Successive explosions near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul killed 13 US soldiers Thursday as the United States worked quickly to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan before the August 31 withdrawal deadline.
Dozens of civilians were killed and at least 15 US service members were injured. The attacks took place at Kabul airport and a nearby hotel. Both were attributed to the terrorist organization ISIS-Khorasan.
“Many more wounds are being treated. We also know that a number of Afghans have fallen victim to this heinous attack,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Defense officials are alarmed by threats to Hamid Karzai International Airport A terrorist group called ISIS-K, or sworn enemies of the Taliban. One official considered the threat posed by a suicide bomber to be the main concern to Afghans and American citizens crowding the airport gates, and the American forces guarding it.
The evacuation efforts reflect increased pressure on US officials since the Taliban announced they would not extend the deadline.
At least 95,700 people have been evacuated so far. On Wednesday, military and commercial flights evacuated about 13,400 people, down from the past three days.
Afghans who aided the US war effort will be embroiled in a life-and-death struggle as they and their families try to secure seats on one of the last departing flights.
This is how the complex and dangerous evacuation process takes place:
The first step is to arrive at the airport and pass through a security gate. Approaching the airport through traffic jams and Taliban roadblocks was already difficult, but entry now may be impossible after US forces closed all the gates due to an apparent attack.
US citizens who show up at the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport will find a seat on one of the last flights, but everyone else will be left behind, according to a US official familiar with the process but not authorized to do so. speak out.
Outside the airport, despair mounts for the American citizens and Afghans who helped American forces. On Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said US special operators stormed a neighborhood in Kabul to collect about 20 Americans unable to reach the airport.
Crossing the gates and boarding the plane requires approval from the US State Department, which allows embassy staff, special immigrant visa applicants, and other Afghans who have supported the US war effort.
Once at the airport and clear of security, people line up to get on the plane.
Satellite images taken on Monday show organized groups of people on the runway attending military aircraft.
Large USAF aircraft—mainly used to transport vehicles or equipment—are pressed into service for evacuation.
After leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport, evacuees travel to the United States to a military base in Qatar, Bahrain, Italy, Spain, Germany, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.
American citizens come home from there. Afghan citizens are screened by State Department and Homeland Security officials to determine if they are eligible to enter the country.
Charities and human rights organizations are helping Afghan evacuees start a new life in the United States and Canada. Many Afghans will seek refuge in other countries.
Afghan nationals brought into the United States will be temporarily housed at one of four military bases:
- Fort McCoy in Wisconsin
- Fort Bliss in Texas
- Fort Lee in Virginia
- McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Joint Base, New Jersey
Afghan refugees can enter the United States under one of these programs:
- Special Immigrant Visas: For those who aided US forces during the war or who worked for the US government.
- Set priority 2For those who have worked with nongovernmental groups or US news organizations.
- humanitarian paroleSuggested by supporters of Afghans living in other countries who fear Taliban persecution if they return to Afghanistan
US forces fly Apache attack helicopters to protect them at Kabul airport.
They used huge Chinook helicopters to get the stranded American citizens out and take them to the airport.
Some of those planes will likely be left behind, so there is room on board C-17 cargo jets for the last of the troops, said a defense official familiar with the equipment at the airport but not authorized to speak publicly about the withdrawal.
The defense official said an airstrike to destroy that equipment was likely. The Pentagon has acknowledged that F-18 warplanes, operating from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, are patrolling over Kabul. The Air Force has B-1 and B-52 long-range bombers that have flown combat flights to Afghanistan for years from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Source USA TODAY Network reports and research; Associated Press; whitehouse.gov; defense.gov; unhcr.org; Refuge.org
Contribute Tom Vanden Brooke, Joey Garrison, Javier Zaracena and Sean Sullivan