The US will continue to work with and 'rely' on the Taliban as evacuations continue following terror attacks near Kabul airport

·3 min read
A Taliban fighter stands at an airport checkpoint with a gun.
A Taliban fighter guards a checkpoint outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES
  • The US will continue to rely on Taliban security at Kabul airport as evacuations continue out of Afghanistan.

  • Joe Biden and a top US general confirmed the continued partnership following a set of ISIS terror attacks Thursday.

  • "They are not a group we trust," Jen Psaki said. "But it is also a reality that the Taliban controls large swaths of Afghanistan."

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US will continue to rely on Taliban security at Kabul airport as evacuations out of Afghanistan continue following two ISIS-K-linked explosions near the airport on Thursday that killed at least 12 US service members and many Afghans.

President Joe Biden and Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a top commander of US Central Command both confirmed the continued coordination during separate Thursday press conferences.

The administration attributed the fatal explosions to the Islamic State's Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, and the organization claimed responsibility for the attacks on Thursday evening.

"The threat from ISIS is extremely real," McKenzie said. "We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue."

The general and President Joe Biden both said the US is taking steps to safely continue the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies out of the country ahead of the August 31 deadline.

"That includes reaching out to the Taliban who are actually providing security for the outer cordon of the airfield," McKenzie said added, "to make sure they know what we expect them to do to protect us."

Despite being on opposite sides of a 20-year war in the region, the US and the Taliban found themselves facing a common enemy on Thursday following the ISIS attacks.

The Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies and have been fighting for years. The Islamic State affiliate views the Taliban as not devout enough in its approach to Islam and has an interest in conducting attacks that induce chaos for the newly-in-control Taliban, experts told Insider's John Haltiwanger.

Officials said they believe one of Thursday's fatal blasts occurred at a security gate monitored by US forces after the attacker would have made it through a Taliban-controlled checkpoint. But McKenzie said there is no indication the Taliban allowed Thursday's attacks, and said the group and the US share a "common goal" of evacuating American troops from the country in the next five days.

"As long as we keep that common purpose alive, they've been useful to work with," he said. "They've cut some of our security concerns down and they've been useful to work with going forward."

But during a Thursday evening press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarified that the Taliban is not a friend to the US.

"They are not a group we trust," she said. "But it is also a reality that the Taliban controls large swaths of Afghanistan."

She called future cooperation with the group necessary and attributed the working relationship between the US and Taliban to the successful evacuation of more than 100,000 people so far.

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