WASHINGTON — John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary, said the Pentagon will continue to conduct drone strikes against the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and others within Afghanistan when necessary, even after the permanent withdrawal of the US military presence from the country.

Indicating that they would be utilizing drone strikes if threats arose again in the future, the Pentagon launched deadly drone strikes against an individual described as an “ISIS-K planner” as well as a suspected suicide car bomber in recent days after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 13 US service members.

“We have the capability from an over horizon perspective of ensuring our national security interests are protected and defended,” said Kirby.

“And what I would tell you, without getting into hypotheticals or speculating about future operations, we’re going to continue to maintain those capabilities and use them if and when we need to.”

The United States forces left Afghanistan on the morning of Aug. 31, marking the end of a chaotic and messy exit from America’s longest war.

While addressing the nation on the US ending 20 years of war in Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden warned the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), which killed 13 US troops in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport, and said the US is not done with the terrorist group.

“To ISIS-K, we are not done with you yet,” Biden said, adding that “to those who wish America harm, we will hunt you down, and you will pay the ultimate price.”

In defending a decision that has drawn scrutiny for its execution, Biden said the accurate decision in Afghanistan was “between leaving and escalating,” framing his choice to withdraw troops as the only option aside from surging more forces to the country.

“I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit,” he said in the statement.

“Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan — all the way back as far as March. After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave.”

Biden believes that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who stay are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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