A recently declassified Pentagon report on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has renewed attacks against President Joe Biden from across the political spectrum. No doubt, the lack of foresight on the rapid collapse of the US-built Afghan government is inexcusable and created needless chaos.
New reporting on the August 26 suicide bombing at the Kabul airport – an attack that killed more than 150 people – suggests that some victims may have died of gunshot wounds, rather than the explosion. While the Pentagon has acknowledged that American and British troops fired “a small number of warning shots” from opposite sides of the crowd, it maintains that no Afghans were killed by US forces.
Doctors in Kabul tell a different story.
In interviews with ProPublica and Alive in Afghanistan, six physicians from three different hospitals in the Afghan capital dispute the Pentagon’s claim that casualties were inflicted solely by “explosively propelled ball bearings” used in the improvised bomb.
“The doctors remained convinced that they saw wounds from bullets, not only ball bearings,” the outlets reported, adding “All said they had the experience necessary to make the distinction, having responded to numerous terrorist attacks and firefights in their medical careers.”
At Kabul’s Emergency Surgical Centre – an Italian-run facility which primarily treats war victims – doctors say they received 10 people killed by gunfire to the head, neck and chest. Others were also treated for non-fatal gunshot wounds.
“It was really a disaster situation,” said Dr. Mir Abdul Azim, a senior surgeon at the Centre who treated victims of the airport attack. While he noted that no bullets were recovered from his patients or the deceased, he said “he could tell that the wounds were caused by bullets and not ball bearings from the shape and size of the entry and exit wounds, along with other factors such as the tissue damage he saw.”
The suffering inflicted on Afghans is not limited to those killed during the withdrawal or who starve in their homeland under American sanctions. Thousands who were evacuated during the hasty US pull-out now find themselves stranded in the UAE. The conditions for the 10,000 people warehoused for months in the Emirates are so poor that protests have broken out, with many directing their anger toward Washington.
The marooned Afghans – among them women and children – say they are in “prison” and mentally suffering, some claiming they have been deprived of medical care in interviews with the Wall Street Journal.
While many of the attacks against Biden’s withdrawal are little more than cynical ploys to label the Democratic president as ‘weak’ – some even exploiting Afghan suffering to press for more aggressive stances against China and Russia – he cannot avoid responsibility for the broken promises to thousands of refugees still trapped in prison-like conditions.