Biden Admin Could Have Prevented Kabul Airport Bombing: Congressional Investigator

Biden Admin Could Have Prevented Kabul Airport Bombing: Congressional Investigator
U.S. Marines stand guard at an Evacuee Control Checkpoint at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 20, 2021. (Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps/Handout via Reuters)

Nearly two years ago, an ISIS suicide bomber detonated an explosive outside the Abbey Gate at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, wounding dozens and killing dozens more, including 13 U.S. service members. Now, a congressional investigator working for the Republican House majority believes key actions taken by President Joe Biden’s administration set in motion the events that led to this deadly attack.

“The Biden administration doesn’t really want to talk about this very much, and I think that the reason why is that the Abbey Gate attack likely did not have to happen and there’s a few reasons why,” former investigative reporter Jerry Dunleavy explained in an interview with NTD News’ “Capitol Report.”

Mr. Dunleavy, who worked as a reporter with the Washington Examiner until June, now serves as an investigator for the Republican majority on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He detailed the mistakes he believes led to the Abbey Gate attack in “Kabul: The Untold Story of Biden’s Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End,” a new book he co-authored with former U.S. Army captain and author James Hasson.

ISIS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the ISIS terrorist group, has claimed responsibility for the Abbey Gate suicide bombing and identified Abdul Rahman al-Logari as the assailant who detonated the explosives that killed 11 U.S. Marines, one U.S. Navy corpsman, and one U.S. Army soldier.

As part of his research on his forthcoming book, Mr. Dunleavy determined that this ISIS-K member, al-Logari, had been held at the Parwan Detention Facility, a prison located at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. U.S. forces abandoned the air base in July 2021, and al-Logari was likely freed when Taliban forces seized control of the base on Aug. 15, 2021.

“If we’d held Bagram, that ISIS-K terrorist who killed those 13 Americans on August 26, he would have been behind bars rather than being freed by the Taliban,” Mr. Dunleavy stated.

Further emphasizing the strategic importance of the Bagram airbase, Mr. Dunleavy went on to say that President Biden and those advising him through the U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan had a responsibility to organize the effort so that the United States could evacuate its people and get Afghan allies out of the country and “keep the Afghan military on the field fighting.” The U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed as Taliban forces seized the capitol of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021.

“Obviously, that closure of Bagram was a terrible decision and probably the death knell of the Afghan Republic,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

US Troops Not Permitted to Target ISIS

Even after the Bagram base fell, Mr. Dunleavy believes there were chances to stop ISIS-K before the Abbey Gate attack, but that the Biden administration was too reliant on maintaining a delicate relationship with the Taliban while evacuation efforts continued. After the Taliban seized Kabul, U.S. forces managed a ceasefire with the Taliban, with neither side directly attacking the other while U.S. evacuation efforts continued.

Mr. Dunleavy said U.S. intelligence officers believed ISIS-K was staging at a hotel near the Kabul airport as they prepared to carry out their attack. He said U.S. military leaders asked the Taliban to raid the hotel but that the Taliban never did. In another instance, a U.S. military team sought to target another ISIS-K location but had that request denied amid fears that it would compromise the uneasy peace with the Taliban.

“And so at the end of the day, all of President Biden’s decisions led the U.S. military to have to be conducting a mass evacuation in a tiny airport, where we’re relying on our enemies, the Taliban, to provide security and obviously that was a dangerous decision, and ultimately, a deadly one,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

In February of last year, the U.S. Department of Defense concluded an investigation of the Abbey Gate attack, assessing there was nothing the troops on the ground could have done differently to prevent the attack.

“Based on our investigation at the tactical level, this was not preventable and the leaders on the ground followed the proper measures and any time there was an imminent threat warning they followed the proper procedures: they lowered their profile, they sought cover, and at times, they even ceased operations at the gate,” Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, the military official who led the probe, told reporters on Feb. 4, 2022.

This spring, Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified that he and other Marines were aware of intelligence indicating an ISIS attack was “imminent” and even had a description of the likely suspect who would attempt the attack. Mr. Vargas-Andrews, who worked as a sniper at the time, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he believed he saw someone matching the suspect’s description and had asked permission to shoot the suspect but was never given a clear answer before the suspect disappeared back into the crowd. Mr. Vargas Andrews lost an arm and a leg as a result of the blast.

“You see this problem with the rules of engagement at the Kabul airport and, unfortunately, that likely suicide bomber then disappeared into the crowd,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “And that suicide attack—that killed 13 Americans, that wounded dozens of other Americans, including grievously wounding Tyler himself—you know, that attack occurred just a couple hours later.”

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin this month, requesting that the military make Mr. Vargas-Andrews’ commanding officer available to share his testimony of the Kabul airport attack.

NTD News reached out to the Pentagon for comment but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.

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