Head of U.S. Central Command says Taliban 'thwarted' earlier attacks

Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

After suicide bombers and gunmen launched an assault in Kabul on Thursday that left at least 13 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghan civilians dead, the head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., said the Taliban has "thwarted" several attacks in Afghanistan since effectively taking control of the government earlier this month.

The Islamic State's splinter group in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, has taken responsibility for Thursday's attack. ISIS-K and the Taliban are rivals, with ISIS-K believing the Taliban are too moderate.

McKenzie told reporters the U.S. is using helicopters, drones, and other aircraft to monitor crowds in Kabul, while the Taliban has set up checkpoints and perimeters outside of the city's airport. The U.S. has shared threat assessments with Taliban leaders, he said, and following Thursday's deadly attack, officials have asked the Taliban to close roads to prevent car bombings.

The U.S. troops killed on Thursday were searching Afghans trying to evacuate the country, and McKenzie praised them for their hard work. "This is close-up work," he said. "The breath of the person you are searching is upon you. While we have overwatch in place, we still have to touch the clothes of the person coming in. I think you can all appreciate the courage and dedication that is necessary to do this job, and to do it time after time."

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