Top British officials are forcefully pushing back on classified records that appear to have been leaked by the Biden administration that blame Britain for the Abbey Gate remaining open when an ISIS terrorist detonated a suicide vest, killing 13 U.S. service members and roughly 200 Afghans.
“Just to pick up on something which has emerged from the United States over the past 24 hours, there seems to be an accusation by the Americans that we somehow endangered their forces on the ground by insisting on one of the gates at the airport, remaining open, what is the truth of it?” a Sky News host asked Dominic Raab, Britain’s Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State.
“Look, we coordinate very closely with the U.S., in particular around the ISIS-K threat that we anticipated, although tragically we’re not able to prevent,” Raab said. “But we, it’s certainly right to say that we got our civilian staff out of the processing center by Abbey Gate–, but there’s no, it’s just not true to suggest that other than securing our civilians staff inside the airport that we were pushing to leave the gate open.”
Raab continued, “In fact, and let me just be clear about this, we were issuing changes of travel advice before the bomb attack took place and saying to people in the crowd, which is what I was particularly concerned that certainly UK nationals and anyone else should leave because of the risk.”
Dominic Raab says “it’s just not true” to suggest UK pushed to keep a Kabul airport gate open, after reports that the US military left the Abbey Gate open despite warnings of a terror attack to allow the UK to continue evacuating personnel#KayBurley: https://t.co/0vd9xHu1wl pic.twitter.com/5ZxWyPZkhR
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 31, 2021
The remarks from Raab come after Politico reported on Monday that U.S. forces decided to keep Abbey Gate open because “they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.”
The Daily Mail highlighted other pushback from former and current British officials:
- Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith: “If the American military were serious about shutting the gates they would have shut the gates.”
- Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan: “No blame should be put on the British here and I do not believe the evidence as presented goes anywhere near any level of U.K. culpability. The U.S. had very good intelligence on this attack. One could ask why they did not conduct a pre-emptive strike to neutralize the threat? If the suicide bomber had not detonated his device at Abbey Gate it would have been somewhere else close by.”
The report said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and other top officials warned on Wednesday of last week that there was “significant” intelligence indicating that ISIS was planning an attack at the airport and that officials needed to make immediate plans for a “mass casualty event.”
Politico’s report, which was based on classified notes from meetings between top U.S. officials, said that commanders on the ground in Kabul warned that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens were instructed to go, was at the “highest risk” of being attacked and that the attack was likely to happen within the next 24-48 hours.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the Department of Defense, was asked about the matter during a press conference on Monday.
“What I can tell you is that we have been monitoring as close as we can intelligence that led us to believe that we were in a very dynamic and in some cases, specific threat environment, number one,” Kirby said in response to a question from a reporter. “Number two, as General McKenzie said, we’re going to investigate. We’re going to get to the bottom of what happened last Thursday. 13 precious lives were lost. We’re going to take that seriously. And we’re not going to investigate it in public.”
“Number three, I am absolutely not going to speak to a press story that was informed by the unlawful disclosure of classified information and sensitive deliberations here at the Pentagon,” Kirby added. “Just not going to do it.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby refuses to answer questions about the Politico report that US officials knew ahead of time that an attack was imminent at Kabul airport, saying it's based on classified information. However he did not deny its contents.
Why were Marines still there? pic.twitter.com/F0GOMXbNpe
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) August 30, 2021