Families of Service Members Killed in Kabul Attack Demand Accountability 2 Years After Afghan Withdrawal

WASHINGTON–Anger, grievance, and heartbreak filled a hearing room on Capitol Hill as family members of the 13 U.S. service members killed in an ISIS terrorist attack on Aug. 26, 2021, at the Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, voiced their feelings just over two years since the bombing.

There were calls for accountability, transparency, and even resignations directed at President Joe Biden and his administration.

Representatives of eight of the 13 service members took part in the almost-three-hour-long roundtable discussion, hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). The only Democrat member of the committee in attendance was Rep. Madeline Dean (D-Pa.), who was serving as ranking member in lieu of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).

During the discussion about the attack, which occurred as the United States and its allies were withdrawing from Afghanistan following the 20-year war, Mr. McCaul read a statement he had just received from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

“We owe them transparency, we owe them honesty, we owe them accountability. We owe them the truth about what happened to their loved ones,” he said in a statement first reported by Fox News.

“I trust the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps did the best they could in briefing the families who had loved ones killed at Abbey Gate,” the four-star general continued. “I believe the briefers gave every piece of information that they could. If there were issues with that, we need to take whatever corrective action is necessary. And our hearts go out to those families.

“This is a personal thing for all of us in uniform. We don’t like what happened in Afghanistan. We don’t like the outcome of Afghanistan. We owe it to the families to take care of them. Their sacrifices were not in vain.”

Nonetheless, family members of those lost on that day did not hold back.

“In his note, Gen. Milley mentions that he apologizes for any lack of information provided during these briefings that we all had in our homes,” said Herman Lopez, who lost his son, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, in the bombing.

“The issue is not the briefing. The issue is not the lack of information during those briefings,” the Gold Star father continued. “It is the disregard of intelligence. It is the disregard of planning. That’s what you should be apologizing for.”

“We’re knee-deep in bulls***,” said Mark Schmitz, whose son Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz was killed. His ire was directed toward President Biden as he delivered scathing remarks about that fateful day, lamenting the lack of responsibility and resignations from the Biden administration.

Mr. Schmitz stated that President Biden’s reputation as “the family man” can no longer be touted due to his “disgusting and cowardly” treatment of him and his fellow Gold Star relatives of the fallen service members. He called for Mr. Biden’s resignation.

“You are a disgrace to this nation,” the grieving father said as if he were speaking to the commander-in-chief. “You have no business having ultimate command over our military.”

Mr. Schmitz wished he had said that to President Biden at the ceremony on Aug. 29, 2021, when the bodies of the 13 service members arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. During the transfer ritual, the president came under fire for appearing to glance at his watch, though some said there was the possibility President Biden, a Catholic, was looking at his rosary.

“While I stood there on the tarmac, watching you check your watch over and over again, all I wanted to do was shout out, ‘It’s two-[expletive]-30, a**hole!” Mr. Schmitz said angrily.

But out of respect for the grieving families, he said he refrained from doing so.

Nevertheless, he said he was done “biting [his] tongue.”

“You, Sir, stole their lives, their futures, their dreams,” he said.

During the discussion, Mr. McCaul and Ms. Dean vowed to get answers from the Biden administration about the tragedy.

In addition to Lance Cpl. Schmitz and Cpl. Lopez, the service members who were killed that day include Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan Page, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Pichardo and Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza.

Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) read a statement from Shana Chappell, the mother of Lance Cpl. Nikoui. In her statement, Ms. Chappell recalled that she had declined to shake President Biden’s hand or speak to him at the transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, but changed her mind. When she approached him to tell him about her son, she said the president interrupted her twice and talked about his own son, Beau Biden, who had served in the U.S. Army and died of cancer in 2015. He had never served in Afghanistan.

Ms. Chappell noted that on Aug. 9, 2022, her oldest son committed suicide because “he wanted to be with Kareem, and the pain in his heart was too unbearable.

“This is called the ripple effect.”

From The Epoch Times

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