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Afghans wait to be evacuated following the attack. Photo: Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty

The Kabul airlift was already entering its endgame when ISIS-K, the terrorist group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, attacked outside the airport and killed 13 U.S. troops and an estimated 60 Afghans.

State of play: Most NATO allies have now ended their evacuation operations, including for their own civilians. Those already inside the airport are being flown out, but the gates are closed and Americans and Afghans alike have been urged to stay away. The U.S. military is preparing for its own evacuation and is on alert for additional attacks.

President Biden declared tonight that the U.S. would "not be intimidated," saying, "We will rescue the Americans. We will get our Afghan allies out. And our mission will go on."

  • But Biden also seemed to back off his pledge that troops would remain in Kabul as long as it took to get all Americans out. Instead, he said the U.S would "find means by which we can find any American who wishes to get out of Afghanistan," even after the troop withdrawal. He plans to stick to his Aug. 31 deadline.
  • The pace of evacuations had slowed even before the attack, though evacuees who were already on the base continued to be flown out. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there were ongoing operations to get Americans and Afghan allies to the airport but offered no details.
  • The U.S. has evacuated over 100,000 people in total, according to CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, but may only have around 36 hours to complete the remaining evacuations before the military has to prioritize its own withdrawal.

Driving the news: Biden on Thursday said he has directed the Pentagon to develop plans to "strike" ISIS-K "assets, leadership and facilities" in response to the Kabul airport bombings.

  • "To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay," Biden said.
  • McKenzie said earlier on Thursday that the threat of an additional attack was "extremely real."
  • "We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks and we believe those attacks will continue," McKenzie said.

McKenzie said Thursday's attack occurred at a gate where soldiers conduct security screenings before people enter the airfield.

  • "This is close-up work. The breath of the person you are searching is upon you. While we have overwatch in place, we still have to touch the clothes of the person who is coming in," he added.
  • McKenzie noted that there were "probably a little more than 1,000 American citizens left in Afghanistan," with 500 evacuated in the last 24 hours. He said not all of those Americans were seeking to evacuate.
  • Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said prior to the attack that the military's capacity to conduct evacuations would diminish in the last "couple days" before Aug. 31, but that the plan was to retain the capability to get some civilians out up until the end.

What's next: The U.S. and its allies are relying on the Taliban to continue to allow Afghans and their own citizens to leave the country beyond Aug. 31.

  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban have provided assurances to that effect, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the need for diplomacy with the Taliban to ensure they follow through.

Yes, but: Signals from the Taliban have been mixed at best. Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid lamented the ongoing brain drain on Tuesday and said "we are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave."

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Pakistan Airlines halts flights to Kabul citing "heavy-handedness" of Taliban

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul on Sept 13. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday halted flights to Kabul after what it called "heavy-handedness" of Taliban authorities, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The suspension comes after the Taliban ordered PIA to slash ticket prices, warning that the company's Afghan operations could be blocked if it refused to do so, per Reuters.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."