Twelve U.S. service members were killed in the attack at an entry gate to HKIA, Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, with 15 more being counted as injured for a total of 27 American casualties, said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., commander of the United States Central Command.
“Nobody feels that more directly than me and the chain of command,” McKenzie said in a press conference feed to the Pentagon Thursday afternoon.
“Our hearts are heavy for the victims of the terrorist attack in Kabul ― U.S. servicemembers performing a dangerous mission and innocent Afghans fleeing danger,” Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted Thursday. “Too many families are afraid for their loved ones’ safety, and for some, today their worst fears have come to pass.”
“As reports of U.S. casualties come in from the cowardly terrorist attacks in Kabul we keep the brave service members and their families in our prayers as they work to complete their mission under impossible circumstances,” Sen. Rob Portman said on Twitter.
“These troops represent the best our country has to offer,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green. “They stood their ground at a Kabul airport gate to help get Americans out of the country and to safety — even in the face of immense danger. There are no words to express the anguish we feel as a nation today.”
Many other Afghans were also injured and killed, with some reports indicating up to 60 were killed. The attack happened at a gate where American and allied forces screen those who seek to be evacuated from Afghanistan. The general said his “working assumption” was that a suicide bomber was going through the gate when the bomb went off.
He did not have details on the bomb’s size, but he warned of other, additional “active threats against the airfield.”
“Typically, the pattern is multiple attacks, and we want to be ready to defend against that,” McKenzie said.
The four-star Marine general emphasized that U.S. forces are continuing the mission of evacuation, with more than 104,000 civilians being evacuated from HKIA so far, including about 5,000 Americans.
He said there are probably a little more than 1,000 Americans left in Afghanistan as of Thursday afternoon. “We’re doing everything we can, in concert with our Department of State partners, to reach out to them,” he said.
“Remember, not everybody wants to leave,” McKenzie added.
He warned as well that military action is possible.
“Yes, if we can find who is associated with this, we will go after them,” he said, adding that U.S. forces are “working hard now to establish attribution.”