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Explosions Reported In Kabul Residential Area

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

* The Pentagon has confirmed another airstrike in Afghanistan this morning, this time in Kabul. The Pentagon says this strike prevented a, quote, "imminent attack by ISIS-K." That's the same group behind Thursday's suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul. That attack killed 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. military service members. The United States retaliated on Friday with drone strikes in the country's Nangarhar province. Today's drone strike comes as the U.S. military works to wrap up a massive airlift in the Afghan capital by a self-imposed deadline on Tuesday. Joining us now is NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Good morning, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Asma.

KHALID: So, Greg, what do we know about this U.S. airstrike today?

MYRE: Well, the Pentagon says it was a drone strike on a vehicle and eliminated this imminent ISIS-K threat to the airport, where there's still large numbers of U.S. troops. Now, the vehicle apparently had explosives inside, and this caused a large secondary explosion. We've seen social media video which shows smoke rising from a house or a residential area in Kabul. People are running from the scene. And as you noted, ISIS-K is the group that carried out that Thursday bombing that killed 13 service members. And then the U.S. responded with a drone strike that killed two members of the group and wounded another.

KHALID: So this attack occurred while President Biden has been at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware this morning, meeting with families of the 13 servicemen and women killed in Thursday's terrorist attack in Kabul. Has the president, has the White House commented on these latest developments?

MYRE: The president is still at this ceremony, so we haven't heard yet from him. He did put out a pretty remarkable statement on Saturday, saying the strike against ISIS-K wouldn't be the last. And he said U.S. commanders on the ground were telling him they expected an attack within 36 hours. So he appeared to be foreshadowing the events that we've seen today at the airport or near the airport. Now, the State Department did put out a statement, joined with dozens of other countries, saying that, quote, "we are all committed to ensuring our citizens and Afghans who worked with us can continue to travel freely to destinations outside of Afghanistan." And so this really speaks to what the president, President Biden, has said about a commitment to help U.S. citizens and Afghans who still want to leave the country but who can't make it out by this Tuesday deadline.

KHALID: So, Greg, you know, speaking of the evacuation efforts, can you just catch us up on the latest in terms of people being able to leave Kabul at this point?

MYRE: Right. So about 3,000 people were evacuated over the past day. Now, this is way down from a few days earlier, when it was hitting 20,000 a day. And there's still thousands of people who want to get out, but it's getting harder. The Taliban have pushed their security perimeter back. It's about 500 yards or so from the airport gates. And we're getting reports of groups that are getting stuck for an entire day on foot or in a bus trying to get through, and they can't. And we had a fascinating talk on NPR yesterday with a Marine master sergeant who's been working the air traffic control for the past two weeks, living and working in a tent in the dust in the heat at Kabul Airport - 12-hour shifts, 100 planes going in and out every day on an airport with just one runway - extremely challenging conditions, but it's still been working.

KHALID: Just - Greg, in about the last 30 seconds that we have, can you tell us, does it actually look like the United States will meet this self-imposed deadline of getting folks out by Tuesday?

MYRE: The president and the Pentagon say they're very committed to doing this. And with all of the trouble we've seen in the past few days, the security situation appears to be deteriorating. And it seems this has only strengthened the desire to finish this up as soon as possible.

KHALID: That's NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Thanks, as always, Greg.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.