Kabul airport bombing was unpreventable, says military review

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Central Command review released Monday determined that the August 2021 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, which killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghans, was not preventable at the tactical level.

The review refuted earlier claims by some service members who thought they could have neutralized the bomber, identified for the first time as Islamic State militant Abdul Rahman al-Logari. They believed they had spotted al-Logari, described as a “bald man in black,” but did not receive the necessary approval to engage. Central Command clarified that the man observed by U.S. forces was not al-Logari.

The chaos unfolded rapidly as the Taliban took control of Kabul, prompting an impromptu air evacuation at the city’s airport, guarded by swiftly deployed U.S. forces.

According to the findings, any measures to prevent the attack at Abbey Gate would have compromised the mission’s goal to maximize evacuations. The review supported the initial 2021 investigation’s conclusions and also examined the Taliban’s use of excessive force and the strategic decision to tighten the defensive perimeter around Abbey Gate prior to the bombing.

“Leaders at Abbey Gate were present, engaged, and made sound tactical decisions,” the report stated.

The reevaluation was ordered by Army Gen. Eric Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, in response to criticisms of the initial findings and persistent suggestions that the attack could have been thwarted.

During a briefing for a limited number of reporters, the Central Command review team presented photos used to distinguish the observed individual from al-Logari, addressing controversies over the identification process.