The ISIS-K leader who planned the deadly 2021 suicide bombing at the Kabul international airport’s Abbey Gate was killed by the Taliban, according to the National Security Council.
The administration didn’t name the ISIS-K leader, but John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, called him “the mastermind of the horrific attack,” which was carried out in the final days of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Kirby did not specify when the Taliban killed the ISIS-K leader, but called it one in a “series of high-profile leadership losses” that ISIS-K has suffered this year.
The terrorist who carried out the suicide bombing, Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri, had been released from prison only days earlier when the Taliban took control of the area. The attack left 13 US service members and more than 170 Afghans dead.
ISIS-K stands for ISIS-Khorasan, the terror organization’s affiliate that is active in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has tried to crackdown on ISIS-K throughout the country, but has not succeeded in destroying the terror organization.
That the US announced the terror leader had been killed by the Taliban, a group it fought a nearly two decade long war against, rather than by American forces points to the limits of the US’ ability to carry out operations in Afghanistan following the withdrawal.
Last month, Gen. Erik Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, told US lawmakers that “in Afghanistan, the reduction in collection, analytical resources, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance assets means our campaign against Al Qaeda and ISIS Khorasan is challenged; while we can see the broad contours of attack planning, we lack the granularity to see the complete threat picture.”
The terror group, he said, had increased its attacks in the region and was trying to plan attacks outside of Afghanistan against the US homeland and American interests abroad.
Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, praised the killing of the ISIS-K leader while arguing that the Biden administration remains responsible for the failures that led to the attack at Abbey Gate.
“Any time a terrorist is taken off the board is a good day. But this doesn’t diminish the Biden administration’s culpability for the failures that led to the attack at Abbey Gate, and will in no way deter the committee’s investigation,” said McCaul in a statement.
The father of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, who was killed in the bombing, told CNN that he was notified by the military Tuesday morning.
“It’s great, we have another terrorist off the face of this earth. I’m good with that,” said Darin Hoover. “But it doesn’t absolve the administration or the State Department or the Pentagon from taking responsibility or accountability for what happened. They haven’t stepped up and said we messed this up and it won’t happen again.”
“And I personally think it can happen again,” he added.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have vowed to hold the Biden administration responsible for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, with some GOP members calling it a “botched” operation and a failure in multiple congressional hearings.
At a House Oversight Committee hearing last week, Michigan Republican Rep. Lisa McClain said the Biden administration had “wholeheartedly defended this atrocity in Afghanistan.”
Meanwhile, the administration and its allies have repeatedly argued that President Joe Biden was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan because of an agreement signed between former President Donald Trump and the Taliban months earlier, tying the White House’s hands.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said it was “morally confused and politically cynical” to only blame the Biden administration, since mistakes made over 20 years of war and presidents of both parties led to the final outcome of America’s longest war.
This story has been updated with additional details.