UPDATE @ 3:12 PM THURSDAY:
KABUL, Afghanistan – At least 12 U.S. service members were killed and 15 were injured in an attack at Kabul’s airport, according to the head of the US Central Command.
“It’s a hard day today,” Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said at a briefing Thursday afternoon.
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.
In total, more than 60 people were killed and at least 140 were injured, according to Afghan health officials.
Prior to Thursday, the last America troops killed in Afghanistan were in February 2020.
McKenzie 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.”
Rep. Tom Reed released the following statement regarding the terrorist attack in Kabul.
“Our prayers go out to our men and women of the military in Afghanistan and specifically those heroic soldiers that were killed today in Kabul. This is a horrific reminder of the Biden Administration’s failure in conducting the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This administration has American blood on its hands and must be held to account. Further, now is not the time for “political spin” and “poll-tested decisions,” these are real lives being lost that demand true leadership. Let’s pray to God that this leadership emerges.”
ORIGINAL @ 11:22 AM THURSDAY:
KABUL, Afghanistan – An explosion took place outside the Kabul airport on Thursday as the United States 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 wounded.
“We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties. We will continue to update,” Pentagon Press secretary John Kirby tweeted.
The blast happened at one of the entry gates of the Hamid Karzai International Airport and appears to be a suicide attack, according to three US officials.
Crowds of Afghans have been gathering at the gates trying to gain access to the airport, which has become the only way out of the country since the Taliban took over Kabul.
The US Embassy in Kabul said that US citizens who were at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate of the airport “should leave immediately” in the wake of the blast.
“There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire,” the security alert said. “US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” it added.
The French Ambassador to Afghanistan, David Martinon, warned that a second explosion at the Kabul airport remained a possibility. “To all our Afghan friends if you are close to the doors of the airport get away as quickly as possible and shelter yourselves. A second explosion is possible,” he tweeted.
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated by the US military and NATO allies from the airport in the past two weeks. These evacuations are set to start winding down in the next few days, ahead of the August 31 deadline for the final exit from a 20-year war in Afghanistan.
One US official said there are injuries among Afghans, but there is no information yet on any US casualties.
US officials said earlier on Thursday that concerns about security around the airport have increased based on “a very specific threat stream.”
The top US diplomat in Kabul, Amb. Ross Wilson, said Thursday that he could not get into the specifics of the security threat outside the gates of the Kabul airport cited in an embassy alert, but noted that “it was clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.”
US President Joe Biden has been briefed on the explosion outside Kabul airport, a White House official said.
A spokesperson for the UK government said the government was “working urgently to establish what has happened and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort.”
“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.”