Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was the one Congressional leader who went “gloves off” in grilling Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday over the US drone strike in Kabul last month which came in the final days of the chaotic evacuation and troop pullout.
The Pentagon has continued this week to defend the Aug.29 attack which it says was against an ISIS-K target in the vehicle which was utterly destroyed. This despite a detailed New York Times investigation which found it killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, with the original target likely being an aid worker and not a terrorist at all. The most heated moment of the exchange came with Sen. Paul asked Blinken directly, “Was he an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” To which Blinken responded “I don’t know,” and said the strike was still being reviewed internally.
Sen. @RandPaul: “The guy the Biden administration droned: was he an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?”
Sec. Blinken: “I don’t know because we’re reviewing it.”
Sen. Paul: “You’d think you’d kind of know before you off somebody with a predator drone.” pic.twitter.com/kGWSuTySho
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 14, 2021
Paul continued to press Blinken over just what the Pentagon knew about its target ahead of the strike, and that’s when the Republican senator delivered his most stinging and sarcastic rebuke:
“You’d think you’d kind of know before you off someone with a predator drone,” Paul said.
Paul explained that the drone and assassinations programs going back across multiple US administrations have served to make America less safe, given it leads to “blowback”. .
“If you killed an aid worker on accident… do you think we’re better off because of that?” Paul said, emphasizing that it inevitably weakens US standing abroad.
The exchange came on the heels of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley previously asserting the drone strike took out an “imminent” ISIS-K threat.
Ultimately Blinken during his testimony admitted the US now doesn’t exactly know who it killed in the drone strike, but that it’s still being investigated by the Pentagon.
“The administration is of course reviewing that strike and I’m sure that a full assessment will be forthcoming,” Blinken said, leading Paul to press the issue.
“So you don’t know if it was an aid worker or an ISIS-K operative?” the senator asked. When Blinken said he could not speak to that in the setting they were in, Paul asked, “So you don’t know or won’t tell us?”
“I don’t know because we’re reviewing it,” Blinken admitted.
US security at Kabul airport had been vulnerable and on high alert following the Aug.26 devastating suicide bombing attack which killed 13 US troops and over 60 Afghan civilians.
Politically, the Biden White House was also under pressure to “do something” by way of revenge for the initial ISIS-K suicide attack. In announcing the drone operation, administration officials had hailed it as a “success” in terms of delivering a blow to ISIS-K, despite reports quickly coming out that tragically most of the deceased were actually children.