CENTCOM Commander Reveals U.S. Intelligence-Sharing Operation with Taliban

U.S. Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. briefs the media at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 13, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command, revealed an intelligence-sharing operation between the U.S. and Taliban on Thursday at a Department of Defense briefing, just hours after attacks at Hamid Karzai International Airport killed at least twelve U.S. service members and 60 Afghan civilians.

According to McKenzie, the Taliban and U.S. share a “common purpose” of finishing the ongoing evacuation mission by August 31.

“As long as we’ve kept that common purpose aligned, they’ve been useful to work with,” said the general.

McKenzie said he didn’t believe the Taliban intentionally allowed Thursday’s attacks to occur, but conceded he didn’t know for sure.

Nevertheless McKenzie said the U.S. has been sharing “versions of this information [regarding threats to the airport] with the Taliban so that they can actually do some searching out there for us,” though he stipulated that the U.S. “cuts down” the intelligence before handing it over to the Taliban. He also said that the U.S. “thinks” attacks have already been “thwarted” by the terror group that the U.S. deposed from power in 2001. The intelligence-sharing program has been in effect since August 14, McKenzie said.

Some experts have criticized the Biden administration for not expanding the perimeter around the airport and instead entrusting the Taliban to secure the area.

McKenzie’s announcement was delivered moments before Politico reported that the U.S. provided the Taliban with a list of U.S. citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies, believing that the group would help shepherd those names to the relative safety of the airport.

An official with the Defense Department quoted in the Politico piece lamented that “basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list.”

Florida senator Marco Rubio has accused the Taliban of turning unaccompanied American women away from the airport. Numerous reports have indicated that the group is hunting down Afghans who assisted the U.S. during its nearly 20 year stay in the country.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, reacted to the attacks this morning by declaring that “as we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”

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