Twelve Americans were killed on Thursday in two suicide bombings around the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have been working to evacuate thousands of U.S. and Afghan civilians.
Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, confirmed to reporters that 12 U.S. service members were killed and 15 others were injured. Numerous Afghan civilians were also injured by the blasts, which were determined to be carried out by ISIS fighters, McKenzie said.
“We have put more than 5,000 U.S. service members at risk to save as many civilians as we can. It’s a noble mission, and today we have seen firsthand how dangerous that mission is,” McKenzie said. “ISIS will not deter us from accomplishing the mission. I assure you of that.”
One of the explosions took place just outside one of the gates at Hamid Karzai International Airport where U.S. personnel are processing individuals before they can board evacuation flights. A second explosion took place a short distance away near the Barton Hotel.
McKenzie indicated the attacks would not alter the ongoing evacuation mission, which as of Thursday was still set to conclude on Aug. 31.
“We continue to focus on the protection of our forces and the evacuees as the evacuation continues. While we’re saddened by the loss of life, both U.S. and Afghan, we’re continuing to execute the mission,” McKenzie said.
President Biden and Vice President Harris have been briefed on the attacks. Biden’s meeting with the Israeli prime minister, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, was postponed as he monitored events in Afghanistan. It’s unclear when Biden might address the public.
The president, Defense Department officials and lawmakers have in recent days warned of the increasing threat of a terrorist attack near the Kabul airport as thousands of civilians congregated in the hopes of evacuating the country ahead of the withdrawal of American forces on Aug. 31.