(CNSNews.com) – The Pentagon has named one of two men killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan a month ago, describing him as an ISIS-K attack “facilitator” who was “directly connected” to the ISIS-K leaders who coordinated the terror attack at Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. service personnel and more than 160 Afghan civilians.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Maj. John Rigsbee said in a statement Kabir Aidi (also known as “Mustafa”) had been directly connected to the threats facing the U.S.-military led evacuation mission at the airport, including “the reported distribution of explosives and suicide vests.”
Kabir Aidi had also been involved in previous terrorist attacks in Kabul, including a November 2020 assault on the Kabul University, he said. At least 22 people were killed in a five-hour gun battle at the university, for which ISIS-K claimed responsibility.
Rigsbee’s statement did not name – or refer to – the second person killed in the August 27 drone strike in Nangarhar province. The Pentagon at the time described the two as “high-profile” ISIS-K “planners” and “facilitators.”
For almost a month after the Nangarhar strike, the Department of Defense declined to name the two men, although it said their identities were known.
The refusal to do so began to raise more questions after CENTCOM’s admission following an inquiry that a second drone strike, carried out near Kabul airport on August 29, had killed ten civilians, seven of them children, and not an ISIS-K terrorist as initially reported.
As recent as September 20, a Pentagon spokesman maintained that the information on the Nangarhar targets was “classified.”
The drone strike near Kabul airport is the subject of two ongoing inquiries. Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin has ordered a review of the earlier CENTCOM investigation, to be carried out by a U.S. Air Force three- or four-star officer (a lieutenant general or above).
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall has also directed a separate investigation by the Air Force Inspector General, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed on Friday.
The IG evaluation will determine if the strike “was conducted in accordance with DoD policies and procedures,” the department said.
“Specifically, we will review the pre-strike targeting process; the damage assessment and civilian casualty review and reporting process; and the post-strike reporting of information.”
After the suicide bombing and gunfire attack that cost the lives of 11 Marines, a soldier and a sailor, President Biden vowed that the U.S. would hunt down those responsible and make them pay.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, and the moment of our choosing,” he said on August 26.
Less than two days later, following the Nangarhar strike, Biden said in a statement, “I said we would go after the group responsible for the attack on our troops and innocent civilians in Kabul, and we have.”
“This strike was not the last,” he said. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”
Less than a day later came the second drone strike which, it would later emerge, killed ten civilians, and no terrorists.
Asked Friday whether the Pentagon was still hunting for those responsible for the airport attack that killed 13 Americans, Kirby replied in the affirmative.
On Thursday the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote to Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, asking for the declassification and release of as much information as possible relating to the troop drawdown and Kabul evacuation mission, “while protecting sources and methods.”
McCaul asked for reports and assessments dealing with Afghanistan forces’ ability to hold off the Taliban offensive, the likelihood and time estimates of a potential Taliban takeover, and “evacuation related consequences for not maintaining Bagram Air Base.”
“Of note, I am interested to see exactly how these products were reflected in the Biden administration’s contingency and worst-case scenario planning,” he wrote.
McCaul also asked the three to provide the committee, within 30 days, all relevant State Department cables and intelligence community reports regarding the threat posed by ISIS-K to the airport, leading up to the deadly attack.
Kirby on Friday confirmed receipt of the letter, and said the Pentagon would “reply to the congressman in due course and appropriately, just like we do all members of Congress.” He would not comment on the request for the reports to be released.