Live Updates

At least 13 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack

'We will hunt you down and make you pay': Biden warns attackers
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Where things stand

  • President Biden vowed to “hunt” down the terrorists who attacked Kabul’s airport, killing 13 US service members and injuring 18.
  • More than 60 Afghans are dead and at least 140 wounded, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health tells CNN.
  • The blasts come as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
  • Our live coverage of the situation in Afghanistan has moved here.
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Kamala Harris: "We honor those who gave their lives in service to their nation"

Vice President Kamala Harris called the 13 American service members killed in Afghanistan today “heroes” who died saving countless lives, in a statement released Thursday night. 

“Doug and I grieve for the Americans we lost, we pray for the Americans injured in the attack, and our hearts go out to their loved ones. We also grieve for the Afghan civilians killed and injured,” Harris wrote in the statement which was released shortly after she arrived in Hawaii for an event with US troops.

“Our country is grateful to all our women and men in uniform, and in particular, those working today to get Americans and our Afghan partners out of harm’s way. And we will complete that mission,” she continued. 

Australian Prime Minister condemns attack, says all Australian forces are safe

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a press conference in Canberra, Australia, on August 27, following the deadly attack at Kabul Airport.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the attacks in Afghanistan in a tweet Friday local time, adding that all Australian Defence Force (ADF) members and personnel are safe.

“Deeply saddened by the deaths of US military personnel and Afghans in the horrific terrorist attacks in Kabul. We mourn your tragic loss,” Morrison tweeted. “Australia condemns these heinous and barbaric attacks,” the prime minister added. “All our brave ADF and Australian personnel are safe.”

Journalist describes "terrible" scene following Kabul attack

Journalist and author Matthieu Aikins speaks with CNN on Thursday.

Journalist and author Matthieu Aikins reported to the scene following the deadly events at Kabul international airport Thursday that killed more than 60 Afghans and 13 US service members.

“We were there less than an hour after the attack. I was at home and heard a pop, which you get kind of attuned to living in Kabul,” he told CNN. “We hopped on the motorcycle, rode down, and it was a pretty chaotic scene.”

Aikins said he’s been traveling to the airport daily since the fall of Kabul and sadly wasn’t entirely surprised by the latest incident.

“We could hear shooting and sirens from the airport. At that point, we went back to the emergency hospital, and they were bringing the casualties in there. There was just body after body. It was a really terrible sight,” Aikins said. “You have tens of thousands of people cramming in from every angle at the same time, this desperate pressure to get the American citizens and others out. So it was really truly a recipe for disaster.”

Watch the interview:

Here's the latest on evacuation efforts in Kabul

Evacuees walk around a temporary shelter at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on August 26.

About 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul over the course of 12 hours on Thursday, the White House said. 

“From August 26 at 3:00 AM EDT to August 26 at 3:00 PM EDT, a total of approximately 7,500 people were evacuated from Kabul. This is the result of 14 US military flights (13 C-17s and 1 C-130) which carried approximately 5,100 evacuees, and 39 coalition flights which carried 2,400 people,” a White House official said in a statement.

CNN first reported on the attack outside the airport in Kabul at 9:40 a.m. ET. It’s unclear how many of these 7,500 evacuations took place after the attack.

10 US Marines among the 13 service members killed in Afghanistan

Ten Marines were killed in the attack at Kabul international airport and several more were wounded, Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Jim Stenger said in a statement Thursday evening. 

“These fallen heroes answered the call to go into harm’s way to do the honorable work of helping others. We are proud of their service and deeply saddened by their loss. As we mourn, we also keep those who are still over there protecting Americans and our Afghan partners at the forefront of our thoughts. Our Marines will continue the mission, carrying on our Corps’ legacy of always standing ready to meet the challenges of every extraordinary task our Nation requires of her Marines,” Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in the statement.

Earlier Thursday: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday issued his own statement, saying, “This is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team. Those warriors who died gave their lives to save thousands of men, women and children, Americans and Afghans alike.”

A 13th US service member has died, US Central Command says

An additional US service member has died as a result of the attack at the Kabul airport Thursday, according to a statement from US Central Command.

A total of 13 US service members were killed Thursday and the total number injured is now 18, said Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesperson for CENTCOM.

“I can confirm that subsequent to Gen. [Kenneth “Frank” ] McKenzie’s remarks, a thirteenth US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” Urban said. “The latest number of injured is now 18.”

Urban said the injured are in the process of being evacuated from Afghanistan.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the injured and to the friends and family of those who were killed,” he added.

White House says "it's not a day for politics" when asked about calls for Biden's resignation

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26.

The White House responded to Republicans calling on President Biden to resign in the wake of recent bombings in Kabul, telling reporters “it’s not a day for politics.”

“This is a day where US service members, 12 of them, lost their lives at the hands of terrorists,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the White House press briefing. “It’s not a day for politics, and we would expect that any American, elected or not, would stand with us in our commitment to going after and fighting and killing those terrorists wherever they live. And to honoring the memory of service members. And that’s what this day is for.”

3 California families safely depart from Afghanistan

Three Southern California families who became stranded in Afghanistan while visiting relatives over the summer have made it safely out of while five others remain stuck as chaos continues to unfold around the nation’s main airport.

Two families departed Afghanistan Thursday, according to Howard Shen, spokesperson for the Cajon Valley Union School District, near San Diego. A third family had also departed and returned to the US on Wednesday, he said. 

Shen estimated that five additional families from the school district, consisting of 14 students and eight parents, are still in Afghanistan. The figure marked an increase from Wednesday when Shen believed that a total of six CVUSD families were in Afghanistan, noting that information is fluid and constantly evolving. He said the district is working with California Rep. Darrell Issa’s office, and other national security officials to assist the families with a safe exit. 

The departures come as deadly explosions rocked the area outside Kabul’s airport on Thursday as the US and other Western countries raced to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban takeover of the country. 

“We don’t believe any of our students were hurt during the explosion,” Shen told CNN of the bombing near the Kabul Airport.

President Biden on Thursday vowed to continue evacuations despite the terror attack.

The Cajon Valley Union School District, which is home to a very large immigrant and refugee population, mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq, will be offering counseling support to all students in need in the wake of recent events.

“Cajon Valley Union School District Community and Staff wait with open arms for the safe return of all of our families,” Shen said in a statement.

Shen on Wednesday said he believed that six CVUSD families were in Afghanistan, noting that the information is fluid and constantly evolving.

More than 13,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan, UK government says

Passengers evacuated from Afghanistan disembark from a British Royal Air Force aircraft after landing at RAF Brize Norton station in England on August 24.

A total of 13,146 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the operation began on Aug. 13, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said on Thursday.

In a statement, the FCDO said the military operation — called Operation Pitting — has seen more than 1,000 members of the UK armed forces deployed to Kabul to assist in the evacuations.

This includes embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) program and a number of nationals from partner nations, the statement said.

Biden never considered changing Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal of all US forces, White House says

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on August 26.

At no point Thursday did President Joe Biden consider keeping any US forces in Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 deadline, despite the deadly attacks near the Kabul airport, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Responding to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Psaki said the President still believes all US forces should be out by the end of the month because that is what his military commanders are advising will be best for the US in the short and long term.

“The President relies on the advice of his military commanders and they continue to believe that it is essential to get out by the 31st. That is their advice,” Psaki said.

“There are several reasons for that. One is the ongoing threats and the second that that we want to be able to have the ability to get individuals out who have been partners of ours after the 31st and they believe the best way to do that is to stay on that timeline at this point in time,” she added.

Psaki would not say whether the White House still anticipates the mass-evacuation flights that US and coalition forces have been carrying out will end before Aug. 31.

“I’m not gonna get into an operational timeline of when the last evacuation flight will be and I don’t expect the Department of Defense will do that either. We will let you know, as we have twice a day, as we have updated numbers,” she said.

Asked if there is an alternative plan being discussed on how to get people seeking to leave Afghanistan to the Kabul airport given it’s potentially dangerous to be waiting near the gates right now, Psaki said that there are “a range of operations and operational approaches that our commanders and military on the ground have been utilizing over the course of several days.” 

“I’m not gonna outline those from here, but that is why they’re in touch with American citizens, why they’re in touch with partners we’re working to evacuate to get them safely to the airport and evacuated at the appropriate time,” Psaki said.

How Biden learned of the Kabul attack, according to the White House press secretary

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki provided a breakdown of when President Biden learned of the attack in Kabul that claimed the lives of 12 US service members and injured another 15.

“Initial reports of the attacks came in as members of his national security team were gathering in the Situation Room for a regular meeting with the President, so they were just gathering and sitting down,” Psaki said today during a news briefing.

“As the President arrived in the Situation Room, one of the first updates he received, of course, was about the attacks on the ground in Kabul,” she added. “There were — this was a developing situation, as it has been through the course of the day and through the course of his briefing with his national security team this morning, his commanders on the ground also and in the region gave regular updates as they learned more information.”

Psaki continued: “Once he left the Situation Room, those updates proceeded through the course of the day. He’s been in constant contact with his national security adviser, his secretary of state, secretary of defense and military commanders both here and in the region.”

US flags will lower to half-staff after Kabul attack, White House says

The US flag is lowered at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26.

Flags across the United States will be lowered to half-staff “as a mark of respect” for the victims of the terror attack in Afghanistan, the White House said.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said flags would lower on Thursday and stay lowered until sunset on Aug. 30 “in honor of the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Kabul, Afghanistan.” 

President Biden has not yet spoken to the families of the service members killed in Afghanistan, the White House said Thursday evening, pointing to the next-of-kin notification process still being underway.

“Until that process concludes,” Psaki said at an evening press briefing, “the President will not make a call because that’s the first step in the process.” 

She also left the door open to the President making the trip to Dover, Delaware, when the remains of the fallen service members return to US soil. 

“Of course he would consider and want to be a part of any means of honoring the lives that were lost today,” Psaki said. “I am certain the President will do everything he can to honor the sacrifice and the service of the lives who were lost.”

US will try to evacuate some Afghan visa applicants past the Aug. 31 deadline, Biden says

President Biden said the US will try to evacuate some Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants out of Afghanistan past the Aug. 31 deadline, but he did not guarantee their extraction.

Asked what his message is to those Afghans who can’t make it to the airport by the deadline, Biden said: “We’re going to try to continue to get them out. It matters.”

Biden added, “There are, I would argue, millions of [Afghan] citizens who are not Taliban, who did not actively cooperate with us as SIVs, who, if given a chance, they would be on board a plane tomorrow. It sounds ridiculous but the vast majority of people in communities like that want to come to America, given the choice. So, getting every single person out can’t be guaranteed by anybody because there’s a determination of all who want to get out as well.”

Key things to know about ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan

President Biden said Thursday that he has ordered up plans to strike ISIS-K targets following the attack near the Kabul airport.

“To those who carried out this attack as well as anyone who wishes America harm know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.

ISIS in Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, claimed that an ISIS militant carried out the suicide attack, but provided no evidence to support the claim.

US officials have been warning over the past week that a threat of a terror attack at the airport was becoming more acute. Earlier on Thursday local time, US diplomats in Kabul warned American citizens to “immediately” leave several gates into the airport, citing security threats.

But who are ISIS-K? ISIS-Khorasan is a branch of the terror group that first emerged in Syria and Iraq. While the affiliates share an ideology and tactics, the depth of their relationship with regards to organization and command and control has never been entirely established.

US intelligence officials previously told CNN the ISIS-K membership includes “a small number of veteran jihadists from Syria and other foreign terrorist fighters,” saying that the US had identified 10 to 15 of their top operatives in Afghanistan. The group’s name comes from its terminology for the area that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan: “Khorasan.” 

The US Defense Department Inspector-General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) said in a report covering the months April to June of this year that “ISIS-Khorasan exploited the political instability and rise in violence during the quarter by attacking minority sectarian targets and infrastructure to spread fear and highlight the Afghan government’s inability to provide adequate security.”

ISIS-K has formed cells in Kabul which have carried out a number of devastating suicide attacks in and beyond the Afghan capital since 2016. 

The group has built up a presence in eastern Afghanistan in recent years, especially in the provinces of Nangahar and Kunar. Last August, the group attacked the main prison in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangahar, in an effort to free dozens of their supporters who had been captured by the Afghan army and police.

Read more about the group here.

CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Jim Sciutto and Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.

Biden stands by decision to withdraw from Afghanistan: "It was time to end a 20-year war"

President Joe Biden answers questions from members of the media from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.

President Biden said he squarely stands by his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

“I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never once in its entire history been a united country,” Biden said.

“Our interest in going was to prevent al Qaeda from reemerging, first to get [Osama] bin Laden, wipe out al Qaeda in Afghanistan, prevent that from happening again. As I’ve said 100 times, terrorism has metastasized around the world. We have greater threats coming out of other countries, a heck of a lot closer to the United States,” Biden said.

Biden: US evacuation mission will continue and not be "deterred by terrorists" 

President Biden said today’s attack near the Kabul airport will not stop the US’ mission to evacuate American citizens and Afghan civilians from Afghanistan.

Biden said his commanders on the ground have “made it clear that we can and we must complete this mission and we will, and that’s what I’ve ordered them to do.”

Biden said he’s told his commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities.

“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place that we choose and at the moment of our choosing,” he said.

The President stressed that he is was confident in the US’ completion of the mission.

“Here’s what you need to know. These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans in there. We will get our Afghan allies out and our mission will go on,” the President said. “America will not be intimidated, and I have the utmost confidence in our brave service members that continue to execute this mission with courage and honor to save lives and get our Americans and partners and our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan.”

Some more context: 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. The second source told CNN it may take a few hours before US officials are able to identify the specific individuals who carried out the apparent suicide bombing.

The US believes ISIS-K, which is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, wants to create mayhem at the airport and has intelligence streams suggesting it is capable and planning to carry out multiple attacks, a defense official told CNN Wednesday.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting to this post.

Biden says while no one trusts the Taliban, it was not a mistake to rely on them to secure airport perimeter

When asked if he thought it was a mistake to depend on the Taliban to secure the perimeter of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in the wake of deadly attacks, President Biden said, “No, I don’t.”

“It’s not what you would call a tightly commanded regimented operation like the US military is, but they are acting in their interests … I’ve asked this very same question to military on the ground whether or not it’s a useful exercise,” Biden said from the White House.  

Biden said there is no evidence so far of any collusion between the Taliban and ISIS carrying out the airport attack.

During a Pentagon briefing earlier today, US Central Command head Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie was asked whether he trusts the Taliban.

“As to whether or not I trust them … that’s a word I use very carefully. You’ve heard me say before, ‘it’s not what they say; it’s what they do.’ They have a practical reason for wanting us to get out of here by the 31st of August. They want to reclaim the airfield. We want to get out by that day, too, if it’s possible to do so. So we share a common purpose. As long as we keep that common purpose alive, they’ve been useful to work with. They’ve cut some of our security concerns down and they’ve been useful to work with going forward,” McKenzie said.

Biden: "I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that's happened of late"

President Biden took responsibility for what has recently occurred in Afghanistan during remarks made at the White House Thursday afternoon following a deadly attack that killed more than 60 people near Kabul airport, including a dozen US service members.

“I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late. Here’s the deal, you know … that the former president made a deal with the Taliban to get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1,” Biden said. “Imagine where we’d be if I had indicated on May 1, I was not going to renegotiate an evacuation date. We were going to stay there. I had only one alternative, for thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war.”

Biden added: “I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never once in its entire history been a united country.”

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

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.

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.”

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.

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

President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House on August 26 in Washington, DC.

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

“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.