As Isis claimed responsibility for the attack, involving two explosions at the airport where crowds were thronging to try and leave the country, the US military said it would not be deterred by the assault.
“We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue and we're doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks,” General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters in a briefing, saying the threat from Islamic State existed alongside “other active threat streams”.
He said its evacuation mission would proceed. “I think we can continue to conduct our mission, even while we are receiving attacks like this,“ he said.
The fatalities represent one of the deadliest single days for the US military in its two-decade engagement in the so-called war on terror.
Indeed, it is believed the deaths are the highest number since August 6 2011, when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter ferrying Navy SEALs was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade over eastern Afghanistan.
A total of 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs, were killed in the crash.
The Department of Defence website shows that a total of 2,372 active duty US soldiers have lost their lives since 2001, when the US and allies including the UK invaded Afghanistan in a mission called Operation Enduring Freedom. At least 457 British troops have been killed.
Countless thousands of Afghan troops and civilians have been killed by the fighting and many more driven from their homes.
ABC News reported that the toll from Wednesday’s attack, an incident about which the US and UK had issued a warning, and urged people to keep away from the airport, was the bloodiest since the downing of the chopper a decade earlier that killed 30 Americans.
In June 2005, 19 Special Operations troops were killed during Operation Red Wings, when three service members were killed in an ambush and 16 others died when their helicopter went down in an effort to help fight off the ambush.
Meanwhile, on July 13 2008, a total of nine Americans and 27 others were wounded in an attack on an American observation post that became known as the Battle of Wanat.
Emergency, an Italian charity that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had received at least 60 patients wounded in the airport attack, in addition to 10 who were dead when they arrived.
“Surgeons will be working into the night,” said Marco Puntin, the charity’s manager in Afghanistan.
The wounded overflowed from the triage zone into the physiotherapy area and more beds were being added, he said.
The Pentagon later confirmed the August 6 2011 was the deadliest incident in Afghanistan to date.
A spokesperson said the most recent fatality was in Feb 2020, when two soldiers were killed in combat in Nangarhar Province.
Additional reporting by agencies