August 29 Afghanistan-Taliban news

By Fernando Alfonso III and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0258 GMT (1058 HKT) August 31, 2021
8 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
12:16 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

US carried out a drone strike inside Kabul on Sunday, according to a defense official

From CNN's Oren Lieberman

Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The US carried out a defensive airstrike in Kabul Sunday targeting a suspected ISIS-K car bomb that was targeting the airport, according to a US defense official.

The official said a significant secondary explosion indicated a substantial amount of explosive material.

A drone carried out the attack. The initial indication is that there were no civilian casualties, the official said.

On Sunday, US CENTCOM confirmed the strike in Kabul.

“US military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport," said Capt. Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesperson.

Capt. Urban continued: "We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats.”

10:28 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Senator Romney blames Trump and Biden for evacuation chaos

From CNN's Aaron Pellish

Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2021.
Sen. Mitt Romney speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2021. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said the possibility of Americans and Afghan allies being left behind in Afghanistan would be a “moral stain,” and blamed both the Trump and Biden administrations for the chaotic exit from Afghanistan.

“This is the result of very ineffective decisions, terrible decisions made by the prior administration and by the current administration,” Romney told CNN on Sunday. 

“This did not have to happen. It was preventable,” Romney continued.

Some more context: In an interview on ABC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there are roughly 300 American citizens still in Afghanistan looking to leave the country. 

Romney warned the American withdrawal from Afghanistan increases the likelihood of a Taliban-sponsored attack on Americans, and claimed the likelihood is higher today than when the US first entered Afghanistan 20 years ago 

“We went to Afghanistan because we got attacked on 9/11 and lost thousands of American lives. Now, America is in more danger. The decision to pull our military of Afghanistan puts us in greater danger,” Romney said. 

Romney said he welcomed the Afghan evacuees arriving in the US, and distanced himself from Republicans who have criticized the relocation of Afghan allies to the US on the basis of restricting immigration.

“I believe in their heart of hearts that they recognize that we have a moral responsibility, and in keeping with our national character, we welcome people into our country who seek asylum, and those particularly who have fought alongside our troops,” Romney said.

When asked about Utah native Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, a Utah native, who was killed in an attack at Kabul airport on Thursday, Romney called him “an American hero” and praised the sacrifices of all 13 service members who died in the attack.

“It’s an extraordinary sacrifice they make and is very much in keeping with our extraordinary national heritage,” Romney said. 

 

9:41 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Secretary of state says US will not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the US will not have a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after Aug. 31, telling ABC on Sunday that the administration will remain engaged diplomatically in the region but that re-opening the embassy in Kabul will depend on the Taliban’s behavior “in the weeks and months ahead.” 

In the same interview, Blinken said that the administration is still actively working to evacuate about 300 American citizens from Afghanistan who have indicated to the US that they want to leave the country. 

When asked about the US drone strike that killed two ISIS operatives on Friday, following an ISIS suicide bombing that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US service members, Blinken said that more details will be released in the coming days about the targets. 

“The ISIS targets taken out involved two individuals who are significant planners and facilitators for ISIS,” Blinken said, adding that the administration will release more information about “what they did and what they are responsible for” in the days ahead. 

Blinken also reaffirmed President Biden’s comments on Saturday about there being a “very high risk” of another attack against US forces in Kabul. 

“There is a high likelihood of additional attacks between now and the 31st,” Blinken said. “This is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission.”

When asked why additional force protection measures were not taken sooner, given the steady stream of intelligence all week about a potential ISIS attack, Blinken said that part of the mission inevitably involved “direct contact” between service members and those seeking to enter the airport, as part of the screening process by troops guarding the airfield. He said the administration will be looking at whether anything could have been done better to prevent the terrorist attack that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US service members.

10:12 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Explosion in Kabul neighborhood near airport

From CNN's Karen Smith

Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021.
Smoke rises after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 29, 2021. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

An explosion occurred in a neighborhood in Kabul close to the airport on Sunday afternoon local time, eyewitnesses say. The cause is unknown. It is not clear yet if there are any casualties.

Images and video from the area show dark smoke billowing from a house or compound in a mainly residential area.

10:29 p.m. ET, August 29, 2021

Evacuations out of Afghanistan continue to slow

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit process evacuees as they go through the Evacuation Control Center during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021.
US Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit process evacuees as they go through the Evacuation Control Center during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps

Evacuations from Afghanistan continue to decrease as the US drawdown from the country continues ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for removing all US personnel from Afghanistan.

The White House announced Sunday morning that approximately 2,900 people were evacuated from Kabul from 3 a.m. ET Saturday to 3 a.m. ET Sunday. Those evacuations were carried out by 32 U.S. military flights which carried approximately 2,200 evacuees and nine coalition flights, which carried 700 people.

Approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul over the same stretch of time from Friday into Saturday.

Some context: Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed Saturday that US troops have begun retrograde withdrawal from the airport in Kabul, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that the slowing evacuation numbers would coincide with the retrograde process.

“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 briefing.

8:43 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

President Biden will attend dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Jason Hoffman

US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on August, 29, 2021.
US President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on August, 29, 2021. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden will attend the dignified transfer of those American service members killed in last Thursday’s attack in Afghanistan, the White House announced Sunday.

Biden will take Air Force One to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to attend the dignified transfer. 

The President and the first lady will meet with the families of fallen American service members, according to the White House. They will then attend the dignified transfer at 12 p.m.

According to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, “the dignified transfer is not a ceremony; rather, it is a solemn movement of the transfer case by a carry team composed of military personnel from the fallen member's respective service.” 

 

 

8:08 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

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

From CNN's DJ Judd

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.”

“This strike was not the last. We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.

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.”

8:35 a.m. ET, August 29, 2021

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

Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor speaks during a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor speaks during a briefing in Washington, DC, on August 28, 2021. Susan Walsh/AP

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.”