The Pentagon was grilled Friday over concerns that there was a lack of security preceding the terror attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A suicide bomber left 13 U.S. service members dead Thursday and 18 injured in addition to at least 169 Afghan deaths and multiple Afghans injured. The attack occurred at the gates of the Kabul airport, where swarms of people have been desperately gathering in an attempt to be evacuated before the U.S. ends its mission on Aug 31.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby fielded numerous questions Friday about how the attack occurred, especially given that Commander of the United States Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters one day earlier that such an attack was expected “sooner rather than later.” CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr asked why discussions didn’t happen prior to the attack “if the U.S. military knew that there were improvements to be made” in terms of security.
“Why wasn’t this discussion engaged in before … the attack? Why weren’t these improvements asked for by the Taliban?” she wondered.
Kirby said that “even before we had a specific threat assessment, force protection was of paramount importance.” He noted that the situation is dynamic and therefore force protection is constantly changing. He said adjustments were made prior to the attack before admitting that “clearly, all of that effort … fell short in some way.”
“We’re gonna do the forensics on this, Barb, and clearly try to figure out what went wrong, because clearly something went wrong, but it would be irresponsible if we didn’t act immediately to just, to double down and make sure that we were being as anticipatory as possible,” he continued.
ABC News’ senior Pentagon reporter Luis Martinez also pressed the Pentagon on what happened on the ground. He pointed out the “significant number” of U.S. casualties “at one location” and wondered why they were “concentrated in one area.”
“Was there a shift change underway? I mean, how – how is it, or were they spread apart in one line and that’s just how the blast was?” Martinez asked. (RELATED: 12 US Troops Killed, 15 Injured In Kabul Attacks, Pentagon Confirms)
“This answer’s not gonna be rewarding to you but it goes back to, you know, the commander will figure all those out at the due time. And those are the questions that I think are very appropriate … But right now what I can tell you is the commander is continuing to execute the mission,” Major General Hank Taylor, the U.S. Strategic Command chief of staff, responded.
Fox News’ national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin, meanwhile, wondered how the administration was able to so quickly and confidently declare the Taliban played no involvement in the suicide bombing. She asked Kirby if he was “ruling out them being involved because you are so dependent on the Taliban right now?”
“Actually, I didn’t hear Gen. McKenzie put it that way, Jen. In fact I think in one of the questions he got … the general said ‘of course there was a failure somewhere, obviously.’ And he even alluded to the fact that it could have been at a Taliban checkpoint. So we’ve not been certain about that at all. There will be an investigation,” Kirby said.
Other questions included probing about the potential for future attacks. Taylor said he hadn’t seen reports of more attacks by ISIS-K against Taliban checkpoints and Kirby claimed they are prepared for future attacks.
“We certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts, absolutely, but I won’t get into the specifics of what those are,” he said.