Live Updates: 12 U.S. service members killed, 15 injured in Kabul attack
Psaki says “nothing has changed” on timeline of getting troops out by August 31
Responding to a question from CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “nothing has changed” regarding the president’s timeline of getting troops out of Afghanistan by August 31.
The Pentagon has said the U.S. military would need several days to draw down operations ahead of a final withdrawal.
White House says flags to be flown at half-staff until Monday
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said U.S. flags at the White House and on federal property will be flown at half-staff through Monday “in honor of the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Kabul.”
Biden: “I bear responsibility” for recent events in Afghanistan
Asked whether he is responsible for the way events in Afghanistan have unfolded since the Afghan government collapsed, Mr. Biden said, “I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late.”
It has been more than a year since a U.S. service member was killed in combat in Afghanistan, but the president said that can be attributed to a deal former President Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban, under which he pledged the U.S. would withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by May 1 if there were no attacks against U.S. troops.
The “reason why there were no attacks on Americans … was because the commitment was made by President Trump, ‘I will be out by May 1, in the meantime you agree not to attack any Americans.’ That was the deal,” Mr. Biden said.
The president continued to stand by his decision to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan, saying “it was time to end a 20-year war.”
Pelosi orders Capitol flags to be flown at half-staff
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff to honor the victims killed in the attacks outside the airport in Kabul, spokesman Drew Hammill said.
Biden to perpetrators of deadly Kabul airport attack: “We will hunt you down and make you pay”
In his first remarks on the attacks outside the airport in Kabul that killed 12 U.S. service members, Mr. Biden vowed the U.S. will find those behind the deadly blasts and hold them responsible.
“To those that carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Mr. Biden asserted.
The president said ISIS-K, an affiliate of the terror group ISIS, was behind the attacks and said he has ordered military commanders to develop operational plans for strikes against its assets, leadership and facilities.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing,” Mr. Biden said.
The president said that despite the events outside the Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate, the U.S. will continue with its mission to evacuate American citizens and Afghan alles.
“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans that are there. We will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on,” he said. “America will not be intimidated.”
The president said he told the military he would grant them whatever resources were needed, including additional forces, but top defense officials said they “subscribe to the mission as designed.”
Mr. Biden honored the 12 service members who lost their lives in the explosions, saying he and first lady Dr. Jill biden are “outraged” and “heartbroken.”
“These American service members who gave their lives — it’s an overused word but it’s totally appropriate here — are heroes,” the president said.
The situation on the ground in Kabul is still evolving, the president said, and he is “constantly” receiving updates. Mr. Biden has been in contact throughout the day with military commanders in Washington and at the Pentagon, as well those in Afghanistan and Doha, Qatar.
Pelosi reiterates that lawmakers should not travel to Afghanistan
Reiterating a message she offered earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to members Thursday urging them not to go to Afghanistan. Multiple members of Congress have gone or tried to go covertly to Kabul.
“Sadly, the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan necessitates reiterating that Members must not request or plan visits to the region. The Departments of Defense and State have explicitly stated that Member travel to Afghanistan and surrounding countries would unnecessarily divert needed resources from the priority mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating Americans and Afghans at risk,” Pelosi wrote. “It should be clear that any Member presence presents a danger and an opportunity cost of resources, regardless of whatever value that Members consider they may add by such trips.”
Pelosi mourned the loss of life of 12 American service members as well.
“We mourn the loss of every innocent life taken, and we join every American in heartbreak over the deaths of the Americans and all killed,” Pelosi wrote.
90 people killed in attack, 150 wounded, Afghan official says
An official from the Afghan Ministry of Public Health tells CBS News that the death toll from the attack has risen to 90 people, including men, women and children. The official said 150 more people were wounded in the blasts.
Pelosi says House “strongly condemns” deadly airport attack
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement the House shares in the “heartbreak over the deaths” of the 12 U.S. forces killed in the attack near the airport in Kabul and mourns the lives lost in the blasts Thursday.
“The United States House of Representatives strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack outside Kabul airport,” she said, adding that as evacuations out of Kabul continue, Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain “deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.”
Pelosi said she has asked the Biden administration to continue briefing lawmakers and said committees with oversight of the situation in Afghanistan will continue to hold briefings.
“As we pray for the lives lost, the many injured and their families, Congress and the country are grateful to our military, diplomatic and intelligence communities for their courage and patriotism,” the speaker said.
McConnell mourns service members killed in action
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the deaths of U.S. service members “sickening and enraging,” and said he remains concerned that terrorists will be “emboldened by our retreat.”
“It is sickening and enraging to hear that at least 12 United States servicemembers have been killed and more have been injured at the hands of terrorists in Kabul,” McConnell said in a statement.
“Americans’ hearts are breaking for our servicemembers and diplomats,” McConnell continued. “They are doing heroic work to rescue American citizens and Afghan partners in the predictably chaotic wake of the President’s decision to withdraw. I am praying for the families of these fallen Americans, for their injured comrades, and for all our personnel in harm’s way.”
The top Senate Republican said the U.S. needs to “redouble our global efforts to confront these barbarian enemies who want to kill Americans and attack our homeland.”
ISIS claims responsibility for attack outside Kabul airport gate
ISIS claimed credit for the explosion Thursday near the main airport in Kabul that killed a dozen U.S. service members, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
SITE said a report from ISIS’s Amaq News Agency claimed a suicide bomber from Khorasan Province was able to get close to U.S. forces, as well as Afghans seeking to flee Kabul, and detonate an explosive belt.
The U.S. military controls the airport in Kabul and has been facilitating the evacuations of American citizens and at-risk Afghans following the Taliban’s takeover of the country earlier this month.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said during the Pentagon’s briefing that two suicide bombers “assessed to have been ISIS fighters” detonated devices near the Abbey Gate and in the vicinity the Baron Hotel.
Following the attack at the Abbey Gate, ISIS gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, McKenzie said.
Biden to speak at 5 p.m. from White House
The president will address the nation at 5 p.m., the White House said. Press secretary Jen Psaki will brief reporters following his remarks at 5:45 p.m., according to an updated schedule.
CENTCOM commander says threat of suicide car bomb attack remains “high”
McKenzie told reporters the U.S. believes the threat of a vehicle-borne suicide bombing is “high” following twin explosions outside the airport in Kabul.
To further increase security, McKenzie said the U.S. has reached out to the Taliban and asked them to extend the security perimeter and close several roads, which the group agreed to do.
Gen. McKenzie says “the threat from ISIS is extremely real…we believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue.” pic.twitter.com/UWIz1ZWZbo
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) August 26, 2021
“We want to reduce the possibility of one of those vehicles getting close,” he said of a vehicle-borne IED.
McKenzie said given the extent of the evacuation of Americans and at-risk Afghans, the military expected an attack would occur “sooner or later,” but the U.S. would not be deterred.
“It’s tragic that it happened today. It’s tragic there was this much loss of life,” he said. “We are prepared to continue the mission” even while facing attacks.
Harris returning to D.C.
Vice President Kamala Harris will leave Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for Washington D.C., on Thursday, her senior adviser, Symone Sanders, confirmed on Twitter.
She had been scheduled to campaign with California Governor Gavin Newsom in the Golden State on Friday. She has been on her first trip to Asia as vice president.
12 U.S. service members killed in Kabul attacks, 15 injured, Pentagon says
At least 12 U.S. troops killed in Kabul attac…
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, confirmed 12 U.S. service members were killed in the blasts outside the airport in Kabul and 15 were injured.
“Their loss weighs heavily on us all,” McKenzie told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
“A number” of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the blasts, and they are being treated at the airport and hospitals in Kabul, he said.
The U.S. is continuing with its mission to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the country, McKenzie continued, and roughly 5,000 evacuees are on a ramp at the airport awaiting airlift.
Approximately 104,000 people have been shuttled out of Afghanistan since August 14, including more than 66,000 by the U.S. military and 37,000 by allies and partners. Of those who have been relocated, 5,000 are U.S. citizens, and the Pentagon believes roughly 1,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan.
“We’re doing everything we can in concert with our Department of State partners to reach out to them and to help them leave if they want to leave,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said the threats to American forces from ISIS-K is “very real,” and there is an “extremely active” threat stream against the airfield.
“The pattern is multiple attacks and we want to be prepared and be ready to defend against that,” he said.
Asked by CBS News’ David Martin whether the suicide bomber was going through the Abbey Gate at the airport when the device was detonated, McKenzie said “that would be my working assumption.”
McKenzie added the bomber did not get on the installation.
CENTCOM commander says U.S. will “go after” those responsible for attack
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said that the U.S. “will go after” those responsible for the attack at the airport.
“If we can find whose associated with this, we will go after them,” he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing Thursday afternoon. “Twenty-four seven, we are looking for them.”
Gen. McKenzie says “the threat from ISIS is extremely real…We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue.” He says if the U.S. finds who is responsible for Kabul attacks, “we will go after them” https://t.co/mxRpfPpgkF pic.twitter.com/M7bk08nwfo
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 26, 2021
McKenzie said the threat from ISIS continues to be very high.
Attacks mark first hostile U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since February 2020
The last time U.S. service members were killed in combat in Afghanistan was in February 2020, when Javier Gutierrez and Antonio Rodriguez were killed in an apparent insider attack in Nangarhar province. Two paratroopers were killed in a roadside bomb in January 2020.
Prior to Thursday’s attack, there had been one U.S. service member injured in the mission to secure the Kabul airport. A Marine assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines was injured during the initial operation to secure the airport in Kabul, according to Major Jim Stenger, Marine Corps spokesperson. The Marine received what reports described as a grazing injury, was aided at the scene, and returned to duty, Stenger said.
Defense secretary says military “will not be dissuaded” by deaths in Kabul
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the service members killed and injured in the attack outside the airport in Kabul.
“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others. We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief,” Austin said in a statement. “But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”
Biden’s meeting with Israeli prime minister moved to Friday
The president’s bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been rescheduled for Friday, according to the White House.
The two leaders had been scheduled to meet late Thursday morning, but the attack in Kabul upended the president’s schedule.
At least 10 U.S. service members killed in attack near airport
At least 10 U.S. service members were killed in the attack at the Kabul airport, multiple sources tell CBS News.
The Pentagon is scheduled to field questions from reporters at 3 p.m. ET.
Pentagon officials to hold briefing at 3 p.m.
The Pentagon press secretary will now hold a briefing at 3 p.m. ET with Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command. Watch live on CBSN here:
Pelosi spokesman hits back at McCarthy over call to keep troops in Afghanistan
A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bristled at Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s call for the speaker to bring the House back in session to pass legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated.
“Right now, American heroes are risking & giving their lives to execute an extraordinarily dangerous evacuation, & the Minority Leader wants to defund the mission & tie the Commander in Chief’s hands in the middle of the most dangerous days of the operation,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted.
Hammill said the Biden administration has briefed members of Congress “repeatedly” and has been providing updates daily.
“What’s not going to help evacuate American citizens is more empty stunts & distraction from the Minority Leader who sat idly by as Pres. Trump proudly negotiated with the Taliban,” he said.
Mr. Trump and his administration reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, under which the U.S. would pull forces out of Afghanistan by May as long as the Taliban met commitments to prevent terrorism and reduce violence.
McCarthy urges Pelosi to reconvene the House over Afghanistan
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring lawmakers back to Washington before the withdrawal deadline of August 31 to be briefed by the Biden administration and pass legislation to halt the withdrawal of troops until all Americans are out of Afghanistan.
Most members are now home in their districts, as the House is out of session.
“Today’s attacks are horrific. My prayers go out to those who were injured and the families of those who were killed,” McCarthy said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden administration and pass Representative Gallagher’s legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of our troops until every American is out of Afghanistan.”
Afghan interpreter who witnessed bombing recalls harrowing experience
Afghan interpreter describes Kabul attack
An Afghan interpreter who worked with American forces during the war recalled in an interview with CBSN what he witnessed outside the main airport in Kabul immediately after one of the explosions. He said he helped an injured young girl who ultimately died in his arms.
The Afghan man, referred to as “Carl,” told CBSN he was heading toward one of the airport gates to be evacuated when the explosion happened.
“I just saw a lot of people got hurt and people that were laying on the ground,” he said. “I saw a baby there and I went to her and I picked her up and started taking her to the hospital.”
Carl estimated the young girl was 5 years old, and he put her in a vehicle to bring her to the hospital.
“I took her to the hospital, but she died on my hands,” he said. “That’s heartbreaking. What is going on right now is heartbreaking, this whole country has fallen apart.”
“I tried,” the interpreter continued. “I did my best to help her.”
Carl, whose story could not be independently verified, said he worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province and experienced “a lot of explosions.”
“I saw a lot of people dead,” he said of the scene outside the Kabul airport. “They were laying on the ground. I saw a lot, but I went for that baby girl.”
Read more here.
Pentagon confirms “a number of U.S. service members were killed” in attack
A “number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack” outside the Kabul airport, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed in a statement. A “number of others” are being treated for wounded, he added.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured,” he wrote.
These deaths are the first among the U.S. military during evacuation operations.
Some countries had already ended evacuations before Kabul blasts
Multiple countries had already halted evacuation efforts in Kabul amid a deteriorating security situation before the explosions near the airport Thursday. The blasts caused multiple casualties, including Americans, underlining how dangerous the situation on the ground is.
British, Belgian and U.S. officials had warned of the possibility of a terrorist threat near the airport in recent hours and days.
Poland became the first European country to halt evacuations earlier this week, with its deputy foreign minister saying they could not risk the lives of their diplomats or soldiers any longer.
Belgium also stopped evacuation efforts earlier this week. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted Wednesday that the government “has decided to end evacuations from Kabul airport, given the evolving situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with other European partners.” Denmark had also stopped facilitating evacuations ahead of the blasts.
The Netherlands also departed Kabul.
“The Netherlands has to leave Kabul today,” the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted Thursday, ahead of reports of the explosions. “This is a painful moment because it means that despite all the great efforts of the past period, people who are eligible for evacuation to the Netherlands will be left behind.”
A Canadian general said Thursday ahead of the reports of explosions that Canada had already completed evacuations. Hungary, too, said that it had evacuated all of its citizens.
Mr. Biden said earlier this week the U.S. is “on pace” to meet the August 31 withdrawal deadline, but it remains unclear how the explosions will affect U.S. evacuations.
NATO chief condemns “horrific terrorist attack”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the explosions Thursday, calling them a “horrific terrorist attack.”
“My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones,” he tweeted. “Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.”
Biden returns to Oval Office after Situation Room meeting
Mr. Biden’s meeting with his top officials in the Situation Room has concluded, and he is now in the Oval Office, according to a White House official. The president will continue to be briefed on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the official said.
The White House also delayed a scheduled press briefing, and a meeting between the president and governors about housing Afghan refugees has also been pushed.
Kathryn Watson and Tim Perry
Satellite photos show crowds gathered at airport gate in days before blasts
Satellite imagery captured by Maxar Technologies shows hundreds of people who gathered over the past several days outside Abbey Gate at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where one of at least two explosions tore through the crowd Thursday.
One photo from August 23 shows the throngs of people outside the gate:
A satellite image shows crowds outside Abbey Gate at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 23, 2021.
Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies
The crowds continued to gather on August 24 and 25, as seen in these photos:
A satellite photo shows crowds of people outside Abbey Gate at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 24, 2021.
Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies
A satellite photo shows crowds of people outside Abbey Gate at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 24, 2021.
Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies
Crowds have gathered outside the airport everyday since the Taliban took control of the city, desperate to board flights out of the country.
Biden’s meeting with Israeli prime minister delayed
Mr. Biden’s bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been delayed, the White House said, as the president and his administration grapple with the explosions in Kabul.
The gathering, the first in-person meeting for the two leaders, was initially set to occur at 11:30 a.m. in the Oval Office. It’s unclear when the meeting will happen. Bennett arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night and met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday.
Biden huddles in Situation Room with national security team
A White House official confirmed just after 11 a.m. that the president is in the White House Situation Room, as news unfolds about the situation in Kabul. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are both at the White House, and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is briefing the president, the official said.
Mr. Biden had been scheduled to meet with the Israeli prime minister soon.
Pentagon says second explosion occurred near Kabul airport, confirms U.S. casualties
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said there were at least two explosions in Kabul, with a second occuring “at or near the Baron Hotel,” which is close to the airport’s Abbey Gate.
Kirby also said the first explosion at the Abbey Gate “was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties.”
We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.
— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021
“Unknown number of casualties” after blast at Abbey Gate, Pentagon says
John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the blast outside Abbey Gate at the airport resulted in “an unknown number of casualties.”
“We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties,” Kirby tweeted.
There are four gates at the airport where people trying to leave Afghanistan were previously told to go to, according to CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe and Charlie D’Agata. The State Department said Thursday that Americans at the Abbey Gate, East Gate and North Gate should now “leave immediately.”
Just outside the Abbey Gate stands the Baron Hotel, where three U.S. Chinook helicopters picked up 169 Americans on Thursday last week and brought them to the airport.
Suicide bomber responsible for blast, sources say
A suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion outside Abbey Gate, three sources tell CBS News.
Christina Ruffini and Olivia Gazis
U.S. Embassy issues security alert warning Americans to avoid Kabul airport
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a new security alert warning of a “large explosion at the airport” and “reports of gunfire.”
“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” the embassy said. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
U.S. and U.K warned citizens to avoid airport hours before blast
Hours before the blast, the U.S. and Britain warned citizens not to go to Kabul’s airport, citing a terror threat to the sprawling facility outside of which thousands of desperate people have gathered since the Taliban’s retaking of Afghanistan.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent out an alert on Wednesday evening advising U.S. citizens in Afghanistan to avoid traveling to the airport, citing an unspecified security threat amid frantic efforts to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans.
“Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” the security alert read. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
A U.S. defense official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Thursday that the threat was not to planes taking off or landing, but of an explosive device being detonated outside the airport gates.
Read the full story here.
Pentagon postpones briefing scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
A Pentagon press briefing scheduled for Thursday morning has been postponed. No new start time has been announced.
Biden briefed on blast outside Kabul airport
President Biden has been briefed on the explosion outside the airport in Kabul, a White House official said shortly after the blast was reported.
The president had previously been scheduled to meet with his national security team at 9:30 a.m. at the White House “to hear intelligence, security, and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,” according to his public schedule.
White House: 95,700 people evacuated since August 14
Over a 24-hour period beginning early Wednesday morning, 13,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan on U.S. military and coalition aircraft, the White House said earlier Thursday.
Seventeen military flights — C-17s and C-130s — carried roughly 5,100 from Kabul, while 74 coalition aircraft relocated approximately 8,300 people. Since mid-August, the U.S. has shuttled 95,700 people out of Kabul, according to the White House. Since the end of July, 101,300 people have been relocated.