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 12:27 AM ET, Fri August 27, 2021
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5:49 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden says he's ordered plans to strike ISIS-K

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden revealed Thursday that he has ordered military commanders “to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities.”

“We will respond with force and precision in our time, in a place we choose in a manner of our choosing,” Biden said, declining to give specifics on timing.

“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans. We will get our Afghan allies out. And our mission will go on,” the President said. “America will not be intimidated.”


5:42 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden says he will "grant" additional forces in Afghanistan if US military needs it

President Biden left the door open for more military assistance in Afghanistan during remarks Thursday following an attack at Kabul airport that killed more than 60 people, including 12 US service members.

"I've instructed the military with whatever they need if they need additional force, I will grant it. But the military, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Joint Chiefs, the commanders in the field, have all contacted me one way or another usually by letter saying they subscribe to the mission as designed," Biden said during remarks from White House.

Some context: Biden said Tuesday the US was on track to complete its hurried airlift in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, acknowledging he does not plan to keep American troops in the country any longer even as questions remain over who will be able to leave and when.

5:45 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden to the families of service members and Afghans who died: "My heart aches for you"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden addressed the families of service members and Afghans who were killed during a terrorist attack at Kabul's airport.

"My heart aches for you," Biden said.

"Jill and I, our hearts ache like I'm sure all of you do as well, for all those Afghan families who lost loved ones including small children, or have been wounded with this vicious attack and we're outraged as well as heartbroken," Biden said from his remarks at the White House.

Biden said he could relate to the families loss, referring to his experience with losing his son Beau Biden, a military veteran who died of brain cancer after returning from serving in Iraq.

He continued, "We have some sense like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. You get this feeling like you're being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There's no way out. My heart aches for you. And I know this, we have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you families of those heroes. That obligation is not temporary. It lasts forever."

5:46 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden holds moment of silence for Americans who gave "the last full measure of devotion"

President Joe Biden pauses for a moment of silence from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden pauses for a moment of silence from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC. (Evan Vucci/AP)

During remarks on the attack in Afghanistan, President Biden held a moment of silence "for all those in uniform and out of uniform, military and civilian, of giving the last full measure of devotion."

"May God bless you all and may God protect the troops and all those standing watch for America," Biden said following the moment of silence.

5:38 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden to those responsible for Kabul airport attack: "We will hunt you down"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

President Biden issued a warning to those responsible for the Kabul airport attack in Afghanistan today that killed 12 US service members, saying, "We will hunt you down and make you pay."

"To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay. I will defend our interests and our people will every measure at my command," Biden said at the White House.

At least 15 additional US service members were injured, and an official with Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health said that more than 60 Afghans were dead and 140 wounded in the attack.

US officials believe the group ISIS-K was likely behind today's attack but are still working to confirm its involvement, according to a senior US official and another source briefed on initial assessments. 

5:44 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden says 12 US service members were heroes who "engaged in a dangerous selfless mission"

President Biden acknowledged the attack at Kabul airport and specifically recognized the 12 US service members killed, calling Thursday "a tough day."

"These American service members who gave their lives, it's an overused word but it's totally appropriate here, were heroes; heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous selfless mission to save the lives of others," Biden said today during a speech from the White House Thursday. "They are a part of an airlift and evacuation effort unlike any seen in history with more than 100,000 American citizens, American partners, Afghans who helped us and others taken to safety in the last 11 days."

Some context: The attack claimed more than 60 lives while at least 140 other people were injured, according to an Afghan public health official. Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, confirmed US service members were killed and injured in the attack, saying, "it's a hard day today."

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 Biden's Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.


5:29 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

NOW: Biden speaks following Kabul airport attack 

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26.
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26. (Pool)

President Biden is speaking from the White House following two bombing attacks outside the Kabul airport that killed 12 US service members and dozens of Afghans.

This is the first time the public has heard from the President since the attacks, and his remarks come after the US' top general in the Middle East spoke to reporters about the situation in the country at a Pentagon briefing.

Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said they are working to determine who is behind the deadly attack and "are prepared to take action against them." The general said they are also focused on other "extremely active threat streams" to the airfield.

US officials had been warned over the past week that a threat of a terror attack at the airport was becoming more acute. A US defense official had also told CNN that officials were concerned by a "very specific threat stream" involving the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

The attacks near the airport come as the US and other Western countries race to complete a massive evacuation following the Taliban takeover of the country. McKenzie said that the evacuations will continue despite the attack.

"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, the evacuation at best speed," he said.

5:05 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Coalition forces have conducted controlled explosions at Kabul airport

From CNN's Oren Liebermann and AnneClaire Stapleton

Coalition forces have conducted a series of scheduled and controlled explosions within Hamid Karzai International airport, US CENTCOM spokesperson Maj. John Rigsbee told CNN.

Earlier this week Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said as “if there needs to be destruction or other disposition of equipment there at Hamid Karzai International Airport, then we'll do that and we'll do that appropriately” if the US and coalition cannot take some equipment.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, meanwhile, tweeted after reports of additional blasts near Kabul after Thursday's attack, "Today late in the evening, sound of explosions were heard inside the Kabul Airport. The explosions were carried out by the American forces to destroy their equipment. Kabul residents should not be worried.”

5:04 p.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Former US counterterrorism adviser says situation in Afghanistan "should have not happened"

The sight of violence and people desperate to escape Kabul struck a chord with Ahmad Shah Mohibi, a former counterterrorism adviser in Afghanistan whose family worked with the US government during its presence in the country over the past 20 years.

Mohibi, whose parents were evacuated from Afghanistan on Monday, spoke with CNN about his experience working with the US following an attack at Kabul's airport that killed more than 60 people.

"I look at my nephews and nieces and the pictures of them sleeping in the dirt. It really made me to think this is not what we deserve. Look, hundreds of SIVs, they are calling me, 'can you help us?' And I said, 'I cannot,'" Mohibi said. "This should have not happened. ... All these great people supported the US mission of Afghanistan with combat and terrorism."

Some context: US Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said Thursday that although the "threat from ISIS is extremely real," troops are still assisting with bringing people onto the airfield at Kabul's airport.

"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."