The 'Suicide Bomber' Killed by a Drone in Kabul Was an Aid Worker and the Biden White House Is Trying to Shift Blame

Erik Hildebrandt

There is no doubt that the management of the evacuation of Afghanistan is one of the biggest goat-ropes since the ill-fated Desert One (Operation EAGLE CLAW) affair in 1980. Worse than the mismanagement was the stain on American arms of abandoning American citizens and green-card holders to the Taliban (The State Department Tells US Citizens to Leave Kabul Airport and Go Home, and Other Horror Stories From Our Impending Kabul Catastrophe) and, according to numerous reports, doing little to nothing to retrieve Americans while American special operations forces veterans (Private American Citizens Are Risking Their Lives in Afghanistan Doing What our Troops Should Be Doing) and the militaries of allied nations, particularly the British and the French (British Evacuation Commander Says He’s Cut out of US-Taliban Discussions Plus the Best Rumor of the Day), did the heavy lifting of escorting evacuees from inside of Kabul to Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA…or whatever the Taliban may have renamed it to).

To compound the ineptitude, thirteen young Americans, most of whom were infants when al Qaeda highjacked four airliners on September 11, 2001, were killed in a suicide bomb attack on an American checkpoint at HKIA (The Kabul Mission Begins to Unravel and We Can Expect to See Much Worse and Yesterday Was One of the Bloodiest Days in the Afghan War Because of the Choices Joe Biden Made and He Owns the Outcome).

Shortly afterward, CENTCOM launched a drone strike against an ISIS-K “facilitator” dozens of miles from the site of the suicide bombing. Allegedly, ISIS-K was the force behind the suicide attack, but then, and now, it sounded much more like an attempt to raise the status of what had previously been a footnoted group in the Afghan war to supervillain and blame it for an attack that almost certainly had Taliban complicity (Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Drone Strike Against ISIS-K Is a Joke, and We Are the Punchline). A day later, CENTCOM announced it had killed a suicide bomber on the way to attack American targets at HKIA presumably. There was some self-congratulation from CENTCOM:

U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport.

We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.

We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats.

 

What seemed like a timely strike against an imminent threat quickly became Dead Sea fruit. Almost before the smoke had cleared, Afghan and international sources reported that the strike had killed civilians; see That’ll Teach ‘Em. US Drone Strike Targeting Suicide Bombers in Kabul Kills Family of Nine Including Four Kids Under Age Five.

Now, the New York Times has done an investigative piece on the drone strike, and it might very well be worse than we’d thought.

In one of the final acts of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the United States fired a missile from a drone at a car in Kabul. It was parked in the courtyard of a home, and the explosion killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and seven children, according to his family. The Pentagon claimed that Ahmadi was a facilitator for the Islamic State, and that his car was packed with explosives, posing an imminent threat to U.S. troops guarding the evacuation at the Kabul airport. “The procedures were correctly followed, and it was a righteous strike.” What the military apparently didn’t know was that Ahmadi was a longtime aid worker, who colleagues and family members said spent the hours before he died running office errands, and ended his day by pulling up to his house. Soon after, his Toyota was hit with a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What was interpreted as the suspicious moves of a terrorist may have just been an average day in his life.

That’s right. Not a terrorist facilitator. Not a suicide bomber. The target was an aid worker awaiting resettlement to the United States.

Some thoughts on this episode.

Civilian casualties, that is, collateral damage, are inevitable in war. For the 20 years the Global War on Terror has been underway, collateral casualties to drone strikes have been frequent, but they’ve always been out of sight and away from the view of major media. The Biden bunch claims it will defend the United States from terrorists via “over the horizon” strikes.

I contend that Biden and his cronies have never had any interest in defending the United States, and their guts to rely on drone strikes has just dropped to zero.

This attack demonstrates the shortfalls of relying upon technical target acquisition methods, but the Biden bunch made some decisions that made this sort of error more likely than it had to be. First, they used HKIA, having abandoned the much more capable and secure Bagram Air Base in early July. Contrary to the assertions of the Biden warrior-fellatistos on the internet, the 30+ mile separation of Bagram from Kabul is a feature, not a bug. That distance does not impede travel (yes, they have cars in Afghanistan) and permits the establishment of a much larger security zone.

Second, the decision by Biden to keep a minimum US troop presence at the extraction point was also, in my view, a critical blunder. This decision reduced US troops to manning close-in checkpoints, prevented them from establishing an additional security belt and forced us to subcontract our security to the Taliban.

The latter point, our reliance upon the Taliban for security, dovetails into our reliance upon technical target acquisition methods and upon the Taliban. If we’d had more troops on the ground, we’d have had an increased capability to identify and stop potential attackers away from our forces and from civilians. In fact, there were early reports that the Taliban had identified the attacker to us. Given the evidence presented in the New York Times story, that makes sense. If the Taliban identified Ahmadi as a threat, all of our targeting resources would have worked to confirm that intelligence. When you’re looking to find something, you can.

Organizations are particularly vulnerable to that form of groupthink (think the Russia hoax or the “insurrection”). The military command was smarting from the suicide bomb attack and was doing its best to make sure that didn’t happen again as the security situation at HKIA deteriorated. In fact, the local command was given what appears to be a carte blanche by the White House to do whatever it took to prevent a repeat. This is from a The Hill article written before the scale of the blunder was known — so, naturally, Joe Biden is in the role of Chuck Norris.

President Biden has told his top generals that they should “stop at nothing” to make Afghanistan’s ISIS affiliate pay for the 13 U.S. service members’ deaths in Kabul last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

“I can tell you that the president has made clear to his commanders that they should stop at nothing to make ISIS pay for the deaths of those American service members at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said when asked if Biden personally gave the Pentagon permission for a Sunday drone strike on an explosives-laden vehicle.

U.S. Central Command carried out the airstrike on the vehicle, which was traveling through a residential neighborhood in Kabul carrying “an imminent ISIS-K threat” to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to the Defense Department.

The video is from a worshipful CNN Facebook post captioned:

President Biden has made clear to his military commanders that they should “stop at nothing” to make ISIS pay for the deaths of 13 American service members in Afghanistan last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Asked by CNN’s Phil Mattingly if Biden personally gave the green light to a drone strike on an explosives-laden vehicle that US Central Command had said posed an “imminent ISIS-K threat,” to the airport in Kabul, Psaki did not directly answer, but said the commanders have the authorities necessary to carry out such strikes.

“I can tell you that the President has made clear to his commanders that they should stop at nothing to make ISIS pay for the deaths of those American service members at the Kabul airport,” Psaki said at the White House press briefing.

I’ve documented in a couple of places the bureaucratic war going on between Defense, the White House, the State Department, and the Intelligence Community (‘Forever War’ Continues as Defense, State, and the Intelligence Community Blame Each Other for the Criminal Debacle in Afghanistan) to avoid the role of Lucky Pierre when blame is handed out for what transpired in Afghanistan over the 45 days leading up to our unseemly and unmanly, middle-of-the-night flight from Kabul (It Looks Like the Evacuation of Afghanistan Is at an End). As the New York Times story broke, you find this note:

Because the “buck” doesn’t “stop here” when Biden is involved; the “buck stops way over there, nowhere near me.”

All of this will inevitably combine to produce timidity, over-lawyering, and lack of trust between the military and the White House that virtually guarantees that terrorist base camps will be left alone, and terrorists will be free to roam the world to strike at American targets.