Afghanistan crisis updates | U.S. proceeding with Kabul pullout despite deadly ISIS attacks

Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021.

Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021.

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport   on August 26, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover. At least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. troops were killed, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said 11 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. They said another 12 service members were wounded and warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.

One of the bombers struck people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the sweltering sun, throwing bodies into the fetid water. Those who moments earlier had hoped to get on flights out could be seen carrying the wounded to ambulances in a daze, their own clothes darkened with blood.

A U.S. official said the complex attack was believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz and condemned the attack.

Western officials had warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport, but that advice went largely unheeded by Afghans desperate to escape the country in the last few days of an American-led evacuation before the U.S. officially ends its 20-year presence on Aug. 31.

 

Here are the latest developments:

4.30 am IST

Biden vows to finish Kabul evacuation, avenge U.S. deaths

President Joe Biden vowed on Thursday to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite a deadly suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport. He also promised to avenge the deaths, declaring to the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Speaking with emotion from the White House, Mr. Biden said the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks that killed 12 American service members and many more Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.

“We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. "Not certain.”

As many as 1,000 Americans and many more Afghans are still struggling to get out of Kabul.

 

3.00 am IST

U.S. proceeding with Kabul pullout despite deadly ISIS attacks

President Joe Biden is pressing ahead with the evacuation of Americans and others from Afghanistan after attacks that killed at least 12 U.S. servicemembers and dashed hopes of ending the 20-year U.S. war without further bloodshed. As many as 1,000 Americans and many more Afghans are still struggling to get out of Kabul.

Mr. Biden was briefed on the attacks, which also killed dozens of Afghans and came 12 days into the rushed evacuation and five days before its scheduled completion. Some Republicans argued to extend the evacuation beyond next Tuesday's deadline.

The U.S. general overseeing the evacuation, Gen. Frank McKenzie, said after the attacks, “If we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them.” He said it would be a mistake for the United States to call an early end to the evacuation, despite the risks.

At the Pentagon, Gen McKenzie said the military believes the attacks on the airport's perimeter were carried out by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State group's Afghanistan arm. He said more attempted attacks were expected.

After the suicide bomber's attack at the airport's Abbey Gate, a number of ISIS gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, he said. There also was an attack at or near the Baron Hotel near that gate, he said.

The attacks won't drive the U.S. out earlier than scheduled, he said.

- AP

2.40 am IST

France's Macron condemns Kabul attacks with 'utmost firmness'

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned on Thursday evening "with the utmost firmness the terrorist attacks" near Kabul airport.

In a statement, he expressed "his condolences to the families of the American and Afghan victims, his support for the wounded, and salute to the heroism of those who are on the ground to carry out the evacuation operations", before promising that "France will see them through to the end".

- AFP

1.55 am IST

UN chief calls permanent Security Council meeting on Afghanistan

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council to discuss the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, diplomats said.

Mr. Guterres sent letters formally inviting the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to meet on Monday, the diplomats told AFP.

A spokesperson for Mr. Guterres confirmed the meeting, which will not include the current ten non-permanent members of the Security Council.

 

1.45 am IST

Biden to address nation following Kabul attacks

President Joe Biden is set to speak following the deadly explosions outside the airport in Kabul that killed 12 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans. The White House says Mr. Biden will address the nation from the White House at 5 p.m. on Thursday (2 a.m. IST on Friday).

 

1.37 am IST

Another huge blast heard in Kabul: AFP staff

A huge blast rocked Kabul early Friday, hours after a deadly twin bomb attack at the airport that was claimed by Islamic State.

The new blast was heard by AFP staff. It was not immediately clear what caused it, and in the absence of any administration since the Taliban takeover on August 15, further details were not immediately available.

1.24 am IST

Islamic State claims deadly bomb attack at Kabul airport: SITE monitoring

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide blast at the airport in Kabul on Thursday during the US-led evacuation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the SITE monitoring agency said.

The bomber "was able today to penetrate all the security fortifications" and get within "five meters (16 feet)" of US forces before detonating his explosives belt, the jihadist group's propaganda arm Amaq said, according to a translation by SITE.

The statement only appeared to mention one bomber and one blast. At least two bombs are believed to have detonated during Thursday's attack at the airport.

-AFP

1.11 am IST

Kabul airport attack kills 60 Afghans, 12 U.S. troops

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport Thursday, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover. At least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. troops were killed, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials said 11 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. They said another 12 service members were wounded and warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.

- AP

1 am IST

Attack in Afghanistan kills at least 22, including U.S. troops

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport Thursday, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover. At least 22 people were killed and dozens wounded.

The dead include 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two U.S. officials. They said another 12 service members were wounded and warned the toll could grow.

A U.S. official said the complex attack was believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz and condemned the attack.

- AP

12.30 am IST

India condemns bomb attacks near Kabul airport

India on Thursday strongly condemned the deadly bomb explosions near the Kabul airport and said the attacks reinforced the need for the world to stand unitedly against terrorism.

The Associated Press, quoting Russian officials, reported that at least 13 people were killed and 13 wounded in the twin suicide bombings.

"Today's attacks reinforce the need for the world to stand unitedly against terrorism and all those who provide sanctuaries to terrorists," the Ministry of External Affairs said.

It also extended condolences to families of the victims of the attacks.

-PTI

11.40 pm IST

Germany's evacuation operation in Afghanistan over: Minister

Germany has pulled out all its soldiers from Afghanistan with its last evacuation flight from Kabul, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday.

"All soldiers, members of the foreign ministry and federal police who have led this mission to a safe end for us on the ground have been flown out of Kabul," she said.

The military evacuation mission has therefore now ended, she said, adding that she was "relieved that our soldiers who carried out this dangerous operation have safely left Afghan airspace".

Germany had flown out 5,347 people since August 16, the minister said.

- AFP

11.05 pm IST

'A number' of US troops killed in Kabul airport attack: Pentagon

Several US troops were killed in the bomb attack at Kabul airport Thursday, and more were wounded, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man at a hospital in Kabul after an explosion at the airport on August 26, 2021.

Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man at a hospital in Kabul after an explosion at the airport on August 26, 2021.

"We can confirm that a number of US service members were killed in today's complex attack on Kabul airport," said spokesman John Kirby.

"A number of others are being treated for wounds," he said, calling it a "heinous attack."

10.50 pm IST

Death toll from Kabul airport blasts 'between 13 and 20': Taliban spokesman

The death toll from two blasts Thursday in crowds outside Kabul's airport could be as high as 20, a spokesman for the Taliban told AFP .

"Our initial information shows between 13 and 20 killed and 52 wounded," chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Injured people arrive at a hospital in Kabul after an explosion at the airport on August 26, 2021. Asvaka News via Reuters

Injured people arrive at a hospital in Kabul after an explosion at the airport on August 26, 2021. Asvaka News via Reuters

 

 

10.50 pm IST

U.K. to continue evacuation operation despite Kabul attack: Johnson

Britain will "continue" the operation to evacuate nationals and Afghans from Kabul despite Thursday's bomb attack, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"We've been ready for it," he said of the attack. "We're going to continue with that operation, we're now coming towards the very end of it in any event."

"We're going to work flat out... getting people through as fast as they can still, and we're going to keep going up until the last moment," said the prime minister, shortly after chairing a meeting of the emergency COBR committee.

- AFP

10.20 pm IST

Taliban condemn blasts in 'area where US forces are responsible'

The Taliban condemned deadly blasts outside Kabul airport on Thursday, in an area they said was under the control of US military.

"The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing targeting civilians at Kabul airport," a statement released by the group's spokesman on Twitter said.

"The explosion took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security."

9.55 pm IST

'Total panic' as deadly blasts rock Kabul airport

Deadly blasts at Kabul airport on Thursday caused "total panic" among Afghans who had thronged outside in the hope of fleeing to safety, away from the country's new Taliban rulers.

Wounded men in blood-soaked clothes were ferried away from the scene in wheelbarrows, while a boy clutched the arm of a man with a head injury, in images posted on social media.

"Bodies, flesh and people were thrown into a canal nearby," Milad, who was at the scene of the first blast, told AFP .

"When people heard the explosion there was total panic. The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd at the gate," a second witness said.

"I saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands."

In the confusion, he said he dropped the documents he hoped would help him board a flight with his wife and three children.

"I will never ever want to go (to the airport) again. Death to America, its evacuation and visas."

Western intelligence agencies had warned Thursday of an imminent attack, with U.S. President Joe Biden citing a terrorist threat from the regional chapter of the Islamic State jihadist group.

There are just five days until the deadline set by the United States to end the airlifts.

The two devices were detonated as the sun started to set, killing at least six people and wounding many more, according to the Emergency Hospital in Kabul.

Thick smoke billowed into the sky as men, women and children rushed away from the scene.

The Pentagon said one explosion was at the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport, and at least one more blast hit the nearby Baron Hotel.

Shortly after, an AFP photographer saw several bodies arriving at a Kabul hospital, and more than a dozen injured.

Women with blood-stained faces and clothes wept as the wounded were taken into the clinic on stretchers.

Another witness, 26-year-old Akram Lubega, who works for a catering firm, said he heard the explosion and did not know what was happening.

"Of course we are all scared," the Ugandan national said.

"Everyone is tense and the army is taking positions around the airport."

9.35 pm IST

U.K. govt. to hold crisis meeting after Kabul airport explosion

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday convened crisis talks after a large explosion at Kabul airport, his office announced.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had been "updated on the situation at the airport in Kabul" and called a meeting of the COBR emergencies committee for later Thursday.

The Ministry of Defence later said on Twitter that "there have been no reported UK military or UK government casualties following the incidents in Kabul.

"UK forces are working closely with our partners to provide security and medical assistance," it added.

9.25 pm IST

U.S. officials strongly believe ISIS-Khorasan behind Kabul attack - source familiar with briefings

U.S. officials strongly believe the ISIS-Khorasan group was behind the attack on Thursday at Kabul's airport, a source familiar with congressional briefings on Afghanistan said on Thursday.

A second U.S. government source familiar with intelligence activities said that while the U.S. government is still investigating, the airport attack has "all the hallmarks" of an ISIS-K attack.

9.15 pm IST

Biden briefed on Afghan airport attack, says White House

President Joe Biden is being briefed on the bloody attack against Kabul's airport, the White House said Thursday, delaying a planned meeting with Israel's visiting prime minister.

"The president has been briefed and he is in the Situation Room," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

As a result of the crisis, a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett planned for 11:30 (1530 GMT) "will be delayed," a White House official said.

"There is not yet an updated time for the meeting," a spokesman for Bennett said, adding the delay was due "to the events in Afghanistan."

At least six people were killed and a dozen wounded outside Kabul's airport in two explosions as the United States entered the final days of a massive evacuation of troops and allies to end its two-decades long war against the Taliban.

9.05 pm IST

France seeks to evacuate 'several hundred' more from Kabul: Macron

France is still seeking to evacuate hundreds more people from Afghanistan ahead of a looming deadline, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, warning of an "extremely risky" situation in the wake of blasts around Kabul airport.

"We will do everything we can" to bring to France these Afghan citizens and dual nationals who had been in its embassy and are currently outside the perimeter of the airport in 20 buses, Macron said on a visit to Ireland, also confirming that the French ambassador would leave Afghanistan and work from Paris.

8.55 pm IST

 

U.S. official says attack outside Kabul airport is 'definitely believed to be' carried out by the Islamic State group

A U.S. official says the complex attack outside Kabul airport is “definitely believed” to have been carried out by the Islamic State group.

The official says members of the U.S. military were wounded in Thursday's attack, which involved two suicide bombers and gunmen.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations. The Islamic State group is more radical than the Taliban and has carried out a wave of attacks targeting civilians.

The official says evacuation flights have continued to take off from Kabul airport in the waning days of an airlift to help people flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Kabul

'U.S. and civilian casualties' in Kabul airport attack: Pentagon

A "complex attack" Thursday at the airport in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, where a massive international airlift has been underway, caused a number of U.S. and civilian casualties, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said an explosion occurred at the airport's Abbey Gate and there was "at least one other" blast at the nearby Baron Hotel.

"We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties," Mr. Kirby said in a tweet. - AFP

Kabul

 

Russia confirms second blast outside Kabul airport

Russia's Foreign Ministry says a second explosion has gone off outside Kabul airport. The twin suicide attacks killed at least 13 people and wounded another 15.

U.S. officials said that American personnel were wounded in the blast, without elaborating. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations.

The blasts happened outside the airport, where thousands of Afghans have gathered hoping to join a U.S.-led airlift after the Taliban takeover.

 

Kabul

At least 2 dead, 15 wounded in Kabul airport blast: Russia

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the suicide attack outside Kabul airport killed at least two people and wounded 15.

It was the first official report specifying a number of casualties from Thursday's explosion, which occurred among crowds of people outside the airport. - AP

Kabul

Explosion outside Kabul airport, casualties unclear: Pentagon

The U.S. military confirmed on Thursday that a large explosion occurred outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, as the U.S.-led airlift of thousands continued inside the compound.

“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can,” said Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby.

 

New Delhi

India evacuates 35 people from Kabul

India on Thursday evacuated 24 of its citizens and 11 Nepalese nationals in a military aircraft from Kabul in the backdrop of further deterioration in the security situation in the Afghan capital.

People familiar with the evacuation mission said a plan was firmed up to bring back over 180 people but only 35 could be airlifted as the rest of them could not reach the Kabul airport to board the C-17 aircraft of the Indian Air Force in view of multiple check posts and other restrictions imposed by the Taliban in the city.

"Op Devi Shakti in action! @IAF_MC flight with 24 Indian and 11 Nepalese evacuees from Kabul is on its way to Delhi. #DeviShakti," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted in the morning.

The people cited above said the security situation around the Kabul airport deteriorated further in the last couple of days due to which the Afghans and other people could not reach it.

There has been a scramble by various countries to evacuate their citizens from Kabul before the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from the war-ravaged country.

American forces have been handling the security at the Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul.

Under its mission "Operation Devi Shakti", India has already evacuated over 800 people after Kabul was captured by the Taliban on August 15.

Thousands of Afghans have been crowding around the Kabul airport for over a week, in a desperate attempt to flee the country fearing the Taliban's brutality.

 

France

France to end Kabul evacuation operation Friday: PM

France will fully end its operation to evacuate French nationals and Afghans in danger from Taliban-controlled Kabul by Friday evening, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

Beyond this date, "it will not be possible to carry out evacuations from Kabul airport," Castex told RTL radio Thursday.

A source close to the government added that the date had been imposed on France by the plan of the United States, which is providing security at the airport, to pull out by August 31.

Afghanistan

Taliban stops 140 Hindu and Sikh Afghans from leaving Kabul

At least 140 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus and others have been stopped by the Taliban from proceeding to the airport, said Puneet Singh President of Indian World Forum, who has been coordinating the evacuation with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Air Force. The development has forced a delay in the departure of a special Indian Air Force aircraft which has been waiting at the Kabul airport since Wednesday. 

Indian World Forum informed that the Taliban turned back the passengers from outside the airport during Wednesday night.

The Taliban has been urging Afghan nationals not to leave the country and work with the upcoming Islamic Emirate that it aims to set up in the coming weeks. - Kallol Bhattacherjee

UK

UK warns of 'imminent' terrorist attack at Kabul airport

Britain on Thursday warned that there was a "very credible" report of an "imminent" terrorist attack by the Islamic State militants targeting those gathering at Kabul airport in an attempt to flee war-torn Afghanistan.

Britain on Thursday warned that there was a "very credible" report of an "imminent" terrorist attack by the Islamic State militants targeting those gathering at Kabul airport in an attempt to flee war-torn Afghanistan. - AP

France

France to stop Kabul airport evacuations by Friday night

France's prime minister says his country will no longer be able to evacuate people from Kabul airport after Friday night.

The announcement by Jean Castex on Thursday comes as the US and Western allies face an Aug 31 deadline to pull out of Afghanistan. -PTI

Afghanistan

Jaishankar briefs political leaders on Afghanistan situation

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar briefed leaders of political parties on the latest situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover of the country last week.

Besides Mr. Jaishankar, Union Minister and Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi were also present during the briefing in Parliament House annexe.

Apart from India's evacuation mission from Afghanistan, the ministers are also expected to share the government's assessment of the situation in the war-torn country.

 

USA

U.S. says 1,500 Americans may still await Kabul evacuation

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as many as 1,500 Americans may be awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan, a figure that suggests the U.S. may accomplish its highest priority for the Kabul airlift — rescuing U.S. citizens — ahead of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday deadline despite growing concerns of terror threats targeting the airport.

 

POLAND

Poland ends Afghan evacuation as clock ticks down on airlift

Poland ended its evacuations from Afghanistan, but other European nations vowed Wednesday to press on for as long as possible, as the clock ticks down on a dramatic airlift of people fleeing Taliban rule ahead of a full American withdrawal. - PTI

INDIA

India expected to evacuate around 180 people from Kabul on Thursday

India is expected to bring back around 180 people from Kabul in a military aircraft on Thursday amid a scramble by various countries to evacuate their citizens before the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of American troops from the war-ravaged country, people familiar with the developments said.

Those being evacuated include Indians and a number of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, they said. - PTI

PAKISTAN

Pak hopes Taliban would not allow Afghan soil to be used against any country

Pakistan on August 25 expressed hope that the Afghan Taliban would stay true to their word and not allow Afghanistan's soil to be used against any country.

Talking to the media in Islamabad, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan will speak to the world on the evolving situation in Afghanistan. -PTI

MEXICO

Mexico welcomes 124 Afghan refugee journalists, families

Mexico welcomed a group of 124 Afghan media workers and their families Wednesday after the group fled their country because of the Taliban takeover.

The group arrived aboard a Qatar Emiri Air Force flight to Mexico City in the pre-dawn hours. The Foreign Relations Department said the Afghans had worked for “various media outlets" and had requested humanitarian visas because of the Taliban's hostility toward journalists. -PTI

BELGIUM

Belgium ends its evacuation flights from Kabul

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says the country has ended its evacuation flights carrying people from the Afghan capital of Kabul to Pakistan.

De Croo tweeted Wednesday that “the federal government took the decision to bring an end to evacuations from Kabul airport given the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with its European partners”. -PTI

UK

Britain tells citizens to avoid Kabul airport

The British government is warning its citizens in Afghanistan to stay away from Kabul airport, citing the “ongoing and high threat” of a terrorist attack.

The Foreign Office says anyone in the area of the airport should “move away to a safe location and await further advice”. -PTI

USA

Over 82K people evacuated from Afghanistan so far, says Blinken

The U.S. has so far evacuated over 82,000 people from Kabul, with about 19,000 in the last 24 hours alone, in "one of the largest" airlifts in the world history, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Starting on August 14, the day when the Taliban toppled the U.S.-backed Afghanistan government, there were 6,000 American citizens in the war-torn country who wanted to leave.

Over the last 10 days, roughly 4,500 of these Americans have been safely evacuated along with their immediate family members, Mr. Blinken told reporters on August 25. -PTI

CHINA

New govt in Kabul should 'thoroughly dissociate' from all terrorist groups, Xi tells Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on August 25 that Beijing stands ready to strengthen communication with Moscow and the broader international community on the Afghan issue and called for inclusive government in Kabul which "thoroughly dissociate" itself from all terrorist groups.

Xi spoke to Putin over phone on Wednesday and discussed the situation in Afghanistan post-Taliban takeover, a day after G-7 leaders virtually met to discuss the crisis.

 

USA

Ensure that Taliban do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons: U.S. lawmakers to Biden

A group of U.S. lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to ensure that the Taliban, which is now the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons.

The lawmakers demanded that Biden should answer critical questions on what happened in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward.

“Are you prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militarise the Afghanistan border? What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban do not destabilise its nuclear neighbour Pakistan?” the group of 68 lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives asked in a letter addressed to Biden on August 25. -PTI

USA

Biden said 'no' to allies and 'yes' to Taliban, alleges top Republican leader

President Joe Biden has favoured the Taliban against U.S.' traditional friends and allies, a top Republican leader has alleged, slamming the government's Afghan policy.

“The president's misguided decisions run the risk of creating the largest international hostage situation we have ever faced as a nation,” House Minority Leader McCarthy told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference on August 25. -PTI


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