August 27 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Aditi Sangal, Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Tara John, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0301 GMT (1101 HKT) August 31, 2021
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1:10 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Biden was warned "another terror attack in Kabul is likely" as mission enters "most dangerous period"

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on August 26.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on August 26. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were warned by their national security team this morning "that another terror attack in Kabul is likely," according to a White House official, who said the US is taking "maximum force protection measures at the Kabul Airport."

"The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date," the official said. 

"The US military is airlifting out thousands of people every few hours. They continue to prioritize evacuating the remaining American citizens who have indicated that they wish to leave, and are engaged in a variety of means to get them to the airport safely," the official continued.

"The President directed the Secretary of State to continue diplomatic efforts with international partners to secure means for third-country nationals and Afghans with visas to leave the country even after the U.S. military presence ends."

The official said US commanders also updated Biden and Harris "on plans to develop ISIS-K targets."

"The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date. The President reaffirmed with the commanders his approval of all authorities they need to conduct the operation and protect our troops, and all reported back that they have the resources they believe they need to do so effectively," the official said.

Harris was not at the meeting in person but joined via a secure video teleconference, the official said. 

12:47 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Evacuation effort is a "worthy mission," Biden says one day after Kabul attack

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on August 26.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on August 26. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

A day after an attack near Kabul's international airport that killed 13 US service members, President Biden again expressed sympathy to those who died and called the Afghanistan evacuation effort "a worthy mission."

"Losing a son or daughter, a husband, a wife, is like being sucked into a big black hole in your chest and you don't think there's any way out. ... Our hearts go out to all those who we lost. But look, the mission there they performed is dangerous. And now it's come with a significant loss of American personnel. But it's a worthy mission because they continue to evacuate folks out of the region, out of the airport. Evacuated more than 12,000 additional people out of the airport in the last 24 hours," Biden said.

At least 170 people were killed in the attack, according to an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.

Biden said he received a "detailed briefing" this morning from his national security advisers.

"We will complete the mission," Biden said.

Biden made the remarks during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

12:08 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Kabul death toll increases to more than 170 killed, Afghan health official says

Relatives load in a car the coffin of a victim of the explosion at the Abbey gate at Hamid Karzai International airport on Friday, August 27, in Kabul.
Relatives load in a car the coffin of a victim of the explosion at the Abbey gate at Hamid Karzai International airport on Friday, August 27, in Kabul. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

The death toll has increased to more than 170 people killed from Thursday's Kabul attack, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health told CNN Friday.

More than 200 people were wounded, the official said.

Yesterday, the Pentagon confirmed that 13 US service members were killed and 18 were injured in the attack near Kabul's airport.

 

12:05 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Pentagon: There are still "credible threats" to Kabul airport

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette

Pentagon officials say they are receiving reports of credible threats to the evacuation effort in Afghanistan and are monitoring those threats “virtually, in real time.”

“We still believe there are credible threats. In fact, I'd say specific, credible threats, and we want to make sure we're prepared for those,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday, as he discussed efforts to bolster force protection, including expanding the perimeter around Kabul airport and closing roads, in the final days before the US military completes its withdrawal on Aug. 31.

“We have additional information,” Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. “What you're seeing us act on, to the degree we can talk about, it is based on information that we have, and I think, I think I’d like it at that.”

Pressed by CNN’s Barbara Starr on whether another attack in potentially imminent, Kirby said, “we certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts, absolutely, but I won't get into the specifics of what those are and why we're doing what we're doing.”

Asked if the US has additional intelligence on threats to Kabul airport since the attack, Kirby said, “again, without talking to intelligence, we're monitoring these threats, very, very specifically, virtually in real time, and I think you can understand I wouldn't get in more detail than that.”

12:03 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Pentagon confirms reports of backlog of Afghan refugee flights at DC-area airport

From CNN's Michael Conte

The Pentagon said that reports of refugee flights from Afghanistan being stuck on the tarmac at Dulles Airport near Washington, DC, for hours were accurate but said it was an issue with Customs and Border Patrol processing.

“As we understand it this morning, they have worked through the difficulties and we believe that wait time now upon landing is going to get much much shorter,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

12:04 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Army confirms 1 soldier was among the 13 US service members killed in Kabul attack

The US Army confirmed that one soldier was among the 13 US service members killed in the attack in Kabul on Thursday.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims of the terrible, cowardly attacks in Kabul. I join all of my fellow DoD leaders in honoring our Service Members’ sacrifice–they gave all for others. Our Army mourns the loss of our Soldier and we are here to support his family and friends. His fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, & Airmen continue their brave mission,” Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth said in a statement.

No further information will be released until 24 hours after next of kin notification is complete.

“I am heart-broken by the appalling attacks in Kabul and offer my sincere condolences to the families of the victims. These fallen Service Members died ensuring that others might live. They represent the very best of America, and we continue this mission in their honor,” said Gen. James C. McConville, the Army chief of staff. 

The US Marine Corps announced Thursday that 10 Marines were among the dead and the Navy confirmed Friday that one sailor also died.

11:51 a.m. ET, August 27, 2021

“There will be a day of reckoning” for Biden’s actions on Afghanistan, top US House Republican says

From CNN's Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy departs from the podium after speaking at a press conference at the Capitol building on August 27 in Washington.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy departs from the podium after speaking at a press conference at the Capitol building on August 27 in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “there will be a day of reckoning” for President Biden as the result of his handling of the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as calls within the Republican conference grow for Biden to resign or even be impeached for his actions.

But McCarthy said the focus now had to be on getting Americans and troops out of the region.

“Look I’m extremely frustrated with this President” McCarthy said, as the calls within the Republican conference grow for Biden to resign and even be impeached.

“There will be a day of reckoning. We have constitutional rights. Right now in the next five days, everyone’s responsibility should only be focused on getting the Americans out. That is what we should be focused on. When that day passes, we can take up anything to hold accountable for the actions that have been taken, the lives that have been given, the mis-decisions that have put Americans in harms way, and the decision to leave Americans behind," he said.

McCarthy was unclear about his personal stance on whether troops should remain in Afghanistan or not. At one point he said that all troops need to be evacuated from Afghanistan, while later told reporters that he would be open to sending more troops to help with evacuations and even maintaining a more permanent base there.

“I would have checked and maintained the Bagram Air Force base,” McCarthy said, referring to a separate air base that is currently not being used for getting people out of Afghanistan because the military and State Department ruled it was too far from the Kabul airport.

On sending more troops to Afghanistan, McCarthy said, “if the military says it makes them safer, yes I would.”

Asked by CNN’s Ryan Nobles about a bill that McCarthy is pushing to bring to the floor, which essentially gives the White House the direction to decide if it is safe for troops should remain in Afghanistan, McCarthy said, “the only way we want troops to be there, is to make sure Americans get back safely and that the troops are safe.” 

McCarthy repeatedly attacked the Biden administration for negotiating with the Taliban. When presented with the fact that former President Trump also negotiated with the Taliban, McCarthy said, “Trump also had conditions. And he upheld the conditions. Trump never gave the names of Americans to the Taliban.”

11:17 a.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Pentagon: US still planning to end Afghanistan mission by Aug. 31

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday that the US military is still planning to end its mission in Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

“We're still planning on ending this mission at the end of the month,” Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.

“As we get closer, and we are getting closer, you’re going see us begin to make those muscle movements to pull out our troops and some of our equipment, as appropriate with any retrograde,” he said, adding they want to “preserve as much capability for as long as we can, both in terms of the security footprint” and ability to evacuate people.

“Lives are still the priority — the lives of our troops and of course the lives of the evacuees and trying to get as many out as possible. So there will be a balance over the next few days as we continue to process through that transition as we continue to as what we call ‘retrograde,’” Kirby said.

“I think you'll see us adjust as necessary to make sure that we're achieving that proper balance. But we'll be able to fly out evacuees right up until the last moment. That’s gonna be the goal,” he said.

Kirby said the “inter-agency, the US Government will pursue a variety of ways to help any Americans who want to get out after our military presence at the airport has ended, to be able to help them get out.”

“While Afghanistan is a unique case, it is not completely separated from the larger efforts that the United States government pursues all over the world when we know that Americans are at special risk, we do what we can to get them out, and that doesn't necessarily involve the United States military,” he said.

“I certainly wouldn't speculate one way or another about what is going to happen after this particular mission ends. But I would not envision a significant military role in that effort going forward," he continued.

 

1:53 p.m. ET, August 27, 2021

Pentagon announces 3 more military bases will be used to support Afghans coming into the US

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette and Kiely Westhoff

The Pentagon announced Friday that additional military bases in the US will be used to help support evacuation operations from Afghanistan. 

“The Department of Defense can announce that it is authorized Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Fort Pickett, Virginia, and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to provide additional support to the US mission to evacuate Afghans special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at risk individuals,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters at a briefing. 

Kirby said the three new bases join Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas and Fort Lee and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey in providing support, with the capacity of up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other evacuees. 

“The Defense Department will continue to support the State Department in providing temporary housing sustainment and support inside the United States for a capacity of up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at risk individuals,” Kirby said.

“US Northern Command will coordinate the details of all this with the State Department, the Department Homeland Security and of course the Department of Health and Human Services as necessary,” Kirby said. 

He added that “it'll be providing, provided, under presidential drawdown authority to the maximum extent possible, with additional support being provided on a reimbursable basis.”

Evacuees from Afghanistan are expected to arrive in Virginia at two of the new temporary housing facilities Saturday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday.

Northam said Fort Pickett has the capacity to house up to 3,800 refugees. Quantico is currently equipped to host 1,000, but can be upscaled to accommodate up to 5,000 people, per Northam's announcement.  

The evacuees are being tested for Covid-19 upon arrival unless they can show proof of a negative test result from the past 72 hours. 

Only 20 people have tested positive in the 11 days since Virginia’s repatriation program began, according to Northam. 

CNN has reached out to confirm how many refugees the state has taken in so far.