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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/26/2021

Guests: Mark Jacobson


Two suicide bombers in Kabul kill 12 U.S. service members, wounding 15 others. The White House press briefing is held.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: To our viewers, just as I took the baton from Alicia Menendez, I`m going to pass it to Ari Melber for our next hour of coverage.

Obviously, we thank our guests, Peter Baker of "The New York Times," Greg Myre of NPR.

And a heads-up, we`re going to be going live to Jen Psaki press secretary, as, with the president`s departure from the East Room heading back to the Oval Office, Jen Psaki will go into the Briefing Room and take the many, many questions the press corps will likely have for her.

So, with that, our broadcast of THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you to Brian Williams.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. And we are giving you this continuing coverage on a very difficult day in Afghanistan.

As Brian Williams just mentioned, we are here in the MSNBC newsroom awaiting this briefing from the White House press secretary, many questions there. You can see reporters already getting into position.

We will bring that to you live. You will hear everything that the president`s spokeswoman says when she takes to the lectern. Now, here`s the latest on what we know tonight.

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves in Kabul. This was earlier today. And the death toll is high, 12 U.S. service members, 15 other American service members wounded, according to the information we have at this hour. Many Afghans were also killed.

But, based on the security situation, we don`t have an exact number on that at this moment.

The first explosion was at Abbey Gate. That`s outside the airport in Kabul. And it was followed by gunman opening fire on both civilian and military targets.

Now, late today, ISIS formerly claimed responsibility. Thousands of people have been gathering over the last two weeks in these areas. So, it was well-known on the ground about these choke points, and many people were seeking any type of evacuation, getting any flight out of the country.

The second blast at the Baron Hotel was walking distance from this airport. That`s also what has become a key gathering place for evacuees. That includes Americans. It includes individuals who may be cleared to go and others gathering at some distance who are trying to go.

Now, the president just spoke out in very stark and at times emotional terms.

Here`s a little bit of what the president just said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.


MELBER: The president making his view on this clear and really trying to cover two bases, as Brian Williams was just covering, in that address, because President Biden was both honoring what he called the heroes who just died trying to save other people`s lives, while also standing resolute on his withdrawal policy, saying this danger, this death is part of at least the possible risk equation that the United States had undertaken.

Now, a hospital in Kabul reporting 60 people injured. That includes children. The number, though, is expected to rise. As mentioned, the reporting here has been fluid in what has been a terrible emergency situation on the ground.

The Pentagon referred to this as a -- quote -- "complex attack." And the Pentagon is stating that they do believe it to be carried out by ISIS, something the president also mentioned in his remarks. Officials, though, are working on a full confirmation attribution.

The United States continues the evacuation mission, as the threat of further attacks does remain very vivid, and an August 31 self-imposed deadline closing in.

We bring in our experts now.

We have a former senior adviser to the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who is Mark Jacobson, who advised Mr. Carter, as well as a longtime Washington correspondent, Katty Kay.

Mr. Carter, your view of -- excuse me.

I should say, Mr. Jacobson, your view of what it means that this is the security situation on the ground and what, if anything, you make of the president`s remarks tonight?


What`s happening is, a complicated situation is getting even more complicated. With the president`s policy that we`re going to do this evacuation and be out by the 31st, you have to balance security, which means it`s going to slow things down, how many people we can bring in through the gate, how many we can get on the airplanes, with the need to bring in thousands more Afghans who served side by side with American troops and are literally sitting outside the gates now waiting to get in, and they haven`t gotten in yet.

What I`m concerned about is, the Taliban have been slowing the process down, which is something the president had said they wouldn`t do. They`re taking Afghan passport holders and not letting them come with their spouses and immediate family who are U.S. passport holders.

We still have American passport holders on the ground. I don`t see how we do this before the 31st. So, the dilemma for the president is this. If he is going to be committed to getting Americans out who want to get out, if he`s going to be committed to getting Afghan -- Afghans out who served with us -- and he promised they would have a home in America -- there`s either going to have to be an extension, or we`re going to have to change the way we`re doing things down there.


We can`t have days there are charter -- humanitarian charter flights going out empty. We can`t have situations where American families are split up. They have to become whole and come home. That`s -- it was a bit of a false choice, I think, he presented by saying, well, if an American citizen decides that they`re going to stay back because their family can`t come, then they`re somebody who chose to stay?

That`s not right. That`s absolutely not right.

MELBER: And, Katty, I want to draw a little more attention to what the president just laid out. Some may have seen it. But it was a tough time to address the nation, certainly the largest death toll and foreign policy crisis this president has faced.

And we are awaiting, as people can see on the screen, the briefing, which we will bring from the White House when it happens. President Biden spoke about the service members killed and talked about getting others out of harm`s way.


BIDEN: These American service members who gave their lives -- it`s an overused word, but it`s totally appropriate -- they were heroes.

They were part of the bravest, most capable, and the most selfless military on the face of the Earth. And they were part of simply what I call the backbone of America.


MELBER: Katty, your view of what we heard from the president?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, obviously, in that respect, the president is also speaking from personal experience.

And you mentioned his son who had served in Iraq and how he has that capacity, as the father of a U.S. service member, to empathize, perhaps in a way that many presidents haven`t, with the families of those service members who have died so tragically in Afghanistan today.

But the president, as Mark is pointing out, faces a real dilemma now. Do you do carry on trying to get people out, which is what he was saying he was going to try and do beyond the 31st deadline, although the logistics of that, given the security situation in the country, look very precarious?

And he referred to those dual nationals. I mean, he seemed to be saying that, as his understanding was, what he was implying was that most of the Americans who have not left, it`s because they don`t want to leave at this stage, because they may be dual nationals who have extended family members there, and they are choosing to stay.

MELBER: Yes. And, Katty, I`m going to interject.

Let`s listen in to the White House briefing.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Just one thing to note at the top: As a mark for our respects, starting today, the United States flag will be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the federal government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its territories, and possessions until sunset on April -- August 30 -- excuse me -- 2021, in honor of the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Kabul, Afghanistan.

With that, Aamer.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just a few minutes ago, one of my colleagues asked a question about what the president would say to Afghans who fear they won`t get to leave. Was the -- the president said getting every single person out can`t be guaranteed of anybody. Was he lowering expectations for a smaller, but still significant, population that`s trying to get out, that`s still there?

PSAKI: That wasn`t his intention, Aamer. I think what he was conveying is that at a time where the Taliban is taking over the country, it`s certainly not our preference, as you all know well. It is not going to be possible for every single Afghan -- millions, potentially -- who want to leave Afghanistan to be evacuated.

At the same time, I think you also heard the president make clear that there is not a -- there is not an end to our commitment to getting American citizens out who don`t want -- who are not ready to leave, and to getting partners out and those who have served alongside the United States over the last 20 years.

QUESTION: And just real quick: On the Taliban, they are in charge of the perimeter. For the suicide bomber to get in, they would presumably have to get beyond a Taliban guard. So, why isn`t the Taliban in part responsible for what happened today?

PSAKI: Well, I think General McKenzie addressed this earlier this afternoon, and he made clear -- and I understand your question is slightly different from that, but I think it`s worth repeating and important to repeat -- that we don`t have any information at this point in time, and that has not changed over the last couple of hours, to suggest the Taliban had knowledge of or was engaged in or involved in this attack.

Obviously, what happened today and the loss of lives of U.S. service members, of Afghans, is a tragedy, is horrific, is one of the worst things, if not the worst thing, we`ve experienced during President Biden`s time in office.

But again, we don`t have any additional assessment at this point in time.

Go ahead.


QUESTION: Just a few things, Jen, to clarify. Thank you.

He talked about the ongoing mission to get people out after the 31st. But to be clear: As of tonight, is it still the plan to get all U.S. forces out by August 31?

PSAKI: Nothing has changed on that timeline.

QUESTION: OK. Did the president -- based on his public comments over the last few days, did the president see this coming?

PSAKI: Well, I think what you have seen the president say, and many members of our military and our national security team say, is that we have been closely watching and assessing the threat of ISIS-K, and that we have had increasing concern about that threat growing over the last couple of days.

So this has been a concern that we have been watching, and we saw, of course, the tragic events happen today.

QUESTION: And does -- what does today`s attack say about the U. S. `s ability to keep the terrorist threat in check once the U.S. pulls all military forces out of Afghanistan? Because this is something he talked about...


QUESTION: ... early in July when he reiterated what the plan was.

PSAKI: You`re right. And I appreciate that question. I think it`s important for people to know and understand that the threat that is posed by having thousands of U.S. military on the ground -- still currently on the ground, implementing a mission, committed to a mission, as you heard General McKenzie and the president also say -- that is a threat. They are a target. People gathering around the airport -- that is a threat; that is a target.

But ISIS` ability to target individuals who are on the ground in Afghanistan is very different from ISIS` ability to attack the United States and attack the homeland. And we will maintain and continue over-the- horizon capacity with a presence, in partnership with countries in the region, to ensure that they don`t develop that ability.

QUESTION: Do you know yet if he would go to Dover to greet the caskets of those that were killed?

PSAKI: I am certain the president will do everything he can to honor the sacrifice and the service of the lives who were lost today.

I will note -- you didn`t ask this question but some others have asked it, and he didn`t have the opportunity to ask it, so let me pro -- or answer it -- to provide you an update on -- I know some have asked about whether he`s called the family members.

And for those of you who have covered this, you know the process. But for those of you who have not, or people who are watching at home, the process would first go through the Pentagon; there`s a next-of-kin notification process. I know General McKenzie spoke to this earlier today. That is the process that is still underway at this point in time. Until that process concludes, the president would not make a call because that`s the first step in the process.

And then, in terms of additional steps, such as Dover, of course he would consider and want to be a part of any means of honoring the lives that were lost today.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. General McKenzie described this -- one of the explosions at the Abbey Gate happening at a point after someone had been searched by the Taliban. How is the United States still going to work with the Taliban the way that the president is describing, or just did in his remarks, to get American citizens and Afghan allies out, if that is what we`re working with?

PSAKI: Look, I`m not trying to sugarcoat what we think of the Taliban. The Taliban is not -- they`re not a group we trust; they are not our friends. And we have never said that.

It is also the reality that the Taliban controls large swathes of Afghanistan. And, to date, because of coordination with the Taliban, we`ve been able to evacuate more than 104,000 people, save 104,000 lives. And that coordination is necessary in order to continue our evacuation measures.

Now, I understand your question, Peter, and the questions of others on what they knew or what their role was. There`s no assessment we have at this point in time of their involvement in this. Obviously, that`s at this time. If that changes, we will let you all know.

QUESTION: And does the president really think that they are going to be reliable partners if we`re already getting reports that they`re not letting Afghans to the airport and the U.S. is still at the airport?

PSAKI: Well, I think -- you mean after the 31st, or moving...

QUESTION: Yeah, after the 31st.

PSAKI: ... over the next couple of days?

QUESTION: Well, we`ve heard that it`s already happening. So does he think that`s going to get better?

PSAKI: Well, I`d note also that, as the president just said, more than 7,000 people have been evacuated over the course of the last 12 hours. That is while there was an -- active attacks that were happening. Those are individuals who were let through gates, who were let onto planes, and got us well over 100,000 people who have been evacuated.

Again, this is not about trust. This is not about relying on the Taliban as an equal partner. No one is suggesting that. But because they control large swathes of the country, including a lot of the security perimeters around the airport, we have to coordinate with them in order to get people out, and we`ll continue to do that.

Go ahead.

But -- so, one more thing I would say is that we have an enormous amount of leverage -- this is our view -- over time. That includes economic leverage, that includes leverage that we will make clear to the Taliban as it relates to coordination to continue to get American citizens and our partners out.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, there have been reports of explosions happening throughout the afternoon in Kabul -- or evening now, obviously. And some reportings indicate that this is the beginning of a process of the U.S. military beginning to destroy equipment on the ground. Can you confirm that that`s what`s taking place?


PSAKI: I would defer -- I would defer you to the U. S military on specific steps of their retrograde process, which, as we know, would have to take place in advance of a departure.

QUESTION: And then, in terms of what we heard from the Pentagon and then the president just articulated -- which was his confidence that they have enough troops on the ground at this point to continue to facilitate the mission -- I guess the question is: How can that be the case, given what we saw today -- the tragic loss of life? And doesn`t that call for additional troop levels potentially needed, reinforcements to get on the ground? And additionally, what is the concern for the ongoing threat that ISIS-K continues to pose to these efforts?

PSAKI: There is an ongoing threat. And every day that our troops are on the ground, they`re at risk, and that`s a reality. And as you saw the Pentagon brief out earlier today, this was -- this were -- these were attacks that we had -- obviously had intelligence, in terms of over the last several days, of our rising concerns.

But I will tell you that -- and as it relates to your first question, Mike -- you know, I`ve been sitting in these meetings as well, and every single meeting, the president asked the Pentagon -- nearly every meeting before they conclude: Is there anything else you need to conclude your mission? Do you need equipment?

Do you need troops? Do you need resources? He`s asked them that again today as it relates to completing their mission over the next coming days and going after the individuals -- the terrorist who -- who are -- who killed service members today as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. You just noted you were in some of these meetings today. Was there ever a point where the president was reconsidering this deadline of having all U.S. forces out by August 31?

PSAKI: No. And here`s why: The President relies on the advice of his military commanders, and they continue to believe that it is essential to get out by the 31st. That is their advice.

And there are several reasons for that: one is the ongoing threats, and the second is that we need to be -- we want to be able to have the ability to get individuals out, who have been partners of ours, after the 31st. And they believe the best way to do that is to stay on that timeline at this point in time.

QUESTION: And does the White House still anticipate that those flights of mass evacuations will end before the actual 31st?

PSAKI: I`m not going to get into an operational timeline of when the last evacuation flight will be, and I don`t expect the Department of Defense will do that either. We will let you know, as we have twice a day, as we have updated numbers.

QUESTION: One more question. Is there an alternative

plan being discussed for how to get these people who are seeking to leave to the airport, given it is potentially perilous to go and wait outside the gates right now to get in?

PSAKI: There are a range of operations and operational approaches that our commanders and military on the ground have been utilizing over the course of several days, if not more. I`m not going to outline those from here, but that is why they`re in touch with American citizens, why they`re in touch with partners we`re working to evacuate to get them safely to the airport and evacuated at the appropriate time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is it your opinion that the president has the authority he needs from Congress, or wherever else, to continue operations beyond August 31? He kind of talked about pursuing ISIS-K wherever, whenever he needs to. Is there any expectation that he`ll need any additional authority to do so?

PSAKI: I don`t believe there`s an expectation of additional authority needed.

QUESTION: And what about for military commanders on the ground? Do they -- will they need to come back in order to conduct counterterrorism operations, in order to do anything of the sort?

PSAKI: Well, again, as the president just said in his remarks a little while ago, he`s asked them to draw up plans. He -- the president was -- I don`t think he could have been more clear about the fact that he believes we will not forgive, we will not forget, and we will hunt down these terrorists and kill them wherever they are. He`s asked them to draw up plans. Whatever they need for those plans, he is committed to delivering on. But I don`t have anything to outline for you today on that.

QUESTION: And is it possible to do that with no military troops, no military bases in the surrounding countries around


PSAKI: Again, I would say -- I would note for you, Trevor, as you know -- you`ve covered these issues quite closely -- we have a range of counterterrorism capacities in a number of countries around the world where we don`t have military bases.

Obviously, I`m not going to outline what their approach would be from the military. I will leave that to them to take and leave it to them to outline anything at their -- on their timeline.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, you mentioned about the increasing concerns about this terror threat.

The president, just two days ago, said, Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops. Today, we saw the deadly consequences of that. If the risk grows tomorrow and keeps growing the next day and beyond that, how should Americans feel about this operation continuing right now for the coming days?

PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, you heard General McKenzie convey clearly that we had every intention -- they had every intention of continuing this evacuation mission over the coming days and that they plan for incidents of these kind -- I mean, to the degree that they can. They have every intention to continue.

The president has regular consultations every -- every day, multiple times a day on days like this, about how they see the circumstance on the ground. But that is our expectation at this point in time -- that it will absolutely continue over the coming days.


QUESTION: And can you give us some details about how the president spent his day?

PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: He was scheduled to get briefed in the 9:00 hour by his national security team, and that`s when the first reports were coming in of this. Walk us through what he did over those coming hours, just some color, behind the scenes today.

PSAKI: Sure. For people who are watching, color means additional details of what he was up to.

I will say, Karen, that the initial -- initial reports of the attacks came in as members of his national security team were gathering in the Situation Room for a regular meeting with the president.

So they were just gathering and sitting down, so those -- and gathering in the room -- those initial reports came in at that time. As the president arrived in the Situation Room, one of the first updates he received, of course, was about the attacks on the ground in Kabul. There were -- this was a developing situation, as it has been through the course of the day.

And through the course of his briefing with his national security team this morning, the -- his commanders on the ground also -- and in the region -- gave regular updates as they learned more information.

Once he left the Situation Room, those updates proceeded through the course of the day. He`s been in constant contact with his national security adviser, his secretary of state, secretary of defense, and military commanders, both here and in the region, throughout the course of the day, receiving updates on what`s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: And was there ever a second meeting of that entire national security team with the president in the Sit Room?

PSAKI: No, this was just regular, ongoing contact with members of his national security team through the course of the day.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, since you said you were with him, how was he? How was his mood? How was he in dealing with all these -- with the incoming information?

How was he in asking the questions of military commanders (OFF-MIKE)

PSAKI: Well, I would say that anyone who`s watched the president up close, which is most of you, knows that the -- putting the lives of servicemen and women at risk, and those decisions that you have to make as Commander-in- Chief, weigh heavily on him.

And as I noted a few minutes ago, any day where you lose service members is -- may be the worst day of your presidency, and hopefully there`s not more. But we are certainly early in the presidency at this point in time.

So I would say he was somber and, as he said today, outraged at the -- these terrorists taking the lives of service members. And he wanted to make clear to the public -- he wanted to have all the information that he could before he spoke to the American people so he could convey exactly what we knew at the point in time where he addressed the public.

And he has wanted very detailed updates of exactly what we know about what is happening on the ground, and that is why he`s been in constant contact with members of his national security team.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, just quickly: Can you confirm the reports that it is now 13 U.S. service members who have died?

PSAKI: I would leave that to the Department of Defense to confirm any additional casualties.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. You talked about the ongoing threats, earlier. We heard from General McKenzie, talking about this, quote, extremely active threat streams. But how would you sum up, right now, the level of confidence that the administration has that there won`t be another attack like this before the completion of this evacuation mission?

PSAKI: I can`t give you that assessment. As I think our national security team has said -- members of our national security team: These are ongoing threats. We are watching them closely. But I can`t give you that assessment from here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you speak a little bit to what the impact on flights has been? You`ve been touting U.S. and coalition flights, but this attack has slowed some of those flights from coalition partners. Other countries are now out. Does this restrict bandwidth that you thought you would have for the next five days to get people out? Are fewer Americans and Afghan allies, SIVs, et cetera, going to get out because of this attack?

PSAKI: It`s a good question, Josh. And one of the reasons we put out the numbers twice a day is because we want you all to have an understanding of how many people were able to get out.

I would note that more than 7,000 people were evacuated over the last 12 hours. Those include members from coalition partners, and we`re working now -- and this is one of the pieces that the president has been focused on -- is getting as many people out and onto these planes as possible, even as we`re working to address these security threats on the ground.

But I don`t want to give you a prediction, because our U.S. military is incredible. And they are working, even while they are facing these security threats, to continue the evacuation mission.

QUESTION: What do you believe to be the case at the airport now? I suppose not particularly at this hour, given...

PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... the time it would be there. Can Americans go? Should Americans go? Are Afghan SIVs getting through Taliban checkpoints and to the airport? Are you still discouraging them from doing that? What is the situation on the ground and that perimeter?

PSAKI: Again, Josh, I would say that we are giving very specific directions to individuals -- American citizens and others -- on when they should come to the airport, where they should meet, how they should come to the airport.


We`re obviously not going to outline or detail those from here or in any public manner. But that is certainly the direction we would be giving to people: to pay attention to the security alerts and to pay attention to notifications and contacts they are receiving from us or coalition partners.

QUESTION: And very quickly -- I`m sorry -- just to clarify: There were warnings that led up to this attack. Other countries have been warning, the administration has been warning this is a dangerous situation, et cetera. Can you speak to whether there was specific indications that this was being planned? And if so, do you have specific indications that other ones are being planned now?

PSAKI: I`m not going to get into specific intelligence, but I will tell you and re -- confirm for you that the threat is ongoing, and we are continuing to watch and assess the threat.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. President Biden has spoken a lot about the need to end the forever wars. How do you end -- but how do end the forever wars in Afghanistan if you are still -- or if the United States is still continuing to attack ISIS-K?

PSAKI: Well, first, I would say this is a specific case today where 12 individual -- service members -- and 15 who were wounded today. And certainly, I would expect any President of the United States would be clear that he will avenge those deaths and the acts of terrorists. And I don`t think that came as a surprise to anyone.

But the president stands by, as he -- as he outlined to all of you just in the last hour, his commitment to bring an end to this war, as he has implemented over the course of the last month. And what we`re talking about here is avenging these deaths from terrorists. We`re not talking about sending tens of thousands of troops back for an endless war that we`ve been fighting for 20 years.

QUESTION: And if I may ask a kind of -- a bit of a related question to Josh. When the Obama administration was bringing in Syrian refugees, there was a lot of pushback from various states and locales about refugees coming into their communities.

PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you see that situation this time around? Is this going to be different? Or do you anticipate those same, kind of, pushback and hard feelings?

PSAKI: We will see. But I will tell you that what we have been working to do is to work closely with governors, with localities, with local leaders to give them detailed briefings on what our vetting process looks like, what the background check process looks like before any individual comes into the United States. And that is a background check process that`s thorough before they are allowed to come in and step on U.S. soil.

We also know that there are some people in this country, even some in Congress, who may not want to have people from another country come as refugees to the United States. That`s a reality. We can`t stop or prevent that on our own. But we are going to continue to communicate our intensive vetting process, and we`ve been working hard to do that behind the scenes. And we`re going to continue to convey clearly that this is also part of who we are -- a part of the fabric of the United States, and not back away from that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. There is an American that`s been detained by the Taliban since last year. His name is Mark Frerichs. And I`m wondering if the administration has been in negotiations to release him as part of these prior negotiations with the Taliban.

PSAKI: We`ve certainly raised his case at every opportunity. And it has certainly been raised, but I don`t have any update on that case.

QUESTION: And then, you said that there`s a threat for these remaining days that U.S. troops are in Kabul. Is there -- are there any additional precautions that are being taken to protect these troops? Obviously, you`re not going to send in additional troops, but are there any sort of other precautions that are being taken?

PSAKI: I don`t think I`m going to get into operational details of what is happening on the ground. Certainly, there are steps taken to protect our troops on the ground by the commanders who are leading the efforts on the ground.

Go ahead, in the middle. Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Just last week, the president said the following: We`ve made clear to the Taliban that any attack on our forces or disruption of our operations at the airport will be met with a swift and forceful response. Was this an attack? Were our forces targeted? Was this at the airport? Were our operations disrupted? And if indeed it was, would this qualify as a swift and forceful response?

PSAKI: I think the president just addressed exactly that when he said, we will not forgive, we will not forget, and we will hunt you down, when he spoke...

QUESTION: About suicide bombers...

PSAKI: ... just an hour ago.

QUESTION: ... people who -- people who live so that they can kill themselves?

PSAKI: He is -- was referring to the attack of terrorists from ISIS-K, who launched this attack and killed U.S. service members. I don`t think...

QUESTION: But he should be going after them regardless of whether they attacked service members.

PSAKI: I don`t think he could have been more clear.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, Jen. At least 67 House Democrats now have signed on to a letter asking the president to raise the refugee cap, in fiscal year 2022, to at least 200,000. I think you`re looking at about 125,000 right now.

PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that something that the White House is willing to accept?

PSAKI: I have not talked to the president about this specific question. What I will tell you is that what we are trying to do is get our muscles working again, both in our systems and the incredible refugee groups that are working on welcoming refugees from around the country, and working on getting our vetting processes and systems around the world that are -- that need to be in good shape in order to welcome refugees to get as many as we can.


But I have not had a conversation with him about raising the cap beyond the 125, as you said. I`m happy to do that.

Go ahead, Eli.

QUESTION: You know, given that Kabul has been the main -- the only departure point in the country, I wonder if the administration knows how many of the American citizens left, the green card holders, SIVs that are in the country still, are outside of Kabul, and if there have been or may be, in the future, efforts to go out and rescue people from those more far- flung places.

PSAKI: Yes, on your latter question -- I`m not going to get into more details -- and we`ll continue to be.

On your former question, the vast majority are within the Kabul vicinity. But as the State Department provided an update a little bit earlier today, but I know there`s been a lot happening today, so let me just reiterate a couple of these numbers. Of the 1, 500 that they -- that they briefed on yesterday, roughly 500 have been evacuated.

And so we`re talking about roughly an additional thousand that we are -- we believe remain in Afghanistan. The vast majority -- over two thirds -- informed us they were taking steps to leave, and we are in touch with. That is what we are working through and what we are focused on every single day.

QUESTION: And so you -- just to be clear, you`re saying that those missions, even if you have to be vague about it, they have taken place at times...

PSAKI: I`m not confirming if they have or haven`t; I`m just going to convey to you -- I will leave that to the Department of Defense.

What I will tell you is that we are committed to getting American citizens home and out of Afghanistan should they want to leave, and that includes people around the country.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Earlier today, General McKenzie said that, right now, they are focused on other active threats to U.S. service members there on the ground. Are all the threats the U.S. is currently facing from ISIS- K? Are there other groups that may be bad actors there on the ground?

PSAKI: I`m just not going to detail additional information about ongoing, live threats.

QUESTION: OK. And are -- do we know if the president still feels as though the chaos and the violence that we`ve seen there on the ground in Kabul was all unavoidable, even at this point?

PSAKI: You mean from about 11 days ago?


PSAKI: Well, I would say -- and I`ve spoken to this a few times -- if we go back to 11 days ago -- if that was your -- if that is your specific question -- we certainly didn`t anticipate that the leadership, the Afghan government would leave in the manner or would topple in the manner and the timeline that they did, or that the Afghan National Security Forces would cease to protect the airport and parts of Kabul. That is not what we anticipated in that timeline. That is true.

What I will say and reiterate again is that, within 24 to 48 hours, we had secured the airport. And since then, we`ve evacuated more than 104,000 people.

QUESTION: Thank you.

PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: How would you describe the relationship right now with the Taliban in light of the attack?

And are they still helping out with security, or what`s their relationship right now?

PSAKI: Again, this is not a friendship or a relationship where there is trust -- it`s based on trust. But we are continuing to coordinate to move American citizens, to move Afghan partners and our allies out. And the fact that we have evacuated 7,000 people in the last 12 or 13 hours now is evidence of that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. So, two Republican senators so far have called on the president to resign over the attacks in Afghanistan today. What`s the White House`s response to that?

PSAKI: I would say, first, this is a day where U.S. service members -- 12 of them -- lost their lives at the hands of terrorists. It`s not a day for politics, and we would expect that any American, whether they`re elected or not, would stand with us in our commitment to going after and fighting and killing those terrorists wherever they live, and to honoring the memory of service members. And that`s what this day is for.


PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Yesterday, when I was leaving the White House, I spoke to a group of men at the White House gate who said that they were service members here in America, in our armed forces -- various branches. They had their photos on posters. And they`re seeking help for their families.

We`ve prioritized which groups we are helping, namely those who have helped us in the mission. But they are not -- they`re currently in the military, but they are not people who fit the description or the criteria for getting assistance. However, in our interview, they told me that they are getting assistance. Can you speak to this prioritization and who really is eligible to get assistance going forward, considering what happened today?

I know you`ve already spoken to it, but can you drill down a little bit to make sure people know who we are allowing into the country at this point?


PSAKI: I`m not sure what I -- that I totally understand your question, but let me do my best.

American citizens, which I assume these U.S. service members are...

QUESTION: They`re not -- they serve here in our country, but they`re from Afghanistan and they have family members there. So, they said they went to the State Department, and the State Department was helping them get their family members in. And they wanted to get attention so that other people in their situation could get their family members in. And they didn`t seem to fit the criteria. So I`m just asking you to clarify.

PSAKI: Are you concerned that we`re letting -- we`re helping the family members of people who have fought by our side for 20 years -- helping them come to the country once they`ve been through a thorough vetting process? Or what`s the root of your question?

QUESTION: No. The root of my question is consistent information for those who need help. So, I`ve been doing some reporting around people getting correct information about the process. So, I want to be able to say in my reporting, If you meet these qualifications, you are the folks who can come into the country. And I think a lot of people want to know that information. Does that make sense?

PSAKI: I think we`ve been very clear, Mona, that U.S. citizens, their family members -- some of those are dual nationals -- many of them who are left are dual nationals; some of them may have lived their whole lives in Afghanistan.

Immediate family members -- that means spouses and children; it also means SIV applicants and others who might be eligible for a range of the programs we have; and vulnerable populations.

That does have a broad range of meanings because there are a lot of people who are vulnerable in Afghanistan, and we`re going to work to get as many of those people out as we can. There`s a range of programs. If individuals have questions, information is available on the State Department Web site and the Department of Defense Web site.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Over 65 Democrats in Congress are calling on Biden to raise the refugee cap to at least 200,000...

PSAKI: I think I just answered this question.

QUESTION: Did you? Oh. I have another one. Sorry.


QUESTION: And then, the president had cited intelligence data earlier in his speech that ISIS-K had been planning attacks on U.S. personnel for quite some time and that was, in part, why he was trying to get everyone evacuated by August 31. But if that was the case, then why did the administration make the decision in late July to not do more rapid early evacuations on military aircraft?

PSAKI: Well, first, I would say that we have, over the course of the last 11 days, evacuated more than 100,000 people, and that is a credit to the U.S. military, and the men and women who are serving, who have been able to conduct and oversee this operation, and done it at great risk.

And that was an operation that began, again, just two weeks ago. Before that time, we`d also evacuated a number of people. I can`t speak to what the difference of the ISIS threat would have been, but obviously that has been increasing over time, which we have spoken quite publicly about.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Despite the lack of true trust that you and the president and everyone is highlighting in this relationship with the Taliban, which is understandable -- having said that, there`s been a remarkable level of cooperation; I mean, something no one would ever possibly have imagined, whatever even a month ago. And as the president was saying, it`s actually ongoing now, despite the incident; they`re kind of helping -- trying to deal with this.

Given that, after the 31st, is it actually conceivable that there could be some kind of longer-term relationship on the mutual interests that the president talks about -- security, humanitarian aid? And whether you call it a recognition or not, you`re basically working alongside Taliban authorities in Afghanistan long-term.

PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, that we will continue to work to get people out of Afghanistan, even after the 31st. And we will need to coordinate with the Taliban in order to do that.

I`m not going to label that a partnership or anything other than continued coordination. And we, again, believe we have a great deal of leverage in order to implement that commitment.

QUESTION: So, I`m sorry, but on other issues -- beyond the evacuation, let`s say that gets done. You know, hopefully it is done.

But there`s going to be also (OFF-MIKE). There`s going to be the security, the terrorism, the humanitarian -- from their point of view, the humanitarian aid.

Could you see this, kind of, mutual interests agenda continuing with them?

PSAKI: I don`t want to get ahead of where we are. Obviously, we are committed to continuing to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. There are a range of international partners who are committed to doing the same thing. The United Nations also will continue to have a presence on the ground, which will be a mechanism for delivering a great deal of that assistance.

And I would just reiterate, again, we would need to have a continued coordination in order to continue to get people out and evacuate them, as we are going to plan to do after the 31st.

Go ahead. Oh, go ahead, Shelby.

QUESTION: Thanks. I just have two for you. This morning, Kirby tweeted that the evacuation operations in Kabul won`t be wrapping up in 36 hours and that they`ll be evacuating as many people as they can until the end of the mission. What does the administration define the end of the mission as? Is it the 31st, or is it once we evacuate everyone that the administration has promised to get out?


PSAKI: The end of this mission -- yes, the 31st. But our commitment to getting American citizens out, who may not be ready to depart, continues. There is no deadline on -- there`s no end of that dead -- end of that timeline, I should say, to getting our Afghan partners out.

And I think he put out that tweet -- John Kirby, who is the Pentagon spokesperson -- put out that tweet because there was a great deal of reporting that was inaccurate, that we were ending evacuation flights tomorrow, and that is not accurate.

QUESTION: And then just one more. The president promised earlier that they`ll continue to get any American who wishes to get out of Afghanistan out, even after the 31st. How is the administration going to ensure the safe evacuation for U.S. citizens without troop presence when, even with troop presence, we just saw this attack happen?

PSAKI: Well, again, over the last 11 days we`ve evacuated 104,000 people, including the vast majority of Americans who are in Afghanistan. But our commitment does not end, right? We are continuing to work to get every American citizen, who wants to leave, out before the 31st.

We will need to have -- we will need to continue to coordinate with the Taliban in order to get people to the airport and out from the airport. Those operational details and discussions are ongoing, and as we have more to report to all of you, we will provide that information.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Moments ago, you said that the commitment doesn`t end at the end of the month and that despite August 31, the commitment remains. During his remarks moments ago, the president said that we were going to try and get, quote, as many people out as we can. Is he trying to prepare the American public for a sort of harsh reality that some Americans might still be left on the ground there when we leave?

PSAKI: There are some Americans who may not have decided to leave by the 31st. That is possible. Many of these Americans who remain are dual citizens. They may have extended family members -- 20 family members, 30 family members, others who they want to bring with them and they`re not ready to make that decision yet.

Our commitment to them does not end. We will continue to work to get them out. But his objective and focus -- and laser focus, which he asked for many updates a day on, is getting every American, who wants to leave, out now in the next few days. That is what our U.S. military is working to deliver on.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen.


PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up to that: What are those Americans supposed to do on September 1?

PSAKI: We have been reaching out -- in touch with every single American who has reached out to us and we have contact for via phone, e-mail, text, WhatsApp. That will continue. That will continue. But our focus right now is on getting every single American, who wants to leave, out in advance of the 31st.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, given that you had intelligence about the attack even, as I understand it, down to the very gate but weren`t able to stop it, what hope do you have of thwarting further attacks that the president told us just now -- and I quote -- were inevitable? And if not, isn`t the decision to stay potentially the wrong one? -- is my first question. And I got a quick follow-up.

PSAKI: Sure. Well, I would say, first, that General McKenzie spoke to this earlier today -- or a version of this question, which is a very good question. And what he conveyed clearly is that they are commitment -- committed -- our U.S. military is committed to continuing the mission, despite the fact that there are daily risks and despite the fact that there are ongoing threats.

That speaks to their courage. That speaks to their commitment and their service to this country. Obviously, anything they need -- anything that the national security team needs or military commanders on the ground need to thwart, to prevent these attacks, to go after terrorists, they will be granted. But I`m not going to get into more details than that.

And just secondly, you mentioned earlier, I think in an answer to Kaitlan, that there were other operations or methods of getting Americans to the airport, particularly given what`s happened today. What will you do for the thousands or tens of thousands of Afghans with and without visa papers who were finding it impossible to get to the airport prior to the attacks today and who will now be, presumably, even more full of fear and confusion as to how they can possibly get out? What do you say to them?

PSAKI: We are also in touch with many, many of them. And we are giving them clear instructions on where to meet, when to come to the airport, where -- how they can get out and evacuated from the country. We are also mindful in providing security threats when warranted, as we did last night, to prevent a large gathering that would be a greater attract -- attraction to terrorist threats.

But we are -- for individuals who are eligible for our programs, whether they are SIV programs, P1/P2 programs, other vulnerable Afghans, we are continuing to work to get as many out as we can, and we will continue to work with our partners and allies to continue to get them out.


Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: It seems like, right now, Americans and Afghan allies still in Afghanistan are facing two choices: either they stay where they are and risk being hunted down by the Taliban, or they try to get to the airport and risk being blown up by ISIS. How does this evacuation mission continue without evacuees risking their lives?

PSAKI: We are in direct contact with every American citizen we have contact information for -- e-mail, phone, text, WhatsApp -- and we are working with each of them and their families on an individual basis on how to get them evacuated to the airport and evacuated. That`s the process. I`m not going to get into more details about how that works because it`s not in their interest, it`s not in the security interest of our troops or the individuals we`re trying to work to get evacuated.

Go ahead, all the way in the back. Pink. Pink shirt, yeah.

QUESTION: Has Joe Biden spoken with any foreign leader after the attacks in Kabul?

PSAKI: This -- today? I will have to check on that for you. That`s a -- that`s a great question. I`m not sure he has today. But I will check on that for you. And as you all know, he`s going to be meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen.

PSAKI: OK. Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Is the president having Secretary Austin focus on a stand-down to address extremism in the military or Mark Milley saying that the greatest threat...

MELBER: We have been listening to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki as she was addressing reporters there.

This was the briefing on that pair of bombings in Afghanistan which killed 12 Americans.

Our special coverage continues. We carried the president`s remarks. This was a more detailed briefing from the White House press secretary.

And rejoining our coverage is Katty Kay and Mark Jacobson.

Katty, you saw a very determined Jen Psaki. Reporters know her style. I think viewers have come to know it. Obviously, it`s a somber day.

I`m curious what stood out to you in the message, as she continued, at much greater length, of course, than the president`s formal address, on these horrific bombings?

KAY: I mean, I think it`s this relationship with the Taliban at the moment, in the short term, up until the deadline of the 31st of August, and then what happens to the relationship afterwards?

And I think, in a way, that`s the most interesting kind of analysis in terms of, how do they use the Taliban without, as she said, trusting them to try to get people out now? And then what kind of leverage do they have after August 31, once American forces have withdrawn, to carry on trying to be able to get American citizens and American partners out?

I mean, she said at one point that they believe they really have a lot of leverage over the Taliban. She pointed to the Taliban`s desire for kind of American aid commitments, the economic needs that the Taliban has. Some 80 percent of the Afghan budget comes from foreign aid. Obviously, the economy is frozen at the moment, since the Taliban took over the country, with organizations like the World Bank saying they`re not going to put money into the country at the moment.

So the Taliban really needs that money. And she pointed to the economic aspect of this. But I think the interesting and complicated thing, I mean, we are in this extraordinary position where the U.S. is kind of reliant on the Taliban for cooperation.

But the White House is also very keen to say, look, we`re not trusting them, they`re not friends, but we need their cooperation to try and get people out.


And, Mark, on that point, I mean, the president, again, has one of the toughest days for the United States here in this war in the long run, because, according to the tallies, if viewers haven`t heard this, it`s one of the deadliest days in Afghanistan, period, obviously one of the worst days that the United States has experienced under this young presidency.

But the president also tried today to really emphasize that that is, in his view, ultimately part of the danger of what he insists is the right policy, if anything, long overdue, and not something that would change the policy.

On that, the public until these casualties was clearly there, because there was new polling since the disturbing images of the initial withdrawal. Whether that`s subject to change, we will follow the evidence. We will follow, of course, the debate throughout the country.

But let`s listen a little bit for your reaction to that point that the president made on the mission continuing.


BIDEN: We can and we must complete this mission, and we will.

We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation.



JACOBSON: I will make three points on the evacuation.

First, the number we have heard from the White House, 100,000, that`s really misleading. There may be about 10,000, probably a little less, 10,000 Americans, who come out in the airlift, and several thousand Afghans.

What the rest of those numbers are, every other country in the world that has a citizen there, Indians, Pakistanis, Saudi, UAE. It`s not Americans.

The airlift is not moving along as quickly as they want it. So, again, as I keep saying, that means you have to do something to dramatically change it.



MELBER: Just to be clear on the data, you`re arguing that the way that they`re pointing to what they call that progress, you argue that that`s overinclusive.

You`re not suggesting that the overall number itself is off?


What they`re doing is saying, well, since the Department of Defense provides security at the airport, we can take credit for all those people who have come out. All right, so, yes, it`s accurate, but it`s mis -- it`s accurate technically, but it`s very misleading.

I think what this is setting up -- again, we have talked about this dilemma. How do you get everybody out if you can`t change the flow of Afghans who are coming in? Maybe you move all the screening somewhere else.

Just get them on a plane. I have just been texting in the break here with a gentleman who`s high value. He and his family have been on Kabul airfield for a day-and-a-half, and they`re trying to figure out his immigration status. He`s an SIV. He`s put it his SIV paperwork. Get him out of there and figure it out later.

The other point I`d make is, if we -- if the president sticks with this deadline...

MELBER: Well, just you`re running so fast, I want to make sure we`re digesting each point.

That point you`re making, which is the intersection of the emergency physical security on the ground and some level of homeland security, visa screening, et cetera, your point is that you could move that, while protecting the U.S. homeland, by having that process and that checkpoint basically occur somewhere other than Kabul.

Do you view that as a problem with the original military planning or as something that was a Biden administration policy choice?

JACOBSON: No, this is interagency planning.

The military will execute. The military is told what the requirements are, and they will set it up. So this is the interagency. I think this is why a lot of people are going after the national security adviser.

Now, one place they could fix, fix this is by working with the U.N. and the secretary-general to start setting up with the Taliban a humanitarian corridor. And I hear from some people that the United Nations has been quietly negotiating with the Taliban to get this set up.

That`s going to be another way for people to get out even after the United States leaves.

MELBER: Yes. Our two experts are going to stay with us.

But we`re bringing into the conversation someone who can shed light on another piece of this we haven`t gotten into as in-depth this hour.

That`s Evan Kohlmann. He`s a terror expert. He`s also an MSNBC terrorism analyst, and also tracks a lot of this information, including throughout the year, when it may not always make the headlines of the nightly news.

And so, first, I know our team has been speaking with you. Just walk us through for viewers what people should understand about this ISIS subgroup?


I think a lot of people have been hearing this ISIS-K stuff and they have been thinking it`s a different group than ISIS. There is only one ISIS.

ISIS-K is a name that we have come up with to refer to ISIS-affiliated fighters in Afghanistan, in Pakistan. The group itself that claimed responsibility today was issued by issued by ISIS` main media unit, Amaq News Agency.

ISIS fighters in Afghanistan don`t have any way of releasing their own -- their own propaganda, their own messaging. They don`t have the freedom to issue their own opinions. Everything that they issue, everything that they say is issued through the main ISIS central media unit and main ISIS spokesman.

So, there isn`t as much independence here as I think some people think. This is ISIS. This is the Islamic State that did this, right? And I think it kind of brings us back to something which is a bit sad, which is that this group, ISIS Khorasan, ISIS-affiliated fighters in Afghanistan, they were basically dead.

Two years ago, they were dead. There was no attacks that were being committed by them. They were gone. All of a sudden, in the past year-and-a- half, two years, out of nowhere, they have come back and made a tremendous resurgence.

And, again, you were right. Not everyone has been paying attention. But just in the past couple of months, there have been some devastating bombings in Afghanistan targeting buses of civilians. And this wasn`t the Taliban. This was ISIS. They were deliberately murdering Shiites.

They`re looking to create chaos. That`s what they believe in.

MELBER: So, when you talk about that being their objective, what does that mean for the remainder of this emergency mission?

When we just heard the president say they`re going to try to get out by this deadline, what is the -- what is your understanding, based on the information you have, of the threat assessment of this group going forward?

KOHLMANN: Well, look, they`re not battlefield fighters. They`re assassins. They`re saboteurs. They`re suicide bombers. That`s what they do. That`s their modus operandi.

In Afghanistan, they don`t carry out battlefield victories. So, if you`re asking, is there a possibility these folks are going to carry out more suicide bombings, more attacks just like this, they will do whatever they can to disrupt this...


KOHLMANN: ... to make the U.S. look bad, to make the Taliban look bad. They will do whatever they need to do. It`s very likely that they will try to carry out more attacks, yes.

MELBER: And, Mark, this is one of those evenings that matters to so many Americans, including, of course, the families of what President Biden dubbed the heroes who lost their lives in this attack.

We`re looking now, 6:54 p.m. in Washington, at the flag of the United States there flying now lowered to half-mast over the White House.


Given your service and your work on these issues, I`m curious if you want to tell us what this means. We have talked a lot about the news and the policy. I wonder if we could reflect for a moment with you on what this means to the military community and other Americans around the country who are grieving today.

JACOBSON: It hurts. It hurts deeply.

And I think the president`s remarks really reflected how much he`s hurting personally as well.

But, also, I think there`s a point to be made that those who volunteer for service, whether they`re in the U.S. military -- or don`t forget there have been Foreign Service officers and USAID officials who`ve been killed as well over in Afghanistan.

They do this because it`s a calling, because they want to help the Afghan people. That is why you`re seeing the reaction of so many thousands of veterans who are saying, well, wait, hold on here. If you`re going to pull out, got it, but you have to do it right and orderly. And don`t leave the people who sacrificed for us, who protected us, who saved our lives. You can`t leave them behind.

And I think that says something about the dedication and the understanding of those who served in uniform and those who are front-line civilians.

MELBER: And, Evan, a similar question to you and, again, the context in a time when America, of course, has been going through so many problems, and we have had more death from the pandemic than for many wars combined.

And yet, this is, again, why we talk about war tolls, as we look at the flags half-mast now for the first time tonight, on one of -- what is now one of the deadliest days in this 20-year war for American casualties, Evan,

KOHLMANN: Look, every action has a consequence. There are some people that thought that we could just withdraw from Afghanistan and pick up and everything would be totally fine, and other people would have to pick up the pieces.

This is a reminder that, no matter what decisions we make, there are consequences. There are going to be issues with refugee flows in Europe. There are going to be issues with terrorism. Nothing comes without consequences.

Every decision we make has consequences. So, simply withdrawing our troops, without stabilizing the Afghan government, this was going to happen. This was inevitable. And it`s very sad to see this, but it was inevitable.

MELBER: And, Katty, the same question to you.

And the president has spoken so much about losing his son. It`s well-known to the public. It`s something that, of course, is a rare part of his biography that obviously transcends even the polarized environment we`re in.

It was striking to me that, of course, he was in that role again, as I mentioned, because, again, it`s been a time of many deaths in America. He`s he`s invoked that loss in the context of grieving families through the COVID crisis. And here he was doing it today through the brave men and women who serve in the military.

KAY: Yes. He`s the commander in chief, and he`s the griever in chief for this country as well. And he has that background that does give him that empathy, sadly. And he mentioned his own son in that context today.

This is a really, really hard day for American service members. This has been a very hard week. And I think Mark is exactly right that the calling that you are seeing amongst thousands of American veterans to do right by the people who helped them in Afghanistan has been really striking over the last week or two.

This is a mission that has ended, and it has not ended in success for the United States or for the Western allies, but there will be some sense of moral dignity for American service members if they know that everything is being done to get out those people who helped them.


And, as several of our experts, including military experts, have said tonight, it is part of what they do. They take these risks going in. They take these risks going out until the job is done.

And that was one thing the president emphasized in those somber remarks on a very tough time.

I want to thank Katty Kay, Mark Jacobson, and Evan Kohlmann.

I want to thank you for spending the time with us here on THE BEAT.

As mentioned, we have been covering what was a very deadly day in Afghanistan, these two blasts in Kabul taking the lives of 12 U.S. service members, injuring 15 more, according to latest counts we have, and injuring essentially scores of other Afghans. That number has been pinned somewhere north of 50. But, as we emphasized in our reporting, the total Afghan death count was not widely available.

It`s a story we will continue to cover here on MSNBC.

That does it for the THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.

Our special coverage continues right now with "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" up next.

Good evening, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening.

And this has been a really tough news day. So, thank you very much. We appreciate all of your coverage. And we`re going to try to keep it going and make some sense of all that`s going on.

Thank you.

All right, good evening, everyone.

We begin "THE REIDOUT" tonight with the two deadly explosions near the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. The Pentagon confirmed that 12 U.S. service members were killed and 15 were wounded.

These are the first U.S. casualties since the evacuations from Afghanistan began in July.