In the days before a suicide bomber killed 13 service personnel at Kabul airport in 2021, U.S. military commanders were aware of the threat and twice
In the days before a suicide bomber killed 13 service personnel at Kabul airport in 2021, U.S. military commanders were aware of the threat and twice missed chances to take out the deadly terrorist network behind the plot, according to a new book.
And at around the same time, superior officers vetoed a plan for a drone strike elsewhere because of the ‘negative response’ of the Taliban to such a raid.
Taken together, the shocking conclusion is that the bloodiest moment in President Joe Biden‘s presidency might have been avoided if American troops had not been reliant on their enemy for protection in the final days of the evacuation.
A total of 183 people were killed in the blast, including the bomber.
The details are set out in ‘Kabul: The Untold Story of Biden’s Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End,’ which is published Tuesday by Center Street.
Some 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide attack at the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport in 2021. A new book reveals the U.S. had two opportunities to disrupt the terror group behind the attack, but were thwarted by the need to work with the Taliban in the final chaotic days of the withdrawal from Afghanistan
The blast was outside The Baron Hotel, at the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport. Westerners were staying in the hotel before their evacuation flights
Horrifying footage from Kabul airport shows dozens of Afghans lying in blood after two ISIS suicide bombers attacked crowds who were hoping to flee the Taliban
A man injured in the Kabul terrorists attacks on Thursday arrives at hospital to be treated. Among those killed in the two bomb attacks were 13 US troops, including 11 US Marines and one Navy medic
Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021
In this frame grab from video, people attend to a wounded man near the site of a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021
Slides shown during a Pentagon briefing show how the US dead and wounded were close to the canal where the bomber detonated his explosives, and had clustered together to search potential evacuees. The worst hit were standing on a wall overlooking the canal
It describes how the effort to bring home American troops from a 20-year-war collapsed into confusion, as Taliban gunmen raced through the country and seized Kabul in a matter of weeks.
Tens of thousands of people descended on Hamid Karzai International Airport trying to flee the country’s brutal new rulers.
With the Taliban in control of Kabul, U.S. forces made a deal with their foe of two decades, relying on their enemy to help keep the airport safe.
It ended in bloodshed. A suicide bomber with the Islamic State’s local affiliate detonated his deadly payload on August 28 at the airport’s Abbey Gate, where U.S. Marines were stationed to handle the crush of people.
‘Our findings — tucked away in the Pentagon’s own documents and in the own words of military officers personally involved in the Afghanistan evacuation — provide more damning evidence about the dangerous stupidity of relying upon terrorists like the Taliban to provide security at Kabul airport,’ said Jerry Dunleavy, one of the book authors and an investigator helping lead the Afghanistan withdrawal investigation for the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
He and co-author James Hasson, a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan, pieced together the story with interviews and information that in some cases was hiding in plain sight.
For example, a key insight comes from the official Central Command report into the bombing. It was published earlier this year after a freedom of information request.
It includes an interview transcript describing how intelligence channels were humming with warnings two days before the attack
An officer, whose name is redacted, describes a meeting of ambassadors and military attachés in Kabul.
‘Kabul: The Untold Story of Biden’s Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End’ by Jerry Dunleavy and James Hasson is published Tuesday by Center Street.
The Americans killed in the blast were: (left to right, starting with top row) Cpl. Daegan W. Page – Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo – Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover – Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza – Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum – Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui – Cpl. Hunter Lopez – Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz – Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss – Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez – Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak – Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola – Sgt. Nicole L. Gee
‘I shared intelligence about the pending attack, so everyone was aware, and knew it was happening,’ said the officer. ‘The intelligence community didn’t know the gate, but assessed it would be Abbey Gate due to the number of people there.’
The gate was initially due to close around then but the British government and others lobbied to keep it open as they sought to rescue their last remaining citizens.
The threat of an attack was so high, report Dunleavy and Hassan, that Marines there were ordered on to one knee all night to reduce their exposure to an explosion. A day later medical units were told to be on alert for a mass casualty event.
Another officer described how there were was daily coordination with the Taliban on security, and nightly intelligence meetings between U.S. units to share latest information.
‘Units at H.K.I.A (Hamid Karzai International Airport) used Chat Surfer to disseminate information on threats,’ he said.
‘Intelligence officers knew that ISIS-K. was staging in a hotel 2-3 kilometers west of H.K.I.A., and D2 asked the Taliban to conduct an assault on the hotel, but they never did.’
The identity of D2 is revealed in other documents as General Chris Donahue.
The book uses information obtained through freedom of information requests to piece together the events leading up to the attack. In one interview, an officer says the Taliban never acted on a request that the raid a hotel being used as a staging post by ISIS-K terrorists
Taliban forces took control of Kabul on August 15, 2021, triggering a haphazard evacuation of foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans. And it meant US forces had to rely on Taliban help
Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the US Army 82nd Airborne Division, pictured boarding a C-17 cargo plane at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 30, 2021
He was commander of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division during the evacuation and became famous as the last American service member to leave Afghanistan when he boarded a C-17 transport plane – a moment immortalized in a green-tinged photograph taken with a night-vision lens.
The location of the hotel was close to where the U.S. launched a botched drone strike in the aftermath of the suicide attack. It killed 10 civilians including seven children.
The investigation into the botched strike reveals the other missed opportunity in the build-up to the airport attack.
The report includes the sworn statement of an officer who had ‘target engagement authority’ to conduct strikes in defense of American forces.
They described how nine days before the attack, intelligence indicated that I.S.I.S.-K planned to attack international forces and the Taliban in order to disrupt the ‘establishment of stability and governance.’
‘As a result of the threat reporting, we conducted a targeting effort focused on ISIS K threats leading into Kabul,’ the officer continued.
The strike unit was ‘authorized to look at ISIS-K targets’ but had to submit detailed proposals for permission to engage.’
The evacuation was marked by chaotic scenes as Afghans flooded the airport in a desperate effort to escape the country’s brutal new rulers during August 2021
There were also heroic images of Marines and soldiers helping people to safety
But it was rejected. Rear Adm. Peter Vasly, commander U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Forward and Donahue had ‘both determined conducting a strike was infeasible due to the negative response.’
Dunleavy said: ‘Combined with the courageous testimony from Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, these findings show the Abbey Gate attack was not inevitable — and likely was preventable if our leaders had done more to protect the brave troops under their command.
‘The Gold Star families deserve the truth from the Biden administration.’
In a hearing earlier this year, Vargas-Andrews, described how he was stationed in a snipe tower on the day of the blast.
He said he identified a person in the throng that matching the description of a suspected suicide bomber just hours before the attack. He said his superiors failed to act on his warning.
The result was one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces in the last decade of the war. At least 160 Afghans also died.
Hasson said three different officers — across two separate investigations — stated that the military and the intelligence community were tracking ISIS-K members likely linked to the Abbey Gate bombing, and that they were nearly certain that an attack was imminent, but no offensive measures were taken.
‘Leaders in D.C. made one unforced error after another throughout the withdrawal, and each mistake compounded the risk to the men and women on the ground.
‘Ultimately, it led to U.S. commanders tailoring decisions to the desires of Taliban leaders who had them surrounded, and to the loss of thirteen brave Americans.’