The aftermath of the bombing attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan Thursday left dozens dead and injured. Amid the violence, many question the U.S. government’s ability to evacuate all U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from the besieged nation by President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
Thirteen U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghan civilians — including children — were killed when two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds trying to flee the Taliban resurgence in the country. One survivor said the attack was “like doomsday.”
“It was as if someone pulled the ground from under my feet; for a moment I thought my eardrums were blasted and I lost my sense of hearing,” the man, who was not identified for fear of reprisal, told Insider. “It is not possible to see doomsday in this life, but today I saw doomsday, I witnessed it with my own eyes.”
The bombing occurred hours after Western officials warned of a major attack on the airport. Islamic State terror group ISIS-K took credit for the bombing.
The terror group is a sworn enemy of Islamic militant group the Taliban. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, denied an attack was imminent Thursday. But before the bombing, Taliban militants tried to drive people away by spraying a water cannon at those gathered near an airport gate. Teargas canisters were also launched into crowds.
The scene at the airport is one of panic and chaos as U.S. forces continue evacuation procedures. Those injured in the attack were wheeled away, bloodied and dazed, on stretchers — even in wheelbarrows — by volunteers. The air above the airfield was thick was smoke as sirens filled the air after the blast.
A video on Twitter appeared to show bodies floating in a canal and piled on a sidewalk near an entrance to the airport.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said about 5,000 people were waiting at the airfield to be flown out of the country and evacuations would not slow following the attack.
About 1,000 U.S. citizens are believed to still be in Afghanistan. Heavy security and roadblocks set up by the Taliban make accessing the airport a challenge. And entry is nearly impossible now that U.S. forces have closed all gates due to the attack.
After the blast, Taliban fighters used pipes and cables to try to clear the crowds that gathered earlier in the day. One of the group’s members said the explosion was “against the Americans,” The New York Times reported.
“The situation is out of control. There’s a lot of dead people on the ground there,” the fighter, who declined to give his name, said.
Satellite imagery shows snarling traffic just outside the airport and a crush of humanity trying to enter the walled-off airfield through a single entrance.
The U.S. State Department allows only Special Immigrant Visa applicants, embassy personnel and Afghans who aided U.S. forces through the gates and onto a flight. Anyone else will be left behind, according to a U.S. official.
The Taliban said Afghan citizens will be allowed to leave the country on commercial flights the week after the Aug. 31 deadline, but it is not clear which airlines would service an airport run by the militants.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish presidential spokesman, said Turkish officials are in talks with the Taliban to allow Turkish civilian experts to operate the airport.
President Biden promised Thursday to hunt down the people responsible for the attack that took 13 American lives. The service members killed were the first casualties in Afghanistan since Feb. 2020.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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