President Biden was reluctant to allow the US military to rescue Americans outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan because he feared a repeat of the “Black Hawk Down” tragedy that led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers in Somalia, according to a report.
Biden, speaking to military commanders in Afghanistan last week, brought up the 1993 attack in Mogadishu that downed two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters by fighters loyal to Somali President Mohamed Farrah Aidid using rocket-propelled grenades, the Associated Press reported.
The attack on the helicopters and the subsequent rescue attempt of their crews sparked fighting throughout the night.
Images of dead US soldiers being dragged through the city streets by mobs sparked a turning point in the US’ involvement in the civil war.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that the approximately 5,200 US troops in Kabul “don’t have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people” because they have to keep the airport secure.
On Monday, US special forces rescued 16 Americans who were about two hours outside Hamid Karzai International Airport and returned them to Kabul for evacuation processing.
At the Pentagon briefing Monday, spokesman John Kirby said there have been “additional cases” of ferrying Americans to the airport beyond an operation last Thursday involving some Chinook helicopters but he wouldn’t elaborate.
He also said, echoing Austin’s previous statement, that initially the military didn’t have enough troops to secure the airport and “move massive amounts of people,” but as the force has grown in number, “if there’s an incident where somebody’s in extremis and we need to get them in small numbers, we can do that and we have been doing that.”
“Over the course of the ensuing days, more capability has flown in, more troops have flown in, and so we do have the ability to help when we can and where we can, to help Americans move towards the gates,” Kirby said.
With Post wires
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