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Kabul Airport Is Targeted By Rockets As The Deadline For U.S. Troops To Leave Nears

Residents view a vehicle damaged by a rocket attack Monday in Kabul, Afghanistan. Rockets struck a neighborhood near the Kabul airport amid the ongoing U.S. withdrawal from the country.
Residents view a vehicle damaged by a rocket attack Monday in Kabul, Afghanistan. Rockets struck a neighborhood near the Kabul airport amid the ongoing U.S. withdrawal from the country.

Updated August 30, 2021 at 6:06 AM ET

Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport was targeted by rockets early Monday morning local time as the deadline for U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan nears.

President Biden was briefed on the attack by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain, the White House said.

The military hasn't said if anyone was injured in the attack.

Some news outlets reported the rockets had been intercepted by a U.S. counter missile system. The administration's statement, however, made no mention of this system.

Evacuation operations at Kabul's airport continued uninterrupted, and there were no changes to efforts to protect forces on the ground, the White House said.

It's unclear who was responsible for the rocket attack.

The U.S. launches a second strike against ISIS-K

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 29: Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 29, 2021.
Haroon Sabawoon / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Smoke rises after an explosion Sunday in the Afghan capital.

Monday's rocket attacks followed a tense weekend in Kabul.

The U.S. conducted a second strike Sunday against suspected members of the Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

A military official confirmed the strike to NPR on Sunday, saying it was conducted to eliminate an "imminent" threat to the airport. Biden had warned Saturday of continued danger to U.S. operations in Afghanistan as evacuations there continue ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal deadline on Tuesday.

"U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to [Hamid] Karzai International Airport," said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.

"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material," Urban said. "We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time."

Some media outlets report that as many as 10 people were killed. A neighbor told The Associated Press that he collected bodies of several children.

U.S. Central Command acknowledged it was aware of reports of civilian casualties. In a statement, Urban said, "We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life."

On Friday, the U.S. conducted a drone strike in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said Saturday that "a planner and a facilitator" of ISIS-K were killed in that strike, with one other person injured. That attack was in retaliation for last week's attack at the Kabul airport that killed more than 170 people, including 13 U.S. service members.

Evacuations are continuing from Afghanistan

The president and the first lady traveled Sunday to Dover, Del., to observe the "dignified transfer" of the remains of the 13 service members killed in Kabul. Biden also met with the families of the late service members.

Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walks past an U.S air force airplane that flew them at Kosovo's capital Pristina International Airport on Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.
Visar Kryeziu / AP
Families evacuated from Kabul walk past a U.S Air Force plane that flew them to Pristina International Airport in Kosovo on Sunday.

Evacuations out of Kabul have continued despite the chaos, with a White House official saying more than 114,400 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14 — a day before the Taliban took control of Kabul and, effectively, Afghanistan. Around 5,500 Americans are among those who have been evacuated, according to a State Department spokesperson.

The State Department said Sunday that some 250 Americans are still trying to make their way out of Afghanistan. Officials say another 280 self-identified Americans are undecided about leaving Afghanistan or have said they wish to stay.

Nearly 100 nations say they have assurances from the Taliban

The U.S. on Sunday joined 97 other countries in pledging to accept Afghan evacuees after the U.S. military completes its withdrawal.

"We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country," the State Department said.

Absent from the list of countries that signed on to the statement were Russia and China, which have both pledged to help the Taliban rebuild Afghanistan, according to The Sunday Times in the U.K.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.