US officials confirm Taliban’s killing of alleged mastermind behind Kabul airport bombing in 2021 by ISIS-K
The Taliban in Afghanistan has reportedly killed the suspected mastermind behind the devastating bombing at Kabul airport in 2021, which resulted in the deaths of 170 civilians and 13 US soldiers. US officials, who have been monitoring the region, have determined that the ISIS-K leader responsible for the attack was killed weeks ago, though his name has not been released.
The US government has not provided details on how they confirmed his death, but a senior US official stated with “high confidence” that the individual was indeed responsible for the bombing. The US learned of the leader’s death in early April, according to a report in the New York Times, though it remains unclear whether he was targeted by the Taliban or killed during ongoing fighting between ISIS-K and the Taliban.
Families of the US soldiers killed in the attack have been notified of the IS leader’s death, and while it is seen as welcome news, critics argue that it does not absolve the Biden administration’s responsibility for the failures in the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to the collapse of the Afghan government and military. A review commissioned by President Joe Biden laid the blame on President Donald Trump for the deadly withdrawal, citing constraints imposed by Trump’s decisions, including a deal with the Taliban in 2020 to end the war.
According to leaked Pentagon documents cited in a recent report by The Washington Post, the United States believes that Afghanistan has become a “staging ground” for the militant Islamic State group since the withdrawal.
In a statement made by Pentagon spokesperson Kirby on Tuesday, it was reiterated that the Taliban bears the responsibility to prevent terrorists, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K, from finding safe haven in Afghanistan. Kirby also highlighted that the U.S. has fulfilled President Biden’s pledge to establish an over-the-horizon capacity to monitor potential terrorist threats, not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world where the threat has spread, as seen in Somalia and Syria.
For years, the Taliban and IS have engaged in a turf war in Afghanistan, with experts pointing to the jihadist group as the biggest security challenge for the new Afghan government.
Despite Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers insisting that they have full control of security in the country and have largely eliminated any IS threat, they have yet to acknowledge the assassination of former Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in June of the previous year by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul.
The withdrawal, concluded on August 30, 2021, witnessed the rapid collapse of Western-trained Afghan forces at the hands of Taliban fighters, resulting in a frantic evacuation from Kabul’s airport. Despite facing criticism for his decision, President Biden has maintained that ending the prolonged war was necessary and in line with the will of the American people, as stated in a report by the White House National Security Council.
The scale of the military airlift operation was unprecedented, facilitating the evacuation of over 120,000 individuals from Afghanistan in just a matter of days. However, leaked Pentagon documents, as reported by The Washington Post, suggest that the United States now views Afghanistan as a potential “staging ground” for the Islamic State group.
In response, the U.S. has conveyed to the Taliban that it is their responsibility to prevent terrorists, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K, from finding safe haven in Afghanistan. As stated by Pentagon spokesperson Kirby, the U.S. has established an over-the-horizon capacity to monitor potential threats not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world where terrorism has metastasized, such as Somalia and Syria.
Moving forward, experts highlight that the ongoing turf war between the Taliban and IS poses a significant security challenge for the new Afghan government.
SOURCE: BBC AND NEWS AGENCIES