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Aug 26, 2021

Axios PM

Good afternoon. Today's PM — edited by Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath — is 485 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: President Biden will address the nation at 5 p.m. ET.

1 big thing: America mourns

Smoke rises from the attack outside Kabul airport. Photo: Wali Sabawoon/AP

A suicide bomber struck in the sunset of America's longest war, killing at least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. service members at a gate of the Kabul airport as they screened people desperate to evacuate.

  • The bombing — believed to be by ISIS terrorists, in a dense crowd — were followed by an attack by ISIS gunmen who opened fire on troops and civilians, the Pentagon said.

Those killed included 11 U.S. Marines and a Navy medic, AP reported.

  • 15 U.S. service members were injured, as were 140+ Afghans.
Injured people are taken to a Kabul hospital after the attack. Photo: Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said at a Pentagon briefing that the attack occurred at a gate where soldiers check people before they enter the airfield.

  • "We have to ensure they're not carrying a bomb," the general said. "That requires physical screening. ... You ultimately have to get very close to that person."
  • "While the air base itself is surrounded with [blast] walls," McKenzie continued, "there's no substitute for ... a young United States man or woman standing out there, conducting a search."

The general, citing the "daily heroism of the ... soldiers, sailors and Marines," said the Taliban did searches at an earlier checkpoint, "and sometimes those searches have been good, and sometimes not."

  • "Before this attack, we had passed 104,000 people through," he added. "You don't want to let somebody on an airplane with a bomb. ... So ... ultimately Americans have got to be in danger to do these searches."

McKenzie vowed the U.S. will "go after" the perpetrators.

  • The Pentagon said it's worried about future attacks.
2. Evacuating Afghanistan

Graphic: MSNBC

Graphic: MSNBC

Go deeper: U.S. allies scramble to leave.

3. Catch up quick
  1. Seven Capitol Police officers allege in a lawsuit that former President Trump, several of his associates and extremist group leaders organized a plot to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power that culminated into the Capitol riot. Go deeper.
  2. Arizona's attorney general is threatening to withhold millions in funds from Maricopa County if it doesn't comply with the state Senate's partisan audit of the 2020 election. Go deeper.
4. The last Marine in Saigon, on Afghanistan

Juan José Valdez in Oceanside, Calif. Photo: Telemundo Noticias

Juan José Valdez, the last U.S. Marine off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, says the Afghanistan mission was too long, Axios' Russell Contreras and Noticias Telemundo's Marina E. Franco report.

  • “They would give us the children, saying, 'Please, at least take my children out. I’ll stay if I have to, but take my daughter away,'" Valdez recalled.

Valdez told the San Diego Union-Tribune he believes the withdrawal in Kabul is worse than the one in Saigon because the fate is unknown for so many Afghans who worked with the U.S. over two decades.

  • "We spent so much money, so many weapons, and so many infantry and Army deaths," Valdez told Telemundo Noticias. "And for what?"

Go deeper.

Editor's note: This newsletter has been updated and corrected to note that there was only one explosion, not a second one near the Baron Hotel as the Defense Department incorrectly announced Thursday.