Taliban kill ISIS militant behind Kabul airport attack
Thirteen American soldiers and scores of Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport as the United States withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021.
The suspected mastermind behind the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport during the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan was killed by the Taliban earlier this month, US officials said on Wednesday.
The suicide attack targeted Kabul airport's Abbey Gate on August 26, 2021, which was crowded with people desperately trying to flee the city after the Taliban seized control.
Around 170 Afghans and 13 American troops were killed.
"He was a key ISIS-K official directly involved in plotting operations like Abbey Gate, and now is no longer able to plot or conduct attacks," said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, referring to ISIS-K, which is the Afghan affiliate of the so-called Islamic State group.
US informs families of service members
Over the weekend, the US military began to inform families of the 13 US military personnel who were killed at the airport.
Darin Hoover, the father of one of the Marines killed, told the Associated Press news agency that the death of the leader of the ISIS cell brought little comfort.
"Whatever happens, it's not going to bring Taylor back and I understand that," the father of Staff Sergeant Darin Taylor Hoover said.
"About the only thing his mom and I can do now is be an advocate for him. All we want is the truth. And we're not getting it. That's the frustrating part," Darin Hoover added.
He said he and his wife have spent the past year and a half grieving their son's death and praying for accountability from the Biden administration for the handling of the withdrawal.
US officials did not disclose the name of the leader of the cell either publicly or even to family members, according to relatives AP spoke to, given the sensitivity of the circumstances of the militant's death.
The officials said the militant was killed during a series of battles early this month in southern Afghanistan between the Taliban and the ISIS-K.
US intelligence then confirmed with "high confidence" that the head of the terror cell had been killed in recent days, according to senior Biden administration officials.
US played no role in killing of the militant
The Associated Press reported that several officials told the news agency that the US played no role in the killing of the militant and did not coordinate with the Taliban.
But the administration officials said they learned about the operation through "over-the-horizon capability," or counterterrorism capability that allows the US to identify and suppress threats from afar without having boots on the ground.
President Biden has repeatedly touted the capability as one that allows authorities to monitor any threats to America.
Chaotic withdrawal after over 20 years of war
The Taliban and ISIS-K have fought each other in the past, but the worry was whether Afghanistan — after the Taliban takeover — would become a safe haven for extremists to attack the US or other countries.
The Biden administration has been severely criticized for its chaotic withdrawal from Kabul in 2021, as it attempted to evacuate Americans and Afghans who supported the war effort for 20 years.
Earlier this month, the White House in a review of the withdrawal process, defended Biden's decision to evacuate all troops.
It did however admit there had been massive intelligence failure in not predicting a rapid Taliban victory in the country.
rm/kb (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)