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Two Targets Killed In U.S. Drone Strike On ISIS-K

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And the Pentagon has just given a news conference about the latest developments in Afghanistan. We're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. He covered the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan a couple of decades ago. And he's here now to talk about how it's ending. Greg, thanks for being with us.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Oh, my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: What did you note from the Pentagon briefing?

MYRE: They hit a few more details on this airstrike or drone strike against ISIS-K, the group that was blamed or claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Thursday. The U.S. strike killed two members of the group and wounded one. They were described as planners and facilitators. President Biden had promised to hit back after the attack two days ago. But this was just one strike against a small, elusive group that doesn't have a base or doesn't have territory. And it - certainly this won't cripple them. Now, the Pentagon is also warning in the strongest possible terms of the possibility of another attack on the U.S. forces, saying the threat stream they're seeing is active and dynamic.

SIMON: But to be clear, flights out of Kabul continue, don't they?

MYRE: That's right, Scott. So 6,800 were evacuated yesterday. Flights are continuing today, as we just heard. There's 1,400 people at the airport ready to go, already processed. And over the past month, we're now up to 117,000 evacuees. For a little perspective, that is the - roughly the population of Billings, Mont. And the Pentagon says it is going to keep flying out evacuees right up until the end, which would be Tuesday.

SIMON: As we've heard, the U.S. forces have been forced to cooperate with the Taliban to carry out this airlift. What do you divine from what the Pentagon and others have said, Greg, about any kind of relationship that will continue after that master sergeant gets on the last plane out of Kabul?

MYRE: Yes, Scott. It's looking like it's quite possible that contact and some sort of relationship could well continue. There will be unfinished business. President Biden says the U.S. will keep trying to get U.S. citizens and allied Afghans out after the U.S. military leaves. The Taliban certainly want international recognition and assistance. It's calling for countries to keep their embassies open, including the United States. And the United States hasn't tipped its hand one way or the other. But there will also be risk of a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and if the U.S. would deeply be involved in that process as well.

SIMON: Yeah, Greg. I think you and I both vividly recall the streets of Kabul in 2001, after the Taliban had just been driven out. It's a different scene and time now, isn't it?

MYRE: Oh, they couldn't be more stark. I mean, back then, there really was joy in the streets. People were playing music, which they hadn't been able to do during the Taliban rule. Afghans really wanted to talk to you, tell you about this unbearable life that they'd had under the Taliban. Now, you knew this mood wasn't going to last. This is a terribly poor country. It's very divided, not much of an economy. The political system was sort of nonexistent. But it did seem that this really dark chapter was over. And the country had already been at war for more than 20 years at that point. Afghans seemed really desperate for the fighting to end. And even if it wasn't going to be a smooth-running modern country overnight, it did seem like some sort of normal life was a realistic possibility.

SIMON: And the fact is much of the world will not see what goes on in another month or two.

MYRE: That's right. So much of the media has pulled out. I think Afghanistan might go dark very quickly once the U.S. pulls out.

SIMON: NPR's national security correspondent Greg Myre. Thanks so much for being with us.

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