By Jake Epstein (Syndicated)
At a Friday press conference, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby reported that thousands of dangerous ISIS-K prisoners were freed in Afghanistan after the American-installed government fell under Taliban control.
“I don’t know the exact number. Clearly, it’s in the thousands when you consider both prisons, because both of them were taken over by the Taliban and emptied. But I couldn’t give you a precise figure,” he said in response to a reporter who asked how many how many prisoners were left at Bagram Air Base.
Kirby reported the United States military was turning over control to Afghan security and blamed their failures for a lack of resistance as the resurgent Taliban advanced.
“And as for emptying out, remember we were turning things over to Afghan national security forces, that was part of the retrograde process, was to turn over these responsibilities. And so they did have responsibility for those prisons and the bases at which those prisons were located,” Kirby said. “And of course as the Taliban advanced, we didn’t see the level of resistance by the Afghans to hold some territory, some bases, and unfortunately those were the bases the Afghans didn’t hold.”
Among the many thousands released from the Bagram Detention Facility includes senior Al Qaeda leaders and many Taliban fighters.
ISIS-K claimed responsibility for Thursday’s deadly terror attack that killed more than a dozen United States service members and wounded nearly 20 more. Over 170 total people were killed and more than 190 were seriously wounded in the blast, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health told CNN.
The Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies. They’ve been fighting for years. ISIS-K, which arose in 2015, views the Taliban as apostates and not devout enough it terms of its adherence to Islam.
Though ISIS-K fighters were released during the Taliban’s final, rapid push for control of the country, the Taliban also made a point to execute ISIS-K’s former leader in the process. After the Taliban marched into the capital, Abu Omar Khorasani — the former head of the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate — was taken from Pul-e-Charkhi by Taliban militants and promptly killed alongside eight other ISIS-K members, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Experts say ISIS-K has an interest in generating chaos in Afghanistan to embarrass the Taliban and undermine its legitimacy.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan “puts significant pressure on ISIS to demonstrate its continued relevance to global jihad, which will make ISIS more dangerous as it attempts to prove the organization’s capability and relevance,” Jennifer Cafarella, a national security fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, told Insider.
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