During his testimony before the House today, CENTCOM head Gen. Frank McKenzie confirmed something that we reported last month – that during a meeting that McKenzie had with the Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, he was offered the full control of Kabul while evacuation operations were completed.
It was an astonishing report revealed last month – that they had the opportunity to provide a safe withdrawal with the whole city being a buffer around the airport, offered by the Taliban – but turned it down instead opting for the unsafe, completely endangered and at-risk situation they ended up with, at the mercy of the Taliban. It’s likely why U.S. service members and Afghans were killed in the suicide attack.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) grilled McKenzie on the question.
WATCH: General McKenzie acknowledges the Taliban offered the United States the ability to secure Kabul. pic.twitter.com/0MUQDlnIKO
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 29, 2021
“I met with Mullah Baradar on 15 August to pass a message to him that we were withdrawing, and if they attempted to disrupt that withdrawal we would punish them severely for that,” McKenzie began.
“But did he offer for you to have security over all of Kabul, not just the airport?” Gallagher interjected.
“As part of that conversation, [Baradar] said, ‘well, why don’t you just take security of all of Kabul?’ That was not why I was there, that was not my instruction, and we did not have the resources to undertake that mission,” McKenzie said.
“I did not consider that to be a formal offer and it was not the reason why I was there, so I did not pursue it,” he said later in the questioning.
Asked if the offer to remain in control of Kabul was relayed to President Joe Biden, McKenzie stated, “The offer was made in the presence of the president’s special representative to Afghanistan” before adding that he did not know if the offer was then reported to the White House.
McKenzie basically indicated he killed the offer because he was locked into the orders he had that he was just there to do an evacuation. But he didn’t think it was important enough to mention it to Joe Biden? Or Secretary of Defense Austin? It makes no sense why would you not take the opportunity to have a safer situation that was offered.
Instead the U.S. forces were then left at the mercy of the Taliban who beat people and stopped them from getting through to the airport, hindering who knows how many people from getting to safety, absolutely hindering the mission that McKenzie was supposed to be carrying out.
The Taliban ringing the airport was the Badri unit, the folks who specialized in suicide attacks, according to Gallagher.
In a hearing before @HASCRepublicans, CENTCOM Commander Kenneth Mckenzie confirmed to Rep. Gallagher that the Taliban's Badri 313 unit, which specializes in suicide martyrdom, was guarding the Kabul airport prior to the suicide bombing that killed 13 American troops. pic.twitter.com/dhmkwkyNMj
— Rep. Gallagher Press Office (@RepGallagher) September 29, 2021
That has to give one pause, given the subsequent suicide attack which was blamed on ISIS-K and for which they took credit, but which many thought the Taliban had to have a hand in or at least allow since the person got through to the airport through the Taliban.
Another thing to note was that McKenzie’s meeting with the Taliban came on August 15, the same day the city of Kabul fell. NBC has reported that the day before, McKenzie had warned Baradar that the Taliban shouldn’t come within 20 to 30 kilometers of the city or they would be hit by airstrikes. But then the Taliban took over the city and there were no airstrikes. “The next day, Taliban fighters rolled into Kabul, and no U.S. warplanes bombed the insurgents, the three senior defense officials said,” NBC News said.
Great job there, Biden Administration. They’ll surely take you seriously when you don’t even follow through on a threat like that. But that was essentially the problem with the whole withdrawal – the Biden Administration let the Taliban dictate to them throughout and it cost Americans and Afghan allies their lives.