Pentagon rips Politico over article on ‘mass casualty event’ warning that preceded Kabul attack
The Pentagon blasted Politico for a story published early Monday morning, saying the article endangered the lives of Americans conducting extraction missions in Afghanistan.
The article detailed how top brass at the Pentagon met 24 hours before Thursday’s bombing outside the Kabul airport that killed more than 170 people, including 13 U.S. service members.
During the meeting, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other top Pentagon officials reportedly warned department leaders to prepare for a “mass casualty event.”
The outlet, citing classified notes of the meeting that were shared with Politico, reported that Austin told his colleagues early Wednesday morning, “I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited “significant” intelligence suggesting an attack near the airport by ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, was imminent.
“This story is based on the unlawful disclosure of classified information and internal deliberations of a sensitive nature,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement to the outlet. “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.”
In addition to the classified notes, the article also cited interviews with two Defense officials with direct knowledge of the calls between Pentagon leaders.
Politico, in a statement to The Hill, said it stands by its reporting and pointed to an explanatory line about halfway into the article that reads: “POLITICO is withholding information from the Pentagon readouts that could affect ongoing military operations at Kabul airport.”
Politico announced that last week that it agreed to be purchased by German publisher Axel Springer for a reported $1 billion.
Other media reports last week warned of a potential attack before the bombing outside the airport. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported, citing a senior U.S. official, that the military was tracking a “specific” and “credible” threat at the airport from ISIS-K.
The article comes as President Biden faces increased scrutiny for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has taken over the war-torn country and a deadline to extract all American personnel and allies approaches.
The Hill reported over the weekend that some of Biden’s allies have grown frustrated with the media coverage. The president’s approval numbers have dipped in the final weeks of the Afghanistan mission, according to numerous polls.
Over the weekend, the U.S. conducted a series of drone strikes on ISIS-K targets, which claimed responsibly for last week’s suicide bombing. Biden and military leaders have said they fully expect ISIS-K to attempt further attacks in and around the airport in the coming days.
–Updated at 10:34 a.m.