The story over at Politico [politico] has it that the DoD had some intelligence regarding and attack at Kabul Airport prior to the suicide bombing that killed around 200 people and wounded many more.
During the meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.
Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.
The threat scenario of a suicide bomber attacking a long security screening line is one I first heard from Bruce Schneier shortly after 9/11. It’s not a “complex attack” at all. But, if you recall, there was a brief period shortly after the incident in which the reporting speculated that there were multiple bombers. What that tells me is that the Pentagon’s expectation of an attack was fulfilled and they were trying to fit the event into the frame of a “complex attack” in accordance with the intelligence.
On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.
American troops were still processing entrants to the airport at Abbey Gate at roughly 6 p.m. in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest there, killing nearly 200 people, including 13 U.S. service members.
It’s tempting to chalk this up to post-9/11 security anomie – there have been so many alerts and alarms that haven’t turned out to be a real threat, that it becomes easy to convince oneself that things are going to be OK pursuing the current state of affairs. But the reported facts appear to indicate that there was a plan to close the gate hours before the incident. Perhaps what happened is that the reality on the ground was: there are going to be big crowds anyway, whether the gate was open or not.
A less pleasant scenario is that they kept the gate open because the British and American evacuees were using a different gate and had better security. That story has been more widely reported than the story about the planned closure of the gate and the intelligence failure [cnn]
The US military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the militant group escorting clusters of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, two defense officials told CNN.
One of the officials also revealed that US special operations forces set up a “secret gate” at the airport and established “call centers” to guide Americans through the evacuation process.
Eagle Base, the sprawling CIA compound located less than three miles north of the airport, has a controversial history. Established early in the Afghanistan conflict at a former brick factory, the base was used by the CIA from 2002 to 2004 for “enhanced interrogation” of terror suspects. The CIA also used it to train Afghan counterterrorism units.
But during the rush to leave Kabul in recent weeks, the compound provided a crucial staging base for evacuees hoping to get out of Afghanistan – before it was demolished on Aug. 27 as part of the effort to ensure that no sensitive equipment or intelligence information would fall into the hands of the Taliban.
Blow it up so “no sensitive information” falls into the hands of someone who might publish photos of a CIA torture chamber.
Remember, the premise of the invasion of Afghanistan is that terrorism was exported from there, and our chickens came home to roost in New York. So the US responds by immediately exporting a shitload of our chickens to a secret base in Afghanistan. Is there any question anymore as to whether or not the CIA is the world’s largest exporter of international terrorism? Those are the guys who innovated by putting hellfire missiles on predator drones, remember? The ISIS-K suicide bomber who killed ~200 at the Kabul Airport gate would have probably been pretty happy to live another day and use a few hellfire missiles instead. The US has basically laundered its technological edge by claiming, in effect, that high tech murder is less murdery than the low tech kind.
The other piece of this little puzzle came a few days later, when the US blew up some alleged ISIS-K, who were involved in planning the airport attack. [nyt] That, not any other reaction, was how the US used its intelligence regarding the initial attack: revenge. Since the US is an occupying power, it is not entitled to avenge attacks on the occupation troops – it is the right of the occupied population to resist, even if it’s violent. Of course, blowing up a bunch of civilians is not a militarily justifiable attack. It’s no more justifiable than shooting a knife missile into a crowd, based on intelligence that they may be planning to resist. It’s baddies all the way down.
The CIA’s well-prepared exit shows conclusively that there was plenty of time to prepare an evacuation, it’s just that others didn’t. And, when the rats leave the sinking ship via a secret base, nobody notices.
In terms of intelligence failures and mis-use of intelligence, this is certainly worse than the Benghazi! incident, and we could see the early rumblings of republicans trying to spin up an endless investigation, but I don’t think any of that shit will stick on Joe Smooth. So, add a big ole intelligence disaster to the butcher’s bill for the Afghanistan exit, then drop the whole mess down the memory hole.
It’s tempting to look at Stravia heat maps and try to locate Eagle Base. The CIA are more competent than the army, and have apparently made sure Google maps doesn’t index the place. It’s probably some blurry patch of ground in most of the satellite maps. OK, I found the challenge irresistable. 3 miles North of the airport there are open fields. I wonder if Google has started interpolating regular-looking terrain into the blackout zones. That would be a good application for AI, wouldn’t it?