'Reprehensible' US Military leaks blame UK for Kabul airport bombing deaths

31 August 2021, 07:03 | Updated: 31 August 2021, 08:42

Government sources have accused the US of attempting to shift the blame
Government sources have accused the US of attempting to shift the blame. Picture: Alamy
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The US-UK special relationship has been put under strain after claims the Pentagon heaped blame on Britain for keeping a gate at Kabul airport open.

Government insiders and Tory MPs are said to have accused the US of trying to 'shift the blame' following the horrifying terror attack last week

The attack on Kabul airport on Thursday has led to a transatlantic blame game, with Pentagon leaks claiming the US kept open a Kabul airport gate to help with the British evacuation effort despite a high risk of attack, it has been reported.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has blamed the US and President Joe Biden for the terror attack at Kabul airport on August 26.

Speaking to LBC, he said: "President Biden was responsible for those decisions which, I believe, were critical in the course of the events that we've seen unfolding.

"I do think now to attempt to try and brief against the UK on the suicide bombing is reprehensible really, because, you know, if the American government or the American military were very serious about shutting the gates, they would have shut the gates.

"I think this idea that it was down to the idea that the British were begging them to keep them open, I think is a little bit mean-spirited on them and probably wrong."

Read more: Final US evacuation flight departs Kabul as Taliban hails 'full independence'

According to leaked Pentagon notes obtained by Politico, Read Admiral Peter Vasely, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, had wanted to close Abbey Gate but it was kept open to allow UK evacuees into the airport.

At 6pm a terrorist wearing a suicide vest walked into the crowd outside Abbey Gate. Some people died instantly, while others were blown into a drainage ditch by the force of the explosion.

At least 170 Afghans and 13 US personnel were killed. Two British nationals — Musa Popal, a 60-year-old shopkeeper from London, and Mohamed Niazi, a 29-year-old taxi driver from Hampshire — were killed.

Read more: Ten members of one Afghan family killed in US drone strike - reports

Read more: Foreign Sec calls for international support to help at-risk Afghans escape the Taliban

Afghan caller calls on West to give Taliban time to adapt

The Ministry of Defence said that throughout the operation at the airport "we have worked closely with the US to ensure the safe evacuation of thousands of people".

The final US troops left Kabul on a flight shortly before midnight local time on Monday, meeting President Biden's commitment to withdraw ahead of the deadline.

The Sun reported the episode has since been referred to as a "blame game" by some.

Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and chairman of the defence select committee, said it was 'an unhelpful blame game' which shows the relationship between the US and UK at a 'low ebb.'

A government source said: “The US is having to explain the total mess that has been the evacuation. There’s clearly some hard briefing going on.”

How did we get the evacuation from Kabul so wrong?

The Pentagon has criticised what it described as the “unlawful disclosure” of the details of the call. It said: “This story is based on the unlawful disclosure of classified information and internal deliberations of a sensitive nature.

“As soon as we became aware of the material divulged to the reporter, we engaged Politico at the highest levels to prevent the publication of information that would put our troops and our operations at the airport at greater risk.

“We condemn the unlawful disclosure of classified information and oppose the publication of a story based on it while a dangerous operation is ongoing.”