectively.
Before the assaults, the president’s aides stated privately that they didn’t imagine there could be long-term political injury to Mr. Biden, particularly because the army efficiently evacuated greater than 100,000 folks in lower than two weeks. But the deaths of American service members — and scores of Afghans — may scramble these calculations.
The president’s Republican critics seized on the bombings and vowed to carry him accountable for the results of his resolution to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
“It was the direct result of horribly misguided decisions from President Biden. This demands painful accountability,” stated Representative John Katko of New York, the highest Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. “Our commander in chief has been missing in action and has failed to rise to this pivotal moment in our history.”
Few Democratic lawmakers jumped to defend Mr. Biden within the hours after the assaults. Instead, most expressed grief over the lack of life in Kabul.
“I am angered by the despicable terrorist attacks at Hamid Karzai Airport,” stated Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island. “Today’s loss of life is tragic.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks in regards to the bombings hours after the Pentagon confirmed suicide bombers had inflicted the deadliest assault on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in a decade. He expressed “heartache” for what he described as “a tough day,” and stated he had requested his commanders to focus on ISIS-Okay, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, which claimed duty for the assaults.
“We will respond with force and precision, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing,” he stated.
Mr. Biden hailed the sacrifice of the troopers, 12 of whom had been Marines, who misplaced their lives, and the 18 different American service members who had been injured within the blasts, even because the army labored to hold out his resolution to completely withdraw from Afghanistan.
He pledged that the United States would uphold its “sacred obligation” to the households of the fallen in Afghanistan, calling those that died within the assaults “heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”
Mr. Biden stated that as president, he bore duty for “all that’s happened,” however he once more denied that his resolution to withdraw forces by the tip of the summer time led inevitably to the chaotic scenes of evacuation on the airport, or to the deaths by the hands of the terrorists.
“I had only one alternative: pour thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan,” he stated. “I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan.”
But that’s unlikely to fulfill his critics, together with some members of his personal social gathering, who disagreed with the way in which Mr. Biden introduced an finish to the conflict.
Aug. 26, 2021, 9:44 p.m. ET
On Thursday morning, as phrase of the assaults unfold, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, known as the scenario in Kabul “a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.” He stated the Biden administration should full the evacuation as deliberate.
Acting in opposition to the recommendation of his generals and overruling a few of his prime international coverage advisers, Mr. Biden introduced in April his resolution to withdraw the remaining 2,500 American troops from the nation. The president has stated that he didn’t need to name the dad and mom of one other Marine, soldier or airman killed in motion in Afghanistan.
But the fast takeover of the nation by the Taliban caught the administration off guard and set in movement a chaotic evacuation through which nearly 6,000 American troops tried to safe the Kabul airport in opposition to the Taliban and terror teams. Earlier this week, Mr. Biden rejected calls from lawmakers, activists and different world leaders to increase the American presence on the airport previous Aug. 31, citing the potential for terrorist assaults.
Since Aug. 14, simply earlier than the Taliban seized management of Kabul, the administration says it has evacuated greater than 100,000 folks, ferrying them to security. But administration officers concede that there are nonetheless extra Americans and Afghan allies that need to go away the nation.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden stated he nonetheless meant to fulfill his Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal. But he additionally stated he wouldn’t speed up the departure due to the bombings. He stated his prime army officers had instructed him that they had the sources to proceed the evacuations even within the face of ongoing threats whereas additionally defending the airport from what they anticipated could be extra assaults within the days forward.
And he stated persevering with the evacuation would show to the remainder of the world that “what America says matters.”
“They made it clear that we can and we must complete this mission and we will, and that’s what I’ve ordered them to do,” Mr. Biden stated of his army advisers. “We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.”
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that got here after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, together with floggings, amputations and mass executions, to implement their guidelines. Here’s extra on their origin story and their report as rulers.
Mr. Biden stated that the United States would proceed to attempt to assist Americans and others escape Afghanistan after the army leaves the nation, partly by in search of to cooperate with the Taliban in bringing them out. He stated that the Taliban, not less than for now, gave the impression to be eager about cooperating with the United States and different Western nations.
The Taliban, Mr. Biden stated, are looking forward to financial assist and different assist as they attempt to as soon as once more rule the nation within the months forward. That offers the United States leverage over the Taliban that might assist in discovering and evacuating Americans and different personnel, he stated.
“There’s a lot of reasons why they have reached out, not just to us, but to others as to why it would be continued in their interests to get more of the personnel we want to get out,” he stated.
In the previous week, as Mr. Biden defended the way in which his administration has dealt with the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, he vowed that “any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful response.”
It was unclear on Thursday whether or not a army response of any variety was already within the works. But army officers stated that U.S. troops on the bottom had the capability to strike again whereas additionally securing the airport.
Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top of the U.S. Central Command, stated the army would pursue these accountable for the assault. And Mr. Biden later prompt that he wouldn’t let the assault move with no response, although he gave no timeline for motion.
Mr. Biden on Thursday requested for a second of silence to recollect those that died.
“Each one of these women and men of our armed forces are the heirs of that tradition,” he stated, “of sacrifice, of volunteering to go into harm’s way, to risk everything, not for glory, not for profit, but to defend what we love and the people that we love.”
Pentagon officers described the bombing on the airport as a “complex attack” that included not less than two explosions and gunfire by ISIS-Okay fighters at Americans and civilians.
Mr. Biden acquired phrase of the worsening scenario Thursday morning as he met with prime nationwide safety advisers for a often scheduled replace on how the evacuation was going, officers stated.
The unhealthy information — punctuated on-line by ugly movies of useless our bodies exterior of the partitions across the airport — continued all through the day amid unconfirmed studies of different explosions close to the airport and a steadily rising toll of injured and useless, a lot of them Afghan civilians who had been desperately ready for an opportunity to evacuate.
Throughout the morning, Mr. Biden huddled with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in addition to different prime aides for updates in regards to the explosions and what they may imply for the final days of the frantic evacuation effort underway in Afghanistan.
After phrase got here of the assaults, the president’s schedule was shortly upended.
Less than quarter-hour earlier than Mr. Biden was set to fulfill with Naftali Bennett, the brand new prime minister of Israel, the White House introduced that the assembly had been delayed. It was later postponed till Friday. And a gathering between Mr. Biden and a few of the nation’s governors was canceled. The each day briefing by Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was delayed till after Mr. Biden delivered his remarks Thursday night.