On Thursday, as U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. confirmed at least 13 U.S. service members were killed in suicide bombing attacks at the Kabul airport, he said military leaders expected an attack “sooner or later.”
“Any time you build a noncombatant evacuation plan like this and you bring in forces, you expect to be attacked,” McKenzie said in a Pentagon press briefing. “We thought that this would happen sooner or later. It’s tragic that it happened today. It’s tragic that there was this much loss of life.”
At least 13 U.S. service members were killed after suicide attackers detonated bombs near the Hamid Karzai International Airport. 15 more U.S. service members were reportedly injured in the attack, along with dozens of civilians wounded and killed.
McKenzie said, “We’re still working to calculate the total loss as we just don’t know what that is right now.”
The U.S. service members killed on Thursday are the first U.S. service members to be killed in Afghanistan in more than a year and a half. Two U.S. service members were shot and killed in an ambush attack in February 2020 and six more were wounded during that same attack.
As McKenzie began his remarks, he said it was not immediately clear who was responsible.
“If we can find who’s associated with this, we will go after them. We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against ISIS in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said. “We are working very hard right to determine attribution – to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack – and we’re prepared to take action against them. 24/7 we are looking for them.”
As McKenzie delivered his remarks, members of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Middle East Institute senior fellow Charles Lister tweeted a photo of an ISIS statement, claiming responsibility for the attack. “BREAKING — #ISIS claim responsibility for today’s attack in #Kabul: The #ISIS claim ID’s the attacker as Abdulrahman al-Logari (from #Logar province) — says he reached ‘within 5 meters’ of U.S. forces before detonating his explosives.”
In addition to the U.S. casualties, Afghan health officials said between 30 and 40 people were killed, and 120 injured, the New York Times reported.