Politico has released bombshell information, obtained through a confidential source at the Pentagon, angering top military officials. The informant gave copies of detailed notes from three conference calls to Politico that showed military brass knew that a deadly attack was coming 24 hours before the suicide bomb at Kabul airport and was unable to stop it. Politico reported:
Speaking from a secure video conference room on the third floor of the Pentagon at 8 a.m. Wednesday — or 4:30 p.m. in Kabul — (Affirmative Action) Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instructed more than a dozen of the department’s top leaders around the world to make preparations for an imminent “mass casualty event,” according to classified detailed notes of the gathering shared with POLITICO.
During the meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.
Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.
Later that day, officials on another call decided to close the Abbey Gate by that afternoon. The closing plan was stalled when it was decided to leave the gate open to allow for British allies to continue evacuating their personnel through that gate. The delay was a deadly mistake. A suicide bomber entered Abbey Gate around 6 p.m. on Thursday and detonated a bomb that killed almost 200 people, including 13 U.S. military personnel.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had no statement to make about why the gate closure was delayed so long after the recommended deadline but did take time to criticize the press for digging into what happened leading up to the deadly attack.
“This story is based on the unlawful disclosure of classified information and internal deliberations of a sensitive nature,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. “As soon as we became aware of the material divulged to the reporter, we engaged Politico at the highest levels to prevent the publication of information that would put our troops and our operations at the airport at greater risk.
“We condemn the unlawful disclosure of classified information and oppose the publication of a story based on it while a dangerous operation is ongoing,” he continued.
An unnamed official spoke with Politico anonymously and said that the threats were serious, numerous, and impossible to avoid.
“U.S. forces at HKIA were aware of and accounting for a variety of threats, and exercising extreme vigilance,” the official said, using an acronym for the Kabul airport. “We took numerous actions to protect our forces and the evacuees, but no amount of effort will completely eliminate the threat of a determined enemy.”
Relationships with the Taliban as allies to help get the evacuation going faster haven’t panned out and Taliban militants have held up convoys of evacuees needlessly.
On the call, Vasely also described how NATO allies were having problems with the Taliban obstructing an earlier convoy, including Swedes, Danes, Dutch and other personnel.
Despite the tensions, the military continued relaying to the militants precise details about timelines for the withdrawal and the processes for getting American citizens through the gates, Vasely said, according to the call notes. They also allowed the Taliban to operate buses picking up people for evacuation, he added.
Military officials do not believe that the Taliban was colluding with ISIS in carrying out the attack, but a lack of trust between U.S. Forces and the Taliban contributed to communication problems.
“The ability of [the Taliban] to protect us and assist in pursuing [American citizens] and other groups — that willingness will decay, and we’re seeing leading edge indicators of that today,” McKenzie said on the Wednesday morning call. “We do need the agreement of the [Taliban] to pursue our principal objectives of getting out [American citizens] and other priority groups.”
McKenzie then offered a grave prediction about the success of the evacuation effort.
“We’re not going to get everyone out. We’ll get 90-95 percent,” McKenzie said. The call notes did not specify if he was talking about American citizens, or everyone who wanted to evacuate.
It is clear that the Biden administration and our military brass botched this withdrawal worse than anyone could have imagined, and the chaos that ensued led to the inability of our institutions to protect our military members, Americans overseas, our Afghani allies, and civilians on the ground in Kabul. Will anyone face the music for this hatchet job?