President Biden reiterated Friday that the U.S. will continue its mission to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies despite the attack Thursday that killed 13 U.S. troops.
“The mission there being performed is dangerous and now has come with a significant loss of American personnel, but it’s a worthy mission because they continue to evacuate folks out of that region,” he told reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The blasts killed 169 Afghans, according to officials who told The Associated Press, though the final count might take more time.
The president did not take questions.
His brief remarks followed his address to the nation Thursday night regarding the deadly explosions in Kabul. Biden pledged the U.S. will target the assets, leadership and facilities of ISIS-K, the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan that has reportedly claimed responsibility for the terror attack.
“Know this,” Biden said Thursday, addressing the attackers. “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
The president has maintained the U.S. withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31, which is Tuesday.
Another attack in Kabul is likely
The White House told reporters Biden’s national security team advised him Friday morning during a meeting in the Situation Room that another attack in Kabul is likely.
“The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement about the briefing.
“The U.S. military is airlifting out thousands of people every few hours. They continue to prioritize evacuating the remaining American citizens who have indicated that they wish to leave and are engaged in a variety of means to get them to the airport safely,” Psaki added.
According to the White House, 12,500 people were evacuated from Kabul in the 24 hours ending at 3 a.m. ET Friday. The total number evacuated since Aug. 14 is about 105,000 people, and the total since the end of July is about 110,600 people.
GOP leader McCarthy calls to reconvene the House
Biden has received bipartisan criticism for the way in which his administration withdrew U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
On Friday morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Biden dodged “tough questions” a day earlier about his administration’s execution of the withdrawal process.
He repeated his call for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to reconvene Congress to pass a bill that would prohibit the White House from pulling U.S. troops from the region until all Americans are returned home.
The Republican leader sidestepped questions on calls from other Republicans, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri, for Biden to resign.
“Right now, in the next five days, everyone’s responsibility should only be focused on getting the Americans out. That is what we should focus on,” he said, while acknowledging there will be a “day of reckoning.”
“When that day passes, we can take up anything to hold [Biden] accountable for the actions that have been taken, the lies that have been given, the misdecisions that have put Americans in harm’s way.”