U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele from Hawaii, a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard, issued the following statement today following the deadly attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan:
“As a son of a United States Marine, one who has also raised his right hand and swore an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, I understand that oath means you are willing to sacrifice your life. I am deeply saddened to learn of the service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice to this senseless act of violence today.
“What we can do right now, is offer our support and respect to all the mothers, fathers, spouses and children around the world who anxiously wonder whether or not their loved ones serving in Afghanistan are safe.
“Today’s heinous attack at HKIA further accelerates the urgency of our mission to remove U.S. troops, American citizens and our Afghan allies from Afghanistan.”
Twelve U.S. service members were killed and 15 others injured in an attack outside the airport in the capital of Afghanistan.
The suicide bombing outside an entrance to the airport packed with crowds desperate to get out of the country on U.S. and coalition military aircraft — which had been departing every 39 minutes — underscores the fragility of the security situation in Kabul.
The attack marked one of the single deadliest days for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the 20 years since the allied invasion, CBS said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement:
“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.
“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others.
“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.
“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.”
Air Force units stationed in Hawaii are supporting what the White House on Wednesday called “one of the largest airlifts in world history,” with U.S. military and coalition flights out of Kabul airport in Afghanistan relocating approximately 88,000 people since the end of July.
A C-17 Globemaster III cargo carrier aircrew made up of 15th Wing active-duty at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and 154th Wing Hawaii Air National Guard airmen “have assisted multiple missions from Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” Pacific Air Forces said.
U.S. defense officials previously noted the need for additional aircrews to keep a large fleet of C-17s flying into and out of Kabul airport.
Approximately 19,000 people were evacuated from Kabul over a period of 24 hours ending Wednesday morning, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“This is the result of 42 U.S. military flights which carried approximately 11,200 evacuees, and 48 coalition flights which carried 7,800 people, for a total of 90 flights out of Kabul,” Psaki said, noting there was a flight about every 39 minutes.
The 42 U.S. military aircraft included 37 C-17s and five C-130s. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said “north of 4,400” Americans had been evacuated, with about 5,400 of 5,800 U.S. troops still at the airport.