Marine Sniper Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews was on a security detail in a Kabul tower, watching desperate Afghans trying to flee the brutal Taliban, when he was struck by a massive pressure wave.
It was August 26, 2021, and an ISIS-K suicide bomber had detonated on the perimeter of Hamid Karzai International Airport during the chaotic evacuation sparked by the Biden administration’s troop withdrawal after 20 years in Afghanistan.
Just moments before the attack, the California veteran saw a terrorist matching a suspect’s description and asked if he could “commit” but says his leaders refused.
Between 100 and 150 ball bearings ended up on Vargas-Andrews’ body in the blast that killed 11 fellow Marines, two Army corpsmen and hundreds of Afghan men, women and children. Her right arm and his right leg had to be amputated over the course of 43 surgeries that followed.
Vargas-Andrews broke down in tears Wednesday as she recounted her harrowing experience in Congress and criticized the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that Republicans have called a “shocking failure of leadership.”
He detailed how military leaders ignored his warnings minutes before and how those stationed at the airport were told not to participate, even though the Taliban were shooting at people trying to get on a plane.
Marine Sniper Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews broke down in tears Wednesday as he recounted his harrowing experience in Congress and criticized the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that Republicans have called a “shocking failure of leadership.”
Between 100 and 150 ball bearings ended up on Vargas-Andrews’ body in the blast that killed 11 fellow Marines, two Army corpsmen and hundreds of Afghan men, women and children.
His right arm and right leg were amputated over the course of 43 surgeries that followed the attack.
“In my opinion, the withdrawal was a catastrophe and there was inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The 11 Marines, one sailor and one soldier who were killed that day have not been answered.”
The list of those killed in the attack on Kabul airport during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan
The August 26, 2021 suicide attack took advantage of the crowds and chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
He pointed to a gate manned by US Marines, who were tasked with trying to ensure that people with the correct documents could move on to the next stage of processing.
Along with at least 170 Afghans, the following Americans were killed:
Marine Corps Sgt. Darin T. Hoover;
Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario;
Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee;
Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez;
Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page;
Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez;
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza;
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz;
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum;
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola;
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui;
Navy Petty Officer Third Class Maxton W. Soviak;
Army Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss
His appearance was part of the Republican inquiry into the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.
He recalled ‘surreal’ scenes at the airport, including Afghans attempting suicide with barbed wire rather than face ‘torture’ by the Taliban.
“I was thrown 12 feet to the ground, but instantly I knew what happened. I opened my eyes to the dead or unconscious Marines lying around,’ Vargas-Andrews said through tears, describing the events of that day.
“A crowd of hundreds immediately disappeared in front of me and my body was catastrophically injured with 100 to 150 ball bearings now in it.”
He described how there was intelligence that an attack might be imminent, but they could only wait.
“Through the communication network, we passed that there was a potential threat and that there was an imminent attack with IEDs; this was as serious as possible.
“I requested clearance for the engagement while my team leader was standing by on the M110 semi-automatic sniper system,” he added.
“The answer, the leadership had no commitment authority for us, don’t compromise,” he said.
Vargas-Andrews and the Marines with him also asked a battalion commander to come to the tower to see the suspect.
They asked for authorization to shoot, but were not given it.
“Plain and simple, they ignored us. Our experience was not taken into account, nobody took responsibility for our safety,” he told the committee.
Then his sniper squad was hit by the suicide blast.
Even after his catastrophic injuries, Vargas-Andrews said no one asked him for a report.
It also says that no one in the Pentagon or the White House has taken responsibility for the mistakes.
The US Marine Corps posted a photo on Twitter of the flag-draped coffins of their fallen brothers killed in the suicide bomb attack in Kabul, after the coffins were returned to their homeland on August 29, 2021. .
Thirteen US service members were killed when the suicide bomber detonated ball-bearing-laden explosives amid the chaos at the city’s airport.
His story followed an opening statement by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, who criticized the Biden administration for withdrawing troops against the advice of the generals and the intelligence community.
“What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic collapse of the federal government at every level, and a stunning failure of leadership on the part of the Biden administration,” he said before introducing the Navy.
The president promised: “There will be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy like in Vietnam.” Yet they were,’ McCaul said in his scathing opening statement.
“Several people in the Biden Administration said they would plan for every contingency. They do not. Instead, they spent the next four months ignoring reality.
“As a result, when the Taliban quickly captured territory during the summer of 2021 and entered Kabul on August 15, we simply were not prepared.
“Due to the Biden administration’s dereliction of duty, the world watched harrowing scenes unfold in and around the Kabul airport over the next two weeks.
‘A sea of humanity, desperately trying to get through the airport gates that represented freedom.
“We all saw the images of desperate Afghans clinging to planes as they took off, some plummeting from the sky to their deaths.
‘Mothers handing over their children to strangers over the airport walls, giving them up voluntarily in the hope of saving their lives.
And then horror struck on August 26.
‘A suicide bomber at Abbey Gate killed 13 US servicemen, wounded at least 45 more and killed approximately 170 Afghans.
“That day was the deadliest for US troops in Afghanistan in 10 years.”
Vargas-Andrews recalled ‘surreal’ scenes at the airport that included children dying and Afghans attempting suicide with barbed wire because they did not want to face Taliban ‘torture’.
The suicide bomber at Abbey Gate killed 13 US servicemen, wounded at least 45 more and killed an estimated 170 Afghans.