WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) highlighted the Biden Administration’s complete disinterest in the fallout from the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. He delivered remarks and questioned eye witnesses about their experiences in Kabul during the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearing titled “During and After the Fall of Kabul: Examining the Administration’s Emergency Evacuation from Afghanistan.”
“[Servicemembers] are constantly haunted by the questions of ‘what if we took a different road?’ ‘What if we were one foot to the left?’ said Rep. Mast, “But this Administration is perfectly comfortable not being haunted by the losses that took place [during the Afghanistan withdrawal]. I don’t know how they live with that, because I wouldn’t be able to.”
The Committee heard testimony from the U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, who lost two limbs in the bombing by the ISIS-K suicide bomber on August 26, 2021. During his opening statement, Sergeant Vargas-Andrews recounted identifying two suspects who fit the description of the potential suicide bombers flagged by intelligence officers. However, no one in his chain of command was able to provide authorization to engage the target.
In his exchange with Rep. Mast, Mr. Vargas-Andrews testified that no one in the Biden Administration reached out to him in order to investigate the bombing that killed 13 servicemembers and 169 Afghan civilians.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee this week held a hearing to examine the Administration’s Emergency Evacuation from Afghanistan that concluded on August 30, 2021. During the hearing, Marine Sergeant ????Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified that he found two suspects fitting the description flagged by the U.S. intelligence, but his superior officer could neither grant the permission to shoot nor determine who could grant it. Mr. Vargas-Andrews stated that the withdrawal was a catastrophe, and “there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence.”
President Biden made promises on the 2020 campaign trail to “end the forever war,” but failed to make any preparations in the 207 days between his inauguration and the day evacuations began. In fact, leaked documents showed that the National Security Council did not conduct its first senior meeting to discuss the withdrawal until the afternoon of August 14th, 2021.
According to a Pentagon report, the United States left behind $7.12 billion of military equipment in Afghanistan after the withdrawal in August. In addition, despite his promise to stay to get all American citizens out by the August 31st deadline, more than 800 Americans were abandoned behind enemy lines after the withdrawal. Most egregiously, eleven Marines, one Navy corpsman and one Army soldier lost their lives in a suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport.
While serving in the U.S. Army, Rep. Mast was deployed in Afghanistan, where he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. In 2010, the last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in the loss of his legs and a finger. In Congress, he has been an active advocate for other Afghanistan War veterans, and a vocal critic of President Biden’s mishandling of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, he was selected to lead the new House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Accountability and Oversight.