A U.S. marine who was in Kabul when the Afghan government fell to the Taliban delivered devastating testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews was part of the force evacuating Americans and Afghans from Kabul in August of 2021 when a suicide bomber killed 13 Americans outside Hamid Karzai International Airport. Vargas-Andrews testified before the committee that he and his team had identified the bomber before the attack and could have stopped him but were not given permission to engage.
“I requested engagement authority while my team leader was ready on the M110 semi-automatic sniper system. The response: leadership did not have the engagement authority for us. Do not engage,” Vargas-Andrews said in his opening remarks about that day. “We asked him if we could shoot. Our battalion commander said, and I quote, ‘I don’t know.'”
Vargas-Andrews began choking up as he described the suspect dropping out of sight, followed shortly by the explosion. He said that intelligence had offered a description of the man who was a suspected bomber prior to the sighting, and that the man was a match and had been suspiciously glancing at U.S. troops.
“Eventually this individual disappeared. To this day we believe he was the suicide bomber … plain and simple we were ignored.”
The marine escaped with his life but lost two limbs and has undergone 44 surgeries to date as a result of the attack.
“I’m thrown 12 feet onto the ground, but instantly knew what had happened. I opened my eyes to marines dead or unconscious lying around me,” Vargas-Andrews testified, fighting back tears.
He further stated that, after the attack, the higher-ups were uninterested in his report on the incident. He also blamed President Joe Biden’s State Department for not evacuating enough Afghans in an orderly manner. (RELATED: US Diplomat Deletes Tweets About #BlackGirlMagic In Afghanistan, Black History Month)
“Some Afghans turned away from [the airport] tried to kill themselves on the razor wire in front of us that we used as a deterrent,” he recounted. “They thought this was merciful compared to the Taliban torture that they faced,” Vargas-Andrews said.
There remain tens of thousands of unprocessed visa applications for U.S. allies and their families waiting to escape Taliban rule.