Tyler Vargas-Andrews: Marine sniper was told NOT to shoot Kabul airport suicide bomber who killed 13 Americans
WASHINGTON DC: During a Republican investigation into the Biden administration's botched withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, Marine sniper Sgt Tyler Vargas-Andrews broke down in tears as he recounted the harrowing ordeal. He described the chaotic evacuation of Hamid Karzai International Airport, which saw the withdrawal of US forces after 20 years in Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover, forcing desperate Afghan civilians to flee for their lives.
In the August 26 suicide bombing, Vargas-Andrews, who was on security guard at a highrise building in Kabul, spotted a terrorist matching the suspect's description and warned his leader if he could "engage," but was reportedly denied permission to shoot. At that moment, the ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated, killing 13 American troops and countless Afghan civilians. Approximately 100-150 ball bearings ripped through Vargas-Andrews' body in the explosion, killing 11 Marines and two Navy soldiers
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'Inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence'
On Wednesday, March 8, Vargas-Andrews spoke of the blood-curling attack in Congress and criticized the Biden administration's Afghanistan withdrawal which Republicans have slammed as "stunning failure of leadership." The Marine sniper Sgt explained how his leaders repeatedly ignored the warning minutes before the attack and told those stationed at the airport to "stand by" despite the Taliban slaughtering civilians attempting to board a plane to escape. He described "surreal" scenes at the airport with Afghans killing themselves with razor wire to escape the Taliban "torture." "The withdrawal was a catastrophe in my opinion and there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence," he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Despite receiving intelligence on the imminent attack the soldiers were not allowed to "engage." "Over the communication network, we passed that there was a potential threat and that there was an IED attack imminent - this was as serious as it could get," reported Daily Mail. "I requested engagement authority while my team leader was ready on the M110 semi-automatic sniper system," Vargas-Andrews added. "The response, leadership did not have engagement authority for us, do not engage." Vargas-Andrews and his fellow Marines asked a battalion commander to confirm the suspect but they were refused the authority to shoot.
"Plain and simple, we were ignored. Our expertise was disregarded, no one was held accountable for our safety," he told the committee. Within minutes his sniper squad was attacked with a suicide blast. "I'm thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what happened. I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious and lying around," said an emotional Vargas-Andrews. "A crowd of hundreds immediately vanished in front of me and my body was catastrophically wounded with 100 to 150 ball bearings now in it." The explosion killed 11 fellow Marines, two Navy corpsmen, and hundreds of Afghani civilians men, women, and children. In the aftermath of the event, Vargas-Andrews right arm and right leg had to be amputated over the course of 43 surgeries.
'A sea of humanity'
Vargas-Andrews claims that even after the harrowing attack and catastrophic injuries, no one at the Pentagon or the White House asked him for a report or took responsibility for the missteps that claimed countless lives. Following his statement, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep Michael McCaul, heavily criticized the Biden administration for withdrawing troops against the advice of the generals and intelligence community. "What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level, and a stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration," said McCaul.
"Multiple people in the Biden administration said they’d plan for every contingency. They did not. Instead, they spent the next four months ignoring the realities. As a result, when the Taliban rapidly captured territory during the summer of 2021 and entered Kabul on August 15 – we simply weren’t ready. Because of the Biden administration’s dereliction of duty, the world watched heartbreaking scenes unfold in and around the Kabul airport for the next two weeks. A sea of humanity, desperately trying to make it through airport gates that represented freedom," he added.
"We all saw the images of desperate Afghans clinging to planes as they took off – with some plummeting from the sky to their deaths. Mothers handing their children to strangers over the airport walls – willingly giving them up in the hopes of saving their lives. And then, horror-struck on August 26. A suicide bomber at Abbey Gate killed 13 American servicemembers, injuring at least 45 more, and killing approximately 170 Afghans. That day was the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan in 10 years," McCaul remarked.