Kabul’s Ghosts-The Truth Comes To Haunt The Biden Administration

Among the items being looked at by the 118th Congress, is the disastrous withdrawal of Afghanistan in August 2021. On March 8, 2023, The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on the Afghanistan Evacuation. (The full five-hour hearing can be viewed here). To say the statements given by those called to testify were powerful isn’t nearly compelling enough. The emotion behind their truth and the pain in what they went through is difficult but necessary for all Americans to listen to.

The evacuation was a catastrophe; and worse, none of those 13 American service members needed to die. Even up to the very last moment, their murders were preventable as the hearing would later reveal.

Retired Green Beret, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, was once of the first to give his opening remarks. Lt. Col. Mann led the now infamous Task Force Pineapple, an elite group of current and former service members who went to work immediately to retrieve US citizens and allies stuck behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. You can listen to Lt. Col. Mann’s entire opening statement to Congress below, but among the most profound sentiments were near his closing. Nearly 75% of Afghan War veterans feel betrayed by how the war ended. He further stated that calls to the VA [suicide] hotline have spiked 81% in the first year since the Afghan withdrawal.

Retired US Army Green Beret, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 8, 2023

Arguably the physical and emotional wounds are even heavier for those who suffered loss when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside of Abbey Gate in Kabul on August 26, 2021. The United States suffered 13 servicemembers killed, including 11 Marines, 1 Sailor, and 1 Soldier. Another 45 U.S. service members were wounded. There were 170 Afghani civilians killed and another 105 wounded by the blast. It was the deadliest single act of terrorism in the entire 20-year war–it came less than 96 hours before the last U.S. troops would leave the country–but it could have been stopped.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sniper, Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, had the suicide bomber in his sights. U.S. intelligence officers as well as the Sergeant’s Battalion Commander arrived at his tower and confirmed that the individual he had located with his optics matched the description of the suspects that U.S. Intelligence Officers had warned them earlier were suicide bombers near the Abbey Gate.

Retired US Marine Sniper, Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 8, 2023

This information had even leaked to the media earlier that day. Reuters was one of several outlets to report of a very credible threat of attack on the airport at Kabul, just hours before the attack occurred. Radio communications advised that situation was as serious as it could get, and still the Sergeant was not granted authorization to shoot. The suspect disappeared out of the crowd and wouldn’t be seen again until a short time later, just seconds before he detonated an explosive vest and killed or wounded more than 330 people.

US Marine Sergeant Vargas-Andrews testifies about chaos at Abbey Gate

The information being fed to the American people wasn’t true, even up to the final hours. In his remarks on Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that diplomats from the department worked “around the clock” on the efforts in Afghanistan. He mentioned this specifically in a presser on the day of the attack as well, ironically, not long before it happened. But that wasn’t true at all. it was a complete lie according to Marines tasked with searching civilians on the ground before passing them onto the State Department.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Vargas-Andrews testifies about suicide bomber

According to testimony from the hearing, the State Department would shut down operations from sunset to sunrise every day, leaving the Marines at the gates with an absolute chaotic situation and no direction. The Taliban would beat and execute civilians right outside the Marines’ perimeter knowing they couldn’t do anything to stop it, while US forces had to record the actions.

Meanwhile back home, Jen Psaki was giving press conferences telling the American people how the Taliban “acted businesslike and professional” in cooperation with the evacuation process. Professional according to homicidal, brutal terrorist standards, perhaps.

U.S. Marine Sergeant Vargas-Andrews testifies about the lack of government concern for his service

Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) highlighted another egregious failure of the Biden Administration during the disastrous evacuation, the State Department’s abandonment of Hasina Safi, Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For weeks following August 15th, Safi was in hiding trying to avoid the Taliban who were hunting down Ghani government officials. She fled her home, living on the run while trying to contact U.S. government officials with no response. No help was coming for her until Lt. Colonel Mann’s team of veterans got involved and located Minister Safi. They escorted her to the airport in Kabul where she was pulled through the wire and ultimately evacuated.

Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann testifies about Afghani Minister Hasina Safi

The State Department wasn’t just abandoning our military allies, but also the few diplomatic allies remaining in the country–including the most hunted one. An act of absolute cowardice by the Biden Administration toward a woman who stood in the face of some of the most grueling human right’s abuses on the planet, in order to give women a better chance at a better quality of life, more rights, higher dignity, access to healthcare, and a greater education.

One of the greatest causes of heartburn throughout the hasty and shortsighted evacuation was the number of Americans being left behind without a clear plan or concerted effort to get them out.

Here, again, the State Department would lie to the American people. In a press conference on August 30, 2021, Antony Blinken said the number of Americans left behind was less than 200, probably closer to 100. But in testimony, we’d find out that the number of Americans remaining in Afghanistan is over 500, and likely closer to 1,000.

Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann testifies about the number of Americans left behand

Several members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee are veterans, including Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee, whose missions included Operation Red Dawn which was the mission that captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq in December 2003. A retired Army Major, Congressman Green gave an impassioned speech to remind veterans that their service was not in vain.

If you are a veteran in crisis, please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988, then press 1. For more information about the Veterans Crisis line, please visit them here, or text 838255. Or, dial 911. For other resources, please visit the Resources for Veterans page on our website for a comprehensive list of third-party resources.

Congressman Mark Green (R-TN) speaks about the evacuation and mental health

Nearly every aspect of this withdrawal was a disaster, but even worse is that the murder of so many Americans and Afghani civilians didn’t have to happen. Furthermore, the Biden Administration lied to the American people about nearly everything that took place. This includes his boasting about the response to the Kabul attack, which turned out to be his errant drone strike on a family, killing nearly a dozen more civilians.

It is absurd that our “Commander-in-Chief” felt so bothered by the time to welcome our fallen home that he had to look at his watch, and even more obscene that senior leaders of his team who failed at their jobs still remain in them. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, and NSA Jake Sullivan are just a few who should be relieved of their jobs for failing to prevent the murders of our American treasure, and lying to the American public about the circumstances about that catastrophe as well as the entire evacuation.

You can act. You can and should contact the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and voice your frustration with the way our military has been treated, and the way our military members had their expertise disregarded, unnecessarily costing the lives of so many.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Majority
2170 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

(202) 226-8467

That contact page is here. Their website is here. You can find updated information about their Afghanistan hearings here, including a link to contact if you or someone you know has information relevant to the withdrawal that you wish to share with the committee.

Writing a letter can be powerful, and it is always recommended that in addition to the appropriate committee you also send a copy to your congressional representative and senators. If you are unsure of their contact information, you can find that at this link.

The full five-hour testimony is a lot to take in, and of course is full of a lot of the usual bipartisan bickering. Those parts are as shameful as always, but I still recommend you set this one aside to take it all in, to hear every word that these service members have to say. They are finally getting to share their stories.

Sergeant Vargas-Andrews lost an arm and a leg in that blast. He lost friends in that blast. He’s had more than 40 surgeries since that blast. He deserves accountability for what happened. All of our service members do. It is inexcusable that this entire catastrophe has seemed to have been swept away, not even mentioned in the State of the Union, while so many Veterans struggle with what has happened.

It is inexcusable that our military members are held to such high accountability standards but the government officers who hold them accountable are not at all accountable to them, to We the People, or to the Constitution. We must collectively get loud on this and demand accountability for the unnecessary murder or maiming of over 300 people in Kabul on August 26, 2021, that was entirely preventable right up to the final minutes.

Marine Corps Lance Corporal David Espinoza, Marine Corps Sergeant Nicole Gee, Marine Corps Sergeant Darin Hoover, Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, Marine Corps Corporal Daegan Page, Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton Soviak, and Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss. Say their names. They deserve accountability.

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