Situation Report: Questions swirl over Biden administration’s reliance on Taliban cooperation

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As ISIS-K continues to target U.S. troops following the suicide bombing outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul which killed 13 American soldiers and more than a hundred Afghan civilians, doubts regarding Biden Administration’s reliance on the Taliban are beginning to pick up steam.

An August 28 drone strike in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province reportedly killed a Taliban a “facilitator” involved in planning attacks against Americans.  It is unknown whether these ISIS-K members were involved in the Kabul airport bombing.  The Biden administration has been criticized for refusing to release their names.

On August 29, a U.S. drone strike targeted a pick-up truck loaded with what the Pentagon says were ISIS suicide bombers. Secondary detonations from explosives in the vehicle reportedly killed 10 nearby Afghan civilians. Family members of the civilians speaking to the Los Angeles Times, however, allege their vehicle was improperly targeted by the drone and not struck by a secondary explosion.

Allegations that the drone strike may have been misdirected led to questions about the quality of intelligence capability available to the U.S. in Afghanistan during the on-going withdrawal. Some observers expressed concern that the U.S. may be relying on the Taliban for intelligence on ISIS.

Hudson Senior Fellow Rebecca Heinrichs asked on twitter, “Are we relying on the Taliban to tell us when/where to strike?” after a Taliban spokesman made an announcement regarding the U.S. attack. ISIS-K later launched a rocket attack targeting the airport, but without any casualties.

Questions also have been raised about whether drone strikes will have any real effect on reducing terrorist threats to the Kabul airport before U.S. forces withdraw on August 31 because the Taliban released thousands of ISIS-K members from the Bandar airbase prison.  This essentially flooded Kabul with Islamist terrorists determined to kill American citizens who will not be deterred by U.S. drone strikes.

The willingness of the Biden Administration to rely on the Taliban to provide security has come under increasing fire, particularly following a  Washington Post article which alleged that the Taliban offered to allow the U.S. to provide security for the city of Kabul during the evacuation. The Biden Administration reportedly declined:

In a hastily arranged in-person meeting, senior U.S. military leaders in Doha — including McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command — spoke with Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political wing. “We have a problem,” Baradar said, according to the U.S. official. “We have two options to deal with it: You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.” Throughout the day, Biden had remained resolute in his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. The collapse of the Afghan government hadn’t changed his mind. McKenzie, aware of those orders, told Baradar that the U.S. mission was only to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies and others at risk. The United States, he told Baradar, needed the airport to do that. On the spot, an understanding was reached, according to two other U.S. officials: The United States could have the airport until Aug. 31. But the Taliban would control the city.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration continues to demonstrate other priorities besides the evacuation of American citizens and the most-at-risk Afghan personnel. While getting accurate numbers on the total number of Americans and Afghan Special Immigration Visa holders evacuated so far has been difficult, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby told reporters of the 122,000 evacuees from Kabul of them only 5,400 were Americans.

Despite claims by the Biden Administration that all Americans who wished to do so would be able to evacuate, multiple stories have emerged of U.S. citizens or green card holders being denied entry at the Kabul airport by Taliban fighters or receiving messages that the evacuation is over. There are estimates that over 1,000 Americans will be left behind when U.S. forces withdraw tomorrow.

Moreover, the U.S. government reportedly handed over a list of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies to the Taliban as part of their effort to facilitate their movement through checkpoints, raising concerns the Taliban would use the list to exact retribution or take American hostages.  After seeming to acknowledge this list last week, Secretary of State Blinken denied it yesterday in news interviews.

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