Two days ago, a suicide bomber attacked a security checkpoint at the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul, Afghanistan. That airport is the main point of egress for any seeking to leave that sad simulacrum of a country, before US forces comply with the August 31 withdrawal deadline set for them by the Taliban.
Re-read that last sentence a couple of times to grasp the scope of our national shame. Thirteen Americans were killed: eleven Marines, one Navy corpsman, and one Army special forces soldier. Twenty more Americans were sufficiently wounded to require medical evacuation. One of the dead was USMC Sergeant Nicole Gee, who appeared in these widely circulated photos:
#RIP U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23 years old
— Mike Saccone (@mikesacconetv) August 28, 2021
Joe Biden went full-metal CornPop and swore revenge:
“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Last night, CENTCOM announced that a strike had been carried out; see Jennifer Oliver O’Connell’s Biden Makes Good on Threat: U.S. Airstrike Targets ISIS Member in Retaliation for Kabul Bombing for details.
CENTCOM:”U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner. The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.” https://t.co/ceYlhT4O0e
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) August 28, 2021
— Sagar Abbas Mirza (@sagarmiza) August 28, 2021
Cut down to its basics; the US carried out a drone strike on an alleged ISIS-K planner…whatever that means…located in Nangarhar province. At its nearest point, Nangarhar is about 30 miles from HKIA. As it is unlikely this “planner” was minutely paralleling the province boundary, odds are he was in or near one of the handful of towns in that province.
For retaliation to be effective, it has to have three elements. It must be timely, visible, and it must be at least proportionate (my bias is towards disproportionate).
This exercise fails on at least two counts. Following up an attack that was an international story that took out 33 of your troops with an out-of-the-way attack that maybe killed one person does not say, “don’t do this again.” Rather it is a signal that you are weak, and it is open season on your people with no bag limit and no size restrictions.
As my colleague Bonchie points out (see Color Me Extremely Skeptical About Joe Biden’s Retaliation Strike Against ISIS), this is eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s retaliatory attack for al-Qaeda truck bomb attacks on our embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, that took over 200 lives. That attack was on a Sudanese aspirin factory and managed to kill a night watchman. The flaccid response to the East African bombings was one of the factors that convinced Osama bin Laden that he could attack US targets with relative impunity.
Beyond the fact that we have no way of knowing that a strike was carried out or who, if anyone, was targeted or killed, there is a bigger problem with the story. Sorry, but there is nothing the Biden White House has earned but skepticism.
Psaki is asked about reports about the First Dog “Major” and his habit of biting Secret Service agents:
“If we can’t get honest information about minor stories, why should we have faith in the Administration’s account for larger issues like Afghanistan?” pic.twitter.com/AX5QuVBiSb
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 27, 2021
I’m not sure very many sane people believe ISIS-K was able to stage a suicide bombing plot in Kabul and waltz a bomber through one or more Taliban checkpoints without the acquiescence, if not outright assistance, from the Taliban. This attack allowed the Taliban to draw blood and plausibly blame another entity. The US has to go along with the fiction because if it doesn’t, then the chaos in Kabul turns into a very ugly scene involving a fighting withdrawal by the US and allied forces at HKIA.
Bottom line, this attack was bullsh**. It had nothing to do with deterring further attacks and everything to do with domestic public relations. It shows just how weak our hand is in Kabul and highlights the grotesque ineptitude of the Biden White House.