September 19, 2021

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Drone Strike Against ISIS-K Killed 2 High-Profile Targets, Pentagon Says – NPR

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Pentagon press secretary John Kirby (right) speaks as Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor, looks on during a briefing at the Pentagon on Saturday. Susan Walsh/AP hide caption

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Susan Walsh/AP

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby (right) speaks as Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor, looks on during a briefing at the Pentagon on Saturday.

Susan Walsh/AP

Two targets were killed and another person was injured in a drone strike against the Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K in retaliation for the Kabul airport attack, the Pentagon now says. And the Department of Defense has released the names of the U.S. troops killed in Thursday’s attack.

Department officials announced Friday evening that a drone strike killed an ISIS-K target in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. On Saturday, officials updated that to say that two “high-profile” targets — described as “a planner and a facilitator” — were killed and one other person from the terrorist group was injured in the retaliatory strike.

Pentagon officials offered more information Saturday about continued operations in Afghanistan, including evacuation efforts and the drone strike.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the names of the drone strike targets would not be released.

“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the earth, that’s a good thing,” Kirby said of the drone strike. “It’s a good thing for the people of Afghanistan and it’s a good thing for our troops and our forces at that airfield.”

U.S. officials have said that threats continue at the Kabul airport following Thursday’s bombing, which killed nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members. That incident has intensified already frantic operations aimed at evacuating Afghans and withdrawing U.S. troops ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline imposed by President Biden.

“We are going to complete this mission by the end of the month and we’ve said that,” Kirby said. “Nothing has changed about the timeline for us and we will do this in as safe and orderly a way as possible — and that includes being able to continue to evacuate up until the very end.”

Kirby also said threats at the Kabul airport remain “active and dynamic” and that the U.S. is prepared to respond in the event of another attack.

“We will maintain the ability to defend ourselves and our operations all the way through,” he said.

Gen. William “Hank” Taylor said that more than 117,000 people — including about 5,400 American citizens — have been flown out of Afghanistan as part of the evacuation effort thus far. He said 6,800 evacuees were flown out of Afghanistan Friday and 1,400 people have been “screened and manifested for flights” Saturday.

“This is a massive military, diplomatic, security and humanitarian undertaking for the United States and our allies,” Taylor said.

He said the U.S. is currently hosting about 8,000 “Afghan applicants” at military bases, including Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. While capacity at those military installations currently stands at more than 21,000, Taylor said officials are working to increase that number to 50,000 by Sept. 15.

Shortly after the Pentagon’s Saturday briefing, 11 Marines, one Army soldier and one member of the Navy were identified as those killed in Thursday’s attack.

The Department of Defense released the slain Marine Corps members’ names and ranks as: Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City; Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, Calif.; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.; Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.; Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.; Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo.; Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo.; Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn., were also listed as among those killed Thursday.

“We grieve with the Gold Star families, friends and loved ones of the fallen. They will be remembered and revered among Americans who have served in Afghanistan in operations Freedom, Sentinel and Enduring Freedom,” Taylor said.
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