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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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.

3:00 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Afghan health ministry: More than 60 killed in Kabul airport attack

Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies from a pickup truck outside a hospital after explosions in Kabul on August 26.
Volunteers and medical staff unload bodies from a pickup truck outside a hospital after explosions in Kabul on August 26. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

The terrorist attack in Kabul today left more than 60 people dead and at least 140 people wounded, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health tells CNN.

There were at least two blasts near the airport earlier today. The Pentagon earlier confirmed multiple US service members and Afghans were killed.

2:31 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Defense secretary briefed Pelosi and Schumer on Afghanistan today

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the situation in Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin by phone today, her spokesperson Drew Hammill tells CNN. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also been briefed by the defense secretary on the situation, according to a statement from his office.

“I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and it must be clear to the world that the terrorists who perpetrated this will be sought and brought to justice," Schumer said in the statement. 

2:17 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

UK will continue evacuation operation despite Kabul attack, prime minister says

From CNN’s Zahid Mahmood  

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves following a visit at Northwood Headquarters, the British Armed Forces Permanent Joint Headquarters on August 26.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves following a visit at Northwood Headquarters, the British Armed Forces Permanent Joint Headquarters on August 26. (Adrian Dennis-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom will continue its evacuation operation from Kabul despite the attack near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday. 

“I can confirm there has been a barbaric terrorist attack, what looks like a series of attacks, in Kabul on the airport, on the crowds of the airport, in which members of the US military have sadly lost their lives and many Afghan casualties as well,” Johnson said. “I think [these attacks] are despicable, but I’m afraid that this is something we have had to prepare for. It isn’t going to interrupt our progress, we are going to get on with our evacuation."

Speaking to British media in London, Johnson said his government has “already extracted the overwhelming majority” of people eligible for evacuation to the UK from Afghanistan.

“We’re going to continue with that operation and we’re now coming towards the end of it, to the very end of it,” Johnson said. "What this attack shows is the importance of continuing that work in as fast and as efficient manner as possible in the hours that remain to us, and that’s what we’re going to do."

2:05 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Germany will continue to support those trying to leave Afghanistan, chancellor says

From CNN's Nada Bashir

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a press conference as she meets with economic and financial organizations in Berlin at the German chancellery on August 26.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a press conference as she meets with economic and financial organizations in Berlin at the German chancellery on August 26. (Clemens Bilan - Pool/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that those who have not yet been able to access evacuation flights from Kabul will not be forgotten, adding that the German Foreign Ministry is still in negotiations with the Taliban.

“We know that the window of opportunity is closing. Tens of thousands of people have been rescued but I want to say again today: we will not forget those people who could not be rescued by the air bridge. Rather we will do everything we can to enable their evacuation,” Merkel said.  

“We are in negotiations with the Taliban, being carried out by the foreign ministry, especially Ambassador [Markus] Potzel, and there will be international coordination as to how to proceed,” she added. 

Speaking during a news conference in Berlin, Merkel addressed the unfolding situation in Kabul following explosions at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, describing the incident as a “malicious and vile attack.”

“There have been warnings about this coming in over the last few days and that it has now actually happened is of course terrible news,” Merkel said. 

“We see in this attack this afternoon that the risk is immense and that this is a very high pressure situation under which people are trying to get the people evacuated and to maintain the air bridge,” she added. 

1:51 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Top Republican congressman says Biden "must take decisive action to protect our troops"

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on President Biden to take "decisive action to protect our troops, our citizens, and our allies without regard for an arbitrary deadline.”

McCarthy urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to act quickly to brief Congress on the blasts near the Kabul airport.

“It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden Administration and pass Representative Gallagher’s legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of our troops until every American is out of Afghanistan," the California Republican said in a statement.

McCarthy extended his condolences to the families of those injured and killed in the attacks.

“Today’s attacks are horrific. My prayers go out to those who were injured and the families of those who were killed. I also continue to pray for the safety of our troops, the stranded American citizens, our allies and Afghan partners who remain in the area. Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of the withdrawal," he said.

1:19 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Pentagon confirms "a number" of US service members killed in Kabul airport attack

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby tweeted that he can confirm that "a number" of US service members have been killed in the airport attack.

The official also said "a number of others" are being treated for wounds. He noted that the US is also aware that Afghans "fell victim" to this attack.

He did not provide exact numbers.

See Kirby's tweet:

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.