Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said on Friday that “thousands” of ISIS-K terrorists have been released from the prison at the Bagram Air Base since President Joe Biden’s administration abandoned it on July 1.
During a Pentagon press briefing, Kirby was asked about the number of ISIS-K fighters who have been released from prison amid President Joe Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, to which he responded, “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.”
The reporter also asked Kirby why the terrorist prisoners had not been transferred to different facilities, like Guantanamo Bay.
“As for emptying them 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,” Kirby said. “And so they did have responsibility for those prisons and the bases at which those prisons were located. 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 that the Afghans didn’t hold. But all of those responsibilities were turned over in accordance with the retrograde plan back from April.”
On Thursday, President Biden said the decision to abandon Bagram was made based on advice from his generals.
“On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan, the commanders, as well as the Pentagon. I ask for their best military judgment – what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission. They concluded, the military, that Bagram Air Base was not much value-added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul,” Biden said. “So I followed that recommendation.”
In June, General Mark Milley told lawmakers that Bagram wasn’t “tactically or operationally” necessary.
“On Bagram, it is not necessary tactically or operationally for what we’re going to try to do here with Afghanistan,” Milley said at the time. “Consolidate on Kabul with support of their government. But to back up a little bit here on the momentum of the Taliban, so to speak, there are 81 district centers that have, that are currently, we think, that are underneath Taliban control.”
“There is no provincial capital that is under Taliban control,” Milley said, later adding, “We’re concerned. We’re watching it. But there’s a 300,000 plus or minus military force, the Afghanistan army and police force, and it is their job to defend their country.”