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U.S. Military Commands New Testimonies Regarding the 2021 Kabul Airport Attack Amid Ongoing Scrutiny

by Madison Thomas
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Kabul airport attack 2021

U.S. Central Command, under the authority of Gen. Erik Kurilla, has instructed that approximately 24 additional service members present at the Kabul airport during the 2021 suicide bombings be interviewed. This decision comes in the wake of sustained criticism suggesting that preventative measures could have been undertaken to avert the attack. The call for further interviews has been partially motivated by at least one wounded service member who stated that he was never questioned about the incident and believes that he could have thwarted the attackers.

These new testimonies aim to gather fresh perspectives or divergent information from military personnel who were not included in the initial investigation. While this does not signify a reopening of the administration’s earlier probe into the fatal bombing and subsequent troop withdrawal, it is expected that congressional critics, predominantly from the Republican Party, will seize upon this as evidence of mismanagement in both the investigation and the overall withdrawal strategy.

Family members of the casualties, along with those injured, have criticized the Pentagon for a lack of transparency regarding the attack, which resulted in the deaths of 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members. According to the findings of U.S. Central Command’s investigation concluded in November 2021, due to the escalating security crisis at Abbey Gate, the attack was deemed “unpreventable at the tactical level” without compromising the evacuation mission. Furthermore, the Pentagon has stated that the review did not yield any preemptive identification of potential assailants nor any calls for alterations to the existing rules of engagement governing U.S. military force.

The majority of the upcoming interviews will focus on service members who sustained severe injuries in the Abbey Gate bombing and were rapidly evacuated for medical treatment. A handful of interviews with service members who were not injured are also planned. Officials have not discounted the possibility of an increased number of interviews based on the initial discussions.

Michael Lawhorn, Central Command spokesperson, clarified that the objective of these interviews is to “ensure comprehensive due diligence with the newly available information, to listen intently to the pertinent individuals, and to scrutinize their accounts rigorously so that the facts are fully disclosed.”

Family members of those lost in the attack, as well as congressional members, were informed of this latest course of action last Friday. Lt. Gen. Patrick Frank, commander of Army Central Command, is overseeing the team led by Army Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, which is responsible for conducting these interviews. Gen. Kurilla has requested an update on the proceedings within a 90-day timeframe.

Former Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, during a congressional hearing held in March, revealed that he was unable to prevent the bombing despite identifying individuals matching the description of suspected attackers. Vargas-Andrews claimed that despite having the suspects within their rifle scopes, they never received authorization to act, leaving him to lament the lack of accountability to date.

The March hearing was convened to scrutinize the Biden administration’s management of the Afghan withdrawal, which saw the rapid capture of Kabul by the Taliban, much quicker than U.S. intelligence had predicted. The urgency surrounding Kabul’s fall made the airport a focal point for a hurried air evacuation by American forces.

The Biden administration has attributed blame for the disordered withdrawal to decisions made under former President Donald Trump. A summary report from the White House asserts that Biden was “severely constrained” by Trump’s actions and that delays in evacuations were due to the Afghan government, military, and erroneous U.S. intelligence assessments.

Despite requests, the administration has opted not to release detailed reports from the State Department and Pentagon, citing classification issues. According to a review by U.S. Inspector-General for Afghanistan John Sopko, both the Trump and Biden administrations played roles in the abrupt collapse of the Afghan government and military, which included Trump’s one-sided withdrawal agreement with the Taliban and Biden’s sudden pullout of U.S. contractors and troops, leaving the Afghan air force vulnerable.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kabul airport attack 2021

What prompted the U.S. Central Command to order new interviews regarding the 2021 Kabul airport attack?

The U.S. Central Command, led by Gen. Erik Kurilla, has decided to conduct new interviews with approximately 24 additional service members who were present during the 2021 Kabul airport bombing. This decision is partially motivated by claims from at least one injured service member who stated that he was never interviewed about the incident and believes he could have taken steps to prevent the attack.

Is this a reopening of the original investigation into the Kabul airport bombing?

No, this does not signify a reopening of the original investigation into the Kabul airport bombing and the subsequent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The new interviews are aimed at gathering fresh perspectives or different information from service members who were not included in the initial investigation.

Who are the intended interviewees for this new round of questioning?

The bulk of the new interviews will focus on service members who were severely injured in the Abbey Gate bombing and had to be quickly evacuated from Afghanistan for medical treatment. A few interviews with service members who were not injured are also planned.

What has been the public response to this decision?

Family members of those killed or injured in the attack, along with members of Congress, have been informed of this new action. Congressional critics, predominantly from the Republican Party, are expected to seize upon this development as evidence of mismanagement in both the investigation and the overall withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan.

What was the conclusion of the original U.S. Central Command’s investigation?

The original investigation by U.S. Central Command concluded in November 2021, stating that due to the deteriorating security situation at Abbey Gate, the attack was “unpreventable at the tactical level” without compromising the primary mission, which was to maximize the number of evacuees.

Are there any timelines for these new interviews?

Gen. Erik Kurilla has requested that Lt. Gen. Patrick Frank, who is overseeing the team conducting the interviews, provide an update on the proceedings within a 90-day timeframe.

How does this new action relate to political scrutiny?

While the additional interviews are not intended to reopen the original investigation, they are likely to fuel ongoing congressional criticism regarding the U.S. administration’s handling of the Afghan withdrawal and its subsequent investigation into the Kabul airport attack.

What did the Biden administration say about the overall Afghan withdrawal?

The Biden administration has attributed delays and disorganization in the Afghan withdrawal to decisions made under former President Donald Trump. A summary report from the White House claims that President Biden was “severely constrained” by his predecessor’s actions.

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