The US government had advance notice and could have avoided last week’s airport bombing that killed 13 US service members, according to a new report — as some relatives of the victims are furious at President Biden for his Afghanistan exit strategy and his conduct at a ceremony honoring the fallen.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday slammed an “unlawful” leak to Politico revealing that the deaths of 13 US troops in last week’s Kabul airport bombing could have been dodged, as the Pentagon was aware hours in advance of an imminent “mass casualty” attack.
Kirby was asked at a press briefing about the report, which says the US knew the approximate time and location of the bombing that on Thursday struck the airport’s Abbey Gate — but that a plan to close the gate to protect US troops was abandoned.
“I am absolutely not going to speak to a press story that was informed by the unlawful disclosure of classified information and sensitive deliberations here at the Pentagon — just not going to do it,” Kirby said.
Politico reported that the US military knew that Abbey Gate was the likely target and that in the early morning hours of Thursday developed a plan to close the gate Thursday afternoon. But the gate was instead left open to allow a British operation to evacuate people from the nearby Baron Hotel. The bomb exploded around 6 p.m., killing nearly 200 people in total.
Some family members of the US victims have slammed Biden’s chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Kabul after 20 years of war — with the evacuation ending Tuesday despite reports of US citizens unable to reach the airport.
Kathy McCollum, the mother of 20-year-old US Marine Rylee McCollum, who died in the bombing, said Friday in a SiriusXM interview that people who voted for Biden “just killed my son — with a dementia-ridden piece of crap who doesn’t even know he’s in the White House.”
McCollum’s wife, Jiennah McCollum, who is pregnant with their child, reportedly was upset by a meeting with Biden on Sunday as the president watched the remains of the US service members return to the US at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
McCollum’s sister Roice told the Washington Post that Biden spoke to the pregnant widow about his own son Beau’s military service and death from cancer in what felt like a shallow and scripted engagement that showed “total disregard to the loss of our Marine.”
Biden was widely faulted for checking his watch during the casket arrival ceremony. And later on Sunday, the president refused to take a reporter’s question on whether there remained a continued risk of attacks at Kabul’s airport.
“I’m not supposed to take any questions, but go ahead,” Biden said after receiving a Hurricane Ida briefing. But when asked about Kabul, Biden said, “I’m not going to answer on Afghanistan now.”
The US government had publicly warned US citizens to avoid the airport in the hours ahead of the attack and has since carried out an airstrike against alleged planners of the bombing and alleged Islamic State operatives plotting a sequel attack — though in both cases the identities of targets were not disclosed and there remains uncertainty about details including possible civilian casualties.