© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House in Washington, United States, on August 26, 2021. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
By Trevor Hunnicutt
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden closed his eyes and leaned his head back as flag-draped boxes carrying the remains of 11 US servicemen killed in an attack suicide bombers in Afghanistan emerged Sunday from a military plane at a base in Delaware. .
Biden, his wife, Jill, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and senior military officials stood gloomy as US troops carried suitcases down the ramp of an Air Force C-17 plane at Dover Air Force Base ( NYSE :). A cry was heard and a woman collapsed when the remains were loaded onto vans to transport them to a facility where they will undergo identification and autopsies.
The 11 service members were among 13 American soldiers killed in an Islamic State suicide attack on Thursday outside the Kabul airport, where the United States has been organizing a mass airlift of Americans and Afghans for the past two weeks. Dozens of Afghans were also killed in the attack.
Earlier Sunday, Biden and his wife met with grieving relatives of some of the fallen American service members.
The remains of two other US servicemen killed in the attack are being taken home privately at the request of their families.
Biden, a Democrat, has come under fire from Republicans, who have accused his administration of spoiling the Aug. 31 withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan after a two-decade war in the South Asian nation.
His administration is focused on safeguarding the remaining US troops in Kabul and getting the rest of the Americans, as well as many vulnerable Afghans, evacuated from the capital. More than 114,000 people have been airlifted in the past two weeks as part of the United States effort.
US forces launched a military strike in the Afghan capital on Sunday against a possible suicide car bomb, US officials said.
“We are in a period of grave danger given what we are seeing in intelligence,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN’s “State of the Union” program in an interview broadcast Sunday before will be informed about the last strike.
“We are taking all possible steps under the direction of the president to ensure that our forces are protected on the ground even as they complete their mission to bring in the remaining US citizens and Afghan allies.”
Thursday’s attack, which was claimed by ISIS-K https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/what-is-islamic-state-afghanistan-2021-08-26, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State , was the deadliest incident https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/didnt-need-happen-pentagon-seeks-answers-deadly-attack-2021-08-28 for American service members in Afghanistan in a decade.
It took place just outside the airport gates, where thousands of people have gathered to try to get a flight out of the country since the Taliban returned to power on August 15.
The rapid advance of Islamist militants through Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of US and allied troops, combined with the chaotic scenes at the airport, has presented Biden with his greatest foreign policy challenge as president.
Biden has vowed to punish those responsible for the airport bombing. The US military said on Saturday it had killed two ISIS-K militants in a drone strike in eastern Afghanistan.
Sullivan said the two “are individuals involved in the facilitation, planning and production of explosive devices and are part of the larger ISIS-K network.”
US DIPLOMATIC PRESENCE ‘HARD’
The United States has evacuated nearly 5,500 US citizens from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, including 50 in the last day, and was still working to get about 250 US citizens into the country on evacuation flights, a State Department spokesman said. .
NATO, the European Union and 97 other countries signed a joint statement with the United States on Sunday saying they will continue to issue travel documents to Afghans at risk and hope the Taliban will honor their commitment to allow those people to leave.
The United States is unlikely to have diplomats in the country after Tuesday’s deadline for the withdrawal of NATO forces, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“In terms of having a diplomatic presence on the ground on Sept. 1, that is unlikely to happen,” Blinken said.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the administration had not planned a Taliban takeover and criticized Blinken for giving an overly positive view of the evacuation effort.
“His plan has basically been light-hearted talk. People have died and people are going to die because President Biden decided to rely on light-hearted talk rather than reality,” Sasse told ABC’s “This Week.”
Other members of Congress have vowed to investigate what went wrong in Afghanistan. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said earlier this month that his panel will hold a hearing on US policy toward Afghanistan, “including the Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with (the) Taliban and the Biden Administration’s Flawed Execution of the US Withdrawal. “