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Taliban claims at least 28 of its members killed in Kabul blasts, vows to step up security but no deadline extension

“We have lost more people than the Americans,” an unnamed Taliban official told the outlet on Friday, after a pair of blasts killed dozens of Afghans and 13 American soldiers the day prior. He added that in light of the deadly attack, additional guard posts would be set up not only at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, but all airfields around the country.

It’s so far unclear how many civilians were killed in the bombings, as the casualty numbers are expected to rise. Reuters reported on Friday, citing a health official and the Taliban, that at least 72 Afghans have died, including the Taliban fighters.

A NATO diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, corroborated the official’s claim, telling Reuters that the Taliban would tighten security and deploy additional forces to manage the large crowds that have gathered around the Kabul airport. The diplomat urged the group to investigate Thursday’s attack – for which Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claimed responsibility – arguing that the Taliban may bear some blame, as it recently released a number of prisoners who may have ties to the infamous terrorist org. 

“Taliban leaders should investigate the Islamic State network in Kabul,” the NATO official said, adding “They allowed thousands of prisoners to walk out of jails in recent weeks; security is their responsibility.”

While the Taliban representative said the group would make changes to security, he also said it sees no reason to extend an August 31 deadline for all foreign forces to exit the country – a date initially set by US President Joe Biden, who has repeatedly pledged to stick to it. 

General Frank McKenzie, who heads up US Central Command (CENTCOM), said the Pentagon is bracing for additional attacks in the coming days, including possible vehicle-borne bombs and rockets fired toward the airport. 

“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said, adding that some US intelligence had been provided to the Taliban, and that he believes “some attacks have been thwarted by them.”

The Taliban has long been an enemy of Islamic State, namely it’s ‘Khorasan’ cell, which is active in Afghanistan and emerged in the Nangarhar province around 2015. In previous battles with the group, Washington periodically provided air support for Taliban fighters, prompting American soldiers to jokingly dub themselves the ‘Taliban air force’.

Security alerts from the US, UK, and Taliban officials in recent days warned of a potential attack on the airport, while US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted a possible threat from ISIS-K as early as last week.

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