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The Biden Administration's Response To The Deadly Attacks In Kabul

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Biden had high praise for the U.S. service members who lost their lives in the attack, calling them heroes. In a speech at the White House, the president also pledged the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would press on.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation. I've also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities. We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing.

CORNISH: Following the president's response closely, NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe.

Ayesha, talk about what the president had to say in terms of this U.S. response to the attack.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Yeah, he put the blame on ISIS and said the U.S. will not forgive or forget and that the U.S. will hunt them down and hunt down the culprits of this attack. He said - Biden said that he had instructed the military that whatever they need, even additional forces, that he would grant that, that he would give that to them. But he said that military commanders have all contacted him and said that they agree that - with getting out as many people as possible on time, and that deadline is August 31. He has - Biden has repeatedly said over and over again that the longer that the U.S. stays, the greater the risk to U.S. military members that there could be more attacks.

And so right now, Biden says that the U.S. is going to track down these ISIS leaders who ordered to attack. He said that they have some reason to believe that they know who they are. And he uses phrasing - we will find ways of our choosing and at the time of the U.S. decides to get these ISIS members who they think carried out this attack. But he said that they would do it without large military operations.

CORNISH: As you said, U.S. policy will still be focused on this withdrawal. Did the president talk more about where the evacuation mission stands?

RASCOE: The government has heard from Americans still in Afghanistan, including people that work for humanitarian groups, who are gathered in a certain location. And the military is working to get them out. The State Department today said about a thousand Americans remain in Afghanistan. They do say that there are dozens who will want to remain and that they are trying to get to those who are actually trying to get out and separate from those who are wanting to stay.

But we also know why it has been so dangerous for U.S. forces at the gates of the airport. General Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command - he talked at a Pentagon briefing about how close troops have to get to people coming into the gates. And he said there's no other way to do these screenings to allow people to get to the airport. But he said the mission will continue.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, White House correspondent.

Thank you.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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