Liz interviews Jerry Dunleavy, author of “KABUL: The Untold Story of Biden’s Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End”.
The conversation centers around the suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 13 US military personnel during the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Dunlevy reveals previously undisclosed details about the suicide bomber, who had been in custody at the Bagram airbase. He explains that the decision to abandon Bagram, a move that had foreseeable consequences, played a pivotal role in the unfolding tragedy. Dunleavy highlights how this decision left Afghanistan in chaos, with the Taliban taking control, releasing prisoners, and creating a security vacuum.
The conversation further delves into the intelligence failures and the missteps made in responding to the situation. Dunleavy points out that the US had detailed information about the suicide bombing beforehand, even identifying the bomber, but failed to act effectively. The lack of accountability within the Biden administration is also emphasized, with Dunleavy discussing the ongoing investigations and testimonies in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Dunleavy dissect the lies propagated by the administration to cover up the situation and the subsequent repercussions on international geopolitics. They highlight how Russia and China exploited the situation, with Putin using the chaos to invade Ukraine and China using it to threaten Taiwan, taking advantage of what they termed the “Kabul Moment”.
In conclusion, the podcast sheds light on the broader implications of the Afghan withdrawal and the subsequent power vacuum, leaving Afghanistan vulnerable to extremist groups. The interview with Dunleavy underscores the gravity of the decision-making process, the mishandling of intelligence, and the far-reaching consequences that the United States and the world will have to grapple with for years to come.
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain typos, mistakes, and/or incomplete information.
Biden was warned. Biden knew what he was doing and he did it anyway.
He’s such a bad person.
He’s legitimately a bad person. And we lay that out in the book. This is who he’s always been from early on as a senator and what he did with Vietnam, trying to keep Vietnamese refugees out of the country at the end of the Vietnam War. It’s exactly the same thing like four decades later. I mean, he’s the exact same guy.
That’s awful. Okay, let’s get this started. This is getting good and we should record this.
That’s right. Let’s not waste it all here.
Liz Wheeler Show episode four 11, take one.
It is a little hard to believe that it’s been two years since this happened. Living in media myself, I’m aware of how collectively short our attention span has gotten. If there’s a negative story planted about you in the media, you have to wait less than 24 hours before people are like, oh, look, a shiny squirrel this way, and it’s like done. But this was one of the events of the Biden administration that was a deliberate political choice, I would argue, not something that arbitrarily happened, that crossed party lines. There are not too many issues like that. I would argue maybe Covid Lockdowns, at least at this point. The transgender issue, hunter Biden corruption. And we have the Biden’s botched withdrawal of Afghanistan that not just caused people to feel emotion on the right, but I mean there was legitimate hanger from people on both sides of the aisle, his deliberate abandonment of precious human life in Afghanistan.
Jerry Dunlevy and James Hassan just wrote an amazing definitive account of what happened, kind of the behind the scenes corruption, who was pulling the strings, some never before known details about the suicide bombing that led to the death of 13 US military service members. The book’s called Cobble the Untold Story of Biden’s Fiasco in the American Warriors who fought to the end. It’s chilling. You have to read this. We’re going to talk to Jerry now because some of the things that you found out about the suicide bombing, Jerry, we didn’t know. I mean, we knew that this was the way that over a dozen military members were killed after Biden surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban. But tell me a little bit about this research. What’d you find?
Yeah, and thanks for having me. So in the book Kabul, we found new details about the suicide bomber. And let me just lay it out here, because the debacle in Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover and the suicide bombing in those 13 dead Americans, none of that had to happen. All of this was foreseeable and preventable. And when it comes to the suicide bomber, it kind of starts with the US mind boggling and terrible decision to abandon Bagram airbase in early July, 2021. And what most people don’t know about the suicide bomber, well most people don’t know his name, his is Abdul bin Ari, and the Biden administration won’t say his name and doesn’t want to admit his name, but that’s who he was. And he was in prison at Bagram Airbase when the United States abandoned it. He had been captured through a joint effort by Indian intelligence and the CIA when he tried to carry out a suicide attack in New Delhi back in 2017.
And the CIA helped the Indian intelligence roll up that Isis K effort and Indian intelligence handed him over to the CIA and the CIA put him in prison at Bagram. And so when Biden made this decision to abandon Bagram, which was part of this condition withdrawal, this condition, troop withdrawal, Lagar Decisis k terrorist was sitting behind bars in Bagram. So abandoning Bagram was a terrible idea for so many reasons, because it would’ve been a much safer place to run an evacuation from. Because remember, we had thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies that we had to get out. We had no plans for getting them out. And well over a thousand Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies were left behind. Keeping Bagram would’ve helped with that. Keeping Bagram would’ve helped if we kept us air assets there would’ve helped with stopping the Taliban from ever taking Kabul.
And if we had simply held on to Bagram, this Isis k terrorist would’ve been sitting behind bars rather than threatening Americans. Because the first thing that the Taliban did when they took Bagram, which we had abandoned in July, the Taliban takes Bagram on August 15th. The first thing that they do is they opened those jail doors, thousands of Isis, k prisoners, free dozens of al-Qaeda terrorist freed as well as thousands of Taliban fighters. And remember, we then had to rely on the Taliban to provide security at Kabul Airport. And part of how President Biden tried to comfort everyone with this terrible idea was by saying repeatedly, well, the Taliban and Isis K, they are mortal enemies. And so the implication there being we can count on the Taliban to stop an Isis K attack. Well, the first thing that the Taliban did taking over Bagram was free all these Ice K terrorists, including the guy who killed all those Americans at Abbey Gate.
On top of that, we have the testimony from Tyler Vargas Andrews, the marine sergeant, who ended up losing two of his limbs in that bombing. But before the bomb goes off, he testified that he believed that he had the bomber in his sights because US intelligence was receiving detailed warnings about the bombing that it’s coming, that it’s going to targeting Abbey Gate, that it’s going to be almost at a certain hour. And a detailed description of the bomber, which Tyler Vargas Andrews believed he had the bomber in his sights, but couldn’t get permission from his commanding officer to take that shot. On top of that. And it’s crazy that there’s still more is during our writing of the book, kale, we read through thousands of pages of Pentagon documents and records, which clearly just nobody else had gone through because in there, a US officer on the ground said that US intelligence knew that ISIS K was staging at a location about a mile away from Kabul Airport before the bombing.
And that US military leaders asked the Taliban to assault that location. And of course, the Taliban never did. And on top of that, we had officers submit sworn testimony saying that the US officers asked for permission to conduct a strike, an airstrike against the nicest K location in Afghanistan before the Abbey Gate bombing. But permission was denied. And it looks like part of why that permission was denied by military leaders was because of a negative response from the Taliban. And so all of these things combined just show that this bombing didn’t have to happen. If we had simply held onto Bagram, it wouldn’t have happened. And there were other things that we could have done along the way, but because of our reliance on the Taliban for security and because of the unclear rules of engagement, 13 Americans were killed, dozens of Americans were wounded, and 200 Afghans were killed as well.
So wait a second. I mean, this is also shocking. It’s almost hard to process. The United States is supposed to be not only the most powerful military and the most powerful country in the world, we’re supposed to be a force for good. So let me focus first on this intelligence. This is pretty specific intelligence that you’re referencing when you say that US intelligence knew that an ISIS K bomber was going to wage an attack, knew it was going to be at this gate, knew even what time this attack was, they were planning on staging this attack and knew what the bomber looked like. I don’t understand. Maybe you have an additional explanation here. I don’t understand why you would even collect that intelligence if when a military service member on the ground then saw this bomber, why wouldn’t you neutralize that bomber? Why wouldn’t you? Yeah,
I mean it’s kind of unbelievable, but it’s clear that US intelligence, because on the day of August 26th, the day of the bombing, the intelligence was getting extremely specific. The US intelligence almost had it down to the hour that it was going to happen when it was to happen. It happened maybe a couple of hours later, and they were also receiving detailed descriptions of the potential bomber. And it is this big open question about why wasn’t Tyler Vargas Andrews this marine sniper, why wasn’t he given permission to take the shot? He testified to Congress that he asked permission from Lieutenant Colonel Brad Whitehead, who is his commanding officer. And according to Tyler, his commanding officer said that he didn’t have permission to give to Tyler to take the shot and that he didn’t know who did what.
Yeah. Right, right. So this is a big question. And I’m currently now working for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and I’m just talking to you in my personal capacity as the author of the book Cobble. But the committee chaired by Chairman McCall has asked for that commanding officer to come and talk to the committee. And so it’s a big unanswered question, and it all, I think goes back to this precarious position that President Biden’s series of terrible decisions put these US Marines and other US service members in where we are in control of nothing but an airport. And the Taliban controls everything surrounding it, all of Kabul and all of Afghanistan. And so the Americans who are able to get out, the Afghans who are able to get out, have to make it through the Taliban gauntlet to get out. And that is the position that we put ourselves in with everybody that we had to get out stuck behind Taliban lines. And it’s, it’s a big problem. And it obviously had chaotic consequences. It had deadly consequences, and Americans left behind and Afghan allies left behind because of it.
Well, I hope that Lieutenant Colonel is well forced to testify in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee because I’m interested in who it was that ultimately made the call and said, no, you cannot stop this suicide bombing, even though our intelligence was sure that it was going to happen and had all the detail of where it was going to be carried out and who was going to be carrying it out. I want to know who was ultimately responsible for that. I also am interested in one of the things you wrote in your book was the military intelligence and the intelligence community. When Biden was creating this plan for withdrawal that they told him from the get-go in no uncertain terms, this was like a consensus that his plan was going to fail, that it was going to be a disaster. So it wasn’t like the intelligence community in this case was misinforming him and that he could almost shrug and say, well, they told me my military generals told me this would work. It just ultimately didn’t. People were telling him it wouldn’t work. So my question to you is who exactly was behind this decision to say, we’re going to disregard all of this military advice, all of the reports from the intelligence community, and go ahead knowing that this is going to be a disaster? I want to name names here.
It’s a great question. And honestly, I think that a lot of times questions get raised about President Biden’s age, his fitness for office, whether he is in control of everything at the White House. And I think oftentimes those questions are probably legitimate. But when it comes to Afghanistan, this was President Biden top to bottom start to finish. This was his decision. This is what he wanted. He made this a very early priority of his. I mean, we had someone in the know tell us that one of his very early meetings in the White House, he was just asking, how quickly can we get out? This was President Biden’s decision, and his US military leadership was telling him, if you just pull all US troops immediately with no plan about how to get Americans out, no plan about how to get our Afghan allies out. No plan about how to keep the Afghan military on the battlefield fighting to keep the Taliban at bay.
Because keep in mind, the Afghan military already very weak and shaky, relied upon, was built around, in fact, US military support. And so pulling us troops meant pulling contractors, pulling logistics, pulling I S r pulling advisors, everything that we had designed, the Afghan military round, all of that was pulled immediately. April 14th is when Biden made his decision, and July 2nd we closed our final base Bagram. So you can see in that tiny window, we were here and we were gone. Another thing to keep in mind, and this is bizarre in so many ways, is President Biden in his April 14th speech where he made this announcement, he declared September 11th, 2021 as the final day to get us troops out. That would be the final day, right? The final withdrawal date. That’s crazy for so many reasons, of course, because I think that everybody heard him say September 11th, 2021, the 20th anniversary of nine 11.
I mean, why are you picking that day? I mean, the Taliban are the ones that harbored the al-Qaeda terrorists who hit the US on nine 11. So it was a political move. I think he was trying to get some sort of victory lap out of it, but I don’t really get it. But it wasn’t strategic. It was, and it was actually the opposite of strategic because picking that date, he decided to pull all US troops right in the middle of Afghan fighting season. We have been there for 20 years. We know that the Taliban is at its strongest and most effective in the spring, in the summer, if there’s any time that you’re not going to do a retrograde, it’s the spring and the summer. But that’s exactly when he did it. And so by picking September 11th, 2021 as the deadline to pull us troops out, what Biden actually insured was that by the 20th anniversary of nine 11, the terrorist group that harbored al-Qaeda and never broke its alliance with al-Qaeda to Taliban would be in charge on that 20th anniversary.
I mean, it boggles the mind that anybody could be, it actually is not just that anybody could be this stupid. I don’t believe that this was, that these were mistakes. I believe that this were deliberate political actions. Maybe it was a political miscalculation because he didn’t anticipate that people on the right and the left would be so horrified that he sacrificed human lives there. But it really makes you believe in the battle between good and evil that were fighting in American politics because you can’t make decisions like this unless you are completely corrupted by evil. So you actually quit your job in the middle of writing this book because tell me about that process. That’s a pretty bold thing to do.
Yeah, so I turned in the book and was asked to join the House Foreign Affairs Committee to help lead the Afghanistan investigation that is currently ongoing, and that is ramping up in fact. And the committee has been doing actually incredible work. Sergeant Tyler Vargas Andrews, his testimony about having the bomber in his sites and being denied permission to take the shot. That was testimony in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year. And of course it was the House Foreign Affairs Committee that forced Anthony Blinken under threat of contempt to let the committee see the dissent cable from July, 2021 that members of the US Embassy sent to Anthony Blinken. And that seemed to be ignored by Anthony Blinken in the State Department. That descent cable in July, 2021 was saying, look, things are going to fall apart here. The Taliban is going to take over.
The Afghan government’s going to collapse, the embassy is going to get overrun, and we haven’t done any of the things that we need to do to fulfill our promises to Americans here and to fulfill our promises to Afghan allies here. And so that descent cable was pride out of the hands of the State Department because of the committee’s great work. And then the final thing I’ll say is that a little bit later this month on August 29th, the Gold Star families, the families of the 13 service members who were killed in the Abbey Gate attack, they’re going to be coming to Capitol Hill for an official congressional roundtable where they’re going to be telling their stories, talking about their interactions with President Biden, talking about the silence from the Biden administration and demanding accountability. Because a very important thing to keep in mind here is that there has been zero accountability.
None. No one’s resigned, no one’s been fired, no one’s paid any consequences. I think the only semblance of a slight bit of accountability is that when this happened in August, 2021, president Biden’s approval rating took a hit, and it’s never really recovered. And so if there’s been a political price, it’s just that I think that the Americans who are willing to give Biden a chance to think maybe he’s going to be a steady hand at the wheel, I think that the scales came off their eyes and they were able to see that he’s incompetent. But I think the worst thing is he just doesn’t care. This was an uncaring move and tens of thousands of our Afghan allies are paying the price. Obviously the country of Afghanistan is paying the price. 13 American families are paying the price, and the Americans who were left behind paid the price too.
In your book, you said that this ushered in a dangerous new era that reaches beyond Afghanistan and the Middle East. What do you mean by that?
Yeah, well, we have two chapters, one on Russia and one on the Chinese Communist Party and how they exploited the debacle in Afghanistan, because obviously this was terrible for Afghanistan and the world on its own. I mean, the Taliban is back in charge. Members of the Taliban government, some of them are actually considered to be Dualhead members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. You’ve got al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. You have the Taliban funding, al-Qaeda, obviously Isis K who killed those 13 Americans is running wild in Afghanistan. So it’s dangerous and it’s bad just for Afghanistan. But the problem is not localized just to Afghanistan because when it comes to Russia, Vladimir Putin had wanted to do a full scale invasion of Ukraine for a long time, long time goal of it, but you hadn’t done it yet. And we make a very strong case in our book, and I encourage people to read it, that Putin looked at the United States and nato, and we were in the shambles.
I mean, it was chaotic, it was disastrous. Putin saw the debacle there and how the US and NATO alliance looked weak. And that was, I think, the final push that he needed to invade Ukraine. And now we have a massive war with tens of thousands of people on both sides dead and a big war on the European continent. Very dangerous. And it’s very possible that the debacle in Afghanistan is what pushed Putin over the edge. Now, when it comes to China, this was a huge propaganda victory for China, and they’ve used it continuously. We have a chapter in our book that I encourage everybody to read. It’s called the CCP and the Kabul moment. And the cobble moment is kind of what the Chinese Communist Party dubbed all of this. So China saw the writing on the wall in the summer of 2021. They had been getting very close to the Taliban for a long time, but they sidled up to them as this was all going south because they knew the Taliban is going to be in charge soon.
And I think that China knew even if the Biden administration was in denial about it. But the second that the Taliban took Afghanistan and Kale fell, China started touting the kale moment. And how they used this cobble moment is they use it to target Taiwan basically saying, look at what the United States did in Afghanistan. Look at how tens of thousands of Afghan allies are left behind. Look at how the Talibans back in charge. Basically, you can’t trust the Americans and a similar fate awaits you Taiwan if you try to count on America and if you try to fight us if, and I think when they invaded Taiwan. And so we titled a chapter of the book that, and in my mind it was always like, well, how long is China going to continue with that piece of propaganda? And lo and behold, here in the second anniversary of the Taliban takeover, China’s back at it talking about the kale moment, China’s foreign ministry talking about the kale moment. So when it comes to Russia and China, they both use this moment to their advantage. And I think that we’re living in a more dangerous world because of it.
Gosh, it’s really heavy stuff. I mean, there’s been so much talk about how the Ukraine war is not just devaluing the US dollar, which is bad for us domestically because we’re facing inflation because of it, because of all of Biden’s spending, but how that’s going to retool the world order because if people don’t rely on the US dollar as the world reserve currency, they’re going to rely on something else. In which case we lose our bargaining power because our bargaining power is primarily economic, not primarily military. And this just plays right into it. I mean, Biden just handed, if he handed Russia handed Putin, he handed China handed G, they’re emboldened. It’s quite shocking. And then he is lied about it. You write extensively about the lies that Biden told to try to cover up. Can you give us some examples of that?
Yeah, I mean, one big thing, basically the Biden administration’s only defense against any of this is they try to point to the Doha agreement, which was an agreement struck between the US and the Taliban during the Trump administration. And I think we’re pretty honest in the book that we think that the Doha agreement was a flawed agreement for sure. But it did have conditions. And one of the conditions that the Taliban never met is just look at the ongoing continued alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Taliban protected and harbored al-Qaeda during the 1990s when al-Qaeda was conducting terrorist attacks against US embassies in Africa. They continued harboring them in 2000 when al-Qaeda hit the u s s coal and killed US sailors, they continued harboring al-Qaeda on nine 11 when 3000 people were killed, and they refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda when we threatened to invade.
And obviously we did invade. And for 20 years the Taliban was willing to be out of power to sit out in the hinterlands and to fight and die rather than breaking this alliance. And so the Taliban never broke its alliance with al-Qaeda. And so one of the lies that President Biden tried to tell was he tried to say, well, al-Qaeda’s gone from Afghanistan. Just completely untrue, A total lie. Raja Haqqani, who is the head of the Haqqani network and is also one of the top leaders of the Taliban, he’s considered by many to also be a card carrying member of al-Qaeda. And you have other members of the Taliban government who are considered to be members of al-Qaeda, Aman Alri, who is Wassam bin Laden’s number two, right after the Taliban took over, the first thing that he did was go to Kabul and hang out in a safe house provided to him by Raja and Haqqani, and you have al-Qaeda throughout Afghanistan.
So President Biden just, he lied about this and he lied about everything. He lied about the size and strength of the Afghan military to try to paint a rosier picture of what the reality was on the ground in Afghanistan. He tried to say that this wasn’t going to be Saigon and sort of fortuitous words because it was exactly like Saigon, and actually I think was worse than what happened in Saigon. Part of the problem with what the Biden administration did in 2021 is they refused to be honest about what they were doing. The American people were just lied to every step of the way when the reality on the ground was clear. And there were people telling Biden and the people around him what was really happening. And I think there was some willful blindness, some ignorance, some ignoring of the reality. And then I just think that some of it was just not caring. President Biden made a decision and he was going to go through with it no matter the cost. And I think that there was a big cost to it.
Yeah, I think you’re right. I mean, in a sense, it sounds like almost hyperbolic to say worse than Saigon, but if you think about the photos that we all saw, I mean, they were everywhere after Afghanistan. It was all of these are Afghan allies abandoned grabbing onto the propellers and the steering gears of these planes and dropping because they dropping to the runway as the planes took off because they thought that was their only chance out. I mean, it’s hard to believe that we’ve allowed history to repeat itself like that. But given what you know now about everything that happened, not just the events, but what caused the events or who caused the events on our side, or who allowed the events to happen, what’s going to happen next? What can we expect from Afghanistan, that whole region, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, isis, K, what’s going to happen?
Well, I think that Afghanistan is a very dangerous place. Again, al-Qaeda is there and growing in strength. Isis K is there, and we saw them hit Americans at Abbey Gate, and they want to continue hitting us. And obviously you can’t trust the Taliban to deal with Isis. K and their alliance with al-Qaeda is still strong. And so the reality is that, I mean, it’s unfortunate because 20 years of war in Afghanistan and 20 years of mistakes, 20 years of US service members giving their lives, and it ended with the Taliban back in charge and Afghanistan is going to be a problem again. And it’s a threat now to the region. Pakistan and the Pakistani intelligence played a very big role in helping return the Taliban to power. But it’s kind of a be careful what you wish for type scenario because the Taliban’s malfeasance is never going to be restricted just to their borders.
And the immediate consequence for Pakistan has been that the Pakistani Taliban is emboldened and has been carrying out gigantic attacks in Pakistan and isis. K has been carrying out attacks in Pakistan as well. And unfortunately, if we’re not careful, I think that it’s only a matter of time that al-Qaeda, ISIS or both start to be able to hit the West and hit the United States and our allies again. And it’s a tragic way for 20 years to end. And it certainly did not have to happen the way that it did. And we tell people, I think that people of good faith have different opinions on whether we should have withdrawn from Afghanistan or not. And a lot of people thought that we should and some people thought we shouldn’t. But wherever you fall down on that, the way that we did it was ridiculous and irresponsible and a betrayal to not just to the people that we had fought alongside in Afghanistan for 20 years, but a betrayal to the US service members that had fought there for 20 years. And a betrayal to the American service members that we tasked with going and conducting our final operation in that evacuation because of the things that they had to see, the things they had to deal with, the 13 fellow service members that they had to lose. And it was a betrayal to the Americans and Afghans that we left behind. So it’s a huge black mark, and I think that we’re going to pay the price for it for a long time.
Are we going to have to go back eventually? If what you said is going to happen will happen, what are we going to do? Are we going to allow ourselves to be attacked in our own country and not try to eradicate the enemy? Are we just going to take it? We don’t want to forever war. What’s going to, are we going to go back?
I don’t think wants us, is ever going to, I mean, I don’t think that the US is ever going to invade Afghanistan again. And a promise that President Biden made after the agate attack that killed those 13 Americans was that the US would not rest until we had gotten, had gotten the people responsible. And he said that we’re going to do it at a time and a place of our choosing. Well, we did one strike against Isis K the day after the Abbey Gate bombing where we killed two members of Isis. K. We did another strike two days later where we killed unfortunately Afghan civilians. And then we have not done another strike against Isis K since, and we are currently relying on again, the Taliban to deal with it. And you can’t trust the Taliban.
It was a fantastic interview. We had a great time. He’s so knowledgeable about this topic. We actually talked for longer than our allotted time. We talked for a while, and so we’re going to drop the second part of this interview tomorrow. Make sure to tune back in to hear the conclusion of what we discussed and what Jerry has found and what he says we can possibly expect from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and that investigation into Afghanistan. You can find that on Apple Podcasts and on Spotify tomorrow. So thank you for watching. Thank you for listening. I’m Liz Wheeler. This is the Liz Wheeler Show.