Marine Sniper Testifies That Leaders Ignored Warnings of Suspected Suicide Bomber Before Kabul Attack

By Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester covers national politics for The Epoch Times and has also focused on energy and the environment. Nathan has written about everything from fusion energy and ESG to Biden's classified documents and international conservative politics. He lives and works in Chicago. Nathan can be reached at
March 8, 2023Updated: March 9, 2023

Stories of suffering, courage, and the ongoing search for justice echoed in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber on March 8, as those who were on the front lines of the August 2021 U.S. departure from Afghanistan spoke out.

Emotional testimony in the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing underscored a bitter truth: Many who served in Afghanistan feel they and their local Afghan allies have been abandoned, fueling a pervasive sense of despair.

That was driven home during an exchange between Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), one of many military veterans on the committee, and Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews.

Vargas-Andrews’s Marine Corps scout sniper team was sent to what was then Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul. He described a scene of chaos and horror as tens of thousands of Afghans descended on the airport, seeking to flee the Taliban.

“Some Afghans turned away from HKIA tried to kill themselves on the razor wire we used as a deterrent. They thought this was merciful compared to the Taliban torture they faced,” he testified.

Vargas-Andrews survived the Aug. 26, 2021, suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members and more than 160 Afghan civilians at that airport.

He broke down in tears as he recalled the traumatic events of that day.

Before the attack occurred, intelligence had apparently disseminated a description of a possible suicide bomber and his companion, Vargas-Andrews said. He testified that, before the attack, he and another service member had spotted two men who fit those descriptions—an impression that was confirmed by others at the airport.

When he tried to get permission to fire on the suspected suicide bomber, his battalion commander couldn’t confirm if he had permission, according to Vargas-Andrews. The man in question ultimately disappeared into the crowd.

“To this day, we believe he was the suicide bomber,” he testified.

“Have you ever been interviewed by any part of the United States government about what you witnessed on the front line?” Mast asked.

“Not by a single individual or organization,” Vargas-Andrews responded.

Mast rattled off name after name. The Pentagon, the Marine Corps, the State Department, the CIA, the FBI—none of them wanted to hear from him about what he witnessed on the ground?

“No” after “no” after “no,” came the replies.

He told the lawmakers that the experience left him feeling like his time in the military was “not valued.”

Vargas-Andrews and other witnesses who aided the Afghanistan withdrawal nodded when Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) asked if they knew any comrades in arms who had killed themselves since August 2021, “because they felt like it was all for nothing.”

“The blood of those men and women’s hands are on the president, period,” said Green, himself an Afghanistan veteran.

Green had just told his colleagues that President Joe Biden overruled senior Pentagon officials who had suggested retaining a nominal force to help maintain security at Bagram Air Base.

“Those leaders told the president, ‘We need 3,500 soldiers to guard the base for the exfil [exfiltration].’ According to those generals, in a room at the White House, the president himself said, ‘No, go to 600 troops,'” Green said.

“With 600, you can’t hold Bagram, so the decision to exfil from Kabul became necessary.”

The Department of Defense didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment.

Allies ‘Not Forgotten’

Other witnesses testified to the plight of Afghan allies who remain there or in other third-world countries.

Francis Q. Hoang, a West Point graduate who served in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, said the United States’ “rushed and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan” violated the trust of those it had sworn to protect.

He was only 2 years old when his family was airlifted from Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon, at a time when more than 100,000 Southeast Asians who had been loyal to the United States during the Vietnam War were resettled.

“We have not forgotten you,” he pledged to U.S. allies still in Afghanistan.

As Republicans denounced the Biden administration, Democrats at the hearing stressed the bipartisan nature of the failures in Afghanistan. An initial hunt for Al-Qaeda after 9/11 sprawled into a multidecade nation-building exercise across four administrations.

Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) faulted the committee itself, saying it hadn’t provided adequate funding to the State Department. She noted that Congress had avoided voting on the war through decades of alternating control by both parties.

Yet, even as they counseled Republicans to be less partisan, they laid blame on former President Donald Trump. They argued that his agreement with the Taliban in Doha and his refugee-related policies combined to make the withdrawal much rockier.

“These policy decisions not only altered the balance of power and reduced U.S. leverage in Afghanistan but created incredibly difficult circumstances as we worked to bring allies to safety and the U.S. war in Afghanistan to a close,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) acknowledged that the issues in Afghanistan implicated both parties. Still, he questioned why the Biden administration hadn’t been able to develop a good evacuation plan between January and August 2021.

Hill noted that Afghanistan veterans on the committee were particularly skeptical of classified intelligence briefings in spring 2021 and summer 2021 that purported to outline such a plan.

“We may well not have had any choice but to leave,” he said. “But how you leave is a choice—and it could have been done, in my view, in an extraordinarily more effective manner.”