WASHINGTON — President Biden and his administration’s top staff cleared public events from their schedules Thursday as the deadly bombings near Kabul’s airport killed US service members and complicated an already desperate evacuation of Americans and at-risk Afghans.
The grisly attack reportedly killed at least 12 US service members and wounded others, leaving the bodies of many Afghans strewn along a canal outside the airport.
Biden was supposed to meet at 11:30 a.m. in the Oval Office with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, but the meeting was delayed and then rescheduled to Friday.
Biden also canceled a planned 3 p.m. virtual meeting with governors on Afghan refugee resettlement.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was supposed to host her daily press briefing at noon, but it was delayed without a new start time.
A Pentagon press briefing with spokesman John Kirby was expected around 10:30 a.m., but it was postponed to 3 p.m.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, is expected to join Kirby for the briefing.
The State Department, meanwhile, canceled a scheduled 2:15 p.m. briefing by spokesman Ned Price.
Even a planned briefing by the White House coronavirus task force was postponed as DC absorbed news of the bombings.
No US military members had died in Afghanistan since February 2020 when former President Donald Trump’s administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban, setting in motion the US withdrawal.
Although Biden’s decision to withdraw from the 20-year conflict had broad public support, he’s faced withering criticism for his administration’s planning for the final evacuations and has seen his approval numbers crater.
The streets around Kabul’s airport have been packed with would-be refugees and American citizens since the Taliban retook the Afghan capital last week. Biden said he intends to stick to an Aug. 31 deadline to remove US troops after the Taliban threatened to take the airport by force after that date.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said that up to 1,500 Americans may be stranded in Afghanistan and that at least 500 were actively seeking help getting out of the country.
Late Wednesday, the US government warned Americans to avoid the Kabul airport due to intelligence of a looming attack.
Among those still stranded in Afghanistan are 24 schoolkids and 16 parents from Southern California, who took a trip to the war-torn country to visit extended family over the summer and have reportedly been trying to make their way to the Kabul airport to get on evacuation flights while they still can.