Politics recap

  • Two explosions at the Kabul airport killed 12 US service members and left another 15 injured, the Pentagon said. Reports indicate that at least 60 Afghan civilians were also killed in the attacks, which are believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State.
  • Joe Biden addressed the nation, vowing that the US would make Isis-K “pay” fort the attacks. His message to the attackers: “We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” He also said the US would continue the evacuation mission, with the goal of withdrawing by 31 August, as planned.
  • Asked how much responsibility he was willing to take for the way the withdrawal has unfolded, Biden said he’ll bear some. “I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late,” he said. “But here’s the deal … you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban.”
  • House minority leader Kevin McCarthy demanded that speaker Nancy Pelosi call the chamber back into session to receive a briefing on Afghanistan. “It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden administration,” McCarthy said in a statement. But in her own statement on the attacks, Pelosi gave no indication she plans to call the House back into session.
  • Seven police officers who were attacked during the Capitol insurrection filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and far-right groups. The lawsuit alleges Trump “worked with white supremacists, violent extremist groups, and campaign supporters to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act, and commit acts of domestic terrorism in an unlawful effort to stay in power”.

– Maanvi Singh and Joan E Greve

More updates on the situation in Afghanistan here:

Officer who shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt: 'I was doing my job'

The officer who shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt said he fired his gun in order to “save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.” Babbitt, 35, was killed amid the mob trying to breach the House of Representatives during the 6 January attack on the US capitol.

Babbitt’s death has become a rallying cry for far-right activists. Michael Byrd told NBC News’s Lester Holt he has had to hide since 6 January and has received a flood of death threats and racist attacks after his name was leaked on right-wing forums and websites.

“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” Byrd said.“It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job.”

On the day of the riot, when the mob pushed toward the glass doors leading to the lobby of the House of Representatives, where lawmakers and staff were holed up Byrd and others barricaded the entrance.

“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said, publicly for the first time since the attack on the US Capitol. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.”

When the mob kept pushing forward, he fired. He said it was “impossible” to see what was on the other side of the doors because it was barricaded with furniture. When Babbitt started climbing through a shattered pane in the doors, “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are,” Byrd said. But the rioters had “shown violence leading up to that point” he said.

NBC reports that it was the first time Byrd has discharged his weapon in 28 years of service on the force. Babbitt’s family has signaled they will file a civil lawsuit against the Capitol Police over her death.

Updated

West Virginia activists urge Manchin to eliminate the filibuster and pass voting rights bills

Activists organized a motorcade in West Virginia on Thursday to pressure senator Joe Manchin to support eliminating the filibuster, a senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation.

The 151 car motorcade - meant to symbolize the 151 years since the signing of the 15th amendment - traveled from Madison, West Virginia to Charleston, the state capital. The motorcade started in Madison as a nod to the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain, the 1921 uprising of coal miners who demanded better labor conditions.

The effort, led by the Poor People’s Campaign, a civil rights organization known for its anti-poverty and voting rights work, asked Manchin to drop his support for the “coward’s filibuster” and to pass two critical voting rights bills as well as a $15 minimum wage.

“We want our concerns to be known to Sen. Manchin. One hundred years ago, our ancestors in these hills fought for the right of labor, of a dignified work area, to get paid an actual living wage and not work under company scrip,” said June Spruce, an organizer from Common Defense, a veterans grassroots group, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “We are here demanding a livable wage. Again.”

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, speaks at the White House on Thursday.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, speaks at the White House on Thursday. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Psaki clarified Biden’s message to Isis-K that the US would “hunt you down and make you pay”.

“What we are talking about here is avenging these deaths from terrorists,” she said. “We’re not talking about sending tens of thousands of troops back for an endless war that we’ve been fighting for 20 years.”

Updated

Reuters is reporting that an additional service member has died from the Kabul attack, bringing the number of US casualties to 13.

The Guardian has not independently verified the report. Stand by for more updates.

Updated

In a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki expounded on Biden’s comments that the US would strike back at Isis-K:

What does today’s attack say about the US’ ability to the terrorist threat in check after the withdrawal?

“The threat that is posed by having thousands of US military on the ground, still currently on the ground, implementing a mission … they are a target. People gathering around the airport that is a threat that is a target,” Psaki said. “But Isis’s ability to target individuals who are on the ground in Afghanistan is very different from Isis’s ability to attack the United States:

“And we will maintain and continue over the horizon capacity with presence in partnership with countries in the region to ensure that they don’t develop that ability,” she said.

Psaki also noted that Biden did not plan on extending the mission beyond the 31 August deadline despite today’s attacks: “He relies on the advice of his millitary commanders and they continue to believe it is essential to get out by the 31st.”

Updated

“Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to leave a 20-year war,” said Biden, as he ended his remarks.

Here’s more background on the White House’s response today, from my colleague David Smith:

Biden said that although millions of Afghans would like to leave and come to the US, he can’t get them all out.

“I know of no conflict – as a student of history – no conflict where, when a war is ended, one side was able to guarantee that everyone they wanted to be extracted in that country would get out,” he said.

Asked how much responsibility he was willing to take for the way the withdrawal has unfolded, Biden said – he’ll bear some.

“I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late,” he said. “But here’s the deal … you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban.”

Updated

On the dependence on the Taliban to help secure the perimeter of the Kabul airport. Biden said, “It’s not a matter of trust. It’s a matter of mutual self-interest.”

“We’re just counting on their self-interest to continue to generate their activities. And it’s in their self-interest that we leave when we said and that we get as many people out as we can,” he said. “They’re not good guys, the Taliban. I’m not suggesting that at all.”

Updated

In response to the attack, Biden said he has asked commanders to strike back.

“I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike Isis key assets, leadership, and facilities,” he said. “We will respond with force and precision at our time at a place we choose in a moment of our choosing.”

But the president did not provide many details on what military presence the US would have in Afghanistan following the withdrawal.

“I’ve instructed the military whatever they need – if they need additional force, I will grant it,” he said, but noted that US commanders said they have what they need for now.

Updated

Biden said today’s attack demonstrated why he wanted to limit the duration of the mission in Afghanistan.

The mission was “extraordinary and dangerous”, he said.

But “we will not be deterred by terrorists,” he said. “We will continue our evacuation.”

The US will “continue to execute this mission with courage and honor to save lives and get Americans our partners, our Afghan allies, out of Afghanistan”.

The president then held a moment of silence for those who died in the attack.

Updated

“They were heroes,” Biden said of US service members who died in the terrorist attack. “Heroes who’ve been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”

The intelligence community has assessed that Isis-K was behind the bombing in Kabul.

To those who carried out the attack, Biden said, “We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Biden addresses nation on Kabul explosions

“Tough day,” the president began.

“I’ve been engaged all day in constant contact” with military advisers, Biden said.

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Two explosions at the Kabul airport killed 12 US servicemembers and left another 15 injured, the Pentagon said. Reports indicate that at least 60 Afghan civilians were also killed in the attacks, which are believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State.
  • Joe Biden is set to address the nation on the Kabul explosions at any moment. The president has not yet delivered any kind of response to the deadly attacks, but the White House said the president has been receiving continuous updates from his national security team on the situation in Kabul.
  • Defense secretary Lloyd Austin indicated the evacuation mission would continue, despite the terrorist violence seen today. Austin released a statement expressing his condolences for the families of the lost troops, saying, “We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief. But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.”
  • House minority leader Kevin McCarthy demanded that speaker Nancy Pelosi call the chamber back into session to receive a briefing on Afghanistan. “It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden administration,” McCarthy said in a statement. But in her own statement on the attacks, Pelosi gave no indication she plans to call the House back into session.
  • Seven police officers who were attacked during the Capitol insurrection filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and far-right groups. The lawsuit alleges Trump “worked with white supremacists, violent extremist groups, and campaign supporters to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act, and commit acts of domestic terrorism in an unlawful effort to stay in power”.

Maanvi will have more coming up as we await the start of Biden’s speech on Afghanistan. Stay tuned.

Updated

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Mark Milley, has now also released a statement expressing his condolences for the families of the 12 US servicemembers killed in Kabul today.

“On behalf of the Joint Force, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the service members killed today,” Milley said.

“These brave men and women are taking risk to save lives of the vulnerable and safeguard Americans. They’ve moved more than 100,000 people to safety. I could not be prouder of their service. They gave their lives to save others, there is no higher noble calling.”

pic.twitter.com/m82qR5f9ae

— The Joint Staff 🇺🇸 (@thejointstaff) August 26, 2021

Echoing an earlier message from defense secretary Lloyd Austin, Milley added, “We remain focused and steadfast on this mission.”

Senior administration officials have indicated they will continue evacuation flights from the Kabul airport, despite the deadly attacks today.

Joe Biden will likely provide an update on the trajectory of the evacuation mission when he addresses the American public this evening. Biden is scheduled to start speaking in about 10 minutes, so stay tuned.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who has been fiercely critical of Joe Biden’s plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, expressed concern about the potential proliferation of terrorism after today’s deadly attacks in Kabul.

“It is sickening and enraging to hear that at least 12 United States servicemembers have been killed and more have been injured at the hands of terrorists in Kabul,” the Republican leader said in a new statement.

It is sickening and enraging to hear that at least 12 U.S. servicemembers have been killed at the hands of terrorists in Kabul. We need to redouble our global efforts to confront these barbarian enemies who want to kill Americans and attack our homeland. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/ydke3F6sZ7

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) August 26, 2021

McConnell also expressed sympathy for the families of the dozens of Afghan civilians who were killed in the explosions at the Kabul airport.

“Our partners in a long fight against terror deserve better than the dark fate that will await them after the last military aircraft has departed,” McConnell said.

He went on to say, “This murderous attack offers the clearest possible reminder that terrorists will not stop fighting the United States just because our politicians grow tired of fighting them. ... We need to redouble our global efforts to confront these barbarian enemies who want to kill Americans and attack our homeland.”

But recent polling suggests the majority of Americans still support withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, even as most Americans say that the withdrawal mission has gone badly.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying she “strongly condemns” the deadly attacks on US servicemembers and Afghan civilians in Kabul today.

“We mourn the loss of every innocent life taken, and we join every American in heartbreak over the deaths of the servicemembers killed,” the Democratic speaker said.

Noting that the US has helped evacuate more than 100,000 people out of Afghanistan in the past month, Pelosi added, “As we continue this process, Congress, on a bipartisan basis, remains deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

“As we work with the Biden administration to bring stability to the situation, Congress must continue to be kept closely informed, which is why I have requested that the executive branch continue to brief members. At the same time, our committees of jurisdiction will continue to hold briefings on Afghanistan.”

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy had demanded that Pelosi call the chamber back to session to receive a briefing on Afghanistan, but the speaker gave no indication she plans to do so.

Updated

Kamala Harris will return to Washington this evening instead of spending the night in California, where she had been expected to participate in a rally tomorrow with Democratic governor Gavin Newsom.

The vice-president’s senior adviser, Symone Sanders, confirmed Harris would fly on to Washington after participating in a troop engagement event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii this afternoon.

Following the @VP’s visit to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam this afternoon, the Vice President will return to Washington D.C.

— SDS (@SymoneSanders46) August 26, 2021

Harris is returning from a nearly week-long trip to Singapore and Vietnam, and she planned to stop in California to appear alongside Newsom, who is fighting a difficult recall election at the moment.

However, after the deadly explosions in Kabul, the vice-president has apparently decided to fly straight on to Washington instead.

Updated

Biden to address the nation this evening on deadly attacks in Kabul

Joe Biden will deliver an address to the nation this evening on the deadly explosions in Kabul today, which have already claimed the lives of 12 US service members.

According to the president’s updated schedule from the White House, Biden will “delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai international airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded” at 5 pm ET in the East Room.

At 5.45pm ET, White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily briefing, which was originally scheduled to start at 12 pm.

Biden has not delivered any kind of response to the attacks so far, but the White House said he has been receiving continuous updates on the situation in Kabul from his national security team.

Senior administration officials, including defense secretary Lloyd Austin, have so far indicated that the evacuation mission in Kabul will continue, despite the attacks. Biden has set a deadline of 31 August to complete the mission.

The head of Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, confirmed moments ago that the Kabul attacks killed 12 US service members and injured another 15. Reports indicate dozens of Afghan civilians were killed as well.

Updated

Gen Kenneth McKenzie said the US military was now talking to the Taliban about improving security at the Kabul airport by widening the cordon around it.

“We’ve reached out to the Taliban, we’ve told them you need to continue to push out the security perimeter,” the head of Central Command said.

“We’ve identified some roads that we would like for them to close. They’ve indicated that they will be willing to close those roads, because we assess the threat of a suicide borne vehicle threat is high right now, so we want to reduce the possibility of one of those vehicles getting close.”

McKenzie pointed out that there are drones over the area, with experts constantly assessing the scene for threats, as well as helicopters and aircraft with good imaging systems.

Updated

Gen Kenneth McKenzie pointed out that both the US military and the Taliban want the US out by 31 August.

“So we share a common purpose in that,” he said. “As long as we’ve kept that common purpose aligned, they’ve been useful to work with. They’ve cut some of our security concerns down. They’ve been useful to work with.”

The head of Central Command noted he has seen no evidence that the Taliban let the bomber through deliberately.

Gen Kenneth McKenzie said that cooperation with the Taliban has probably thwarted other planned attacks on the airport.

“We share versions of our information with the Taliban, so that they can actually do some searching out there for us and we believe that some attacks have been thwarted by them,” the head of Central Command said.

“They don’t get the full range of information we have, but we give them enough to act in time and space to try to prevent these attacks.”

Updated

Pentagon confirms 12 US troops killed and 15 injured in Kabul attacks

The head of Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, has confirmed that 12 US service members were killed in the Kabul airport attack and 15 more were injured.

He did not give a number for Afghan casualties, but added: “We’re still working to calculate the total losses.”

BREAKING: The attacks in Kabul killed at least 12 U.S. service members and injured 15, in addition to an unspecified number of Afghan civilians, Pentagon confirms https://t.co/mxRpfPpgkF pic.twitter.com/1R7HXe2Ur7

— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 26, 2021

But McKenzie was adamant that the evacuation operation would continue, saying, “The plan is designed to operate while under stress, and under attack, and we will continue to do that, we will coordinate very carefully to make sure that it’s safe for American citizens to come to the airfield. If it’s not, we’ll tell them to hold.”

McKenzie added, “Our mission remains. We’re still committed to flying people out, until we terminate operations at some point towards the end of the month.”

'We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,' defense secretary says after Kabul attacks

Defense secretary Lloyd Austin has released a statement offering his condolences to the families of the US service members killed in the explosions at Kabul airport today.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today,” Austin said.

“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others.”

On behalf of the men and women of the @deptofdefense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/GqwuJBKAAF

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) August 26, 2021

But Austin made clear that the US military remains committed to completing the evacuation mission in Kabul, even after the deadly attacks.

“We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief,” Austin said of the lost service members.

“But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. To do anything less -- especially now -- would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”

At least 12 US service members -- 11 Marines and a Navy medic -- have been killed in the Kabul explosions, two administration officials told the AP.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two US officials say 11 Marines and a Navy medic were killed in the Afghanistan attacks.

— darlene superville (@dsupervilleap) August 26, 2021

The Pentagon is expected to hold a press briefing at any moment, and officials may provide a new casualty update in their remarks. Stay tuned.

Biden's meeting with Israeli prime minister moved to tomorrow

Joe Biden’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been officially rescheduled for tomorrow, the White House said.

Biden and Bennett had originally been expected to meet about three hours ago, but the meeting was postponed because senior officials were briefing the president on the explosions in Kabul.

Biden’s virtual meeting with governors to discuss resettlement of Afghan refugees, which was supposed to take place in about 15 minutes, has also been canceled.

There is still no update on the timing of the White House press briefing, but the Pentagon is planning to hold a briefing in about 15 minutes. Stay tuned.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said he was briefed by defense secretary Lloyd Austin on the attacks at the Kabul airport today.

“My thoughts are with the families and friends of the brave U.S. service members and Afghans who lost their lives and those injured in this cowardly attack,” the Democratic leader said in a statement.

“I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and it must be clear to the world that the terrorists who perpetrated this will be sought and brought to justice. I will continue to monitor the situation in Kabul and our evacuation efforts.”

I just spoke to Secretary of Defense Austin about today’s heinous attacks targeting U.S. military and civilian personnel, American citizens and residents, and our Afghan partners.

My statement on the terror attacks in Afghanistan: pic.twitter.com/nC998jvB7l

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 26, 2021

A spokesperson for House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s demand to bring Congress back to session after the Kabul explosions, describing the request as a “distraction”.

Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said on Twitter, “Right now, American heroes are risking & giving their lives to execute an extraordinarily dangerous evacuation, & the Minority Leader wants to defund the mission & tie the Commander in Chief’s hands in the middle of the most dangerous days of the operation.”

Right now, American heroes are risking & giving their lives to execute an extraordinarily dangerous evacuation, & the Minority Leader wants to defund the mission & tie the Commander in Chief’s hands in the middle of the most dangerous days of the operation. https://t.co/j94blZVaOK

— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) August 26, 2021

Hammill added, “What’s not going to help evacuate American citizens is more empty stunts & distraction from the Minority Leader who sat idly by as Pres. Trump proudly negotiated with the Taliban. The Biden Administration has repeatedly briefed the Congress & providing frequent updates each day.”

So I guess that’s a “no” on coming back to session for a briefing then?

Fox News is now reporting that at least 10 US service members were killed in the explosions at Kabul airport today. The Pentagon has not yet provided a precise number of American victims in the attacks.

BREAKING: 10 U.S. service members killed in Kabul blasts, @JenGriffinFNC reports

— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) August 26, 2021

Updated

More than 60 Afghan civilians were killed and another 150 were wounded in the explosions at Kabul airport today, a health official told the Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE -- More than 60 Afghan civilians were killed and 150 others were wounded in Kabul Airport explosions, a health official told us. #Kabul #KabulAirport

— Ehsanullah Amiri (@euamiri) August 26, 2021

The Pentagon has already confirmed that multiple US troops were killed in the explosions as well, and the overall casualty county will likely continue to climb.

House Republican leader calls on Congress to return to session for Kabul briefing

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy is calling for Congress to immediately return to session to receive a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan, following the explosions at the Kabul airport today.

Horrific. Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of Biden's withdrawal.

Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back before Aug 31 so we can be briefed thoroughly by the Administration and prohibit the withdrawal of our troops until every American is safely out.

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) August 26, 2021

“Today’s attacks are horrific. My prayers go out to those who were injured and the families of those who were killed,” the Republican leader said in a new statement.

“It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden Administration and pass Representative Gallagher’s legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of our troops until every American is out of Afghanistan.”

Joe Biden had previously promised that all Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan would have the opportunity to do so, but the deadly attacks appear to have scrambled the calculus around completing the evacuation mission.

McCarthy said, “In the meantime, President Biden must take decisive action to protect our troops, our citizens, and our allies without regard for an arbitrary deadline.”

The Pentagon press secretary confirmed reports that multiple US troops were killed in the explosions at Kabul airport today.

“We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport,” John Kirby said in a statement.

“A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack.”

Statement on this morning's attack at #HKIA: pic.twitter.com/Qb1DIAJQJU

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021

This marks the first time that US service members have been killed in combat in Afghanistan since February 2020, per the Washington Post.

This marks the first U.S. military fatalities in combat in Afghanistan since February 2020, when two soldiers were killed.

U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban later that month that included a promise not to target Americans.

Today's attack believed to be carried out by ISIS.

— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) August 26, 2021

Multiple US troops among those killed in Afghanistan attack - reports

More distressing reports are filtering in from Afghanistan, with the latest being that unnamed US officials believe multiple US troops are among many people understood to have been killed in a terrorist attack outside the airport in Kabul a few hours ago.

Four US Marines have been killed and three US troops injured, according to a breaking news report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription), among multiple American and Afghan casualties of an explosion earlier.

An overview of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
An overview of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photograph: Maxar Technologies/Reuters

The journal reports:

The U.S. ambassador in Kabul has told staff there that four U.S. Marines were killed in an explosion at the city’s airport and three wounded, a U.S. official with knowledge of the briefing said. Two explosions ripped through crowds of Afghans trying to enter the airport on Thursday.

At least three U.S. troops were injured, a U.S. official said. Witnesses reported multiple fatalities among the Afghans, many of whom were trying to enter the airport because they had assisted U.S.-led coalition efforts and feared persecution by the Taliban.

Western governments have repeatedly warned of an imminent attack by Islamic State and urged their citizens not to approach the airport. After the blasts, the U.S. Embassy told all Americans to leave the entrances to the airport immediately.

The explosion at the Abbey Gate of the airport was the result of a complex attack, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. He said another blast occurred near the Baron hotel adjacent to the airport. A British security official said both attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.

An Afghan man who was attempting for the fifth time to get into the airport and get on one of the evacuation planes was standing in the crowd outside Abbey Gate when the detonation took place. “A lot of people got hurt,” he said by phone. “I helped a little girl. I think she died.”

Another Afghan man who was on the edge of the crowd near the Baron hotel said the explosion there occurred in the middle of thousands of people. He said he saw many maimed, bloodied people being brought out and was told of many fatalities.

Kabul’s Emergency Hospital, which is run by an Italian organization, said 30 patients had arrived at its surgical center, including six who were dead on arrival.

A doctor at the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul said he admitted five people injured in the blasts, one of whom, a 10-year-old girl, died.

The Reuters news agency reported that unnamed US officials say multiple US troops believed to be among those killed “according to initial information”.

Reuters now adding that the Pentagon says a number of US service members and Afghans have been killed.

Updated

Capitol Police officers sue Trump, Stone, rightwing extremist groups

US Capitol police officers who were attacked and beaten during the insurrection at the US Congress on 6 January by extremist supporters of Donald Trump filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the former Republican president, allies such as Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist groups.

In this file photo taken on January 06, 2021 Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington DC. Seven US Capitol Police officers filed suit against former president Donald Trump and members of right-wing extremist groups today, accusing them of being directly responsible.
In this file photo taken on January 06, 2021 Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they push barricades to storm the US Capitol in Washington DC. Seven US Capitol Police officers filed suit against former president Donald Trump and members of right-wing extremist groups today, accusing them of being directly responsible. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

The officers accused them of intentionally sending a violent mob to disrupt the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election.

This report is prepared by the Guardian and the Associated Press. The story was first reported this morning by the New York Times.

Seven officers filed the suit this morning in federal court – the US district court for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs allege Trump “worked with white supremacists, violent extremist groups, and campaign supporters to violate the Ku Klux Klan Act, and commit acts of domestic terrorism in an unlawful effort to stay in power”.

The suit was filed on behalf of the seven officers by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

It names the former president, the Trump election campaign, Trump ally and notorious Republican party ‘fixer’ Roger Stone and members of the extremist groups the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, some of whose members were involved at the Capitol and in Washington on 6 January.

Trump held a rally near the White House that morning in which he encouraged his supporters to march on the nearby Capitol in an effort to stop certification of Biden’s victory over him, which was due to take place in a process involving both the House of Representatives and the US Senate that day.

A House committee has started in earnest to investigate what happened that day, sending out requests Wednesday for documents from intelligence, law enforcement and other government agencies. Their largest request so far was made to the National Archives for information on Trump and his former team.

More than 500 people who took part in the insurrection are facing criminal charges in one of the biggest federal investigations since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.

Updated

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • At least two explosions have occurred at the Kabul airport, the Pentagon confirmed. The attack comes as the US and its allies work to evacuate their citizens and Afghan partners out of Kabul after the Taliban took control of the capital city.
  • A Taliban spokesperson said at least 13 people had been killed in the explosions, while dozens more are believed to have been injured. The Pentagon would not provide an estimate of the casualties, but spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that US troops were among the victims of the attack.
  • Joe Biden has been in the Situation Room all morning receiving updates on the situation in Kabul, according to reports. The White House has confirmed that the president’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as the daily press briefing, have been postponed.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

White House press briefing delayed after Kabul explosions

The daily White House press briefing, which was originally scheduled to begin about 15 minutes ago, has now also been delayed following the explosions at the Kabul airport.

The White House told the press pool that Joe Biden met this morning with secretary of state Antony Blinken, defense secretary Lloyd Austin and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mark Milley to receive a briefing on the situation in Kabul.

“He will continue to be briefed on updates on the evolving situation throughout the day,” the White House said. “There will be updates to the President’s schedule, which we will share as they become available.”

Biden’s virtual meeting with governors to discuss the resettlement of Afghan refugees, which was supposed to take place this afternoon, has also been canceled.

The US military is sealing shut the gates of Kabul airport after the explosions today, according to the Washington Post’s Beirut bureau chief.

The Kabul airport attack has nixed hopes of evacuation for the last thousands still hoping to make it out. Am hearing the US military is sealing shut the airport gates. The casualty numbers are growing by the minute. A tragedy piled on a tragedy.

— Liz Sly (@LizSly) August 26, 2021

That means that the thousands of Afghans and hundreds of Americans still hoping to leave the country will now likely have to do so without the assistance of US troops, making evacuations much more difficult.

Mark Warner, the Democratic chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said he is “closely tracking the horrifying situation in Kabul” following the explosions at the airport.

In a new statement, the Virginia senator added that he will “remain in touch with intelligence and administration officials as we learn more about today’s attacks”.

I'm closely tracking the horrifying situation in Kabul and will remain in touch with intel officials. We need to stabilize the situation outside the airport to resume evacuations. My thoughts will be with our troops, and the innocent people killed in these acts of terror. https://t.co/lpK2iH8pjT

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 26, 2021

“As we await more information regarding the casualties, my thoughts will be with our troops and with the innocent people killed in these brutal acts of terror,” Warner said.

“We must do everything we can to stabilize the situation outside the airport so that we can resume evacuations of American citizens, SIVs, and the Afghans most in danger as soon as possible.”

The White House confirmed to the press pool that Joe Biden’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been delayed.

The meeting was originally scheduled to begin about 10 minutes ago. The White House did not provide any information on when the meeting might actually start.

According to reports, Biden remains in the Situation Room receiving updates on the explosions and casualties at the Kabul airport.

No surprise here: Joe Biden’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which was supposed to begin in about two minutes, has been delayed, per Walla News.

BREAKING: White House notified Israeli Prime Minister's office not to leave the hotel for now for the meeting with Biden which was planned to begin 11:30am, Israeli official told me. The hold up is because Biden still holding consultations on Afghanistan

— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 26, 2021

More than 30 patients have already arrived at the Kabul Surgical Centre following the explosions at the airport, according to a reporter for the Afghan network TOLO News.

Six other patients were declared dead upon arrival to the hospital. A Taliban spokesperson previously said that at least 13 people had been killed in the explosions.

Kabul Emergency hospital:
🔴 More than 30 patients have arrived at our #Kabul Surgical Centre so far. 6 others already dead on arrival. We have activated all mass casualty protocols. #Kabulairport #Afghanistan

— Ziar Khan Yaad (@ziaryaad) August 26, 2021

As of now, Joe Biden is still scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office in about 15 minutes.

If that meeting occurs as scheduled, which is far from certain, it will be the US president’s first opportunity to respond to the Kabul explosions. Stay tuned.

Pentagon confirms US casualties and second explosion

The Pentagon has now confirmed there was another explosion at Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport where the first blast occurred.

The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, also said there were American troops among the casualties from the explosions.

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. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021

“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,” Kirby said on Twitter.

“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.”

Israeli officials told Walla News that the schedule of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meetings with Joe Biden today currently remain unchanged, even after the explosion at Kabul airport.

However, that could change as the president receives more updates on the explosion and the number of casualties at the airport. Stay tuned.

Israeli officials say no change in the Biden-Bennett meeting schedule at the moment

— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 26, 2021

A journalist in Kabul has translated and sent this statement from the Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, saying the Americans had been told about a possible Isis attack on the airport.

“The Taliban are committed to the international community and will not allow terrorists to use Afghanistan as a base for their operations. The Taliban have warned US troops about possible terrorist groups such as ISIS,” Mujahid said.

Joe Biden is in the White House Situation Room receiving updates on the explosion at the Kabul airport, according to Bloomberg News.

President Biden is in the White House Situation Room, I'm told, getting updates on the situation in Afghanistan, including the explosion near the Kabul airport that has caused many casualties.

— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 26, 2021

The president had already been expected to receive a briefing from his national security team on the situation in Afghanistan this morning.

Biden is also scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House today, but it’s now unclear how much time he will be able to devote to that.

A Taliban official told Reuters that at least 13 people, including children, had been killed in the explosion at the Kabul airport.

Explosion outside #Kabul airport killed at least 13 people, including children, and wounded many Taliban guards, a Taliban official tells @Reuters #Afghanistan https://t.co/usNgHwKIAS

— Hümeyra Pamuk (@humeyra_pamuk) August 26, 2021

Unknown number of casualties from Kabul explosion, Pentagon says

The explosion at the Kabul airport has “resulted in an unknown number of casualties,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Twitter.

We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties. We will continue to update.

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021

A witness told the AP that several people appeared to be dead or wounded after the blast, and the Afghan network TOLO News shared photos of injured Afghans being carried away from the explosion site.

The US Embassy in Kabul has issued an alert to Americans warning them to “avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time”.

“There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire,” the embassy said in its latest security alert.

“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”

#Afghanistan: There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire. U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates. Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately. https://t.co/q216Qs8GuB pic.twitter.com/wdd3Rtdbse

— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) August 26, 2021

Updated

The Afghan network TOLO News shared photos of some of the people injured in the explosion at the Kabul airport.

Photos: Casualties from blast near Kabul airport this evening. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/ZnbQrKf2Yh

— TOLOnews (@TOLOnews) August 26, 2021

At least three US troops have been wounded in the explosion outside the Kabul airport, according to Fox News. Reports indicate the explosion was the result of a suicide bomber.

BREAKING: At least 3 U.S. troops wounded in suicide bombing outside Abbey Gate at Kabul airport: U.S. officials

— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 26, 2021

The British Ministry of Defence said its officials are “working urgently to establish what has happened in Kabul and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort”.

“Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan,” the defence ministry said on Twitter.

“We are in close contact with our US and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident.”

Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan. We are in close contact with our US and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident.

— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) August 26, 2021

The French ambassador to Afghanistan, David Martinon, told all “our Afghan friends” near the Kabul airport to immediately take cover.

“A second explosion is possible,” Martinon warned in a tweet.

À tous nos amis afghans : si vous êtes près des portes de l’aéroport, éloignez-vous de toute urgence et mettez-vous à l’abri. Une deuxième explosion est possible.

— David Martinon (@david_martinon) August 26, 2021

Joe Biden and some of his senior advisers had warned earlier this week of the possibility of a terrorist attack in Kabul.

Explaining his rationale for adhering to the August 31 deadline to complete the evacuation mission, Biden said on Tuesday, “The sooner we can finish, the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”

And secretary of state Antony Blinken echoed that sentiment yesterday, telling reporters, “It’s hard to overstate the complexity and the danger of this effort.

“We’re operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban with the very real possibility of an Isis-K attack.”

Secretary Blinken: "It's hard to overstate the complexity and the danger of this effort. We're operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban with the very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack." pic.twitter.com/yrwwbV70od

— CSPAN (@cspan) August 26, 2021

Explosion occurs outside the Kabul airport, Pentagon confirms

An explosion has occurred outside the Kabul airport where the US and its allies are carrying out evacuations, the Pentagon has just confirmed.

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

We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021

The explosion comes after the US told people trying to access the airport to leave the area, as Britain, Australia and New Zealand warned of the “high threat” of a terrorist attack.

Kirby and Maj Gen Hank Taylor are scheduled to brief the press on the situation in Kabul in about 40 minutes, so stay tuned.

The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, refuted reports that the US military plans to conclude Kabul evacuations in the next 36 hours.

“Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours. We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission,” Kirby said on Twitter.

Kirby and Army Major General Hank Taylor, joint staff deputy director for regional operations, will brief the media on the Kabul mission at 10:30 am ET, and they will likely be asked about these reports. Stay tuned.

Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours. We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission. #HKIA

— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021

The US has now helped evacuate more than 95,000 people out of Afghanistan since August 14, the White House said in its latest update on the Kabul mission.

A White House official told the press pool that about 13,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan between yesterday at 3 am ET and today at 3 am ET.

“17 U.S. military flights (14 C-17s and 3 C-130s) evacuated approximately 5,100 people from Kabul. In addition, 74 coalition aircraft evacuated approximately 8,300 people,” the official said.

“Since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 95,700 people. Since the end of July, we have re-located approximately 101,300 people.”

Secretary of state Antony Blinken said yesterday that as many as 1,500 Americans remain in Afghanistan, and the US military is still looking to wrap up its mission by August 31.

US and allies warn of ‘high’ terror threat at Kabul airport

The Guardian’s Helen Sullivan and agencies report:

The United States has warned crowds trying to access Kabul airport to leave the area, as Britain, Australia and New Zealand cited the “high threat” of a terrorist attack.

All four countries asked that people no longer attempt to travel to the airport, a distressing call as people with practically no other means of escape from Afghanistan attempt to save their lives and those of loved ones.

A flurry of near-identical travel warnings from London, Wellington, Canberra and Washington late on Wednesday urged people gathered in the area to vacate and move to a safe location.

The security warnings about the airport were specific. “Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” said the US State Department in a warning to its citizens, citing unspecified “security threats”. It advised people to approach only if “you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so”.

On Wednesday night the UK Foreign Office urged people not to travel to the airport, saying: “There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack. Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai international airport. If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”

Evacuation of Americans from Kabul is 'highest priority,' Harris says

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

Kamala Harris wrapped up her nearly week-long trip to Singapore and Vietnam earlier today, and the vice-president held a press conference before starting her travel back to the US.

Asked about whether the Biden administration can ensure the safety of Americans still in Afghanistan, Harris replied, “Our highest priority right now is evacuating American citizens, evacuating Afghans who worked with us and Afghans who are at risk, with a priority around women and children.”

Harris noted the US military has made “significant progress” in getting American citizens and Afghan allies out of Kabul.

According to the White House’s latest update, the US has helped evacuate more than 95,000 people since August 14.

Kamala Harris holds a press conference before departing Vietnam for the United States.
Kamala Harris holds a press conference before departing Vietnam for the United States. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images

The vice-president also expressed specific concern for Afghan women and girls, amid intense concerns that the Taliban will roll back some of the rights that they have gained over the past 20 years.

“I have worked almost my entire career on a number of issues but with a particular emphasis on the protection of women and children,” Harris said.

“And there’s no question that any of us who are paying attention are concerned about that issue in Afghanistan.”

But many questions remain over how the US and its allies will be able to exert any control in Afghanistan, when they plan to completely withdraw their troops from the country by next week.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Contributors

Maanvi Singh (now) and Joan E Greve (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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