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Biden to contact families of 13 US service members killed in Kabul – CNN

Biden said the loss of 13 US service members to a suicide bombing outside of Kabul’s airport on Thursday was “tragic” during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House.

“Losing a son or daughter, a husband, a wife, is like being sucked into a big black hole in the middle of your chest and you don’t think there’s any way out,” Biden said, adding: “Our heart goes out to all those who we’ve lost.”

The President continued: “The mission there, they performed is dangerous. And now it’s come with a significant loss of American personnel. And, but it’s a worthy mission because they continue to evacuate folks out of that region.”

Biden’s comments come after he and Vice President Harris were warned by their national security team Friday morning “that another terror attack in Kabul is likely,” according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the US is taking “maximum force protection measures at the Kabul Airport.”

“The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date,” Psaki said.

Psaki said the US military was airlifting thousands of people out of Kabul every few hours and continuing to prioritize evacuating the remaining American citizens.

Biden directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to continue diplomatic efforts with international partners “to secure means for third-country nationals and Afghans with visas to leave the country even after the US military presence ends,” Psaki added.

“Our commanders also updated the President and Vice President on plans to develop ISIS-K targets. The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date. The President reaffirmed with the commanders his approval of all authorities they need to conduct the operation and protect our troops, and all reported back that they have the resources they believe they need to do so effectively,” Psaki said.

Harris was not at the meeting in person but joined via a secure video teleconference, Psaki said.

Biden plans to contact the families of the 13 US service members who were killed in the suicide attack in Kabul, according to a senior White House official.

Planning is underway for the President to make those calls, but the White House is first working to ensure all of the next of kin notifications have taken place. The official said the next of kin notifications are “still ongoing.”

Biden called the troops “heroes” in remarks at the White House on Thursday and said he was “outraged as well as heartbroken.”

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” the President warned those who carried out the attack.

ISIS in Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, has claimed that an ISIS militant carried out the suicide attack, but provided no evidence to support the claim. US officials have said the group was likely behind the bombing.

The attack came as the US and other countries race to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies by August 31 following the Taliban takeover of the country.

Biden addressed the families of the fallen US service members on Thursday, saying “my heart aches for you.”

“We have some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today. You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

He continued: “My heart aches for you and I know this, we have a continuing obligation, a sacred obligation to all of you, to the families of those heroes. That obligation is not temporary, it lasts forever.”

Biden’s son, Beau, an Iraq War veteran who served as the attorney general of Delaware, died at the age of 46 after battling brain cancer. Biden often speaks about his son and his service.

In addition to the 13 US service members who were killed, 18 were injured in the bombing, according to the head of the US Central Command. More than 90 Afghans were killed and at least 150 were wounded, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.

US service members wounded in Thursday’s attack have landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and have been transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the deputy director of joint staff regional operations, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Friday.

More than 300 American citizens were evacuated from Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, Taylor said. He said the updated total of the number of American citizens evacuated from the country was approximately 5,100. US and coalition forces have evacuated approximately 111,000 evacuees, he said.

US military flights carried approximately 8,500 people and coalition flights carried approximately 4,000 people out of Kabul, a White House official told CNN Friday morning. These flights occurred between Thursday 3 a.m. EDT to Friday 3 a.m. ET, the official said.

In the wake of the attack, the Department of Defense has authorized three more US bases to help support evacuation operations from Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the briefing. The bases are Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; Fort Pickett, Virginia and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The Pentagon also said Friday there was only one explosion at the Abbey gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday. The Pentagon originally said there was a second explosion outside the Baron Hotel in their initial statements.

In the days leading up to the bombing, Biden had spoken about the risk of a terror attacks as one of the reasons for sticking with the August 31 deadline for withdrawing troops. The President had also promised a swift and forceful response to any disruption to the operation.

Biden and his team are now bracing for the possibility of another terrorist attack in the final days of the evacuation operation.

“The threat is still out there,” a senior White House official said. “It’s still heightened.”

Biden plans to receive regular updates throughout the day on Friday on the state of the evacuation mission and the ongoing terrorist threat in Kabul, beginning with his daily intelligence briefing in the morning.

The President will then meet with his national security team in the Situation Room at the White House to discuss Afghanistan, as he has every day this week.

The official said Biden was “solemn and serious” on Thursday as updates on the attack filtered in.

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