Defense secretary says military “will not be dissuaded” by deaths in Kabul
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin offered condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the service members killed and injured in the attack outside the airport in Kabul.
“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others. We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief,” Austin said in a statement. “But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”
Biden’s meeting with Israeli prime minister moved to Friday
The president’s bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been rescheduled for Friday, according to the White House.
The two leaders had been scheduled to meet late Thursday morning, but the attack in Kabul upended the president’s schedule.
At least 10 U.S. service members killed in attack near airport
At least 10 U.S. service members were killed in the attack at the Kabul airport, multiple sources tell CBS News.
The Pentagon is scheduled to field questions from reporters at 3 p.m. ET.
Pentagon officials to hold briefing at 3 p.m.
The Pentagon press secretary will now hold a briefing at 3 p.m. ET with Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command. Watch live on CBSN here:
Pelosi spokesman hits back at McCarthy over call to keep troops in Afghanistan
A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bristled at Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s call for the speaker to bring the House back in session to pass legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated.
“Right now, American heroes are risking & giving their lives to execute an extraordinarily dangerous evacuation, & the Minority Leader wants to defund the mission & tie the Commander in Chief’s hands in the middle of the most dangerous days of the operation,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted.
Hammill said the Biden administration has briefed members of Congress “repeatedly” and has been providing updates daily.
“What’s not going to help evacuate American citizens is more empty stunts & distraction from the Minority Leader who sat idly by as Pres. Trump proudly negotiated with the Taliban,” he said.
Mr. Trump and his administration reached a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, under which the U.S. would pull forces out of Afghanistan by May as long as the Taliban met commitments to prevent terrorism and reduce violence.
McCarthy urges Pelosi to reconvene the House over Afghanistan
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring lawmakers back to Washington before the withdrawal deadline of August 31 to be briefed by the Biden administration and pass legislation to halt the withdrawal of troops until all Americans are out of Afghanistan.
Most members are now home in their districts, as the House is out of session.
“Today’s attacks are horrific. My prayers go out to those who were injured and the families of those who were killed,” McCarthy said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden administration and pass Representative Gallagher’s legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of our troops until every American is out of Afghanistan.”
Afghan interpreter who witnessed bombing recalls harrowing experience
An Afghan interpreter who worked with American forces during the war recalled in an interview with CBSN what he witnessed outside the main airport in Kabul immediately after one of the explosions. He said he helped an injured young girl who ultimately died in his arms.
The Afghan man, referred to as “Carl,” told CBSN he was heading toward one of the airport gates to be evacuated when the explosion happened.
“I just saw a lot of people got hurt and people that were laying on the ground,” he said. “I saw a baby there and I went to her and I picked her up and started taking her to the hospital.”
Carl estimated the young girl was 5 years old, and he put her in a vehicle to bring her to the hospital.
“I took her to the hospital, but she died on my hands,” he said. “That’s heartbreaking. What is going on right now is heartbreaking, this whole country has fallen apart.”
“I tried,” the interpreter continued. “I did my best to help her.”
Carl, whose story could not be independently verified, said he worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province and experienced “a lot of explosions.”
“I saw a lot of people dead,” he said of the scene outside the Kabul airport. “They were laying on the ground. I saw a lot, but I went for that baby girl.”
Read more here.
Pentagon confirms “a number of U.S. service members were killed” in attack
A “number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack” outside the Kabul airport, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed in a statement. A “number of others” are being treated for wounded, he added.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured,” he wrote.
These deaths are the first among the U.S. military during evacuation operations.
Some countries had already ended evacuations before Kabul blasts
Multiple countries had already halted evacuation efforts in Kabul amid a deteriorating security situation before the explosions near the airport Thursday. The blasts caused multiple casualties, including Americans, underlining how dangerous the situation on the ground is.
British, Belgian and U.S. officials had warned of the possibility of a terrorist threat near the airport in recent hours and days.
Poland became the first European country to halt evacuations earlier this week, with its deputy foreign minister saying they could not risk the lives of their diplomats or soldiers any longer.
Belgium also stopped evacuation efforts earlier this week. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted Wednesday that the government “has decided to end evacuations from Kabul airport, given the evolving situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with other European partners.” Denmark had also stopped facilitating evacuations ahead of the blasts.
The Netherlands also departed Kabul.
“The Netherlands has to leave Kabul today,” the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted Thursday, ahead of reports of the explosions. “This is a painful moment because it means that despite all the great efforts of the past period, people who are eligible for evacuation to the Netherlands will be left behind.”
A Canadian general said Thursday ahead of the reports of explosions that Canada had already completed evacuations. Hungary, too, said that it had evacuated all of its citizens.
Mr. Biden said earlier this week the U.S. is “on pace” to meet the August 31 withdrawal deadline, but it remains unclear how the explosions will affect U.S. evacuations.
NATO chief condemns “horrific terrorist attack”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the explosions Thursday, calling them a “horrific terrorist attack.”
“My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones,” he tweeted. “Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.”
Biden returns to Oval Office after Situation Room meeting
Mr. Biden’s meeting with his top officials in the Situation Room has concluded, and he is now in the Oval Office, according to a White House official. The president will continue to be briefed on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, the official said.
The White House also delayed a scheduled press briefing, and a meeting between the president and governors about housing Afghan refugees has also been pushed.
Kathryn Watson and Tim Perry
Satellite photos show crowds gathered at airport gate in days before blasts
Satellite imagery captured by Maxar Technologies shows hundreds of people who gathered over the past several days outside Abbey Gate at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where one of at least two explosions tore through the crowd Thursday.
One photo from August 23 shows the throngs of people outside the gate:
The crowds continued to gather on August 24 and 25, as seen in these photos:
Crowds have gathered outside the airport everyday since the Taliban took control of the city, desperate to board flights out of the country.
Biden’s meeting with Israeli prime minister delayed
Mr. Biden’s bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been delayed, the White House said, as the president and his administration grapple with the explosions in Kabul.
The gathering, the first in-person meeting for the two leaders, was initially set to occur at 11:30 a.m. in the Oval Office. It’s unclear when the meeting will happen. Bennett arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night and met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday.
Biden huddles in Situation Room with national security team
A White House official confirmed just after 11 a.m. that the president is in the White House Situation Room, as news unfolds about the situation in Kabul. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are both at the White House, and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is briefing the president, the official said.
Mr. Biden had been scheduled to meet with the Israeli prime minister soon.
Pentagon says second explosion occurred near Kabul airport, confirms U.S. casualties
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said there were at least two explosions in Kabul, with a second occuring “at or near the Baron Hotel,” which is close to the airport’s Abbey Gate.
Kirby also said the first explosion at the Abbey Gate “was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties.”
“Unknown number of casualties” after blast at Abbey Gate, Pentagon says
John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the blast outside Abbey Gate at the airport resulted in “an unknown number of casualties.”
“We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties,” Kirby tweeted.
There are four gates at the airport where people trying to leave Afghanistan were previously told to go to, according to CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe and Charlie D’Agata. The State Department said Thursday that Americans at the Abbey Gate, East Gate and North Gate should now “leave immediately.”
Just outside the Abbey Gate stands the Baron Hotel, where three U.S. Chinook helicopters picked up 169 Americans on Thursday last week and brought them to the airport.
Suicide bomber responsible for blast, sources say
A suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion outside Abbey Gate, three sources tell CBS News.
Christina Ruffini and Olivia Gazis
U.S. Embassy issues security alert warning Americans to avoid Kabul airport
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a new security alert warning of a “large explosion at the airport” and “reports of gunfire.”
“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” the embassy said. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
U.S. and U.K warned citizens to avoid airport hours before blast
Hours before the blast, the U.S. and Britain warned citizens not to go to Kabul’s airport, citing a terror threat to the sprawling facility outside of which thousands of desperate people have gathered since the Taliban’s retaking of Afghanistan.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent out an alert on Wednesday evening advising U.S. citizens in Afghanistan to avoid traveling to the airport, citing an unspecified security threat amid frantic efforts to evacuate Americans and vulnerable Afghans.
“Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” the security alert read. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
A U.S. defense official told CBS News national security correspondent David Martin on Thursday that the threat was not to planes taking off or landing, but of an explosive device being detonated outside the airport gates.
Read the full story here.
Pentagon postpones briefing scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
A Pentagon press briefing scheduled for Thursday morning has been postponed. No new start time has been announced.
Biden briefed on blast outside Kabul airport
President Biden has been briefed on the explosion outside the airport in Kabul, a White House official said shortly after the blast was reported.
The president had previously been scheduled to meet with his national security team at 9:30 a.m. at the White House “to hear intelligence, security, and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,” according to his public schedule.
White House: 95,700 people evacuated since August 14
Over a 24-hour period beginning early Wednesday morning, 13,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan on U.S. military and coalition aircraft, the White House said earlier Thursday.
Seventeen military flights — C-17s and C-130s — carried roughly 5,100 from Kabul, while 74 coalition aircraft relocated approximately 8,300 people. Since mid-August, the U.S. has shuttled 95,700 people out of Kabul, according to the White House. Since the end of July, 101,300 people have been relocated.