Biden Honors Troops Killed in Kabul as Remains Return Home
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden honored 13 U.S. service members killed in last week’s Kabul terror attack, attending the return of their remains at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday along with their families.
Biden stood with his hand over his heart, sometimes with his eyes closed, as he witnessed the unloading of cases with the remains of the troops who died in a blast outside Kabul airport, where the U.S. has been evacuating citizens and Afghan allies after the capital fell to the Taliban.
The arrival of the remains in what’s known as a dignified transfer marks the first time that Biden is honoring fallen U.S. soldiers at such an event as president.
Biden warned on Saturday that another attack at Kabul airport is “highly likely” within the next 24 to 36 hours, underscoring the threat to U.S. troops still on the ground and the political risk surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that’s due to be completed on Tuesday.
Before the remains were returned on Sunday, the U.S. lunched a drone strike, destroying a vehicle that posed an “imminent ISIS-K threat” to the Kabul airport, Central Command spokesperson Bill Urban said in a statement. Explosions after the strike indicated it had “a substantial amount of explosive material” aboard, he said.
A Navy hospitalman, an Army staff sergeant, and 11 Marines were killed in the suicide bombing, which wounded an additional 18 U.S. service members and killed dozens of Afghans seeking to flee. The bombing at the airport’s Abbey Gate, where the U.S. was processing potential evacuees, was carried out by ISIS-K, an Afghan offshoot of the terror organization.
Before the transfer took place, Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with families of the service members who died.
Biden warned ISIS on Thursday that the U.S. would “hunt you down and make you pay.” The Pentagon said Saturday that the U.S. killed two ISIS-K members and wounded a third in a retaliatory air strike.
As vice president, Biden took part in a 2016 dignified transfer ritual for a soldier killed in action in Afghanistan. Barack Obama attended two such events as president and Donald Trump took part in four when he was president.
Sense of Loss
Biden said Thursday he had “some sense” of the loss for families of the slain service members, noting that his son, Beau Biden, had served in the Army in Iraq before dying of brain cancer.
”You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest; there’s no way out,” Biden said. “My heart aches for you.”
Biden has been criticized by lawmakers and foreign leaders over the execution of the U.S. withdrawal. He has acknowledged his administration did not anticipate the quick collapse of the Afghan government.
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