Top US general said he expected to evacuate 90-95 per cent of people wanting to leave Kabul, report says

The Kabul airport bombing killed more than 200 people, including 13 US service members.

Graig Graziosi
Monday 30 August 2021 17:53
US air strike destroys Afghanistan home and kills Isis-K affiliate

Top US military officials predicted that not everyone trying to escape Afghanistan would make it out.

"We're not going to get everyone out. We'll get 90 to 95 per cent," US Central Commanded chief General Frank McKenzie said during a meeting at the Pentagon the day before the attack.

The comments were reported by Politico, which obtained details of Defense Department calls in the day before ISIS-K terrorists killed 200 people, including 13 US service members, during a suicide attack outside the Kabul airport.

Politico claims it authenticated the details of the calls with a defense official.

According to the report, US intelligence determined that an attack was "highly likely" at least a week before the suicide bombing. Commanders in Afghanistan reportedly believed that the Abbey Gate, a Kabul airport gate where Americans were instructed to await evacuation - was deemed one of the "highest risk" targets at the airport.

Officials speaking with Politico confirmed that the US was aware of the potential for an attack and that appropriate responses were taken to mitigate potential violence.

“U.S. forces at [Hamid Karzai International Airport] were aware of and accounting for a variety of threats, and exercising extreme vigilance,” the official said. “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.”

According to the report, the generals discussed the waning willingness of the Taliban to provide security for the Americans during the evacuation and how it could poke holes in the US forces' security plans.

The Taliban were maintaining a security perimeter around the airport and instituted curfews to help maintain security while the US conducted its evacuation. Military leaders - including General McKenzie - believed the Taliban's willingness to assist the US was rapidly degrading. The generals noted that the Taliban had been turning away individuals seeking evacuation, despite its arrangement with the US not to do so.

“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,” General McKenzie said during a call the day before the suicide bombing. “We do need the agreement of the [Taliban] to pursue our principal objectives of getting out [American citizens] and other priority groups.”

That's when General McKenzie predicted that deaths were likely inevitable.

"History will judge us by those final images," Colin Kahl, the Pentagon's top policy official, warned.

The next day Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, decided he wanted to shut down the Abbey Gate, ideally by Thursday afternoon Kabul time.

That plan was derailed when British forces in the area - who were pulling out from their own evacuation operations at the nearby Baron Hotel - requested the Americans keep the gate open while they moved evacuees to the airport.

Before the British evacuees arrived, a terrorist outside the Abbey Gates detonated their bomb. The explosion ended 200 lives, mostly Afghan citizens.

After the attack, the remains of the US service members who died were repatriated to the US and handed over to their families. Joe Biden gave his generals the go-ahead to begin hunting down ISIS-K, who claimed responsibility for the bombing. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president made it clear the he did not want the people who carried out the attack to "live on the Earth anymore."

On Saturday, the US launched a drone strike that it claims killed two ISIS-K fighters and wounded another. The next day the US launched another airstrike, targeting an alleged ISIS-K suicide bomber who posed an "imminent" threat to the airport. The airstrike also reportedly killed nine civilians, six of which were children.

"We are not ISIS or Daesh and this was a family home -- where my brothers lived with their families," a relative of the dead civilians told a reporter working with CNN.

More than 70,000 Afghan civilians have been killed as a direct result of the war in Afghanistan, according to Brown University’s Cost of War project.

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