Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press conference Friday afternoon that the Taliban released “thousands” of ISIS-K prisoners in Afghanistan after taking over the country earlier this month.
“How many ISIS-K prisoners were left at Bagram Air Base and are believed to have been released from the prison there, and why weren’t they removed before the U.S. pulled out?” a reporter asked.
“I don’t know the exact number. Clearly, it’s in the thousands when you consider both prisons, because both of them were taken over by the Taliban and emptied. But I couldn’t give you a precise figure,” Kirby said in response. He added that the U.S. military was turning over its assets to Afghan security forces and blamed them for a lack of resistance against the advancing Taliban.
“And as for emptying out, remember we were turning things over to Afghan national security forces, that was part of the retrograde process, was to turn over these responsibilities. And so they did have responsibility for those prisons and the bases at which those prisons were located,” Kirby said.
“And of course as the Taliban advanced, we didn’t see the level of resistance by the Afghans to hold some territory, some bases, and unfortunately those were the bases the Afghans didn’t hold,” he continued.
As the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, the militant group reportedly released between 5,000 and 7,000 from the Parwan Detention Facility at Bagram along with a separate prison, Pul-e-Charkhi, according to CNBC. Among the prisoners released were Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the explosions in Kabul on Thursday that killed at least 13 U.S. military service members. Afghan health officials told CNN more than 170 people were killed in the attack and at least 200 more were wounded. (RELATED: Who Funds ISIS-K, The Terrorist Group That Took Responsibility For The Kabul Attack?)
Hundreds of ISIS-K militants have reportedly surrounded Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul and are expected to conduct more attacks.
Although ISIS-K fighters were released during the Taliban’s advance across Afghanistan, the two groups are considered hostile to each other. The Taliban notably executed former ISIS-K leader Abu Omar Khorasani and eight other members after capturing Kabul earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported.