Active-duty service members and veterans have detailed the carnage and deaths they witnessed during the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, gave evidence to the House Foreign Affairs Committee reviewing how the withdrawal was handled.
Mr Vargas-Andrews burst into tears as he recounted the deadliest moment in the US evacuation in August 2021 – the suicide bombing at Kabul airport that killed 170 Afghans and 13 US servicemen and Women die.
He recounted the screams of children, women and men filling the space around the airport and the stench of human flesh wafting under the smoke after two suicide bombers attacked Afghans hoping to flee the country by plane.
He said Marines and others assisting with the evacuation had been provided with descriptions of people believed to have planned the attack before it happened.
Mr Vargas-Andrews, whose right arm and leg had to be amputated as a result of the bombing, said he and others found two men who fit the description and were behaving suspiciously and eventually targeted them, but never received reports whether to take action.
“No one has been held accountable,” Mr Vargas-Andrews told the committee. “There was no one, and there is no one now.”
“The withdrawal is a disaster in my view.”
The withdrawal ended America’s longest war — a 20-year campaign that killed tens of thousands of Afghans and more than 2,400 Americans.
In August 2021, tens of thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul airport, hoping to escape the new Taliban regime, which seized the capital far faster than US intelligence agencies expected.
Witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing recalled seeing mothers holding their dead babies as the Taliban shot people at the airport. They paint a picture of a desperate U.S. attempt to rescue U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, blaming inadequate planning and support.
“I saw the faces of all the people we couldn’t save, the ones we left behind,” said Aidan Gunderson, an Army medic stationed at Abbey Gate, the area of the airport where the bomb exploded.
“I wonder if our Afghan allies have fled to safety or were killed by the Taliban.”
President Biden Delivers on Donald Trump’s Promise to Leave Afghanistan – despite the fall of the Afghan capital.
Witnesses called for action to help tens of thousands of Afghan allies working alongside U.S. soldiers who are now in the U.S. or back in Afghanistan in dire straits.
Retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann told the committee: “Our veterans know something else this committee might need to consider: We may end up in Afghanistan, but we’re not over yet.”
The Republican-led hearing is the first in a series expected to examine the withdrawal.
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Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Rob Lodewick said on Wednesday that the results of an earlier Pentagon review of the airport attack did not predetermine the likely attackers or raise any requirement to “upgrade existing rules of engagement” to regulate the use of force by U.S. forces .
Last month, a report by U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan John Sopko found that both the U.S. and the Afghan government had acted trump card and biden The government was the key to the sudden collapse of the Afghan government and army.
The report blames all U.S. governments since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 for failing to build a capable and sustainable Afghan army before the withdrawal of U.S. troops is completed in August 2021.