Twin explosions ripped through the area surrounding Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Airport, killing at least twelve and injuring at least 15 American troops, and disrupting the weeks-long, last-ditch evacuation effort underway nearby, the Pentagon confirmed during a Thursday afternoon briefing.
One suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device Thursday morning just outside the airport’s Abbey Gate, where thousands of Afghans had massed to await evacuation, while a second suicide bomber struck shortly thereafter outside the Baron Hotel, a popular waiting point for Afghans and Americans seeking access to the airport in recent days.
The Pentagon believes both explosions were carried out by ISIS, Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said during the briefing. ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for at least one of the bombings. McKenzie added that he doesn’t believe the Taliban allowed or orchestrated the attack, and said that the military has been sharing information with the Taliban, which has resulted in some attacks being thwarted.
The death toll is the second highest for any single day of the 20-year war and the troops killed Thursday were the first Americans killed in Afghanistan since February 2020.
The exact number of casualties from both blasts remains unclear but the figures may be as high as 40 dead and 120 wounded, according to hospital workers who spoke to the New York Times. McKenzie said he did not yet know what the bombs were made of or how powerful they were.
Evacuations were continuing at the airport despite the attacks, according to the Pentagon, though it is unclear whether would-be evacuees were being allowed through the surrounding gates.
The Taliban condemned the attacks in a Thursday morning statement but suggested that the U.S. should have prevented them, saying they occurred in “an area where the U.S. is responsible.”
The airport chaos comes one week after President Biden said that his administration had made clear to the Taliban that any attack on U.S. forces at the airport would “be met with a swift and forceful response.”
The British military warned hours before the blast that an attack on the airport was “imminent” and the State Department issued an alert warning Americans not to travel to the airport due to the threats.
McKenzie acknowledged during the briefing that the attack was expected, saying “we thought this would happen sooner or later.”
A number of U.S. allies subsequently announced that they were halting evacuation flights out of Kabul due to security concerns.
Thousands of Afghan allies and European citizens remain in Kabul, looking for a way out. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that some 1,500 Americans remain in Afghanistan but said that less than 1,000 of them were “actively seeking” to leave.