The Summer of 2021 saw the complete overthrow of the Afghan government by militant forces of the Taliban. In the weeks and months leading up to August, Taliban forces had quickly advanced across the country, capturing providence after providence as they marched towards Kabul. On August 12, International Coalition forces announced plans to evacuate its forces, diplomats, civilians, and certain Afghans who worked for them from the country. When Taliban forces pushed into the capital in the coming days, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians rushed to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul with hopes they could be saved by ongoing airlift operations. The next two weeks saw what could only be described as pure chaos as crowds surrounded and stormed the airport in last ditch efforts to flee an impending Taliban rule. While this was happening, United States intelligence became aware of an Islamic State– Khorasan Province (ISKP) plot to target evacuation efforts.
The US Department of Defense today released findings of its investigation of the Kabul airport suicide bombing in August that killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US service members. pic.twitter.com/2EL7467Va8
— Kristopher Rivera (@kgrivera) February 4, 2022
At approximately 5:50pm local time, ISKP militant Abdul Rahman Al Logari bypassed Taliban security and detonated a suicide vest in a crowded canal near Abby Gate. The blast killed 183 people, including 13 American service members, and wounded over 150 others. ISKP claimed responsibility with hours of the attack.
Logari had been an active terrorist within Islamic State networks for years before the attack, having been involved with an attempted suicide bombing plot against New Delhi, India, in 2017. He was captured by Indian intelligence services and turned over the CIA, who held him at the at Parwan prison near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Logari was eventually released by Taliban militants in July as they took over the area. Afterwards, Logari slipped under the radar until the days leading up to the bombing.
In the time after Logari’s release and before the attack, there was obviously planning, but not by Logari. The mastermind of the bombing is widely believed to be Rajab Salahudin, a key ISKP leader who commanded militant cells and planned operations in Kabul. According to Afghan security analyst and journalist Bilal Sarwary, Salahudin was previously trained by al-Qaeda in Waziristan before he joined the Haqqani Network (HQN) in 2009, where he work closely under Tajmir Jawad, a senior HQN leader and current Taliban General Directorate of Intelligence. When ISKP formed in 2015, Salahudin was placed in charge of operations in Kabul against Coalition forces and later the Taliban itself.
On Tuesday, United States National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that “The ISIS-K terrorist who was the mastermind of the horrific attack at Abbey Gate that killed 13 brave American service members and many others has been removed from the battlefield.” Other American officials confirmed to various media outlets that the killing was carried out by a Taliban raid earlier this month in southern Afghanistan. One official told Politico that American forces did not cooperate with the Taliban in their operation, adding that American intelligence had independently confirmed the death with “a high level of confidence.”
Herat | Multiple reports suggest 14 ISKP members including a key ISKP leadership member 'Dr. Hussain' were killed in last night's GDI raids in different locations of Herat city. GDI is expected to release details of these raids. Alleged image of Dr. Hussain : pic.twitter.com/3e8K7AgvAz
— Ibn Sufyan (@IbnSufyan313) April 6, 2023
The largest issue with this latest announcement is that American officials have not explicitly identified who was killed. Likewise, the Taliban has not officially commented on the development either. The only significant counter-ISKP operation by the Taliban this month was back on April 5, where a Taliban raid against an ISKP hideout in Herat killed 14 militants, including “Dr. Hussain” who was a leader of operations in the city.
Until the United States outright releases the identity or any other supporting evidence, there is still uncertainty as to who is actually dead.