At least 13 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack

By Rob Picheta, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0427 GMT (1227 HKT) August 27, 2021
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1:35 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

If Biden "does not respond where he can" to blasts, it could embolden possible terrorists, GOP lawmaker says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said the two explosions that took place near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport should serve as a “reminder to Americans that when it comes to war, it's not just one side that can decide if they want that war to end.”

Kinzinger said members of Congress were in a briefing this week and “were warned of this exact threat.” The blasts happened near one of the entry gates of the airport and appear to be suicide attacks, according to three US officials.

He said that while “there’s no good answer to this,” if President Biden does not respond to the explosions, it could embolden terrorist groups. 

“I think if the President does not respond where he can, if the President does not follow through on the commitment — even though this is going to slow up the evacuation — to get every American out, and the promises we have made to our Afghan partners, the view of us not responding after this attack and then fleeing from the Kabul airport, I think, will do a lot to embolden those that now have an easy way to go out and recruit other radicals to fight the United States of America and our partners,” said Kinzinger, an Air Force pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The fact is there are people that no matter how much we want to go home, they want to kill us. We either fight them there or we'll fight them here,” Kinzinger added. 

“The Taliban have acted like they're going to secure the perimeter [of the airport]. They obviously did not. So I think there's a case for the United States to make that we are not leaving until all Americans and all the Afghans that are SIVs that we've promised are safe, and we will go outside of the gate to get them if necessary,” he said. 

Kinzinger said the Biden administration should double-down on intelligence in place to monitor threats. 

“If we leave now without following through on our mission and our commitment to Americans and our Afghan partners, that will actually do more damage than any suicide bomb did today,” he said.

1:01 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

US officials believe ISIS-K likely responsible for attack, but still working to confirm, sources say

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Natasha Bertrand

US officials believe ISIS-K was likely behind the attack at Kabul airport but are still working to confirm the terror group’s involvement, according to a senior US official and another source briefed on initial assessments. 

The second source told CNN it may take a few hours before US officials are able to identify the specific individuals who carried out the apparent suicide bombing, which should confirm ISIS-K was responsible. 

Warning signals have been out there for three days, the sources added. 

Over the past week President Biden and the Pentagon have warned of an ISIS attack at the airport as the threat became more acute. 

Biden has used this as rationale for getting US troops out by the deadline. He also promised a swift and forceful response to any disruption to the operation. 

On Wednesday, CNN reported that concerns about security around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul have increased based on "a very specific threat stream" from ISIS-K about planned attacks against crowds outside the airport

The US believes ISIS-K, which is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, wants to create mayhem at the airport and has intelligence streams suggesting it is capable and planning to carry out multiple attacks, a defense official told CNN Wednesday.

12:38 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden's schedule upended by Kabul airport attack

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden’s schedule has been upended by the attacks near Kabul airport Thursday. 

“There will be updates to the President’s schedule, which we will share as they become available,” the White House said in a statement Thursday afternoon. 

Biden was meeting in the Situation Room with top national security officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, when the attack took place. CNN observed Blinken, Austin, and Milley arriving in the West Wing early in the 9 a.m. ET hour and the meeting was set to begin at 9:15 a.m. Vice President Kamala Harris attended the meeting virtually aboard Air Force Two as she traveled from Vietnam to Guam, and commanders on the ground were also in attendance virtually, according to the White House.

CNN reported on the first explosion outside the Kabul airport at 9:40 a.m. ET.  

It was not immediately clear when the meeting concluded, but as CNN’s Phil Mattingly reported, Biden and aides remained in the Situation Room for some time as the events developed.

Biden, according to the White House, “will continue to be briefed on updates on the evolving situation throughout the day.” 

The remaining events on the official White House daily guidance for Thursday have been indefinitely postponed or canceled. 

A 10:30 a.m. briefing with Biden’s Covid-19 response team was postponed to 10:45 a.m. and then postponed indefinitely, a White House official telling those logged into the Zoom that "due to worldwide circumstances," the briefing was "delayed to a to-be-determined time."

A noon press briefing with press secretary Jen Psaki has also been “delayed."

Biden had been set to meet with new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at 11:30 a.m. That meeting has been postponed to a time to be determined. Around noon on Thursday, the group of reporters traveling with Bennett returned to their hotel. 

And a meeting between Biden and a bipartisan group of governors on resettling Afghan refugees set for 3 p.m. has been canceled. 

As of 12:15 p.m., CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reported that Biden is in the Oval Office. 

12:13 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden's national security meeting has wrapped

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden's national security meeting has wrapped up, the White House confirmed.

"The President met with his national security team this morning, including Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, and commanders on the ground. He will continue to be briefed on updates on the evolving situation throughout the day," the White House said in a statement.

A press briefing, initially scheduled for 12 p.m. ET, has been delayed.

"The President’s virtual meeting with governors on Afghan refugees, which was scheduled for 3 p.m., has been canceled," the White House said.  

12:04 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

UK Defense Ministry says no UK military or government casualties were reported following blasts

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood and Max Foster

There have been “no reported UK military or UK Government casualties” following an explosion at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, the UK Ministry of Defense tweeted Thursday.  

“UK forces are working closely with our partners to provide security and medical assistance,” the ministry added.  

According to a UK government spokesperson, the British government is “working urgently to establish what has happened and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort” in Kabul. 

“Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan. We are in close contact with our US and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident,” the spokesperson added. 

Downing Street has confirmed to CNN that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to chair an emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR) meeting Thursday afternoon (local time). 

1:25 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Harris has also been briefed on the Kabul airport attack

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Vice President Kamala Harris holds a press conference before departing Vietnam for the United States on August 26.
Vice President Kamala Harris holds a press conference before departing Vietnam for the United States on August 26. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images)

Vice President Kamala Harris has been briefed on the situation in Afghanistan, a White House official said.

The official went on to say Harris, who's currently at Andersen Air Base in Guam, will continue to be updated.

President Biden was briefed on the situation in Afghanistan.

12:20 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Here's where the explosions occurred

From CNN's Barbara Starr, Kylie Atwood, Ivana Kottasová, Nick Paton Walsh, Sam Kiley and Zachary Cohen

At least two explosions took place near the Kabul airport on Thursday as the US and other countries try to evacuate their citizens and Afghans at risk from the Taliban.

Three US officials and a source familiar with the situation said that, according to initial reports, there were some US personnel among the casualties.

Here's a look at where the explosions happened:

12:01 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

We're still waiting for Pentagon press briefing on the Kabul airport explosions 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby and Army Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor are expected to speak to reporters today after at least two explosions were reported near a gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

The Pentagon was originally scheduled to brief the media at 10:30 a.m. ET. New guidance on timing has not yet been shared.

The number of casualties is still unclear, but Kirby said in a tweet earlier today that a "complex attack" resulted in "a number" of US and civilian casualties.

According to initial reports, there are some US personnel among the wounded in the explosion, three US officials and a source familiar with the situation told CNN.

We will cover this briefing live here when it happens.

11:47 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

French president says coming hours "will remain extremely dangerous" in Kabul

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne and Joseph Ataman

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday the "coming hours will remain extremely dangerous in Kabul and at the airport," following two explosions outside the Kabul airport.

Speaking at a joint news conference with the Irish prime minister, Macron said the situation around Kabul airport had seriously deteriorated.

“We are confronted with a very tense situation and we are coordinating with our American allies,” Macron said

“As we speak, we have 20 buses of binational citizens and Afghans that we would like to be able to repatriate,” he said, adding that figure represents “several hundreds of people still in danger.”

“I cannot guarantee that we will be successful because the security situation is beyond our control,” he said.

Macron said for security reasons the French ambassador will not be staying in Afghanistan. He will be leaving and will then be based in Paris.