Rockets target US troops as Afghanistan withdrawal enters final stage

KABUL: Rockets struck a neighbourhood near Kabul’s international airport on Monday amid the ongoing US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It wasn’t immediately clear who launched them.

The rockets struck on Monday morning in Kabul’s Salim Karwan neighbourhood, witnesses said. Gunfire immediately followed the explosions but it was not immediately clear who was firing.

The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash in the sky. People fled after the blasts, they said.

US officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. US military cargo planes continued their evacuations at the airport after the rocket fire.

Having evacuated about 114,400 people, including foreign nationals and Afghans deemed “at risk”, in an effort that began a day before Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, US and allied forces are set to complete their own withdrawal by a Tuesday deadline agreed with the group.

The number of US troops at the airport had fallen below 4,000 over the weekend, as departures became more urgent after an Islamic State suicide bomb attack outside the gates on Thursday killed scores of Afghans and 13 US troops.

Afghan media said Monday’s rocket attack was launched from the back of a vehicle. The Pajhwok news agency said several rockets struck different parts of the Afghan capital.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying officials briefed US President Joe Biden on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)” in Kabul.

“The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said. – Agencies