U.S. military officials are withholding the names of the ISIS terrorists allegedly killed by an airstrike in Afghanistan that was carried out in retaliation for the suicide bombing attack that left at least 13 U.S. troops dead.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby twice on Friday declined to provide the identities of the terrorists said to be killed in the strike.
“I don’t believe we’ve refused to say who they are. We haven’t given you any names,” Kirby told reporters in Washington, responding to a question about the terrorist names.
“We know who they are. I think at the time, we didn’t release the names because we were in the middle of a very fluid threat environment,” he added later. “Let me see if that’s information that can be provided now. I don’t know. I mean, we know who they are. I don’t know if it’s information that we’re going to be able to provide right now.”
The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment.
The decision to withhold the identities has drawn some criticism.
“This is bogus. Why not release the names?” former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said on social media.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col Brian F. Sullivan told the New York Post that the shielding of the names indicates that those who were killed weren’t high up in ISIS.
“Normally if they get a high-profile guy they like to name him,” he said.
The strike on Aug. 29 took place in Kabul, hitting what the U.S. military described as “an imminent ISIS-K threat” to the airport there, which was held by U.S. troops at the time.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time,” Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement at the time.
U.S. officials later confirmed that multiple civilians were left dead.
Relatives of the deceased said 10 civilians were killed by the strike.
Kirby has since repeatedly defended the retaliatory attack.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week that it was a “righteous strike” that followed proper procedures.
“We absolutely had solid intelligence that this was ISIS individuals, who were in the act of imminently carrying out a direct threat to the airport and to our people, and potentially to innocent lives outside the airport,” Kirby added Friday.
“The intelligence was very good. And we took the strike in as timely a fashion as we could to prevent this imminent threat. There’s no question, from the department’s mind, that it was a valid threat, valid target, and it related to ISIS-K.”
ISIS-K is an affiliate of ISIS. The terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 bombing of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which killed 13 American service members and wounded scores of Americans and Afghans.
The United States withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. 30.