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An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier inspects a passenger at a checkpoint on the Ghazni-Kabul highway in Afghanistan on August 14, 2018. Source: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters.
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  • American forces and their allies still in Afghanistan are bracing for more Islamic State attacks following yesterday’s suicide bombing
  • At least two explosions killed more than 60 people, including 13 US troops, and dozens more were injured
  • Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”
  • US President Joe Biden has vowed to hunt down those responsible, and tasked the Pentagon with developing a plan to strike back at the perpetrators
  • Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton has not ruled out sending Australian troops back to Afghanistan if there was a request from the US

American forces and their allies still in Afghanistan are bracing for more Islamic State attacks as they race to wind up their evacuation efforts following yesterday’s suicide bombing.

At least two explosions tore through crowds that gathered at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport — one near the airport’s Abbey Gate and the other close to the nearby Baron Hotel. At least 60 people were killed, including 13 US troops, and dozens more were injured.

It marks the first US military casualties since February last year, and is the deadliest incident for American personnel in the country in 10 years.

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate of militants who previously fought US forces in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that one of its suicide bombers had targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army.”

Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, head of the US military’s Central Command, told a press briefing the explosions were followed by a gunfight, and said the threat from Islamic State persists alongside “other active threat streams.”

“We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue — and we’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he added.

McKenzie noted that future potential attacks could include rockets being fired at the airport or car bombs attempting to get in, but stressed he saw nothing that suggests the Taliban forces had let the attack take place.

US President Joe Biden has vowed to hunt down those responsible, and tasked the Pentagon with developing a plan to strike back at the perpetrators.

“We will not forgive, we will not forget,” he said at the White House.

“We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Appearing to fight back tears, Biden also told the US military that he would grant additional force if necessary: “Whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it.”

Named after an old term for the region, ISIS-K first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in 2014 and quickly established a reputation for extreme brutality. Some experts say it was founded by hardline figures of the Pakistani Taliban, who fled into Afghanistan when Pakistan’s security forces launched a crackdown on militant groups.

ISIS-K has fought both the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban, but its precise connection with the primary Islamic State movement in Iraq and Syria remains uncertain.

Speaking to Reuters, a Taliban official said the group had arrested an ISIS fighter at the airport a few days ago who, under interrogation, told them about the plans for the attack. In response, the Taliban said it postponed gatherings in public places and advised its top leaders to remain vigilant.

Independent UN experts also told the Security Council in a report last month that ISIS-K had expanded its presence to several provinces, including Kabul, and that fighters had formed sleeper cells.

“The group has strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, where it conducts most of its attacks, targeting minorities, activists, government employees and personnel of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces,” the report said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reported to the Security Council in June that attacks either claimed by or attributed to ISIS-K increased to 88 between March and June, compared with just 16 during the same period in 2020.

Speaking this morning, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton did not rule out sending Australian troops back to Afghanistan if there was a request from the US.

“We will see what the Americans have to say in coming days,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The focus at the moment is on making sure that the Americans, the Brits and those that remain in Kabul can be uplifted safely. That is the only focus at the moment.”

Australia was able to evacuate all its military personnel before the attack, and no troops were killed.

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