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Isikoff on bombing at the Kabul airport

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Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News Chief Investigative Correspondent gives us his take on the bombing at Kabul's airport in Afghanistan.

Video Transcript


SEANA SMITH: Let's get to the latest developments out of Afghanistan. The Pentagon wrapping up a briefing on the terror attack near Kabul airport. Now, the Pentagon saying that 12 US service members were killed and 15 were injured during that attack.

We want to bring in Michael Isikoff. He's Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent. And Michael, you were just in the briefing with the Pentagon. I guess, give us your biggest takeaways from what you just heard.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, look, this is the worst case scenario that American officials had been fearing for some days now. And in fact, there was very specific and credible intelligence that something like this would happen.

A couple of takeaways. First of all, 12 service members, US service members killed, 15 wounded. This is actually the first fatalities for US troops in Afghanistan since February of 2020, so for over a year. And it is one of the largest we've seen in some time.

A couple of takeaways from General Ken Mackenzie's US Central Command, did the briefing. He said that the mission of evacuating Americans and Afghan partners that can make it to the airport will continue. But he also said there are continuing threats from this same terrorist group, ISIS-K. By the way, which just apparently claimed responsibility for the attacks. It had not been in the first few hours afterwards.

And that the concerns are everywhere from another suicide bombing to rocket attacks to vehicle-borne suicide attacks. All that is continuing, which means that, even as the mission continues, we could see more images like we're seeing today with these attacks.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Michael, during the briefing, did they explain the intelligence was that there was going to be an attack? Did they explain how the individual at the gate was able to get close enough to kill 12 Marines? What safeguards they put in place to protect our forces?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, that was asked and not answered. General Mackenzie said he did not know enough at this point. It was pointed out by one of the reporters there that there are multiple Taliban checkpoints to get through to get close to the airport. So one question is, how did these ISIS terrorists make it through those checkpoints?

Was it just bad work by the Taliban who are manning the checkpoints? Was there some complicity somewhere on the chain? We just don't know. And we also don't know how big a bomb this is because 12 service members to be killed from one bomb is a lot. It does raise the question, were they all together? And was that a safety protocol?

But of course, that's dependent on how big the bomb was. And we don't know-- and General McKenzie said he doesn't know at this point.

SEANA SMITH: Michael, we are getting reports that we are expecting to hear from President Biden later today. But I guess from your perspective, what are the response options at this point from the Biden administration?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Well, very limited because we are withdrawing our troops. We no longer have access to other bases, like Bagram, where we could have presumably launched airstrikes if we could identify where ISIS fighters are.

Clearly in this case, they were embedded in an urban environment where it would be impossible to launch counterstrikes to go after the people who did this because they're embedded within a large civilian population. And also, we're dependent on the Taliban, at least for the next few days, to get whoever we can get out out. And to bomb the Taliban or to hold them responsible in some way would be counterproductive to the overall mission.

So there are not a lot of good options here. We did an interview today, Yahoo News did with former national security advisor HR McMaster, who served under Trump in 2017-18, was very critical of Trump's February 2020 deal with the Taliban and, of course, Biden's decision to withdraw as well as well.

And he says it's time for the president to reverse course, to extend the perimeter, to create safe areas for Afghan civilians, and to ramp up, essentially, a new war on terror in Central Asia where we would spend more troops and bring more capabilities to go after the jihadis who are clearly our sworn enemies. I doubt that's a prescription that's going to get much traction within the Biden White House. But this is--


MICHAEL ISIKOFF: --a very difficult-- yeah? Difficult choices for the president.

ADAM SHAPIRO: We've just found out the president's going to deliver his address to the nation at 5:00 PM on the events that are unfolding. We only have a little time left. Very quickly, did the Pentagon address the president's commitment to get any American in Afghanistan out of Afghanistan, should they want to leave? There was, what, 1,000 still trying to get out?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF: Yeah, yeah, there is a huge problem there, because as you remember, last night with these intelligence reports, the US embassy puts out a message to all Americans to stay away from the airport and, if they're by the gates, to leave immediately. So that clearly is counterproductive to the mission to get Americans out of the country if we have to tell them to stay away from the airport, which is the only place that they can leave.

So this is a real problem, a real conundrum. And these next few days are going to be really fraught with danger for American troops and for the US military and the Biden White House.

SEANA SMITH: And certainly something that we are going to keep on here at Yahoo Finance. Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent, thanks so much for hopping on with us.

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