The Biden administration claimed on Tuesday that the extremist Islamic Taliban government that runs Afghanistan killed the leader of the ISIS affiliate who was responsible for orchestrating the attack at the Kabul airport in 2021 that killed 13 U.S. soldiers and nearly 200 Afghan nationals.
Administration officials claimed that the Taliban led a recent a ground offensive against ISIS-K that resulted in the death of the leader, who they refused to name, according to The New York Times.
The Washington Post reported that neither the U.S. nor the Taliban was initially aware that the leader had been killed until days after the offensive.
U.S. officials said that they had “high confidence” that the leader had been killed from intelligence that was likely based on “informants, electronic intercepts or information from allied spy services,” the Times added.
The report was careful to note that officials provided “no evidence to support that conclusion or other details about his purported death.”
The administration began reaching out to American families whose loved ones serving in the U.S. military were killed during the attack.
“They couldn’t give me his name; they couldn’t tell me the details of the operation,” said Darin Hoover, the father of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover of the Marine Corps, adding that the call left him “frustrated, again.”
“I want the administration to take some accountability and responsibility for this,” Hoover said. “Say, ‘We screwed up. It’s not going to happen again.’ It can’t happen again. He gave his life for this. This is what he wanted to do, and this is what happened — and now we’re all being treated like garbage.”
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In a separate interview, Hoover said, “Whatever happens, it’s not going to bring Taylor back and I understand that. About the only thing his mom and I can do now is be an advocate for him. All we want is the truth. And we’re not getting it. That’s the frustrating part.”
Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a Marine sergeant during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, broke down last month in front of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs while recounting his experience watching 13 U.S. troops killed by a suicide bomber.
A Marine sniper at the time, Vargas-Andrews and his team were ordered from Saudi Arabia to Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021 to oversee the final weeks of the U.S. withdrawal.
On August 22, either ISIS or Taliban militants conducted a “test run” for a terror attack with an improvised explosive device (IED). On August 26, Vargas-Andrews’ team received a description of the suspected terrorist bomber and, later that day, identified a man near the Abbey gate who fit the description and “consistently and nervously” kept looking at the Marines stationed near the gate.
Vargas-Andrews said his team asked twice for permission to take out the suspected terrorist. The first time, he was denied. The second time, the battalion commander, who came to Abbey Gate to see the suspect himself, replied, “I don’t know” if they had the authority to take out the suspect.
“Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, ‘Well, who does? Because this is your responsibility, sir,’” Vargas-Andrews told Congress. The commander responded that he would find out.
“We received no update and never got our answer. Eventually the individual disappeared,” Vargas-Andrews said. “To this day, we believe he was the suicide bomber.”
Tim Pearce contributed to this report.