US Marine testimony casts doubt on Pentagon’s account of aftermath of Kabul airport attack
The testimony comes from nearly 2,000 pages of the US military investigation that was released by US Central Command under a Washington Post Freedom of Information Act request on Friday evening. Most of the names of those interviewed are redacted, making it difficult to discern who each witness is. Yet, from the details that remain, it is clear that many Marines reported firing beyond the three rounds of warning shots that the US military investigation said were fired by US and UK troops, and didn’t hurt anyone.
Some accounts are detailed. A Marine, from the female search team deployed to check Afghan candidates for evacuation, is explicit about when and how she opened fire. She said she decided to enter the blast area to help her colleagues after the bomb exploded and opened fire in thick smoke without knowing what she was aiming for.
“I walked in and saw a lot of Marines shooting near the jersey barrier. There was a lot of smoke,” she told investigators in an Oct. 13 interview. “I couldn’t see where they were shooting. They grabbed me and I also started shooting my gun. I don’t know what I was shooting at.”
The testimony provides important perspective on what the U.S. military knew when it reached conclusions that no Afghan or U.S. personnel were shot. Their findings indicated that the Marines did not come under fire afterward and fired only controlled bursts at two suspected military-aged males, who injured no one.
However, in the documents, several Marines recall gunshots hitting around them following the explosion, with one seeing a bullet hit a window in front of him. They raise questions about whether all the shots fired were counted by investigators or if they were all harmless warning shots.
A Marine with the 1st Regiment recalled in an interview on October 1 what he saw when he ran into the tower next to the airport’s Abbey Gate entrance where an Islamic State bomber detonated his device. “I saw the Marines returning fire. I heard three separate shots hit the rear windows of the tower. The third shot hit right in front of my face as I closed the ballistic window.”
Another said: “I heard sporadic bullets slamming overhead for about 5 minutes. Didn’t see any tracers but did see sparks when bullets hit objects.”
A group interview by investigators with junior Marines who were at the site of the explosion, from Company G 2/1 Marines, contained numerous accounts of bullets hitting around troops. A Marine said, “While I was applying turnstiles (sic.), I saw ricochets. I never saw a shooter.”
Another quote says, “I saw the gunshots ringing around us”. Another reads: “I saw ricochets but did not hear any gunshots.”
In other excerpts, the Marines suggested their colleagues returned numerous shots. It is unclear how many Marines were interviewed, as the speakers’ names are redacted.
“If it was only 2-3 shooters and the number of our guys firing back, they would have been done,” said one. Another said: ‘I heard a scout guy threw about three rounds of ammunition that way.
In some interviews, other soldiers said they did not fire at all afterwards, despite the chaos and the possibility that they were attacked again. Much of the testimony agrees with the findings of investigators.
But the testimony also raises questions about how accurately the US military assessed whether the patients their doctors treated after the explosion were shot. US investigators said doctors treating the injured initially mistook the ball bearing injuries for gunshot wounds because they looked so similar.
A doctor said: “I think there may have been GSW [gunshot wounds] sprinkled, but it’s inconclusive and wasn’t worth trying to figure out medically. They would be treated the same.” The US military investigation insisted that no gunshot wounds were detected among the patients US doctors treated at the airport, and no bullets were found. has been recovered.
An American doctor, identified as a ’68Z’, the military designation for a senior officer often with medical experience, said: ‘Originally a lot of the wounds (sic.) were classified as gunshot wounds, but they were in fact due to shrapnel. But there were gunshot wounds. There was a non-American patient who had a bullet in the back of the head from small arms fire. The doctor, whose name is redacted, said in the interview that he saw 70 patients and: “I was the person who wrote the patients on the board and attended everywhere.”
Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in an email earlier this week to CNN that the doctor was contradicted by surgeons in the operating room who said they were not removing the bullets while they were working. He said the 68Z officer “was not a doctor or an officer and did not administer medical care in the operating room.” The “68Z”, however, says in the interview that they were previously a “combat nurse” and an “LPN”, a licensed practical nurse.
Urban said some of the testimonies highlighted by CNN were “examples of statements deemed less credible … For each of these cases that you describe, we had conflicting information from multiple credible sources.”
Urban added: “While there are conflicting statements, as well as inconsistent evidence, the investigation team has reached its conclusions based on a preponderance of all the evidence gathered, after careful analysis and synthesis. meticulous.”
Urban also pointed to the explosion’s likely impact on troop memories and noted how investigators “assessed the credibility of service members based on their maturity and experience in operational environments.” The documents appear to record mostly junior Marines at the scene of the explosion seeing shells hitting them around them.
Urban added that doctors at the airport providing care did not assess how patients were injured. “Medical providers did not make any forensic findings at HKIA and only focused on treatment,” he wrote in the email.
“Many people and leaders unaffected by the blast indicated that claims about incoming shells were not accurate,” Urban said.
Investigators at Friday’s briefing at the Pentagon said the “confined space” in which the warning shots were fired “caused an echo that created the illusion of a firefight.” Urban added, “We have multiple sources unaffected by the blast that indicate those affected by the blast who claimed to have fired their weapons did not.”