Three U.S. officials on Wednesday confirmed the suicide bomber who killed 13 American servicemembers plus at least 169 Afghans at the Kabul airport on August 26 was released from prison by the Taliban eleven days earlier.
The prison was located at Bagram airbase — the base President Joe Biden insisted on abandoning over the advice of military leaders.
The Islamic State, whose Afghan branch is often referred to as ISIS-K, quickly claimed responsibility for the attack and identified the bomber as Abdul Rehman al-Logari.
Multiple U.S. officials verified the bomber’s identity to CNN on Wednesday. They also confirmed earlier claims by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), an outspoken critic of President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, that the bomber was released from Parwan prison at Bagram by the Taliban during its swift march to Kabul.
As CNN noted, the Taliban had a policy of emptying prisons as it conquered city after city in its rapid advance across Afghanistan, freeing everyone from veteran Taliban fighters to common criminals and ISIS terrorists.
When the Taliban took control of Parwan on August 15, it released thousands of prisoners, including “several hundred members of ISIS-K.” It now appears certain that one of them was the Kabul airport bomber.
“President Biden’s disastrous handling of our withdrawal from Afghanistan led to a series of events that culminated with the tragic loss of life on August 26th outside of the Kabul airport. Thirteen Americans, including one of my constituents, were killed because of the poor judgement and execution of our troop withdrawal,” Rep. Calvert said last week, citing information provided in a briefing by national security officials.
Information about Abdul Rehman’s release was first disclosed by India’s FirstPost, which Calvert’s office cited to support his statement.
Citing Indian intelligence sources, FirstPost reported on September 19 that the bomber was held at the Bagram prison for four years after India’s Research and Analysis Wing handed him over to the CIA.
The bomber was a native of Afghanistan’s Logar province who studied engineering in India. He was arrested in 2017 as part of a plot by ISIS-K to conduct a series of suicide bombings in New Delhi and other Indian cities. India’s intelligence services claimed Pakistan’s notorious ISI spy agency was involved in the plot.
According to FirstPost’s sources, Rehman was tapped by ISIS-K to lead the New Delhi attacks because of his familiarity with India. The plot was uncovered by CIA agents who were monitoring the communications of ISIS-K leaders in Afghanistan. Undercover Indian counterterrorism agents then got in touch with Rehman, pretending to be aspiring suicide bombers, and took him into custody after flushing him out.
The Indians decided to extradite Rehman to CIA custody into Afghanistan, a decision one intelligence official regretted when speaking to FirstPost.
“America’s disorganized retreat from Afghanistan has led to hundreds of highly-competent and highly-committed terrorists being set free to rejoin the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” the Indian official said.
“Literally a decade’s work on counter-terrorism has been undone by the U.S. failure to secure key prisoners in Bagram,” he said.
President Biden retaliated for the Kabul bombing with a hideously botched drone strike that killed an innocent Afghan civilian who worked for an American relief agency, along with several members of his family, including half a dozen children.