Could US Deaths Have Been Prevented in Kabul Attack? Kirby Bristles When Asked About Politico's Report

Posted: Aug 31, 2021 7:45 AM
Could US Deaths Have Been Prevented in Kabul Attack? Kirby Bristles When Asked About Politico's Report

Source: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Military officials were reportedly planning for a “mass casualty event” last week, shortly before the suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members and nearly 200 others.

According to Politico, senior military leaders had “significant” intelligence about an ISIS-K plot at the airport, with commanders noting that the Abbey Gate, which is where U.S. citizens gained entrance to the airport, was the “highest risk” point.

On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.

American troops were still processing entrants to the airport at Abbey Gate at roughly 6 p.m. in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest there, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members. […]

This account of the internal conversations among top Pentagon leaders in the hours leading up to Thursday’s attack at the airport is based on classified notes from three separate calls provided to POLITICO and interviews with two defense officials with direct knowledge of the calls. POLITICO is withholding information from the Pentagon readouts that could affect ongoing military operations at Kabul airport.

The transcript of these three conference calls, authenticated by a defense official, details conversations among the highest levels of Pentagon leadership. It makes clear that top officials were raising alarm bells and preparing for a potential attack that they had narrowed down to a handful of possible targets and a 24-48 hour time frame — projections that ended up being deadly accurate. (Politico)

A reporter asked Pentagon spokesman John Kirby about the report on Monday.

“The U.S. knew roughly where the attack would take place on Thursday and when it would take place. Why were there US troops at that gate at that time?” the reporter wondered.

Kirby said the military will investigate what happened privately and then took a shot at the report.

“I am absolutely not going to speak to a -- a -- a press story that was informed by the unlawful disclosure of classified information and sensitive deliberations here in the Pentagon.  Just not going to do it,” he said. 

The U.S. carried out airstrikes in retaliation for the attack, one in eastern Afghanistan against ISIS-K terrorists and another against a vehicle in Kabul, which prevented "an imminent ISIS-K threat," according to the military. That strike reportedly resulted in civilian casualties, however. 

“It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further,” a CENTCOM statement said. “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”