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Afghanistan updates: US kills ISIS-K member in unmanned airstrike

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Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Chaos has enveloped Kabul after Afghanistan’s government collapsed and the Taliban seized control, all but ending America’s 20-year campaign as it began: under Taliban rule.

Two suicide bombers affiliated with ISIS-K carried out what the Pentagon called a “complex attack” outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, killing at least 13 American service members and wounding 18, among scores of Afghan casualties.

President Joe Biden has addressed the nation on the attack from the White House Thursday, saying, “America will not be intimidated.” Biden sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the White House last week, the president’s first interview since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and warned of the threat of attacks on the ground.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Aug 28, 11:22 am
2 ‘high-profile ISIS targets’ killed in Friday airstrike in Afghanistan

During a Pentagon briefing Saturday, Maj. Gen. William Taylor confirmed that two “high-profile ISIS targets were killed” in Friday night’s “over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation” strike in the Nangarhar Province.

Another was wounded and there were zero known civilian casualties, he said. The ISIS targets’ names won’t be released.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the two were “ISIS-K planners and facilitators.” He didn’t elaborate on whether they were part of the deadly explosion outside the Kabul airport on Thursday.

“Without specifying any future plans, I will say that we will continue to have the ability to defend ourselves and to leverage over-the-horizon capability to conduct counterterrorism operations as needed,” Taylor said at the briefing.

Aug 28, 9:26 am
6,800 people evacuated from Kabul in 24 hours: White House

Approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from Kabul between 3 a.m. Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday, a White House official said. They left the city on 32 U.S. military flights — 27 C-17s and five C-130s — and 34 coalition flights.

About 12,500 were evacuated in that same time period between Thursday and Friday, an official said.

The latest numbers bring the total evacuated since Aug. 14 to approximately 111,900.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that there would be a reduction in the number of people leaving the country as the retrograde process gets underway.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Aug 28, 12:38 am
US embassy in Kabul urges Americans to leave airport gates ‘immediately’

The U.S. embassy in Kabul is again issuing a warning about “security threats at the Kabul airport,” this time urging Americans at the airport gates to “leave immediately.”

“Because of security threats at the Kabul airport, we continue to advise U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” the embassy said. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately.”

The Abbey gate was the site of Thursday’s deadly ISIS-K attack.

Aug 27, 10:10 pm
US kills ISIS-K planner with unmanned airstrike

The U.S. has conducted an “over the horizon counterterrorism operation” against an ISIS-K planner with an unmanned strike in Afghanistan, according to U.S. Central Command.

“U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner,” Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in a statement. “The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

A U.S. official said there is no link between Thursday’s suicide bombing and the individual killed in the drone strike, but they were involved in possibly planning additional attacks.

President Joe Biden has said the U.S. planned to conduct “over the horizon” operations — often drone strikes — against terrorist targets even after troops left the country on Aug. 31.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Aug 27, 7:06 pm
At least 34 Afghan children evacuated to US were ‘unaccompanied’

At least 34 Afghan children evacuated to the U.S. have been referred to the Department of Health and Human Services’ refugee resettlement office because they were “unaccompanied,” an HHS official told ABC News Friday.

Some had traveled with an adult and have been unified “onsite,” while others have been placed in the licensed provider network run by HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to the official.

Unaccompanied minors “do not represent a significant share of Afghan arrivals,” and HHS is working to process, unify or place these children “with licensed care providers that are able to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services,” a department spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

Aug 27, 6:28 pm
4,200 people evacuated from Kabul in 12-hour period Friday

Some 4,200 people were evacuated from Kabul between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET Friday, according to the latest figures from the White House.

Twelve U.S. military flights carried approximately 2,100 evacuees, and 29 coalition flights carried about 2,100 people.

Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has helped evacuate approximately 109,200 people from Afghanistan.

-ABC News’ Allie Pecorin

Aug 27, 4:58 pm
Flags flown at half-staff for attack victims

Flags at the White House and at all military posts and naval stations were flown at half-staff Friday to honor the victims of the attack in Kabul, following a proclamation from President Biden on Thursday.

The flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on Monday, Aug. 30, the White House said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Thursday’s deadly attack outside the airport in Kabul killed at least 13 U.S. service members and wounded 20, according to the Pentagon.

Aug 27, 4:16 pm
20 service members wounded, up from 18: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a briefing Friday that 20 service members were wounded in the attack in Kabul according to the last count he received, up from the 18 officials said were wounded on Thursday.

“There were some additional wounded, but they were treated on-site and returned to duty,” Kirby said. He declined to give additional details explaining it’s not custom to talk about the status of the wounded, even anonymously.

As evacuations continue from Kabul, Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of NORCOM and NORAD, said via a video teleconference that the Department of Defense now has a capacity to house approximately 50,000 Afghans across seven U.S. military bases.

The Pentagon has authorized Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, Fort Pickett in Virginia, Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort Bliss in Texas and Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey to house Afghan refugees until they resettle in the U.S.

“We’re prepared to house them and feed them for as long as it takes to get them through the process, as long as the secretary approves that,” VanHerck said.

He assured that “before putting feet in the continental United States,” all Special Immigrant Visa holders and refugees are thoroughly vetted and screened.

More than 14,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in the U.S. through Dulles International Airport, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said on Friday.

Aug 27, 3:37 pm
State Department working with 500 Americans trying to leave

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing on Friday that 300 U.S. citizens were evacuated within the last day, and there are approximately 500 more U.S. citizens the State Department is working with who still want to leave.

In addition, “several hundred” American citizens remain in the country who have not yet determined if they want to leave for various reasons, Price said. He did not specify how large that group is in total.

The U.S. has also made progress in evacuating Afghans who worked for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Price said, adding the “vast majority” of them and their immediate family members are either out of the country or safely on the grounds of Kabul airport.

He did not provide a total number but said they are “actively working” to evacuate all remaining staff.

Aug 27, 3:16 pm
White House vows retribution for terror attack  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s promise to hunt down the terrorists responsible for Thursday’s attack in Kabul and make them pay is a death threat.

“I think he made clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the Earth anymore,” Psaki said, when asked whether there would be an effort to capture them and put them on trial.

Psaki would not provide additional details on how a mission to kill those responsible would play out but said, “his commitment remains until it’s done.”

The deadly explosion in Kabul on Thursday has ignited calls from Republican lawmakers in both chambers for Biden’s resignation, which Psaki dismissed, saying it’s not the time for politics.

“The backdrop here is that the U.S. men and women of the military deployed on the ground are bravely continuing to implement a mission to save lives on the ground,” Psaki said. “Everyone should be supportive of that.”

-ABC News’ Allison Pecorin

Aug 27, 3:13 pm
Marines revise fatality account from 10 to 11

The U.S. Marine Corps has revised their casualty count on Friday following the attack in Kabul, up from 10 killed in the last statement from the service to now eleven.

The fatalities of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Thursday’s attack breaks down to 11 Marines, one Navy and one Army member.

“Our focus now is taking care of the families of those who were killed and caring for our injured. The identities and units of those killed will be withheld until 24 hours after all next-of-kin notifications are complete,” Maj. Jim Stenger said in a statement.

The Marine Corps on Thursday had said 11 Marines were killed, and lowered that number to ten, before revising its count again.

Aug 27, 3:11 pm
White House warns of ongoing, active security threats 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated an earlier readout from the White House at an afternoon briefing saying that Biden’s national security team has advised him that another terror attack in Kabul is “likely” and that the military is taking “maximum force protection measures” in Kabul as a result.

“The threat is ongoing, and it is active,” Psaki said, echoing statements made in an earlier Pentagon briefing. “Our troops are still in danger.”

She went on to explain the retrograde period is the most dangerous part of the mission there.

“This is the period of time when the military, commanders on the ground and forces, begin to move not just troops home but equipment home,” she said.

Psaki said the military also made clear to the president that they are committed to continuing the evacuation mission up through Tuesday, Aug. 31, Biden’s deadline for a military withdrawal, but said to anticipate evacuation numbers going down in the coming days.

“That is a result of the retrograde process that needs to take place, but also I will note that force protection is front and center and is vital to the mission,” she said.

Aug 27, 1:14 pm
Biden’s national security team warns ‘another terror attack in Kabul is likely’

President Biden met with his national security team, including commanders and diplomats calling in from the field, on Friday morning in the Situation Room, who advised that “another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures,” according to a readout from a White House official.

“They continue to prioritize evacuating the remaining American citizens who have indicated that they wish to leave, and are engaged in a variety of means to get them to the airport safely,” the statement read.

“Our commanders also updated the President and Vice President on plans to develop ISIS-K targets. The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date,” it continued.

Biden did not take questions from reporters during his only public event on the day but did address the mission in Afghanistan off the top of his Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“My heart, our hearts go out to all those who we’ve lost,” he said.

“But look, the mission there being performed is dangerous, and is now, it’s come with a significant loss of American personnel,” he said. “But it’s a worthy mission because they continue to evacuate folks out of that region, out of the airport,” adding 12,000 were evacuated in the last 24 hours.

“I met with my commanders this morning, first thing in the morning, got a detailed briefing about yesterday’s attack and the measures they’re taking to protect our forces and complete the mission. And we will complete the mission,” Biden said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Aug 27, 12:55 pm
Obama reacts to Kabul attack 

In a new statement reacting to the attack in Kabul, former President Barack Obama said Friday that he and former first lady Michelle Obama are “heartbroken” — echoing White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s statements Thursday about the pain of losing service members as commander in chief.

“As president, nothing was more painful than grieving with the loved ones of Americans who gave their lives serving our country. As President Biden said, these service members are heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others,” he said in a statement.

“Our hearts go out to the families who lost a loved one, and to everyone continuing the mission in Kabul. We’re also thinking of the families of the Afghans who died, many of whom stood by America and were willing to risk everything for a chance at a better life,’ Obama wrote.

Biden has long opposed the war in Afghanistan, and as vice president, urged Obama to reconsider sending in additional troops to the country, Obama confirmed in his memoir, “A Promised Land.”

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Aug 27, 12:53 pm
Two Brits, one child of British citizen killed in attack

Two British nationals and the child of another British national were killed in Thursday’s attack at the airport in Kabul, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Friday, adding that he was “deeply saddened” by the development.

“These were innocent people and it is a tragedy that as they sought to bring their loved ones to safety in the UK they were murdered by cowardly terrorists,” he said in a statement.

Thursday’s terror attack, for which ISIS-K has claimed responsibility, has killed at least 200 Afghans civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

“We will not turn our backs on those who look to us in their hour of need, and we will never be cowed by terrorists,” Raab said.

Aug 27, 12:51 pm
3 more bases in US authorized to receive Afghan evacuees

As evacuations continue from Kabul, the Defense Department has authorized three more bases to receive Afghan evacuees: Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia; Fort Pickett, in Virginia; and Holloman Air Force Base, in New Mexico, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Along with four bases already authorized, these U.S. bases will have the capacity to house and care for “up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at-risk individuals,” Kirby said.

The four other previously announced bases are Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort Bliss in Texas and Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey.

More than 6,000 Afghan refugees have arrived through Dulles International Airport so far, Gov. Ralph Northam said earlier this week.

Aug 27, 11:33 am
More than 5,000 waiting at airport day after deadly attack: Pentagon

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a briefing on Friday that, despite the attack in Kabul, there are approximately 5,400 individuals at the airport waiting for flights out of Afghanistan.

State Department consular officers “continue to screen and process people arriving at gates around Kabul,” although “some gates have been closed,” Kirby said.

He said Americans, Special Immigrant Visa applicants and “vulnerable Afghans who have the designated and proper credentials will continue to be processed for departure from the airfield.”

“We have the ability to include evacuees on U.S. Military airlift out of Afghanistan until the very end,” he said.

Kirby explained that the military would “balance over the next few days” evacuating people and the “retrograde” of the airport, or the process of pulling out troops and equipment.

“Lives are still the priority and the lives of our troops, of course, the lives of evacuees, and trying to continue to get as many out as possible,” he said, adding: “We will be able to fly out evacuees right up until the last moment. That’s going to be the goal.”

Hundreds of people were seen lining up near an evacuation checkpoint outside of the airport in Kabul, just one day after a deadly attack killed at least 200 Afghans civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor also said that two flights have landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany “carrying our wounded personnel from the attack.” They were transferred to a local medical facility and are receiving care, he said.

Aug 27, 11:06 am
No second suicide bomber: Pentagon

Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday that the U.S. now believes there was just one explosion on Thursday and one suicide bomber — and that there was no second explosion or bomber at or near the Baron Hotel.

“I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber,” he said. “We’re not sure how that report was provided incorrectly, but we do know it’s not any surprise that in the confusion of very dynamic events like this can cause information sometimes to be misreported or garbled.”

Officials had said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday that they believed there were two suicide bombers — one outside the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport and one at or near the Baron Hotel, the latter of which has now been retracted.

Aug 27, 10:46 am
170 Afghans killed in the Kabul attack: Afghan official

At least 170 Afghans were killed and 200 wounded in the attack in Kabul on Thursday, according to an official at the Ministry of Public Health who spoke on condition of anonymity with ABC News.

He said among the 170 dead, 34 are male (including two boys and 32 men), and four are female (including one girl and three women). He said that the identities of the 132 other people are still unknown at this stage.

The World Health Organization regional headquarters in Cairo had reported earlier at least 161 Afghan civilians died in the attack in Kabul on Thursday.

Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul reported to the WHO it had 145 dead bodies brought into the hospital. The Emergency Hospital in Kabul also reported 16 dead on arrival.

Aug 27, 10:04 am
US continues evacuations despite threats of more attacks

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command and highest-ranking commander in the Middle East, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that further security threats following the attack in Kabul are “extremely real.”

“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue,” he said via a videoconference.

“Right now, our focus really, we have other active threat streams, extremely active threat streams against the airfield, we want to make sure we are taking the steps to protect ourselves there. Our focus is on that,” he added.

He said the U.S. is doing everything it can to prepare for those attacks including reaching out to the Taliban, “who are actually providing the outer security cordon around the airfield, to make sure they know what we expect them to do to protect us.”

Despite Thursday’s “complex attack” and threats for more, he said the U.S. will continue its evacuation mission ahead of a full military withdrawal on Aug. 31.

Biden, in remarks from the White House later on Thursday, underscored that he has repeatedly warned that the evacuation mission in Afghanistan was a dangerous one — but one that would continue until the end of the month, even as threats persist.

“These ISIS terrorists will not win,” Biden said. “We will rescue the Americans in there. We will get our Afghan allies out. And our mission will go on.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in a White House briefing following his remarks, cited “ongoing threats” as reasoning for why Biden and his military commanders stuck to the Aug. 31 deadline.

Aug 27, 9:11 am
Former Army Ranger details ‘vulnerable’ US position at airport gates

Jariko Denman, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and was working in Kabul on Thursday alongside other veterans to help get evacuees out, described the conditions outside the airport to ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday as one that left American forces vulnerable.

“The way that we were forced to expose ourselves in order to get our people in, made us very, very much vulnerable to it,” said Denman, who was flown out of Kabul and to Qatar just ahead of the attack.

“With the sheer numbers of people coming in, we didn’t have the time to, you know, do those different steps and security of walking up, talk to them, search them,” Denman said. “It was just, you know, a mob of 7,000, 8,000 people arm’s distance away.”

Denman said the conditions outside the gate were the worst he’s seen in his 20 years in the Army which includes 15 deployments.

“Families, people carrying toddlers, babies, elderly, trying to get to these gates, to get to us to get through, and I would describe it as a mosh pit on steroids,” he said. “You know, 600, 700 meters long of compacted human beings trying to get to one little choke point. It was terrible.”

“In 20 years, I never saw an operating force more sleep-deprived or just working more than these Marines and other airmen and soldiers that were on the ground,” he added.

Denman, who is in touch with people still in Kabul, said he’s hearing the same theme in the wake of the attack: “It was just carnage.”

Aug 27, 7:49 am
‘Every effort was made to destroy’ Kabul embassy staff details, UK says

The United Kingdom said “every effort was made to destroy sensitive material” when British embassy staff in Kabul evacuated their building as Taliban fighters approached Afghanistan’s capital.

“We have worked tirelessly to secure the safety of those who worked for us including getting three families to safety,” a spokesperson for the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told ABC News in a statement Friday. “During the drawdown of our Embassy every effort was made to destroy sensitive material.”

A report published Thursday by British daily national newspaper The Times said its journalist found papers with the contact details of Afghans working for the U.K. government and of locals applying for positions “scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound in Kabul that has been seized by the Taliban.” Some Afghan employees and their families have not been able to evacuate Kabul, according to The Times.

A source at the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office told ABC News: “We are grateful to The Times for sharing the information retrieved with us and working with us to enable us to get these three families to safety.”

Aug 27, 6:59 am
US, allies evacuate 12,500 people from Kabul in past 24 hours

The United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of some 105,000 people from Kabul since Aug. 14, when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital, according to a White House official.

In a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday, 35 U.S. military flights carried approximately 8,500 evacuees out of Kabul. Another 4,000 people were evacuated via 54 coalition aircraft. Since the end of July, approximately 110,600 people have been relocated from Kabul via U.S. military and coalition flights, the White House

Aug 27, 6:18 am
Philadelphia airport to receive Afghan refugees

People fleeing Afghanistan are expected to arrive at Philadelphia’s primary airport in the coming days, according to a city spokesperson.

“This is a federal-led operation, and we are collaborating with the federal government in this emergency response, protecting the rights and dignity of the Afghan families arriving in the country,” the spokesperson told ABC News on Friday. “We stand ready to provide medical assistance, housing, and connection to our diverse community of immigrant service providers who can assist with an array of social services.”

The Philadelphia International Airport is the second airport in the United States to welcome arrivals of Afghan refugees, in addition to the Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

It was unclear when or exactly how many Afghan refugees would be landing in Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia stands in solidarity with Afghan refugees and we look forward to providing them a safe haven in our Welcoming City,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

Aug 27, 5:33 am
UK enters final stages of Afghanistan evacuation

The United Kingdom announced Friday that it has entered the final stages of its evacuation from Afghanistan and no more people will be called to the airport to leave.

Processing facilities at the Baron Hotel in Kabul, outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport, have been closed and the British Armed Forces will now focus on evacuating the U.K. nationals and others who have already been processed and are at the airport awaiting departure, according to a press release from the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

“The U.K.’s ability to process further cases is now extremely reduced and additional numbers will be limited. No further people will be called forward to the airport for evacuation,” the defense ministry said. “Evacuating all those civilians we have already processed will free up the capacity needed on U.K. military aircraft to bring out our remaining diplomats and military personnel.”

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace called it a “remarkable achievement” that his government has evacuated more than 13,000 people from Kabul since Aug. 13, when the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan’s capital.

“Our top priority as we move through this process will be the protection of all those involved who are operating in a heightened threat environment,” Wallace said in a statement Friday. “It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.”

“We will continue to honour our debt to all those who have not yet been able to leave Afghanistan,” he added. “We will do all that we can to ensure they reach safety.”

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