US President Joe Biden confirmed Thursday that attacks outside Kabul airport in Afghanistan which killed at least 13 American soldiers were carried out by the ISIS-K terrorist group, the Afghan affiliate of Daesh/ISIS, and promised to respond with "force and precision."
Referring to ISIS-K, "an archenemy of the Taliban," Biden said "we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Delivering remarks from the East Room of the White House on the terrorist attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport, he said the US "will continue evacuations" while making plans to strike the ISIS-K terror group.
"America will not be intimidated," he underscored.
Multiple explosions shook Afghanistan's capital Thursday, including two outside the airport serving the city, killing dozens and wounding over 140, according to media reports and Anadolu Agency's correspondent on the ground.
'No collusion' between Taliban, ISIS-K
In his address to the nation, Biden asked Americans to join him in a moment of silence "for all those in uniform."
Those Americans who died were "heroes trying to save the lives of others," he said. "We're outraged as well as heartbroken."
"We have some reason to believe we know who they are, [but we’re] not certain" and will find ways of choosing to get them, he said.
Biden underlined that there was no evidence of collusion between the Taliban and ISIS-K in the latest attacks in Kabul.
The president noted that ISIS-K, "the enemy of the Taliban," was planning a complex set of attacks and that is why he was so determined to limit the scope of the operation in Afghanistan.
Turning to the Taliban, he said "no one trusts them. We're just counting on their self-interest to continue to generate their activities, and it's in their self-interest that we leave when we said and that we get as many people out as we can."
The Taliban are "not good guys," but they "have a keen interest' in trying to keep Kabul airport open, he added.
On vulnerable Afghans, Biden went on to say that getting “every single person" out of Kabul "can't be guaranteed."
"I say we're going to continue to try to get you out" past Aug. 31, he said.
Biden highlighted that there are additional US citizens, Green Card and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and Afghans "who have helped us" and others who have contacted the US side that "expressly indicated they want to get out," adding they "will try" to evacuate them "in the next several days."
He noted that the number of people evacuated from Afghanistan since Aug.14 has exceeded 100,000.
The US will respond to the Kabul attacks "with force of precision at our time, place we choose, in a moment of our choosing," he said.
Biden also emphasized that he ordered US commanders to develop operational plans "to strike ISIS-K assets, [its] leadership, facilities," adding that they could send additional forces to Afghanistan if needed.
"I bear responsibility fundamentally for all that has happened of late,” he added.
“I have never been of the view of sacrificing American lives to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, which has never been united and composed of tribes that have never gotten along," the president said.
'Will kill terrorists wherever they are'
Following Biden, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki also joined the news conference, speaking on the latest developments after the attack in Kabul.
"We will hunt down these terrorists and kill them wherever they are," she said, referring to the ISIS-K terror group.
Psaki stressed that US military commanders continue believe that it is "vital" to leave Kabul by the Aug. 31 deadline.
She also said that some 7,000 people have been evacuated in the last 12-13 hours from Afghanistan, adding discussions with the Taliban are ongoing about how to coordinate on getting Americans and its allies out of Afghanistan after Aug. 31.
"We are in direct contact with every American citizen [in Afghanistan]," she said.
Later Thursday, in a proclamation honoring the victims of the attack in Kabul, Biden ordered the nation’s flag to be flown at half-staff at the White House, on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, on all naval vessels and other related places "until sunset" Aug. 30.
"I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations," said the statement.