The White House said Monday operations “continue uninterrupted” at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, after a rocket attack.
Witnesses reported multiple rockets, with a U.S. official telling the Reuters news agency the weapons were intercepted by a missile defense system.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the attack and “reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.”
The United States is working to complete evacuations from Kabul ahead of a Tuesday deadline, and amid a worsening security situation that included a suicide attack outside the airport Thursday that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
The U.S. military is also investigating reports of civilian casualties after it conducted an airstrike Sunday that it said eliminated “an imminent ISIS-K (Islamic State Khorasan) threat to Hamad Karzai International airport.”
“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” Captain Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement Sunday night.
Urban said the results of the airstrike were still being assessed and that secondary explosions “may have caused additional casualties. It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further.”
According to reporting in The New York Times, the drone strike or the secondary explosions killed as many as nine civilians, among them children.
Dina Mohammadi said her extended family resided in the building and that several of them were killed, including children, according to the Associated Press. She was not immediately able to provide the names or ages of the deceased.
Airlift winds down
As the U.S. deadline neared, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Monday the Afghan people need governments, humanitarians and ordinary people “to stay with them and stay the course.”
“As people across the world welcome Afghans into their communities and homes, we cannot forget those who have been left behind,” Grandi said in a statement. “We must meet the critical humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and in countries around the region, and our response must be robust and urgent. Standing by the people of Afghanistan means standing by all of them, whether they have sought safety abroad or are picking up the pieces of their lives at home.”
As of Monday, the evacuation has airlifted about 122,000 people out of Kabul since the end of July, according to the White House.
“This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission, these last couple of days,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, also on ABC, criticized the Biden administration’s evacuation operations.
“There is clearly no plan. There has been no plan. Their plan has basically been happy talk,” he said.
Blinken said in an interview on CNN that about 300 American citizens still are seeking evacuation from Afghanistan.