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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4:01 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

A lot has happened following the attack near Kabul's airport. Here's what you need to know

A person wounded in a bomb blast outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday, Aug. 26, arrives at a hospital in Kabul.
A person wounded in a bomb blast outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday, Aug. 26, arrives at a hospital in Kabul. (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times/Redux)

Twelve US service members were killed and 15 more were injured following an attack near Kabul's airport, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, announced Thursday at a briefing.

McKenzie spoke at length this afternoon about the situation near Afghanistan's Kabul airport, where, according to an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, more than 60 people were killed.

President Biden will deliver remarks on the attack at 5 p.m. ET, according to the the White House schedule.

Here's the latest:

  • The casualties: In total, more than 60 people were killed and at least 140 were injured, according to an Afghan public health official. McKenzie confirmed US service members were killed and injured in the attack, saying, "it's a hard day today."
  • Nature of the attack: McKenzie said the attack included two suicide bombers followed by gunmen opening fire. There were at least two explosions near a gate at the Kabul airport today. They came as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden's Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
  • Threats persist: McKenzie said that while they continue to investigate the perpetrators of today's attack against Kabul airport, they are also focused on other "extremely active threat streams" to the airfield. The general explained that these threats mean they could be "imminent" and "could occur at any moment" and could include rocket attacks, vehicle attacks or a vest-wearing suicide attacker. McKenzie said they are coordinating with the Taliban on security for the airport and that the US mission is continuing despite the attack, and that the US will “go after” the people responsible for the attack.
  • Americans still in Afghanistan: There are roughly 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan following the attack, according to the Pentagon. "As of today we have 5,000 evacuees on the ramp awaiting air left. Since August 14, we've evacuated more than 104,000 civilians, over 66,000 by the United States and over 37,000 by our allies and partners. ... As the secretary of state said yesterday, we believe there are about a little more than 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan at this point," McKenzie said.
  • Evacuation efforts will continue: While the "threat from ISIS is extremely real," troops are still assisting with bringing people onto the airfield at Kabul's airport, McKenzie said. "We are continuing to bring people onto the airfield. We just brought a number of buses aboard the airfield over the last couple or three hours. We'll continue to process and flow people out. The plan is designed to operate under stress and under attack. And we will coordinate to make sure it's safe for American citizens to come to the airfield. If it's not, we'll tell them to hold and work other ways to get them to the airport. We'll continue to flow them out until the end of the month," he said.

3:43 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden will speak on Kabul attack today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

President Biden will speak today on the attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, a source familiar with the plans tells CNN.

He plans to speak at 5 p.m. ET, a source said.

3:34 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

CENTCOM commander was asked if he trusts the Taliban. "It's not what they say; it's what they do," he says.

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

US Central Command head Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie said the Taliban and US do share a "common purpose" in the Afghanistan evacuation mission.

When asked if he trusts the Taliban or if the group allowed the Kabul airport attack to happen, here's how he responded:

"As to whether they let it happen, I don't know. I don't think there's anything to convince me that they let it happen. As to whether or not I trust them ... that's a word I use very carefully. You've heard me say before, 'it's not what they say; it's what they do.' They have a practical reason for wanting us to get out of here by the 31st of August. They want to reclaim the airfield. We want to get out by that day, too, if it's possible to do so. So we share a common purpose. As long as we keep that common purpose alive, they've been useful to work with. They've cut some of our security concerns down and they've been useful to work with going forward," McKenzie said.

"Now long-term, I don't know what that's going to be. I will tell you this: Any time you build a noncombatant evacuation plan like this and you bring in forces, you expect to be attacked. We thought this would happen sooner or later. It's tragic that happened today. It's tragic there is this much loss of life. We are prepared to continue the mission. ... I think we can continue to conduct our mission even while we're receiving attacks like this," he said.  

3:26 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

There are "extremely active threat streams" against Kabul airfield, top US general in the Middle East says 

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said that while they continue to investigate the perpetrators of today's attack against Kabul airport, they are also focused on other "extremely active threat streams" to the airfield.

"But right now our focus really, we have other active threat streams, extremely active threat streams against the airfield, we want to make sure we are taking the steps to protect ourselves there. Our focus is on that," he said.

"Right now, our focus is going forward and ensuring another attack of this nature does not occur, because as you know, typically the pattern is multiple attacks and we want to be prepared and be ready to defend against that," he continued.

The general explained that these threats mean they could be "imminent" and "could occur at any moment" and could include rocket attacks, vehicle attacks or a vest-wearing suicide attacker.

The general noted that over the next days they will learn more about the attack at the airport and hope to share more information.

3:34 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Pentagon working to determine who's behind the attack: "We're prepared to take action against them"

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, is working to determine who is behind the deadly attack at Kabul's airport.

"We are working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack and we're prepared to take action against them — 24/7 we are looking for them," he said.

McKenzie went on to say they expected this kind of an attack and called the ISIS threat “extremely real.”  He added that they expect attacks will continue.

“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks,” McKenzie said. 

The general said they are coordinating with the Taliban on security for the airport and that the US mission is continuing despite the attack, and that the US will “go after” the people responsible for the attack.

Twelve members of the US military were killed and 15 more were injured in the attack, McKenzie said. In total, more than 60 people were killed and at least 140 were injured, according to Afghan health officials.

3:16 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Evacuation efforts are continuing despite attacks, US Central Command head says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

While the "threat from ISIS is extremely real," troops are still assisting with bringing people onto the airfield at Kabul's airport, according to Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, commander of US Central Command.

"We are continuing to bring people onto the airfield. We just brought a number of buses aboard the airfield over the last couple or three hours. We'll continue to process and flow people out. The plan is designed to operate under stress and under attack. And we will coordinate to make sure it's safe for American citizens to come to the airfield. If it's not, we'll tell them to hold and work other ways to get them to the airport. We'll continue to flow them out until the end of the month," he said.

McKenzie also said that officials expect attacks to continue and "we're doing everything we can to prevent those attacks." 

3:10 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

There are roughly 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan, head of US Central Command says

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said there are roughly 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan following an attack at Kabul's airport Thursday.

"We continue to focus on the protection of our forces and the evacuees as the evacuation continues. Let me be clear, while we're saddened by the loss of life, both US and Afghan, we're continuing to execute the mission. Our mission is to evacuate US citizens, third-country nationals, Special Immigrant Visa holders, US embassy staff and Afghans at risk. Despite this attack, we are continuing the mission," McKenzie said.

McKenzie added: "As of today we have 5,000 evacuees on the ramp awaiting air left. Since August 14, we've evacuated more than 104,000 civilians, over 66,000 by the United States and over 37,000 by our allies and partners. ...  As the secretary of state said yesterday, we believe there are about a little more than 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan at this point."

3:15 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

12 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack

Gen. Frank McKenzie, seen on a TV, and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, seen on a TV, and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. (Source: Pool)

Twelve members of the US military were killed and 15 more were injured in the attack at Kabul's airport, Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said at a briefing.

"It's a hard day today," McKenzie said.

McKenzie said the attack included two suicide bombers followed by gunmen opening fire.

There were at least two explosions near a gate at the Kabul airport today. They came as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden's Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

Prior to Thursday, the last America troops killed in Afghanistan were in February 2020.

3:04 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

NOW: Pentagon officials speak following Kabul airport attack

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. (Source: Pool)

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby are speaking to reporters after at least two explosions were reported near a gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Kirby confirmed in a statement that "a number" of US service members have been killed in the airport attack and "a number of others" are being treated for wounds. He did not provide specific numbers on casualties.

The Pentagon also noted the US is aware of Afghan victims.