October 3, 2023

WASHINGTON (AP) — A floor assault by the Taliban killed the Islamic State militant who spearheaded the August 2021 suicide bombing on the Kabul airport that left 13 U.S. troops and about 170 Afghans useless throughout the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. officers mentioned Tuesday.

Initially, neither the U.S. — nor apparently the Taliban — have been conscious that the mastermind was useless. He was killed throughout a sequence of battles early this month in southern Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Islamic State group’s affiliate, in response to a number of officers.

However up to now few days, U.S. intelligence confirmed “with excessive confidence” that the Islamic State chief had been killed, a senior administration official mentioned. The officers spoke on situation of anonymity to debate intelligence issues.

Late Tuesday night time, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder issued a press release confirming that the plotter had been killed by the Taliban. “America was not concerned on this operation,” Ryder mentioned.

Over the weekend, the U.S. army started to tell the mother and father of the 11 Marines, the sailor and the soldier who have been killed within the blast at Abbey Gate, and so they shared the data in a personal group messaging chat. The daddy of one of many Marines mentioned the loss of life of his son’s killer brings little consolation.

“No matter occurs, it’s not going to carry Taylor again and I perceive that,” Darin Hoover, the daddy of Workers Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, mentioned in a telephone name with The Related Press. “About the one factor his mother and I can do now’s be an advocate for him. All we wish is the reality. And we’re not getting it. That’s the irritating half.”

Hoover mentioned he and his son’s mom, Kelly Henson, have spent the previous 12 months and a half grieving his loss of life and praying for accountability from the Biden administration for the dealing with of the withdrawal.

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He added that the Marines offered solely restricted info to him and didn’t establish the Islamic State chief or give the circumstances of his loss of life. U.S. officers declined to offer many particulars due to sensitivities within the intelligence gathering.

The administration official mentioned it was their “ethical accountability” to let the victims’ households know that the “mastermind” and “individual most answerable for the airport assault” had been taken off the battlefield. The official added that intelligence officers decided that the chief had “remained a key plotter and overseer” for the group.

A number of officers mentioned the U.S. performed no function within the killing and didn’t coordinate in any respect with the Taliban. The administration official known as the Taliban motion “important” and mentioned the U.S. solely realized of the operation by means of its “over the horizon” intelligence capabilities.

Hoover is amongst a bunch of 12 Gold Star households which have stored in contact because the bombing, supporting each other and sharing info by means of the messaging chat. The chat was created by Cheryl Rex, the mom of Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, who died within the blast.

Rex, who has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s dealing with of the withdrawal, advised the AP it was by means of the chat group that they have been knowledgeable late Monday in regards to the killing as they awaited official affirmation from U.S. army officers.

The fallen service members have been amongst these screening the 1000’s of Afghans frantically attempting on Aug. 26, 2021, to get onto one of many crowded flights in a foreign country after the brutal Taliban takeover. The scene of desperation rapidly become considered one of horror when a suicide bomber attacked. The Islamic State group claimed accountability.

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The blast at Abbey Gate got here hours after Western officers warned of a serious assault, urging folks to depart the airport. However that recommendation went largely unheeded by Afghans determined to flee the nation in the previous few days of an American-led evacuation earlier than the U.S. formally ended its 20-year presence.

The Afghanistan-based offshoot of the Islamic State — known as Islamic State-Khorasan — has as much as 4,000 members and is the Taliban’s most bitter enemy and prime army menace. The group has continued to hold out assaults in Afghanistan because the Taliban takeover, particularly in opposition to the nation’s minority teams.

After the Trump administration reached a 2020 cope with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the Biden administration adopted by means of on that settlement in 2021, there had been hope in Washington that the Taliban’s need for worldwide recognition and help for the nation’s impoverished inhabitants would possibly reasonable their conduct.

However relations between the U.S. and the Taliban have deteriorated additional since they imposed draconian new measures banning ladies from college and excluding girls from working for worldwide help and well being businesses.

Nevertheless, a line of communication nonetheless exists between the 2 sides, led by the U.S. particular envoy for Afghanistan, Tom West. West’s contacts are primarily with Taliban officers in Kabul and never with the group’s extra ideological wing based mostly in Kandahar.

The U.S. determination to withdraw all troops fueled the swift collapse of the Afghan authorities and army, which the U.S. had supported for almost 20 years, and the return to energy of the Taliban. Within the aftermath, President Joe Biden directed {that a} broad evaluate look at “each facet of this from prime to backside” and it was launched earlier this month.

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The Biden administration within the publicly launched model of the evaluate largely laid blame on President Donald Trump for the lethal and chaotic 2021 withdrawal, which was punctuated by the suicide bombing at Abbey Gate.

Information of the killing got here on the identical day that Biden formally introduced he’ll search a second time period as president, providing a reminder of one of the crucial tough chapters of his presidency. The disastrous drawdown was, on the time, the largest disaster that the comparatively new administration had confronted. It left sharp questions on Biden and his workforce’s competence and expertise — the dual pillars central to his marketing campaign for the White Home.

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby mentioned Tuesday the U.S. has “made clear to the Taliban that it’s their accountability to make sure that they provide no protected haven to terrorists,” whether or not from al-Qaida or the Islamic State.

“We’ve made good on the President’s pledge to determine an over-the-horizon capability to observe potential terrorist threats, not solely from in Afghanistan however elsewhere around the globe the place that menace has metastasized as we’ve carried out in Somalia and Syria,” Kirby mentioned in a press release.

But Rex mentioned the administration has not carried out sufficient to take accountability for what occurred at Abbey Gate.

“I really feel like that is the administration attempting to get the strain off of them for accountability by saying that we’re holding ISIS accountable for our children’ loss of life,” Rex mentioned.


Related Press writers Tara Copp and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.