ISIS Takes Credit for Kabul Attack That Killed U.S. Marines, Taliban Vows to Fight 'Evil' Attackers

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has taken credit through its official news outlet for a deadly blast that killed at least a dozen U.S. military personnel and dozens more Afghans in what was set to be the final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Hours after an explosion near Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport killed at least 12 U.S. military personnel, including four Marines, and at least 60 Afghans, ISIS' Amaq News Agency released a statement announcing "around 160 killed and wounded from the American forces and those collaborating with them in a martyrdom attack of the Islamic State near Kabul airport."

Citing "military sources," the outlet said that "a fighter of the Islamic State were able today to penetrate all the security fortifications imposed by the American forces and the Taliban militia around the capital Kabul and managed to reach a large gathering of translators and collaborators with the American army around 'Baran Camp' near Kabul airport, and then he detonated his explosive belt, killing about 60 people and injuring around 100 others, including elements of the Taliban."

Again citing these "same sources," the outlet went on to say that "the attacker was able to reach no more than five meters from the American forces, who were supervising the procedures for collecting the documents from hundreds of translators and contractors in preparation for their evacuation from the country, confirming that more than 20 American soldiers were killed or wounded."

"It is noteworthy that for more than a week the American forces, in partnership with the Taliban militia have been evacuating hundreds of foreign employees, translators and spies who worked for the American army over the past years," the statement added.

The statement was shared alongside the image of a masked man performing a one-finger tawhid gesture and holding a Kalashnikov-style rifle while posing in front of an ISIS flag. Amaq identified him as the attacker whose name is said to be Abd al-Rahman al-Lughari.

ISIS, Kabul, airport, attacker, Afghanistan
An image released by ISIS' official Amaq News Agency and shared across pro-ISIS channels on Telegram shows a man purported to be Abd al-Rahman al-Lughari, identified by the group as the perpetrator of a deadly suicide attack that killed dozens of people, including U.S. troops and allied Afghans, amid a hectic end to the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan. Telegram

A separate statement released by ISIS' Khorasan branch, known as ISIS-K, also carried the attackers' name and details of the operation. It carried a warning of additional attacks to come.

"Let the crusaders and their agents know that the soldiers of the caliphate will continue to fight them until God decrees a matter that has been done," the group said.

The Taliban, which has vowed to secure the exit of Afghans willing to leave the country up until the August 31 withdrawal deadline set by President Joe Biden, immediately condemned the attack.

"The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport," Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement shared on Twitter. "The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a U.S. military base. The Islamic Emirate is very concerned about the security and protection of its people. The evil circles will be stopped in full force."

Similar messages were released by fellow Taliban spokespersons Mohammed Naeem and Suhail Shaheen.

Referring to reports of explosions heard in Kabul later in the day, Mujahid said these blasts were attributed to controlled detonations of materials carried out by U.S. forces in the airport compound.

In a separate statement after the attack, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his "deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today."

"Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others," Austin said. "We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief."

But he asserted that the U.S. pullout from its two-decade war effort in Afghanistan would go on and that the Pentagon "will not be dissuaded from the task at hand."

"To do anything less -- especially now -- would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan," Austin said.

The U.S. military first entered Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, seeking to defeat Al-Qaeda and the Taliban-led government, both products of the mujahideen resistance formed with U.S. and regional support against a decade-long Soviet intervention from the late 1970s to late 1980s.

While the U.S.-led effort saw initial success, the Taliban insurgency persisted over the years, with the group reclaiming significant territory and eventually being invited for negotiations that led to a 2020 peace accord under former President Donald Trump for the exit of U.S. forces and hopes for a subsequent political solution between the Taliban and the international recognized Kabul government, which has since collapsed as U.S. forces left.

Among the commitments made by the Taliban as part of the agreement was to not allow Afghanistan to ever again be used by militant groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda to attack other countries. But the local ISIS-K faction has stepped up attacks recently, complicating an already precarious situation in the country as it comes to terms with the Taliban's largely bloodless takeover of the capital last week.

ISIS, for its part, originally morphed out of Al-Qaeda's Iraq branch but has since become a rival to the fellow jihadi group, especially as the self-declared caliphate spread to Syria and beyond in 2013. The group was beaten back in both countries by an array of regional and international forces, including a U.S.-led coalition, Iran and Russia.

In Afghanistan, ISIS-K has clashed with the Taliban, which has benefitted at times from U.S. airstrikes on its foe. In several addresses to the nation regarding his decision to leave Afghanistan, Biden has repeatedly referred to ISIS as "the sworn enemy" of the Taliban.

Officials from the U.S. and other nations have remained in contact with the Taliban in an effort to finalize the evacuation of at least tens of thousands of people seeking to escape Afghanistan, an effort ISIS-K has threatened to disrupt.

In remarks delivered in reaction to Thursday's attacks, Biden promised retaliation against ISIS-K.

"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," the president said. "We will hunt you down and make you pay. I will defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command."

Biden said that, while the withdrawal would continue as planned, offensive action would be taken against the group.

He said he had ordered his commanders "to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership, and facilities." Such action would be taken "with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, and the moment of our choosing."

And, despite the historic enmity, Biden said the Taliban's cooperation against ISIS-K was a matter of "mutual self-interest."

"It is...in the interest of the Taliban that, in fact, ISIS-K does not metastasize beyond what it is," Biden said.

ISIS, Khorasan, video, mosque, Darzab, Afghanistan
Footage from an ISIS-K video confiscated on March 21, 2018 and published in part on April 18, 2018 by U.S. Central Command shows what appears to be ISIS-K fighters training inside of a mosque in Darzab district, Jowzjan province, northern Afghanistan. The group was beaten back by a combination of U.S. strikes along with separate Afghan government and Taliban offensives, but the jihadis threatened to resurge in 2021 with a new uptick in attacks. NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.