CENTCOM launches fresh interviews of Abbey Gate bombing survivors
Approximately two dozen service members will give fresh testimony.
The Associated Press first reported the news. U.S. Central Command plans to interview approximately two dozen service members who were at Hamid Karzai International Airport in August 2021. CENTCOM made the decision to do fresh interviews after a June review of previous testimony. The new round of interviews do not count as a formal reopening of the previous CENTCOM investigation into the attack, but are meant to see if any new information can be gleaned from the additional voices.
“The purpose of these interviews is to ensure we do our due diligence with the new information that has come to light, that the relevant voices are fully heard and that we take those accounts and examine them seriously and thoroughly so the facts are laid bare,” CENTCOM spokesperson Michael Lawhorn said in a statement, per the Associated Press.
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The Aug. 26 attack came during the chaotic evacuation of partner members and civilians from Afghanistan during the U.S. withdrawal. As the Taliban quickly swept into the city, civilians rushed to HKIA to seek a way out. The situation left many American troops exposed as they tried to deal with the rush, and there was concern about an attack. Suicide bombers with ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, detonated explosives at one of the main points of entry, Abbey Gate. 13 service members were killed in the attack and several more wounded.
The attack also killed approximately 170 Afghan civilians who were trying to flee the country. In the aftermath of the bombing, the United States launched a drone strike at a suspected ISIS-K car. The missile killed 10 civilians instead, including seven children.
Investigations done since the Kabul evacuation found that the chaos of operation stemmed in part from poor communication and planning by the United States.
The majority of the interviewees are troops who were wounded in the blast and evacuated out of Kabul. It’s unclear if any Afghan civilians will be interviewed as part of the process. Lt. Gen. Patrick Frank, the head of Army Central Command, is overseeing the new effort. The fresh interviews were ordered by Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM. Frank is to report back in 90 days.
In April, the Taliban killed the leader of the ISIS-K group behind the attack. The death was confirmed by the U.S. military.