Dan Magoon’s cellphone was buzzing Thursday with messages from fellow veterans after the attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that killed a number of US service members and Afghans attempting to flee the Taliban takeover of their country.
The sentiment was consistent.
“Absolute fury,” he said. “It shows that this plan and this exit has been a complete and utter failure.”
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was reportedly carried out by two suicide bombers and a gunman at the airport entrance used by Afghan civilians and foreign nationals. Estimates of the human toll vary widely, but as of Thursday evening, it appeared that among the dozens of dead were at least 13 US service members, with scores more people injured, according to reports, but officials warned the numbers could climb.
News of the attacks left local veterans angry and gravely concerned for the safety of the remaining military members stationed at the airport, where forces have been working for weeks to withdraw US military and Afghan allies by the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden.
The attack has also stirred further trauma for Afghan people living in the Boston area as they worry for friends and family members who are attempting to flee Afghanistan.
Makiz Nasirahmad, 27, of Quincy, said she had relatives and friends who were heading to the airport on Thursday but were not injured. She said the attack is a clear indication that the US government should extend its deadline for withdrawal.
“This attack is a testimony that the Taliban are not able to deliver on their promise of preventing terrorist organizations from using Afghanistan as a base for launching attacks against the US and the West,” Nasirahmad said. “It is very important we do not abandon Afghanistan and make sure that Afghan people are supported and there are no terrorist organizations in control of the government.”
Biden later Thursday vowed to complete the evacuation of US citizens and others from Afghanistan. During his remarks, Biden addressed the extremists behind the attacks and said, “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Representative Jake Auchincloss, a Democrat from Newton and Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, urged Biden to continue with the evacuation.
“The terrorist attack on the Kabul airport is an atrocity and the deaths of more U.S. service-members a tragedy,” Auchincloss wrote in a tweet Thursday. “It is further proof that the Biden administration must complete evacuations, quickly, and sustain a robust counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan, indefinitely.”
Marc Silvestri, an Army veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan and is now director of veteran services in Revere, said he was in favor of the withdrawal from the outset.
But as the evacuation unfolded and security of the airport has evidently deteriorated, Silvestri said he is worried about further attacks.
“The way we ended up doing it, we’re putting our soldiers and Marines in a very tough position,” he said, recounting how on Wednesday he was talking to another friend and remarked thatUS service members “might be in the most danger there in over 20 years. With 100,000 people flooding toward the airport and not too many soldiers on the ground, it really is putting them in some major danger.”
Magoon, who lives in Dorchester and served in the Army on deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, echoed Silvestri’s assessment of the danger on the ground.
“Everyday Americans need to support the men and women that are doing the job, the ones that were injured and more importantly these families that just made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “They’re out there doing their job 10 feet away from the enemy.”
Representative Seth Moulton of Salem made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Tuesday with Representative Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican. Both congressmen are veterans and said they took the trip to personally observe the conditions surrounding the withdrawal and to provide oversight.
When asked for comment on Thursday’s attack, a spokesman for Moulton said the congressman’s office was “trying to learn more” before responding.
In an appearance on CNN Thursday night, Moulton said it is inevitable that thousands will be left behind when US forces exit the country and argued that a “productive relationship” with the Taliban is necessary for the further evacuation of US allies.
“What I heard from the commanders on the ground is that even if we delay until September 11th, which was the original agreement, we’re not going to get everybody out in time,” Moulton said. “So we have to have a productive relationship with the Taliban going forward, as bizarre as that sounds … if we have any chance of getting the thousands we leave behind … out in the future.”
“The only way we can do that is if we abide by the agreement that’s been negotiated at this point, which is to leave on August 31st,” he continued. “It’s heartbreaking, but that’s the position that we’ve been in, and that’s the position that people in Washington have put our troops in.”
Senator Edward Markey told reporters on Thursday that he was heartbroken for the families of those who died in the attack, but argued that the evacuation must push forward.
“It once again reinforces what President Biden is saying about the need for us to shut down that war and then, as expeditiously as possible, get out as many Afghans but every American as soon as possible, given these attacks,” he said.
Markey was asked whether the Biden administration has carried out the withdrawal in the wrong way.
“No matter when we left Afghanistan, we were going to have a very difficult time in removing all Americans and all of those Afghans who had worked with the United States government,” he said. “There was never a good time to leave, but it is time to leave.”
Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston issued a statement condemning the attacks and praising the courage of the service members who were killed.
“These brave U.S. service members were part of our effort to locate and evacuate fellow Americans and Afghan allies from impending harm,” Lynch said in a statement released on Twitter. “As Americans, we must keep faith with that mission to locate and safely evacuate every American citizen and loyal Afghan partner and leave no one behind.”
Whether US forces remain in Kabul beyond the Aug. 31 deadline is yet to be seen. Nasirahmad said a protest against the Taliban’s control of Afghanistan will be held Saturday on Boston Common at 4 p.m.
“We are asking the US government: Do not leave our people back there,” she said. “There are a lot of vulnerable people and US allies stranded there and they have no way of getting out. They need to extend the Aug. 31 deadline. Journalists, artists, women, and girls are in imminent danger.”
Gal Tziperman Lotan and Katherine McCabe of the Globe staff contributed to this report.