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Under stress and under attack, US will continue to evacuate people from Kabul

US paratroopers facilitate the safe evacuation of US citizens, SIV applicants, and other at-risk Afghans at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DeptofDefense)

With a little over a thousand American civilians still left in the country, the United States has made it clear that the killing of a dozen US service members in the suicide attack on Kabul airport Thursday won't stop its ongoing evacuation mission.

Along with the US citizens, there are around 4000 more individuals including third-country nationals, special immigrant visa holders, US embassy staff and at-risk Afghans who are awaiting evacuation from Kabul.

"We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. To do anything less – especially now – would dishonour the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan," the US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said after the attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Two suicide bombers from the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) detonated in the vicinity of the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport and near the adjacent Baron Hotel, followed by an opening of fire on civilians and military forces by the gunmen of the terror outfit.

The death toll from the blasts has risen to 72 by Friday afternoon which also includes 13 US service members.

However, the US said that it will continue to execute its "number one mission" which is to get as many American citizens and other evacuees as possible out of Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline.  

Since August 14, the US forces and its allies and partners have evacuated more than 104,000 civilians from Kabul, which includes bringing out about 5,000 Americans.

"We continue to process and will continue to flow people out. The plan is designed to operate while under stress and under attack. And we will continue to do that. We will coordinate very carefully to make sure that it's safe for American citizens to come to the airfield. If it's not, we'll tell them to hold and then we'll you know, we'll work other ways to try to get them to the airfield," said General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command.

Showing solidarity in the mission, the United Kingdom said that the Kabul airport attack is a stark reminder of the dangerous situation in which UK military and civilian personnel have been working so hard to evacuate people.

"The UK and US remain resolute in our mission to get as many people out as possible. It is testament to the remarkable courage of our personnel that they continue to do so while under fire. We will not let the cowardly acts of terrorists stop us," said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after calling US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to express sorrow on the killing of the US troops.

France also promised that it will continue with the efforts to evacuate "several hundred" from Kabul even as the situation remains extremely tense at the airport.

"France shares the grief of the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Kabul. Those leading evacuation operations are heroes. We will complete these operations and continue to work in the long term to protect Afghans under threat," said President Emmanuel Macron who is visiting Dublin.

The US had said that it had plans in place to keep the Kabul airport and runways safe till the last flight with Americans on board takes off on August 31.

"In a security which we would call a commander's inherent responsibility throughout every phase of the operation, we are continuing to secure ourselves to the very last requirements of that. So when you say who's securing the, you know, the last flight and all those things and we will have that ability to secure ourselves through, you know, multiple means to ensure flights are able to take off," General Hank Taylor, Deputy Director of the US Joint Staff For Regional Operations had said a couple of days ago.

With the threat to the airport having increased manifold after Thursday's attack, the most senior of US military commanders will certainly be redrawing their final flight plans now.

Also Read: The inside story of one of the largest airlifts in world history