President Joe Biden pledged to avenge the 13 American service members killed in suicide bomb attacks in Kabul on Thursday.
“To those who carried out this attack as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay,” the president said.
The Pentagon confirmed in a briefing earlier in the day that 11 US Marines, one Navy medic and one other who were providing support for evacuations of Americans and allies leaving Afghanistan from Hamid Karzai international airport were killed in an explosion. US officials believe the attack was carried out by members of Isis-k, a branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
The president hailed the service of those killed and called them part of “a great and noble company of American heroes.”
The president’s words echoed those of US Central Command leader General Kenneth McKenzie, who pledged to find the people who killed Americans.
“We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against Isis in Afghanistan and we’re working very hard to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack and we’re prepared to take action against them,” Gen McKenzie said.
The president also invoked the death of his son Beau Biden, who served in Iraq before dying of brain cancer, as he offered his condolences to the loved ones of those who perished.
“You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest and there’s no way out,” he said, promising to fulfil the United States’ obligations to the families.
“We have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you. That obligation is not temporary, we lost forever,” he said.
The president said the mission in Afghanistan would continue the mission to evacuate.
After the remarks, NBC News’s Kelly O’Donnell asked whether additional military forces would be sent to Afghanistan. But Mr Biden said almost every military leader supported the idea of getting as many people out of the country as possible.
“With regard to finding, tracking down, the Isis leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are, it’s not certain, and we will find ways of our choosing without large military operations to get them,” he said, before adding after a question, “wherever they are.”
But the president also had a sharp exchange with Fox News’s Peter Doocy, who asserted he was solely responsible for the unraveling situation in Afghanistan, wherein Mr Biden pointed to his predecessor Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban.
“I bear responsibility for fundamentally all this happened of late. But here’s the deal: you know, I wish you one day say these things, you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban,” he said, which led to Mr Biden putting his head in his hands.
President Biden rest his head in his hands in apparent frustration during an exchange with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy
Republicans sharply criticised the president, with Rep Jim Banks of Indiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, saying Mr Biden had “blood on his hands,” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring Congress back to brief members and pass legislation to that would keep troops in Afghanistan until every American left.
The explosion and the ensuing death threw the president’s schedule into disarray. He had previously planned to meet with newly minted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and speak with governors about Afghanistan. The killings in Afghanistan canceled the meeting with governors and the president’s meeting with Mr Bennett will happen on Friday instead.
At the same time, despite the nature of the attack, the president did say that he did not regret putting an end to the US military mission in Afghanistan.
“I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never once in its entire history been a united country,” he said. “It was time to end a 20-year war.”