Why do people leak?
In the national security arena, there are broadly two kinds of leaks;
- 1) the real dangerous ones that contain information that reveal sources and methods, or worse, put people in danger;
- 2) the ones that simply provide evidence that an official position is a lie, or that someone who claims X happened when in reality Y happened … but there is nothing really “classified” about it that would put it in #1 above.
You also need to look at who (organization/company/reporter) is reporting them. That can give you a hint as to how accurate they are (yes kiddies, some people invent leaks) and perhaps the motivation of the leaker. Also, if you have a lot of faith in the reporter, you can usually have good faith in the leak. A good reporter will do their due diligence on their source, and also do not suffer being burned with bad leaks. Good sources don’t lie, but if their information proves false and the reporter feels it was intentional, then all agreements for confidentiality etc are no longer in play. Rules of the game, etc.
A leak reported to a highly partisan organization may or may not be as accurate as one reported by larger/mainline outlets. For one reason or another, a mainline organization may pass on reporting a leak or try to bury it outright. As such, the person who leaks it will find someone else who they think will be interested in it, or that they trust. In that case, it may be a partisan or smaller entity that reports the leak, but that does not make it any more or less true.
Why do people leak? There are on occasion people who leak for the best of reasons. They see a wrong that for moral reasons they cannot allow to go unknown. They may or may not have exhausted official means to redress their concerns. These people usually will leak to people they trust most, not those who they think will get the greatest initial bang. They will sleep better knowing the truth as they know it is out there and others can judge or act on it accordingly.
Other people leak for the most political of reasons, for personal gain, spite, or revenge. Many times, “leaks” are quasi-official from higher positions than the leaker for similar reasons. When a leak comes out of DC, even if it is 100% accurate from a reliable source, this is usually why there is a leak.
And so, today’s story is from a leak. Though I have issues with parts of Politico, I have confidence in Lara Seligman. As such, her exclusive today passes my first filter. Why leaked? I’ll let you ponder that, but it reads right.
This account of the internal conversations among top Pentagon leaders in the hours leading up to Thursday’s attack at the airport is based on classified notes from three separate calls provided to POLITICO and interviews with two defense officials with direct knowledge of the calls.
Let’s dive it;
During the meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.
Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.
“I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” Austin said, according to the classified notes.
Define "people" here. Who the people Austin is referring to will point you to the critical players in this whole-of-government failure.
On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.
Define "the commanders" and "they" in the above paragraph. Again, as above, that answer will define exactly what we are looking at.
A little side note: the above pull quote and a few other parts of the leaked were picked up by some as an attempt to put some of the blame on the British. No serious person is in any place to throw shade at the British forces with us. No one. Anyone who does is either grossly ignorant, a bad actor in the extreme, or simply a sociopath. Anyone who served with the British in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere the last few decades, I believe, feels the same.
That smear can stop right here, right now. I won't hear it.
Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, called in from the Kabul airport to detail threats to three airport gates, where U.S. troops were moving in Americans and Afghans slated for evacuation. Along with Abbey Gate, the South and West Gates were also under threat, they said, according to the written notes of the call, which did not identify which of the two was speaking.
He's not wrong. When you're surrounded, the threat is everywhere.
According to the notes, Vasely and Donahue discussed how the Taliban were undertaking additional security measures and pushing back the crowds outside the airport due to the threat. Throughout the evacuation effort, the Taliban have instituted curfews and expanded the security perimeter around the airport in an effort to help the Americans increase security, the defense official said.
Underscores that we can only exist due to the mercy and good graces of the Taliban. Yes, I said it ... again. Those are simply the facts on the ground.
But the military leaders on the call expressed frustration with the Taliban’s persistent lack of cooperation, noting that militants were turning potential evacuees away at the gates.
They owe us nothing and will only do what pleases them to their benefit, just as we would in their position.
The team had “frequent and constant communications with the Taliban” multiple times a day to try to resolve issues as they cropped up, the defense official told POLITICO. “Many times they were successful, but that doesn’t mean that in subsequent hours or days we wouldn’t have a similar problem pop up again.”
OK, the Taliban "watch floor" has a poor turnover folder that is not as well managed as ours ... or perhaps it is?
Austin once again expressed his alarm about the imminent attack.
“We probably ought to listen when you have a former [Joint Special Operations Command] and SEAL commander on the ground saying it’s high risk,”
Who, exactly, was not listening to the hydrologist saying that water is wet? Who?
(McKenzie) predicted the militants would be less willing to help the U.S. military effort the longer they stayed in Kabul, even as the threat from ISIS-K increased. The Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies and defense officials have repeatedly said they have no reason to believe the two groups are collaborating.
I may outline this larger issue in a later post. There is a cultural history here to understand.
“The ability of [the Taliban] to protect us and assist in pursuing [American citizens] and other groups — that willingness will decay, and we’re seeing leading edge indicators of that today,” McKenzie said on the Wednesday morning call. “We do need the agreement of the [Taliban] to pursue our principal objectives of getting out [American citizens] and other priority groups.”
Yes, we are here. Read the above to see the absolute state of the US military in 2021. This is a defeat of choice and fewer paragraphs are written that better outlines our national humiliation begat by this cohort of senior leaders.
“We’re not going to get everyone out. We’ll get 90-95 percent,” McKenzie said.
So, I guess we are now a nation that intentionally leaves our people behind. Put that on a streamer to add to CENTCOM's flag.
“History will judge us by those final images,” Kahl warned, according to the call notes.
Oh, yes. Colin Kahl. One of The Smartest People in the Room™. Just look at that CV ... and look what it brought us to. You hear me say now and then, especially on twitter, that we "need new elites."
There you go.
Leaders had already discussed with the Taliban additional security measures outside the gates, Vasely said, and planned to have Abbey Gate closed by Thursday afternoon, Kabul time.
But Abbey Gate was not closed on schedule. British forces had accelerated their drawdown from the Baron Hotel just a few hundred yards away, their main hub for evacuating U.K. personnel, and the Americans had to keep the gate open to allow the U.K. evacuees into the airport, Vasely said.
As we should have. It was our fault that our best and most loyal ally was in a pinch. The responsibility was ours. Any fault is ours. Any deaths are on us and our leadership. Full stop.