Taliban special force fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military's withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
( Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi
Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, and you're back with The Takeaway. The last US military flight left Afghanistan on Monday, a day ahead of the August 31st deadline. This departure came days after a suicide bombing at the Kabul Airport on Thursday, which killed 13 American service members and roughly 170 Afghan civilians.
An ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan known as the Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack at the airport. In retaliation, the US launched two drone strikes over the weekend, one of which killed 10 members of an Afghan family, including at least eight children, according to the relative of the family.
In response to reports of civilian casualties, the US Central Command issued a statement saying that the attack targeted a vehicle that posed an imminent ISIS-K threat to Kabul's airport and that the casualties may have occurred due to explosive detonating in the vehicle. For more on the US drone strike and the situation in Afghanistan at the moment, we're joined by Andrew Quilty, a journalist based there in Afghanistan. Welcome to The Takeaway, Andrew.
Andrew Quilty: Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Can you talk about what it feels like in Kabul today? Are there still people in the airport who are trying to evacuate?
Andrew Quilty: I haven't personally been to the airport today. However, I can tell you that the atmosphere, because of the lack of aircraft and the guard, both transport aircraft and military aircraft patrolling the skies over the airport in order to support the US withdrawal have all but vanished, and it has brought a certain level of calm to the city in terms of the atmosphere, I have to say. The constant drone of large military jet aircraft in the sky, it adds a certain mood, which doesn't help anyone's psyche in these very trying, stressful, worrying circumstances.
Melissa Harris-Perry: You've been speaking with the family members of the 10 Afghans who were killed on Sunday. How are they doing right now and what have they been saying to you?
Andrew Quilty: Look, as you can imagine, there are three families within this extended family who lost members of their direct family. What can you say? They're shattered. Eight children below the age of 15, I believe, a number of them infants, taken out of nowhere. Who could have predicted this? They certainly didn't-- The father who was killed and who was driving the car at the time had been driving home from work. He had dropped off three colleagues on the way home.
Just before he arrived at home, he came across some of his children and nieces and nephews playing in the alleyway near to the home. Some of them jumped in the car, others followed them into the gate. It was at this point that the drone strike occurred.
You mentioned, in your introduction, that these civilian casualties might have been a result of secondary explosions caused by the explosives in the vehicle. It's not immediately clear whether there was or was not a bomb in the vehicle, but there's no doubt, in my mind anyway, without having ballistic expertise, that the munition that struck this vehicle, I can't imagine how anyone within the vehicle would have survived if the aim of the strike was to disable the person carrying this supposed suicide bomb.
Melissa Harris-Perry: In a moment like this, as I hear you with such humanity report the nature of that loss, how it occurred, we know, obviously, that it was a US drone. What are the ways that ISIS-K or that other groups in Afghanistan are now talking about this?
Andrew Quilty: I think it just puts an exclamation point on a US intervention, which was marred significantly by these kinds of incidents. The difference in this case was that it happened in the most populated city in the country, Kabul, a city of six or seven million people, whereas over the past 20 years, most of these kind of incidents that have resulted in civilian casualties have occurred in remote districts where there's little access for media and they largely go unreported.
I think for the Afghans who remain in Afghanistan, some of which tried to get out unsuccessfully, others did not and will be, to different degrees, happy to stay, or are just resigned to the fact that they don't have another option, will, I imagine, see this event as just a continuation of the failed aspects of the US military mission that failed and ultimately turned much of the population against them and the allies in the Afghan government and towards the Taliban.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Are drone strikes like this expected to become a more central part of the US strategy now that troops are gone?
Andrew Quilty: It's a very good question and I think one which we're all waiting to see. It was expected that more covert tactics and strategies would be imposed after the US military withdrawal concluded. It was, however, expected that the allies within the Afghan government and the Afghan national security forces would maintain control for at least several months, if not a couple of years. Now, that has obviously evaporated in the last two weeks.
The capacity for the Americans to coordinate these kind of things with human intelligence resources on the ground has gone to almost nil. Anyone who is willing to take the risks to coordinate with American military and intelligence agencies is going to be taking a huge risk at this point with the country 99% controlled by the Taliban.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Andrew, speaking of taking enormous risks, you're still in Afghanistan. Can you share at all what your plans are and how you're trying to stay safe?
Andrew Quilty: For me and other foreign journalists, I think we can all say that the part of this period that we most feared is probably over. That was the period in between the governance of the former Ashraf Ghani government and the new Taliban government. The transition itself happened almost as smoothly with almost not a single bullet fired.
Going forward, everyone's holding their breath, I would say, to see how, now that the Taliban have complete control, to what extent that they will consolidate that control and start imposing the harsh laws and restrictions on society.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Andrew Quilty is a journalist based in Afghanistan. Thank you so much for joining us, and please stay safe, Andrew.
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