Live Updates

August 27 Afghanistan-Taliban news

'We will hunt you down and make you pay': Biden warns attackers
02:50

What we're covering

  • The US has conducted an airstrike against an ISIS-K planner, a Central Command spokesperson said.
  • Thirteen US service members were killed and 18 were injured in an attack at Kabul’s airport, US officials said.
  • More than 170 people were killed and at least 200 were wounded, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health tells CNN.
  • The attack comes as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

Our live coverage has ended. Read more about the situation in Afghanistan here.

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Group in Washington racing to coordinate Afghan evacuations

In a conference room at the luxury downtown Washington, DC hotel The Willard, a group of volunteers is trying desperately to get people into the Kabul airport and onto specially chartered planes.

Among those working on Friday evening are military veterans, the deputy ambassador of the Afghan Embassy, former military contractors and more. 

Posters and whiteboards taped to the walls listed the closed airport gates, contact information, and priorities. A screen showed a chart of flights that had been chartered, and their status. 

The volunteers are led by Zach Van Meter, president of private equity firm New Standard Holdings. Van Meter said he was approached for help getting 3,500 orphans out of Kabul. With his connections in the UAE, Van Meter said they were able to be flown out. The command center they set up for that operation at the Willard quickly morphed into getting as many people as they could out on chartered flights. 

The group estimates it has helped about 5,000 individuals leave – but time is running out.

“We’ve been here for a week, but we’ll officially ‘close’ at midnight,” said Van Meter. “As far as we know it, we’ve been told we probably won’t be able to move people through the gates but we’ll hold out hope.” 

If an airport gate would suddenly open, Van Meter said the room would quickly fill with dozens more volunteers. 

Now, though, the group is focusing on keeping people safe on the ground, while helping resettle those who managed to get out.

“If we can’t get people through the gates, it’s hard for us as our entire premise was chartering aircraft, putting them on the ground in Kabul, having them filled and moving them out,” Van Meter said. “If we can’t push flights in and push people to the gates, we have to focus on resettlement.”

Even as we spoke, other volunteers were fielding phone calls, messages, arranging transport, safe houses and more – some for US citizens they said were still trying to leave Afghanistan.  

Officials warn of possible threats to US in wake of Afghanistan attack and mass evacuation

Federal officials are on high alert for threats to the United States following the mass evacuation from Afghanistan and devastating attack in Kabul this week.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tracking three primary threats – including whether individuals abroad in Afghanistan, who are associated with ISIS or al Qaeda, could use the relocation process as a way to enter the US, according to a federal government call with law enforcement partners obtained by CNN.

“To counteract that, there’s an extensive screening and vetting process that is in place for those who are being relocated to the United States,” DHS intelligence chief John Cohen said on the call Friday.

An official with the FBI said on the call that though there is no specific intelligence on terrorist organizations using relocation as an opportunity, “we cannot discount that it is a possibility.”

There is “a very small number of individuals who’ve been flagged for concern,” said an official with the National Targeting Center on the call, who appeared to be referring to people at so-called “lily pad” transfer point locations like Doha and Qatar.

CNN reached out to the DHS for comment on the call, including for details on the individuals flagged for concern. 

The relocation process: Upon departing Kabul, Afghans are sent to several overseas locations, where they provide biographic and biometric information and are checked against US databases. 

Once these subjects are determined to be “green,” meaning there is no derogatory information, they are placed on US-bound flights.

They go through additional screening once arriving in the US. If they fail primary screening, they undergo a secondary screening, which includes FBI support, US Customs and Border Protection official James McCament said on the call.  

It’s unclear what would happen if someone does not pass secondary screening after landing in the US.  

Homegrown threat: The second significant security threat is whether people already in the US, who may be inspired by narratives associated with al Qaeda, ISIS or other foreign terrorist groups, “will view the events in Afghanistan as an opportunity to engage in violence here at home,” Cohen said.

The ability to detect threats from homegrown violent extremists represents a challenge for officials because there may not be direct intelligence prior to an act of violence being committed.

White supremacists: The third threat concern is individuals who are inspired or motivated to violence based on their connection with a domestic violent extremist narrative.  

Some antigovernment and white supremacist groups have expressed concern on online platforms that the arriving Afghans would degrade the control and authority of the white race, Cohen said – which “may incite violent activities directed at immigrant communities, certain faith communities, or even those who are relocated to the United States.”

Additionally, there are narratives framing the activities of the Taliban as a success with commentary focusing on potential acts of violence directed at US government, law enforcement, and others who are symbols of the current government structure.

President Biden approved the strike against ISIS-K planner

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at the Kabul International Airport, on Thursday, August 26.

President Biden approved the strike against the ISIS-K planner, an official said. 

According to a statement from Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban, “the unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target.”

“We know of no civilian casualties,” the statement said.

Reporting from CNN’s Jamie Crawford and Oren Liebermann contributed to this post.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with US Central Command’s corrected spelling of the Nangarhar Province.

US Embassy in Kabul again warns US citizens to leave airport gates "immediately"

 The US Embassy in Kabul again warned US citizens at a number of gates at the airport to “leave immediately,” citing security threats.

The alert advised US citizens “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates.”

Some context: Following a deadly terrorist attack at one of the gates of the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, President Biden’s national security team told him Friday that “another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul Airport,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

US military conducts airstrike against ISIS-K planner

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack outside Kabul International Airport, on Thursday, August 26.

The US has conducted an airstrike against an ISIS-K planner, Central Command spokesperson Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement.

“US military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner. The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” the statement said.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with US Central Command’s corrected spelling of the Nangarhar Province.

Parents of US Navy corpsman killed in Kabul share their son's last words

US Navy corpsman Maxton Soviak died in Thursday’s bombing outside Kabul International Airport, the family told CNN in a statement. 

“He was most proud to be a Navy corpsman and a ‘Devil Doc’ for the Marines,” his parents, Kip and Rachel Soviak, told CNN in a statement. “His final words to [Rachel] over FaceTime, when he was telling her goodbye was after she told him to be safe and he said ‘Don’t worry mom, my guys got me they won’t let anything happen to me.’” 

“Today she realized that they all just went together,” the statement says.   

“Maxton was [an] awesome young man that was well-liked in the community as evidenced by the outpouring of condolences from teachers, coaches, employers, family, and friends,” the statement said. “Maxton was always proud of being part of a state champion wrestling team and state playoff final four football team two years in a row.” 

Family of US Marine killed in Kabul says he had a "tough outer shell and giant heart"

A US Marine from Nebraska was among the service members killed in the bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday. 

Cpl. Daegan Page was 23 years old, his family said in a statement provided to CNN. 

“Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart,” the family statement said. “Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time.” They said he planned to possibly become a lineman once his Marine enlistment was finished. 

Page was raised partly in Iowa and near Omaha, Nebraska, and served at Camp Pendleton in California.  

“He loved hunting and spending time outdoors with his dad, as well as being out on the water,” said the family. “He was also an animal lover with a soft spot in his heart for dogs.” 

The statement said that Page joined the US Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School. He was a longtime Boy Scout and “enjoyed playing hockey for Omaha Westside in the Omaha Hockey Club and was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan.” 

Sister of US Marine killed in Kabul attack says he made the "ultimate sacrifice"

US Marine Rylee McCollum.

The family of US Marine Rylee McCollum confirmed to CNN that he died in Thursday’s suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport.

Roice McCollum, Rylee’s older sister, said her brother was “an amazing man with a passion for the Marines.”

He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just three weeks,” she told CNN in a statement, saying that Rylee had wanted to be a Marine his whole life, so much so that even as a toddler he carried around a toy rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots.

Roice said that her brother, a native of Wyoming, was on his first deployment and had been determined to be in the infantry. He was sent to Afghanistan when the evacuation began and had been manning the checkpoint when the explosion occurred, she said.

“Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country,” she said. “Rylee will always be a hero not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper. We love you Rylee.”

Rylee, she said, was tough but kind and loving and “made an impact on everyone he met.”

About 4,200 people evacuated from Kabul over a 12-hour stretch Friday

About 4,200 people were evacuated from Kabul on Friday, according to the White House.

The evacuations were carried out from 3 a.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET by 12 US military flights that evacuated about 2,100 evacuees and 29 coalition flights that also evacuated approximately 2,100 people.

Approximately 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul over the same 12-hour stretch of time on Thursday.

Since Aug. 14, the US has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of about 109,200 people, according to the White House.

Soldier killed in Kabul attack was a member of US special forces

The US soldier killed in the Kabul airport attack was a member of the 1st Special Forces Command, the command said in a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon. 

“We are saddened to report the death of one of our soldiers as a result of the attacks at [Hamid Karzai International Airport] yesterday,” the command said. 

“Our teammate died not only serving our nation, but helping to give others a life of freedom and opportunity. The sacrifices made by our soldiers and families over the past 20 years were not in vain, and our mission in Afghanistan is not yet over,” the command added.

The soldier’s family has been notified, the command said. Per policy, the Defense Department will wait 24 hours until releasing the name of the soldier.

First lady Jill Biden pens open letter to military families

Jill Biden has posted a letter to military families to her Facebook page.

In the wake of Thursday’s attack on troops in Afghanistan, Biden touches on what it feels like to be a member of a military family – noting she, too, was a military mother, when Beau Biden was serving – and specifically what those with loved ones serving in Afghanistan might be feeling. “Too many of you lost a piece of your heart forever there. This mission is personal to you, and you have shouldered its enormous weight,” writes Biden.

The first lady advises military family members who are struggling to seek help. One of Biden’s platform initiatives is Joining Forces, her initiative focused on supporting military families and veterans. 

“As our mission in Afghanistan comes to an end, you may be experiencing many emotions. Know that my heart is with you as you navigate what comes next for your family, your community, and our nation. You are not alone. … As a nation, we have asked so much of you these last twenty years. From missed birthdays and holidays to illnesses and injuries to the ultimate sacrifice a family can make, you have given us more than we can ever repay. What we can do is match your devotion with our own. We can stand beside you and honor your service. If you need to talk to someone, reach out,” she said.

Read Biden’s full letter:

It is unclear when normal air travel will resume at Kabul airport, US State Department says

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Friday that “it is probably unreasonable to expect that there will be normal airport operations on Sept. 1” following the US military withdrawal from Kabul airport on Aug. 31.

“What we are trying to do right is to lay the groundwork to see to it that resumption of civil aviation, consistent with international civil aviation standards, can resume as quickly as possible,” Price said in a department briefing.

There is currently no plan in place for operation of the airport once US and other partner forces leave, but there are discussions ongoing between the US, Taliban, and regional countries about its fate. 

Price told reporters that “teams of US and allied air traffic experts have accessed Karzai international airports for capabilities that would support the resumption of commercial operations once we depart,” but declined to say what that assessment found.

“We are departing by Aug. 31, upon that date, we are delivering, we are essentially giving the airport back to the Afghan people, but we are working with all concerned parties to facilitate a smooth transfer of both the airport and the airfield, knowing how important it is to us, knowing it is to the international community, and again how it important it is to the Taliban’s own self-interest,” Price said.

US military still in control of Kabul airport, Pentagon says

The Pentagon said that reports that the Taliban have taken control of the airport in Kabul are false.

“They are not in charge of any of the gates. They are not in charge of any of the airport operations. That is still under US military control,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Turkey evacuates most of its forces and civilians from Afghanistan

Citizens of Turkey arrive at Istanbul Airport after being evacuated from Afghanistan on August 19.

Turkey has completed the evacuation of civilians and military from Afghanistan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday during his one-day visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo.

“As of tonight, we withdrew all our teams from Afghanistan. Nobody will remain there, neither civilian nor military except a small number of technicians, 20-30 people. We leave Afghanistan,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish Defense Ministry also said in a tweet Friday that “the evacuation of our Turkish Armed Forces personnel, who successfully performed their duty in Afghanistan for 20 years, has been completed. We say ‘welcome to your country’ to our troops who returned to the homeland.”

Earlier Friday: Erdogan said a delegation from Turkey met the Taliban for more than three hours for the first time, and the Taliban offered Turkey to run Kabul’s airport while the Taliban took care of the security.

“Turkey has not made the decision yet,” Erdogan said,

Pentagon says proper verification was causing delays processing Afghans at DC-area Airport

The commander of US NORTHCOM said that “use of the proper vetting authorities” was causing earlier delays processing Afghan refugees at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC.

“What was happening is, if the improper system was utilized, they were being flagged as red on the receiving end at Dulles,” said Gen. Glen VanHerck, explaining that they were “ensuring verification” at customs for the Afghans coming into the US.

VanHerck said that as of this morning, there were no airplanes waiting on the tarmac at Dulles.

NORAD commander says there are low numbers of Covid-positive tests from refugees

Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, expressed confidence in Covid-19 testing for refugees coming from Afghanistan.

“With regards to Covid, the Afghans coming from the Middle East into our locations that we have stood up are all being tested actually multiple times. We tested 100% upon arrival at each location. They’re getting tested at Dulles [Airport] as well, and en route they get tested,” VanHerck said.

“We are seeing so far, to date, when I was at Fort McCoy on Wednesday, only three out of more than 1,300 had tested positive. When I went to Fort Bliss the same day, one out of more than 1,200 had tested positive for Covid,” he said.

Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Bliss in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey are all housing Afghan refugees. The Department of Defense today authorized three more US bases to help support evacuation operations from Afghanistan: Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia; Fort Pickett in Virginia and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

State Department unaware of any US civilians killed or injured in Kabul attack

The State Department said they are unaware of any non-military US citizens who were casualties of the attacks in Kabul yesterday.

“We are unaware that any Americans were, that any either private or Americans under chief of mission authority were killed or injured or harmed in the attacks,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Price said the State Department accounted for all individuals under their authority after the attacks.

Biden won't ask for any resignations from military leaders in wake of Afghanistan attack, White House says

President Biden won’t ask any of his military leaders to resign in the wake of Thursday’s deadly attack in Afghanistan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

“I think that what the President looks at the events of yesterday as a tragedy and one that was felt viscerally by the leaders of the military as well. And losing members of your men and women working for you from the service branches is devastating. It’s devastating for the President, it’s devastating for the leaders of the military, as many times as it has happened,” Psaki said after reiterating that President Biden wont seek any resignations from his generals.

Asked if Biden still has confidence in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Psaki said yes, and would not respond to Republican lawmakers who are looking to impeach him.

“I have no response on a day where we’re still honoring the lives of men and women in the military who were lost yesterday,” she said.

State Department: "Vast majority" of locally employed Afghan embassy staff have been evacuated or at airport

State Department spokesperson Ned Price pauses while speaking during a briefing at the State Department, Monday, August 2.

The State Department said that the “vast majority” of locally employed US embassy staff and their families have either been evacuated from Afghanistan or are waiting at the Kabul airport to leave.

“Our embassies around the world quite simply could not function without locally employed staff. And we will continue to do everything we can to bring them to safety,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Price added that the State Department is in contact with the embassy staff who have not yet been evacuated.

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh reported earlier Friday that local Afghan staff of the US embassy are still coming to the airport, but the operations team is expected to complete that part of the operation on Friday.  

Additional vetting could lead to some delays for refugees arriving in the US, White House says

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House, Friday August 27.

Additional vetting and security processes could lead to some refugees facing long wait times at airports upon their arrival in the United States, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Responding to reports that some refugees landing at Dulles Airport near Washington DC are sitting on planes for hours at a time upon landing in the US, Psaki said that would be due to potential additional screening measures.

“We implement multiple layers of check, including a confirmation in some cases on landing, and that is to check the manifest and in a limited number of cases, we have vetting processes that may be unresolved, very limited. But that may lead to at times a delay in an individual’s being held on the plane so that we can have that process seen through,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing.

Earlier in the briefing, Psaki announced the Department of Homeland Security will be overseeing the federal government response for relocating evacuated Afghans to the United States.

“Already, DHS has been working closely with agencies across government, including our military, diplomats, intelligence community and law enforcement professionals, and many others to ensure that all Afghans are screened and vetted prior to being allowed into the United States,” she said.

State Department says it's working with 500 US citizens to facilitate evacuation from Afghanistan

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said there are about 500 American citizens that the department is working with to evacuate from Afghanistan.

Price said officials are “communicating directly” with these citizens to facilitate departures.

“We are communicating with several hundred American citizens who have not yet determined whether they want to leave, for various reasons,” he added. “Last night alone, we reached out to every American who we believe may be in Afghanistan and attempting to leave. In many cases, we did this again multiple times, by phone, by email, by text. We continue to reach out to anyone who makes contact with us through multiple means, which over the past week, has included tens of thousands of calls, emails, texts, WhatsApp messages and other tactics.”

In 24 hours between the mornings of Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, approximately 12,500 people were evacuated from Kabul, Price said. There have been 105,000 people evacuated since Aug. 14.

In the last day, more than 300 additional Americans were evacuated, Price said.

Department of Homeland Security will lead federal effort for relocation of Afghans in US

At the direction of President Biden, the Department of Homeland Security is taking on the challenge of overseeing the federal government response for relocating evacuated Afghans to the US, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. 

“Already, DHS has been working closely with agencies across government, including our military, diplomats, intelligence community and law enforcement professionals, and many others to ensure that all Afghans are screened and vetted prior to being allowed into the United States,” she said. 

DHS will coordinate with other federal agencies to ensure that relocated Afghans have access to medical care and sufficient support to enable their successful resettlement in the US, Psaki said. 

Some context: The new role for DHS comes as the Biden administration has relocated thousands of people to the United States as part of a rushed and chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan, an effort that has caused long delays and major security challenges for the agencies responsible for screening and vetting. 

Additional details about the department’s role are not immediately available.  

DHS has already deployed hundreds of personnel from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard to Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Italy, Qatar, Spain and the United Arab Emirates to assist with processing, screening, vetting.

Additionally, staff from US Citizenship and Immigration Services have been deployed to domestic locations to help with the effort. 

4 San Diego families stuck in Afghanistan are secure and in the process of returning to US

Four of the five Southern California families still stranded in Afghanistan are in a safe place and are in the process of being removed from the country after a bombing at Kabul’s airport killed scores of people Thursday, school officials told CNN.

The San Diego-area families traveled to Afghanistan this summer to visit relatives and became stranded in the country as the Taliban quickly took power this month.

The four families in a secure place are preparing to depart, according to Howard Shen, spokesperson for the Cajon Valley Union School District. A fifth family is still unable to safely exit and continues to seek help from US officials.

Each of the involved families has students in the school district, located just east of San Diego.

California Rep. Darrell Issa’s office told CNN Friday it is working to help at least one additional family – a sixth – escape Afghanistan, but provided no details about the situation.

11th Marine was among 13 US service members killed, US Marines confirm

The US Marines have confirmed that another Marine was among the 13 US service members killed Thursday.

“We can confirm, at this time, 11 Marines were killed in the line of duty at Hamid Karzai International Airport. This is an update to the information we provided yesterday,” said Maj. Jim Stenger, Marine Corps spokesperson.

What we know: A total of 11 US Marines, one US Navy sailor and one US Army soldier were killed in Thursday’s attack at Kabul’s airport. Another 18 service members were injured.

White House says working with the Taliban is needed to continue evacuations

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters during the daily press briefing at the White House on August 27.

The United States’ continued coordination with the Taliban in Afghanistan is a necessity, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, adding that while the relationship is not preferred, it is needed to continue to facilitate evacuations from the country.

When asked if working with the Taliban is considered the best of bad options or the only option for the US in Afghanistan, Psaki responded “maybe both.”

“The reality is the Afghan — the Taliban control large swaths of Afghanistan, including the area surrounding the perimeter of the airport, so by necessity that is our option, to coordinate with to get American citizens out, to get our Afghan partners out, to get individuals who are eligible for the range of programs the United States has out,” Psaki said at the White House briefing on Friday.

“This is not a preferred relationship or a situation that we would have designed if we had started from scratch, I think that’s very clear. But right now we need to continue to coordinate, that’s our focus for the next couple of days,” she added later in the briefing.

Psaki said that while the US does not trust Afghanistan, there is nothing at this time to suggest Thursday’s attack was coordinated between the Taliban and ISIS-K.

“Clearly something went wrong here in the process that we saw the ISIS-K attack occur yesterday. We don’t have additional information to suggest that it was, you know, intentional or anything along those lines,” she said. “But clearly there was a break in the security process here. There’s no question about that.”

When asked about