Additional US military investigation into deadly Kabul airport attack reveals troops did not see bomber before attack

Additional US military investigation into deadly Kabul airport attack reveals troops did not see bomber before attack

(CNN) — An additional U.S. military investigation into the deadly Monastery Gate bombing during the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal was aimed at clarifying unanswered questions about the attack. The soldiers had not seen the suspected bomber before the attack, but because of conflicting information they concluded that they believed they had.

“For the past two years, some military personnel have claimed that they had the bomber in their sights and were able to prevent the attack,” one of the officials on the additional review team told reporters on Friday. “But we now know that’s not true.”

The bomber was identified as ISIS-K member Abdul Rahman al-Logari. The terrorist group identified al-Logali as the bomber hours after the attack, but U.S. authorities have not yet officially acknowledged that he carried out the attack. Officials also confirmed that al-Loghali was released by the Taliban from a prison near Kabul days before the attack, CNN previously reported.

The military hopes the new investigation will answer unanswered questions about the circumstances of the attack, especially from the families of the 13 killed U.S. service members, including those that will be presented in 2022. Some have questioned the conclusions of the military’s original investigation.

The supplemental review was formally announced by U.S. Central Command last September, just days after families of fallen soldiers called for answers about the bombing at an emotional roundtable in Congress.

The review partially addressed Public testimony by Sgt. Marine Corps sniper Tyler Vargas Andrews told Congress last year that he saw a man fitting the description of a suicide bomber near the monastery gates before the attack.

Team officials briefing reporters did not name Vargas Andrews or anyone else who had publicly spoken about the bombing and evacuation, but they did not name Mr. He denied some of his public testimony, including: It was a bomber.

Army and Marine Corps officials who conducted supplemental inspections told reporters on Friday that al-Loghali arrived hours before the deadly explosion on Aug. 26, 2021, and was in the midst of a large number of civilians and 13 people. of U.S. service members (11 Marines, 1 Soldier, and 1 Soldier) were killed. Naval Sgt.

Officials said the soldiers believed at the time that another man was the bomber. But after U.S. intelligence confirmed that he was the bomber, a supplementary review compared the man’s photo with that of Mr. Al-Roghali, offering “the strongest possible denial” that the two were the same. “Basic evaluation” was revealed.

Officials said the U.S. kept photographs of al-Loghali from his captivity before he was released by the Taliban.

The supplemental investigation, which began last June and was conducted by the U.S. Army Central Office, includes 52 additional interviews in addition to the more than 100 interviews already conducted in the original U.S. Central Command investigation released in February 2022. It included an interview.

The new investigation ultimately did not change CENTCOM’s original findings, specifically that the bombing could not have been prevented at the tactical level.

Investigators said they interviewed current and former military personnel, some of them retired or retired, at 24 different locations and brought them to Okinawa for investigation.

“I think it’s also very clear that when you talk to a total of 190 different people, each of them had a different perspective,” said one member of the judging team. “And I think that’s a really important thing to note. So our job during the investigation was to take all these different perspectives and put the pieces together from those different perspectives. ”

“In-depth” review

Members of the investigation team told reporters the investigation was “thorough” and answered remaining questions about the bombing.

Officials said a significant portion of the confusion about what happened on Aug. 26 stemmed from confusion between actual intelligence reports and so-called spot reports, in which military personnel report suspicious observations to their commanders. Ta.

Two reports were received on August 25: an intelligence report and a field report from the Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The intelligence report gave a vague description of who to watch out for – a figure in loose clothing, with coiffed hair, and carrying a black bag containing explosives.

The same day, the Marine Corps filed a scene report showing a man of military age wearing a “beige mandress” and carrying a black bag walking toward the north gate of the airport with a child in tow.

By the morning of Aug. 26, those reports had been consolidated and the sniper team was able to locate a bald man wearing black clothing and carrying a backpack who was seen sitting with a teenage boy, officials said. He said he asked for permission to engage the man.

They were ultimately denied permission to engage and lost sight of the man in the crowd. Seven hours later, a bomb exploded at the monastery gate.

Officials rejected the idea that sniper teams and others focused too much on the wrong suspects, saying military personnel at the gate were “always on alert.”

“They identified a bald man dressed in black around 7 a.m., but lost track of him around 10 a.m. The attack didn’t occur until seven and a half hours later. It’s not like the bombing was happening in different places at the same time, there’s a 7:30 time difference, so based on our assessment, they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. We identify potential threats, assess those threats, and act on the information we have at the time.”

The review team also rejected claims that the sniper team’s battalion commander did not know the rules of engagement. They said that on the morning of August 26, the battalion commander personally visited the sniper tower, where he was pointed out to him a bald man in black clothing who appeared to be the suspect.

Officials said they thought the man was suspicious because he was “not interested in evacuating” and was just sitting and observing the evacuation process.

According to members of the investigation team, the sniper team leader briefed the battalion commander on his concerns and said he “perfectly matched the description of the bomber.”

“While it is unclear what happened next between the sniper and the battalion commander inside the tower, there is no evidence that any depiction of these events indicates that the battalion commander did not understand the rules of engagement. “It is not supported by this,” said a member of the research team. reporters.

Among other findings of the additional investigation: It is unlikely that an IED test took place prior to the Aug. 26 attack, but authorities could not rule out the possibility and said that leaders and was involved at all levels.” Officials said Friday that the investigation confirmed excessive use of force by the Taliban led to the deaths of civilians.

Ultimately, officials said the supplemental review reaffirmed that U.S. troops on the ground during the withdrawal “believed what they were doing was important.”

“When we conducted the supplemental review, it became very clear that service members believe that what they are doing matters, that it makes a difference, and that it matters. Despite the increase in reporting, they remained undeterred,” the examiner said. “And while the new information did not change our Abbey Gate findings, it reaffirmed what we found two years ago and provided further clarity. I think it was helpful.”

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