At least 13 U.S. military service members were killed and another 14 were wounded in a suicide bombing Thursday outside a gate at Kabul’s international airport in a coordinated attack that included a second bombing nearby.
Eleven of the casualties were Marines and one was a Navy medic, according to Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin. She noted the deaths were the first among U.S. troops in Afghanistan since February 2020 and the most deadly attack on Americans in a decade.
At least 60 people were killed and 140 others wounded in the explosions at the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport and outside the nearby Baron Hotel, where Americans were gathering for rescue operations. Last week, 169 Americans were rescued at the hotel by U.S. helicopters.
The attack touched off a firefight at the Abbey Gate, where an estimated 5,000 Afghans and possibly some Americans were trying to get to the airport to be evacuated, according to a U.S. official.
ISIS took responsibility for the attacks through its “official news agency,” Amaq. The “martyrdom operation near Kabul airport,” Amaq said, was carried out by ISIS jihadi Abdul Rahman al-Logari, who before detonating himself was “able to reach a distance of no less than five meters from the American forces, who were supervising the procedures for collecting documents from hundreds of translators and contractors in preparation for their evacuation from the country.”
Hundreds of members of ISIS-K – an offshoot of ISIS in Central Asia and South Asia – have surrounded the Kabul airport, and attacks “are likely to continue,” according to a source familiar with the situation who spoke with Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the two attacks, which he said were coordinated.
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties,” he said via Twitter.
“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.”
Later Thursday, in a news conference at the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, confirmed he expected ISIS attacks to continue. He added that the U.S. will continue to “coordinate” with the Taliban to provide security.
The general later explained that he doesn’t “trust” the Taliban, but the Taliban and the U.S. have the common aim of American troops leaving Afghanistan by Aug. 31
McKenzie said that if it can be determined who carried out the attacks Thursday, there will be retribution.
Asked by a reporter if he thought the Taliban allowed the attacks to happen, the general said he couldn’t say.
McKenzie said he could not confirm reports of other attacks in Kabul on Thursday.
“It’s with a very heavy heart that I do this conversation with you today,” the general said in his concluding remarks, while commending the courage and efforts of forces on the ground in Kabul.
More than hours after the attacks, President Biden addressed the nation and took questions from reporters.
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Biden if, having declared “the buck stops with me,” he bears any responsibility for the first American military deaths since February 2020 “and the way things have unfolded in the last two weeks.”
“I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late,” he said.
However, Biden then went on to blame President Trump.
“But here’s the deal,” he said. “You know — I wish you’d one day say these things — you know as well as I do that a former president made a deal with the Taliban to get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1.”
Biden then acknowledged that no American had been attacked since February 2020 because of the Trump agreement.
BIDEN: "I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that's happened as of late."
*then blames Trump* pic.twitter.com/t7zJfNDMoP
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 26, 2021
The ruling Taliban – which regards ISIS as a rival – condemned the airport bombing but blamed the U.S, saying it took place where American troops were in charge.
“Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport, which took place in an area where U.S. forces are responsible for security,” the Taliban’s spokesman said in a tweet.
“The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circle will be strictly stopped,” he said.
LISTEN: Afghan translator for the U.S. Marine Corps witnessed the explosions in Kabul and gives details of what the scene on the ground looks like.
He says he's bringing casualties to a local hospital. pic.twitter.com/7WQx2WXcvh
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) August 26, 2021
The Kabul airport attack, the Washington Post’s Beirut bureau chief said, has dashed hopes of evacuation for thousands who are outside the airport gates.
“Am hearing the US military is sealing shut the airport gates,” Liz Sly wrote on Twitter. “The casualty numbers are growing by the minute. A tragedy piled on a tragedy.”
An estimated 1,500 Americans remain in Afghanistan, aside from U.S. troops, according to the State Department. President Biden said this week he will adhere to the Aug. 31 deadline for removing U.S. troops. About 600 of the 6,000 troops in the country have left.
The State Department had been aware of an increasing terrorist threat, issuing a warning Wednesday to the Americans outside the airport gates to “leave immediately.”
President Biden was in the Situation Room on Thursday morning along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The president’s meeting with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which was scheduled for 11:30 a.m., was delayed.
Last Friday, in his address to the nation, Biden vowed a “swift and forceful response” to any “disruption” of the evacuations.
“Look, we’ve made clear to the Taliban, that any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with swift and forceful response,” Biden said at the White House, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Biden said further that the U.S. is “keeping a close watch on any potential terrorist threat at or around the airport, including from the ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan who were released from prison when the prisons were emptied.”
The president noted in the Friday address that ISIS in Afghanistan is a “sworn enemy of the Taliban.”
“I’ve said all along, we’re going to retain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission, working in close coordination with our allies and partners, and all those who have an interest in ensuring stability in the region,” Biden said.
BIDEN LAST WEEK: "Any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with swift and forceful response." pic.twitter.com/chiPr7LPou
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 26, 2021
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said “the coming hours will remain extremely dangerous in Kabul and at the airport.”
“We are confronted with a very tense situation and we are coordinating with our American allies,” he said, according to CNN.
‘A problem of will’
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is urging the Biden administration to reopen the Bagram Air Base “as the Kabul airport is very difficult to defend and has been the only evacuation outlet.”
Bagram, which was the largest U.S. based in Afghanistan, is about 25 miles north of the Kabul airport.
“We have the capability to reestablish our presence at Bagram to continue to evacuate American citizens and our Afghan allies,” Graham said via Twitter.
“It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will,” he said.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was among many Republican lawmakers who called on Biden to resign after the deadly attacks Thursday.
“To say that today’s loss of American lives in Kabul is sickening does not begin to do justice to what has happened.” he tweeted. “It is enraging. And Joe Biden is responsible. It is now clear beyond all doubt that he has neither the capacity nor the will to lead. He must resign.”
At the White House on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to the lawmakers calling for Biden to resign.
“We would expect that any American, whether they’re elected or not, would stand with us,” she said.
Psaki responds to those calling for Biden to resign:
"We would expect that any American, whether they're elected or not, would stand with us." pic.twitter.com/cvX5HgDmiU
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 26, 2021
Earlier Thursday, a top Senate Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, indicated Biden’s Afghanistan evacuation strategy is wearing thin, the Washington Examiner reported.
“As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” said Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, declared Biden would “have blood on his hands” for not extending the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
“I can tell you there’s no way we can humanly get all of our American citizens and Afghan partners out of country by that time,” he said at a press briefing Tuesday. “I’ve called this consistently an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. It will be a stain on this presidency, and particularly of the decision made today, and what we heard today. He will have blood on his hands, people are gonna die.”
WARNING: Graphic content.
Video coming out of Afghanistan shows the immediate aftermath of the suicide bombing explosion outside of Kabul airport.
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) August 26, 2021