After an ISIS-K suicide bomber attacked one of the gates at the Kabul airport, President Biden promised that we were going to strike back. I’m assuming that this was what he was talking about. NBC News is reporting that we took out an ISIS-K “planner” last night and he was allegedly engaged in plotting additional attacks in Kabul. We didn’t have to deploy any troops to do it, however. The suspect was driving in a car with another person when he was taken out by one of our drones. Oh, and he wasn’t anywhere near Kabul at the time.
U.S. military forces conducted a drone strike on Friday against the Islamic State terrorist group in Afghanistan in an apparent retaliatory attack against those who claimed responsibility for the attack outside Kabul’s airport.
“U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner,” said Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, in a statement. “The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”
The ISIS-K, known as Islamic State Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the “martyrdom attack” on Thursday that involved a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive belt at the airport’s gate, killing 13 U.S. service members and more than 110 Afghans.
The ISIS-K member’s car was blown up using a drone, but it wasn’t some quadcopter picked up off the shelf at Walmart. This was a fixed-wing, MQ-9 Reaper, which is basically a small fighter jet without a cockpit for a pilot. It’s an effective weapon with a significant range.
Was the dead terrorist actually involved in the attack on the airport, though? First of all, the strike took place in Nangarhar Province, which is well to the east of Kabul on the Pakistan border. The driver is described as being an ISIS-K “planner” but I would have expected the suicide bombing attack to be both planned and executed a bit closer to the scene of the crime. Don’t get me wrong… another dead ISIS terrorist is always a good thing, but I’m not sure if this is actually the type of “revenge” that the families of our lost troops had in mind.
Over at Outside the Beltway, James Joyner found the response to be “unimpressive.”
So, terrorists killed thirteen Americans and dozens of innocent civilians and we’ve retaliated by blowing up one car with a “planner” and some other dude? That’s a tradeoff they’d take again and again. Hell, they sacrificed at least one person in the suicide attack itself.
This does sound like a situation where the President ordered the military to “do something” to retaliate and show how serious we are. The guy who actually detonated the bomb died at the scene, so we had to find someone else. Our intelligence units are constantly tracking known ISIS members in many locations, so it’s not inconceivable that this guy was just the first one they could get a physical location on and it was just his turn to go. Either way, we still have bigger fish to fry in terms of getting out of Kabul, so questions such as these may have to wait until we’re in the cleanup phase.
Meanwhile, we also blew up our CIA base at the airport. This one wasn’t an accident or a terror attack, however. Eagle Base was one of our largest CIA outposts in Afghanistan, located just outside the Kabul airport. It had been in operation on the site of a former brick factory practically since we first went into Afghanistan twenty years ago. It was destroyed to ensure that all of the records and equipment there didn’t fall into the hands of the Taliban like all of our other weapons and military equipment did. Perhaps we’re learning from our mistakes and getting a little smarter in the closing days of the evacuation. But we can’t close the books on this story until we (hopefully) get the rest of our troops out alive and start counting up how many people end up being left behind.