New York, Aug 27 : US Central Command commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr has confirmed that 12 American service members have been killed and 15 injured in two suicide bombings outside Kabul airport on Thursday.
Below is an early transcript of Gen. McKenzie’s remarks at the first Pentagon briefing after the attacks.
“As you know two suicide bombers – ISIS fighters – detonated in the vicinity of Abbey Gate at Hamad Karzai International Airport, and in the vicinity of the Baron hotel which is immediately adjacent. The attack on the Abbey Gate was followed by a number of ISIS men who fired at civilians and military forces.
At this time, we know that 12 US service members have been killed in the attack and 15 more service members have been injured. A number of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the attack. We’re still working to calculate the total losses. We just don’t know what it is right now. The loss weighs heavily on us all, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that as we go through my prepared remarks.
“We continue to focus on the protection of our forces and the evacuees, as the evacuation continues. Let me be clear, I was saddened by the loss of life, both US and Afghan, we’re continuing to execute the mission. Our mission is to evacuate US citizens, special immigrant visa holders, US embassy staff and Afghans at risk. Despite this attack, we are continuing the mission. Today, we have approximately 5,000 evacuees on the ramp at a time, awaiting airlift.
“Since the 14th, we’ve evacuated more than 104,000 civilians. Over 66,000 by the United States, and over 37,000 by our allies and partners, and that includes bringing out about 5,000 Americans as the Secretary of State said yesterday. We believe that there are about 1,000 – probably more than 1,000 American citizens left in Afghanistan at this point. We’re doing everything we can in concert with our Department of State partners to reach out to them and to help them leave if they want to leave and remember, not everybody wants to.
Yesterday, we brought in over 500 American citizens. It would be difficult to overestimate the number of unusual challenges and competing demands our forces on the ground face and the threat to our forces, particularly from ISIS K is very real, as we have seen today.”