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Hear Fareed Zakaria's prediction of what's to come in Afghanistan
02:52 - Source: CNN

What we're covering

  • Thirteen US service members were killed and 18 were injured in an attack at Kabul’s airport, the head of the US Central Command said.
  • More than 170 people were killed and at least 200 were wounded, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health tells CNN.
  • The attack comes as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
21 Posts

Biden says strike against ISIS-K "was not the last"

US President Joe Biden arrives for a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021.

President Biden outlined the steps surrounding Friday’s strike against ISIS-K, saying, “I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have.”

Biden also offered praise for those service members killed in this week’s attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“[T]he 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far,” the statement said.

Biden added: “The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. … Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground.”

Indiana governor says Marine died in Kabul "so others could live and find freedom"

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Marine Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez “made the ultimate sacrifice” following his death in Kabul during the attack at its airport Thursday.

Sanchez, of Logansport, Indiana, was one of the 13 US service members killed in the attack.

“I ask all Hoosiers so inclined to send prayers to the family of one of America’s finest, US Marine, Corporal Humberto Sanchez,” Holcomb tweeted. “Few among us answer a call of duty so dangerous as Corporal Sanchez volunteered to do. In doing so, he made the ultimate sacrifice so others could live and find freedom.”

Read the tweet: 

Defense Department releases names of US service members killed in Afghanistan

From left: Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page; Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak; and Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum.

The Department of Defense has released the names of the 13 service members killed in Afghanistan:

For the Marine Corps, the deceased are: 

  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. 
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. 
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California. 
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California. 
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska. 
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana. 
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas. 
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri.  
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming. 
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California. 
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California. 

Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.

Sgt. Nicole L. Gee was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo was assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

For the Navy, the deceased is: 

  • Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio. Soviak was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California.

For the Army, the deceased is: 

  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Father of US Marine killed in Kabul attack says his son was doing what "he loved"

US Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz died in Thursday’s bombing outside Kabul International Airport, his father Mark Schmitz confirmed in a statement.

“We are going to Dover today. The love and support that we have experienced is incredible. [Jared’s] entire world was the US Marine Corps,” Mark Schmitz wrote. “Ever since he committed himself to the Marines in high school, he wanted to join. He showed a level of dedication that I haven’t seen.”

Jared Schmitz was from Wentzville, Missouri, and was, according to his father, particularly close to his 9-year-old special-needs sister.

“She worshipped the ground he walked on,” Mark Schmitz wrote. “He would meet her at the bus stop every day and walk home. It really made her day. She would get a kick out of making her backpack heavier to get on his nerves, but of course he just turned that into training.”

“He was a great friend. I didn’t know it was possible to be as proud of someone as I am of him now,”  the statement said. “At first, I was terrified for him to join the Corps, but with his dedication, in the end he was doing what he loved and what was his mission was in life.”

About 350 Americans still seeking to leave Afghanistan, State Department says

There are approximately 350 Americans still looking to leave Afghanistan, according to a State Department spokesperson.

These individuals are currently the only Americans the State Department can confirm are still in the country and seeking to leave, the Department said, and it believes some of them are nearly out or already out of Afghanistan.

The State Department also said it has communicated with roughly 280 additional individuals who self-identified as Americans but who have not told the Department of their plans to leave the country, or who have said they do not intend to leave at all.

Nearly 300 Americans were evacuated in the last day and the State Department also confirmed at least 5,400 Americans have been evacuated since Aug. 14, as the DOD reported earlier today.

US passport holders still being let into Kabul airport, Pentagon says

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby speaks at a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021.

The Pentagon said that any US passport holder can get into the airport in Kabul, after a US Embassy in Kabul alert on Friday warned US citizens at the airport gates to “leave immediately” due to security threats and avoid traveling to the airport.

“They’re doing the prudent, responsible thing, to inform Americans there in Kabul about what’s best for their own safety,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Kirby also said that Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants and vulnerable Afghans are still being processed at the airport.

US Marine corporal killed in Kabul bombing identified

US Marine Corporal Hunter Lopez died in Thursday’s bombing outside Kabul International Airport, his mother, Alicia Lopez told CNN.

Lopez’s mother said she and her family are flying to Dover Air Force Base soon to claim the remains of her son.

She described her son as a resourceful child with a promising future.

Alicia Lopez described an earlier exchange with her son where he had sent a photo of him and a small Afghan boy.

“My son called me and told me that the photo of him and the little boy, he scooped up the boy and carried him on his shoulders for five miles to safety. He told me, ‘mama we are so resourceful. We hot-wired a car and got back to base to be safe,’” Alicia Lopez said.

“My son was going places.” Lopez said of her son “Please share that I am praying for those in the hospital.”

Hunter Lopez grew up in Southern California and both of his parents are employees of the Riverside County Sheriff’s department.

A statement from the department said Lopez was 22 years old and “planned on following his parent’s footsteps and becoming a Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy after returning home from his current deployment. “

The statement said Lopez joined the Marines in 2017 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.

Remains of 13 service members on way back to US

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that the remains of the 13 US service members killed in Afghanistan are en route to the United States but said he was “not at liberty” to provide precise arrival information.

Some context: President Biden vowed to retaliate for a terrorist attack Thursday that killed the service members and at least 170 others outside Kabul’s international airport.

ISIS in Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, has claimed that an ISIS militant carried out Thursday’s suicide attack at an airport gate, but provided no evidence to support the claim. US officials have said the group was likely behind the bombing. 

US forces have begun "retrograding" from Kabul airport, Pentagon press secretary says

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the US military has “begun retrograding” from the Hamid Karzai International airport and noted that the US is “still in charge of airport” and the security.

Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor also noted, “we’re going to continue to operate the airport up until the end… We will continue to run that airfield to make sure that we can execute our operations.”

Kirby said the Taliban is not on the airport and not manning gates.

John would not provide the number of troops who have left.

Pentagon calls Kabul airport threats "real" and "dynamic"

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby holds a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021.

The Pentagon said the threats to the airport in Kabul are “still very real” and “very dynamic.”

“We are monitoring them literally in real-time,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby during a briefing Saturday. “We’re taking all the means necessary to make sure we remain focused on that threat stream, and doing what we can for force protection.”

5,400 Americans have been evacuated out of Afghanistan, US general says

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, gave an update on how many Americans and Afghans have been evacuated out of Kabul as of Saturday.

Taylor said the total number of evacuees is more than 117,000. Sixty-six flights with 6,800 evacuees left Kabul in a 24-hour period yesterday, he said. About 1,400 people at Hamid Karzai International Airport “have been screened and manifested for flights today,” he said.

Taylor said the “vast majority” of evacuees are Afghans, but 5,400 of the total number are US citizens.

He then gave an update on refugees arriving in the United States.

“Our total capacity across multiple US installations is approximately 21,000 and growing. We’re steadily working to increase the capacity to 50,000 by Sept. 15. Right now, we are hosting approximately 8,000 Afghan applicants at Fort McCoy, Fort Bliss, Fort Lee and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” he said.   

2 "high-profile ISIS targets" were killed during drone strike in Afghanistan Friday, US general says

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, speaks at a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021.

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, deputy director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, confirmed that two “high-profile ISIS targets” were killed Friday during a drone strike undertaken in Afghanistan.

“I can confirm, as more information has come in, that two high-profile ISIS targets were killed, and one was wounded. And we know of zero civilian casualties. Without specifying any future plans, I will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves and to leverage over the horizon capability to conduct counterterrorism operations as needed,” Taylor said during a news briefing Saturday.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said all the targets were hit in a single strike, and that they were “ISIS-K planners and facilitators.”

Some context: President Biden approved the strike against the ISIS-K planner, an official said Friday.

According to a statement from Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban, “the unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.”

Afghan girl born on evacuation flight

An Afghan baby girl was born Saturday morning during an evacuation flight operated by Turkish Airlines, the airline said in a statement.

Soman Noori, 26, “gave birth at 10 thousand meters [32,808 feet] above ground,” Turkish Airlines said. The birth was assisted by the cabin crew and the baby and mother are both doing well.

After the flight left Dubai for the United Kingdom, Noori gave birth at around 4 a.m. (Turkish time) over Kuwait’s airspace, according to Turkish Airlines.

“After the pregnant passenger informed the cabin crew about her labor pains, the crew asked whether there was a doctor in the aircraft,” the statement read. “Due to no doctor being available on the flight, cabin crew facilitated the birth in accordance with their training.”

The flight landed in Kuwait as a precaution and continued its journey to Birmingham with the baby girl and her family, Turkish Airlines said.

The father Taj Moh Hammat, 30, and Soman Noori named their daughter Havva. She is their third child.

20 wounded Marines being treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

Twenty Marines who were wounded in the suicide attack at the Kabul airport are being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Ramstein Air Base Commander Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olson said at a news conference Saturday.

The wounded and deceased service members were flown to Ramstein from Kabul on Friday, he said.

More than 20,000 refugees have been transported to Germany since August 20

Soldiers and helpers stand as people evacuated from Afghanistan leave a transport bus at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on August 20, 2021.

About 20,500 refugees have been transported to Germany’s Ramstein Air Base since Aug. 20, according to the latest data shared Saturday by the airbase’s public affairs office (PAO).

These evacuees traveled aboard roughly 100 USAF aircraft through Ramstein from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and Kabul airport in Afghanistan, the PAO said.

Almost 5,000 evacuees have departed on 22 flights from Ramstein Air Base to their resettlement locations.

No more flights are expected to come in today, but the situation remains fluid with aircraft expected to continue arriving in coming days, according to Ramstein Airbase Public Affairs specialist, Jennifer Green-Lanchoney.

Last UK military flight dedicated to civilian evacuees has left Kabul, defense source says

The last UK military flight dedicated to civilian evacuees has left Kabul airport, a UK defense source told CNN. 

Earlier on Saturday, the head of the UK’s armed forces, General Nick Carter, told BBC Radio 4 that the UK’s effort to evacuate Afghan civilians would end “during the course” of Saturday.

“And then it will be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft,” the general added.

A small number of civilians may make it on to remaining UK flights, the defense source added. 

UK ambassador to Afghanistan: "Time to close this phase of the operation now"

UK ambassador to Afghanistan Laurie Bristow speaks from Kabul, Afghanistan, in a video posted on Twitter on August 28, 2021.

It is “time to close this phase” of the UK’s evacuation operation in Afghanistan, the UK ambassador to Afghanistan Laurie Bristow tweeted.

Speaking from Kabul in a video posted on his Twitter page Saturday, Bristow said the UK “hasn’t forgotten the people who still need to leave” Afghanistan and the UK will “continue to do everything we can to help them.”

Some context: The UK announced Friday that it would be winding down its evacuation operation in Afghanistan in advance of the US withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News Friday that the evacuation operation was set to end in a “matter of hours.”

According to Bristow, “Thursday’s terrorist attack was a reminder of the difficult, dangerous conditions in which Operation Pitting has been done.”

Since Aug. 13, the UK’s evacuation operation, Operation Pitting, managed to bring nearly 15,000 people to safety, Bristow added.

Target of US drone strike was in a compound in Jalalabad area

The target in the drone strike was in a compound in the Jalalabad area, another defense official told CNN. 

The individual who was targeted was known to the US but new intelligence following the Kabul attack was firmed up to give justification to target him.

The source said surveillance continued on the compound until the target’s wife and children left and then the US conducted the targeted drone strike.

US Central Command said in their statement Friday that they were not aware of any civilian casualties.

CNN reported earlier that the target was believed to be “associated with potential future attacks at the airport.”

About 6,800 people evacuated from Kabul over 24-hour stretch

Evacuations continue from Kabul in the waning days of the US mission in Afghanistan, with approximately 6,800 people evacuated from the country from 3 a.m. ET Friday to 3 a.m. ET Saturday, according to a White House official.

Those evacuations were carried out by both US military and coalition flights, with 32 US military flights evacuating approximately 4,000 people and 34 coalition flights which evacuated 2,800 people, the White House said.

The latest numbers are noticeably smaller than those from recent days, something White House press secretary Jen Psaki should be expected in the final days of the mission.

“What it will also mean, as they move to this retrograde phase, is that there will be a reduction of numbers over the next couple of days,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing. “Those numbers will go down in the next couple of days, and you should anticipate that. That is a result of the retrograde process that needs to take place, but also, I will note that, of course, force protection is front and center and is vital to the mission.”

Approximately 12,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan during the same time period the day prior.

US diplomatic presence expected to be reduced to skeletal crew in next 24 hours, source says

A source directly familiar with the situation at the airport said only a skeletal diplomatic crew of staff to process evacuees would remain after the bulk expected to depart in the next 24 hours.

The source said that some individuals or small families were still “being pulled through the gates somehow” as of Saturday. The gates have been closed for days. The numbers getting on were thought to be “a very tiny subset, consisting of single people or families. The US has said they had alternate routes to the airport.

The source said US airport staff were “still getting hit up by tons of people trying to get in.”

“All Afghans, either SIV or no credentials. They feel bad but there is literally nothing they can do,” the source added.

The source said it was unclear if the evacuation of local embassy employees had finished, but that hundreds more had been reported as having got to the airport and that “hundreds more have departed for interim locations.”

Officials warn of possible threats to US in wake of Afghanistan attack and mass evacuation

Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies at a hospital after a bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021.

Federal officials are on high alert for threats to the United States following the mass evacuation from Afghanistan and devastating attack in Kabul this week.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tracking three primary threats – including whether individuals abroad in Afghanistan, who are associated with ISIS or al Qaeda, could use the relocation process as a way to enter the US, according to a federal government call with law enforcement partners obtained by CNN.

“To counteract that, there’s an extensive screening and vetting process that is in place for those who are being relocated to the United States,” DHS intelligence chief John Cohen said on the call Friday.

An official with the FBI said on the call that though there is no specific intelligence on terrorist organizations using relocation as an opportunity, “we cannot discount that it is a possibility.”

There is “a very small number of individuals who’ve been flagged for concern,” said an official with the National Targeting Center on the call, who appeared to be referring to people at so-called “lily pad” transfer point locations like Doha and Qatar.

CNN reached out to the DHS for comment on the call, including for details on the individuals flagged for concern. 

The relocation process: Upon departing Kabul, Afghans are sent to several overseas locations, where they provide biographic and biometric information and are checked against US databases. 

Once these subjects are determined to be “green,” meaning there is no derogatory information, they are placed on US-bound flights.

They go through additional screening once arriving in the US. If they fail primary screening, they undergo a secondary screening, which includes FBI support, US Customs and Border Protection official James McCament said on the call.  

It’s unclear what would happen if someone does not pass secondary screening after landing in the US.  

Homegrown threat: The second significant security threat is whether people already in the US, who may be inspired by narratives associated with al Qaeda, ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups, “will view the events in Afghanistan as an opportunity to engage in violence here at home,” Cohen said.

The ability to detect threats from homegrown violent extremists represents a challenge for officials because there may not be direct intelligence prior to an act of violence being committed.

White supremacists: The third threat concern is individuals who are inspired or motivated to violence based on their connection with a domestic violent extremist narrative.  

Some anti-government and white supremacist groups have expressed concern on online platforms that the arriving Afghans would degrade the control and authority of the white race, Cohen said – which “may incite violent activities directed at immigrant communities, certain faith communities, or even those who are relocated to the United States.”

Additionally, there are narratives framing the activities of the Taliban as a success with commentary focusing on potential acts of violence directed at US government, law enforcement, and others who are symbols of the current government structure.

READ MORE

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READ MORE

For veterans in Congress, the mission to help people escape from Afghanistan is personal
Evacuation from Afghanistan in final phase after deadly Kabul airport attack
‘I was 50 steps from the blast:’ Witness describes carnage of Kabul airport attack
Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden: How four presidents created today’s Afghanistan mess
4 of 5 San Diego-area families stuck in Afghanistan are secure, in process to return to US