Shootout at the Kabul corral

AP Photo/Jafar Khan

For better or worse, it’s time for our morning update on what in the hell went wrong in Kabul this time. As of Monday morning, the situation surrounding the airport hasn’t reached any sort of full-collapse scenario that many have feared, but it’s still far from good. The latest disturbing news is that a shootout took place near the North Gate of the airport this morning. It was reported by German soldiers stationed in the area, who took part in the firefight, but it involved American and Afghan soldiers as well. One person was killed, described as “an Afghan guard.” At least three others were injured. But the chaos in the area is such that nobody could say whether the dead man was a member of the former Afghan military, a Taliban fighter “guarding” the area, or, even worse, an ISIS-K terrorist trying to stir up trouble. (Reuters)

A firefight broke out between unidentified gunmen, Western security forces and Afghan guards at the North Gate of Kabul airport on Monday, Germany’s armed forces said, as thousands of Afghans and foreigners thronged the airport, seeking to flee Taliban rule.

One Afghan guard was killed and three others were injured in the battle, which also involved U.S. and German forces, the German military said on Twitter, without specifying whether the dead Afghan was one of the Taliban fighters deployed to guard the airport.

The airport has been a scene of chaos since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Aug. 15 as U.S. and international forces try to evacuate citizens and vulnerable Afghans.

If these were ISIS fighters, that’s particularly disturbing news. They’ve barely been in town long enough to unpack their bags, so if they are already sending out thugs to try to shoot up people at the airport gates, it could mean that they’re planning something serious.

But at the same time, this really doesn’t sound like ISIS’ style, does it? Deploying a handful of people carrying small arms to take on a significant, multinational guard force with body armor and military-grade weapons isn’t bold. It’s foolish. If this were an ISIS plot, we should expect it to be someone dressed up as a woman with a suicide vest, detonating it when they reach the gate. If we have to guess, I’d put my money on an overly aggressive Taliban fighter who became angry about something and just started shooting.

In other news, Joe Biden said this weekend that nobody will be fired over this debacle. And really… why would you fire anyone when things are going as well as could have been expected under any circumstances? (Axios)

President Biden isn’t inclined to fire any senior national security officials over the chaos in Kabul unless the situation drastically deteriorates or there’s significant loss of American life, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Dismissing national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or CIA Director William Burns would be tantamount to admitting a mistake, and the president stands by his decision.

Axios has the analysis about right, at least at the highest level. Firing anyone would be tantamount to an admission that mistakes had been made and something had gone wrong. Joe Biden doesn’t appear ready to admit anything of the sort.

But the second part of the issue is a question of precisely whose head would be on the chopping block if somebody was to be terminated. Ben Shapiro asks the question that I”m guessing is on many of our minds.

Precisely. Not only does “the buck stop here” for Biden when it comes to military matters but who else would he blame? We’ve already seen far too many reports indicating that everyone from the Pentagon to the Joint Chiefs and even his State Department warned him that this was a disaster in the making and we needed to start it much earlier. Plenty of Monday morning quarterbacks are now pointing out what we wrote here early this summer, specifically that giving up Bagram airfield when we did was a catastrophic error in judgment. If Biden wants to come out now and start casting stones, his announcement should be attached to a resignation letter. But then we’d be stuck with Kamala Harris running this evacuation, so perhaps we should be careful what we wish for.