Washington — Twelve U.S. service members were killed and 15 others injured in an attack outside the airport in the capital of Afghanistan on Thursday, signaling a deadly turn in U.S. efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies ahead of President Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw.
The Pentagon said a suicide bomber detonated an explosion that tore through a crowd waiting at an entrance to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of people have gathered every day since the city fell to the Taliban, desperate to board flights out of the country. Another explosion struck a nearby hotel, the Pentagon said. Dozens of Afghan civilians were also believed to be among the dead and wounded.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, confirmed the U.S. death toll, and said those responsible were “assessed to have been ISIS fighters.” U.S. officials, including the president, have warned of an ongoing threat posed by the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS Khorasan, or ISIS-K.
The attack marked one of the single deadliest days for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the 20 years since the allied invasion.
Mr. Biden isabout the attacks from the White House at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
McKenzie said U.S. forces are “prepared to take action” against the assailants. “Twenty-four seven, we are looking for them,” he said. McKenzie added that he expects the attacks to continue, and the threat of ongoing attacks remains high.
A Taliban spokesman condemned the “gruesome incident” and said the group “will take every step to bring the culprits to justice.”
As the U.S. rushes to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped American troops during the war, as well as those at risk from the Taliban, Mr. Biden has warned that the risk to American and allied forces on the ground was growing with each day that passes.
On Wednesday evening, the U.S. and Britainnot to go to Kabul’s airport because of a terror threat outside the facility’s gates. The U.S. Embassy in the capital alerted U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and said those at three different gates “should leave immediately.”