Douglas Andrews / March 13, 2023

We Had the Kabul Bomber in Our Crosshairs

The full and awful truth about Joe Biden’s disastrous abandonment of Afghanistan was even worse than we thought.

When we first wrote about the suicide bombing that slaughtered at least 169 Afghan civilians and 13 American warriors at Kabul Airport on August 27, 2021, we called it “A Massacre We Saw Coming.”

Only now are we learning just how terribly accurate that assessment was. As it turns out, one of our snipers had the suicide bomber — at least one of them — literally in his crosshairs.

Last Wednesday, that Marine Corps sniper, Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, recounted in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee how his team had deployed to the airport on August 26, 2021. As the New York Post reports, they were “tracking a man who intelligence officers believed was a suicide bomber ‘throughout the entirety’ of the day leading up to the explosion.”

Vargas-Andrews asked for clearance to do what he’d been trained to do: to protect his fellow warriors and the innocent civilians around them from an impending threat. And he was denied. Twice.

The sergeant’s testimony is gut-wrenching:

“Intel guys confirmed the suicide bomber … described as clean-shaven, brown-dressed, black vest and traveling with an older companion,” Vargas-Andrews said. “I asked intel guys why he wasn’t apprehended sooner since we had a full description. I was told the asset could not be compromised.”

Vargas-Andrews said his team asked twice for permission to take out the bomber. After being denied that first time, they asked again. The battalion commander, who came to Abbey Gate to see the suspect himself, replied that he didn’t know if they had the authority to fire.

To which Vargas-Andrews replied: “Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, ‘Well, who does? Because this is your responsibility, sir.’”

The commander responded that he would find out.

“We received no update and never got our answer,” Vargas-Andrews said. “Eventually the individual disappeared. To this day, we believe he was the suicide bomber.”

Some time later, Vargas-Andrews left the guard tower where he’d been stationed to help 31-year-old Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, whom he described as “a friend and mentor,” locate a particular interpreter to help evacuate him and his family. He continued:

We found the interpreter and his brother. … Ten minutes passed, then a flash and a massive wave of pressure. I’m thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what had happened. I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious around me. 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. Almost immediately, we started taking fire from the neighborhood and I saw how injured I was, with my right arm completely shredded and unusable. … my abdomen had been ripped open. Every inch of my exposed body except for my face took ball bearings and shrapnel.

Vargas-Andrews lost his right arm, left leg, left kidney, and parts of his intestines and colon. He has had dozens of surgeries since.

But we never heard his story before last Wednesday. Clearly, neither Joe Biden nor the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives thought it was worth telling. “No one wanted my report post-blasts,” Vargas-Andrews said. “Even [the Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and the FBI failed to interview me.”

“If ever there was a slow-moving train of an attack,” we wrote at the time of the attack, “this was it. Everyone who watched the news [a day earlier] knew it was coming. Our intelligence services told us so, and our embassy sent emergency communications to the Americans in Kabul to stay away from the entry points to Hamid Karzai International Airport.”

We knew it was coming, and yet we didn’t stop it. Because we weren’t prepared to stop it. And now we learn that we could have.

Biden failed us with his ill-considered retreat and surrender in Afghanistan, and the blood of those 13 American warriors and those 169 Afghan civilians is on his hands.

There’s a belief, commonly held by older generations, that the ones behind them don’t quite measure up. Then sometimes we’re reminded just how wrong we are. Such is the case about the events of that day.

Among the dead Americans were Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California, who was featured in a viral image that speaks a thousand words, and about whom a dear friend wrote: “I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world.”

There was Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California, whose mother is a deputy sheriff and whose father is a sheriff’s captain, and who had plans to join them as a sheriff’s deputy after his deployment.

There was Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, who, as a corpsman, was a medic for combat Marines. He was also an accomplished wrestler and football player, a “beautiful, intelligent … annoying, charming baby brother” whose parents, perhaps in the spirit of a corpsman, were selfless enough “to offer condolences to the families that also lost a loved one [and] a speedy recovery to those that were injured.”

And there was Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri, who, according to his father, was on his first deployment and had always wanted to serve his country. “His life meant so much more,” he said. “I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.”

It’s this last sentiment that is worst of all, is most tear-jerking, is most heartrending — because it applies to every one of those 13 fallen American warriors.

Of course, it also applies to Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, whose grievous wounds put an end to his career and whose experience that day will haunt him for the rest of his life. Likewise, it applies to every other American who was there that day and somehow managed to escape death.

Most of all, though, this sentiment hurts because it didn’t have to be said. Because this didn’t have to happen.

“Our military members and veterans deserve our best because that is what we give to America,” said Vargas-Andrews in his closing testimony. “The withdrawal was a catastrophe in my opinion and there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence. The eleven Marines, one Sailor, and one Soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for.”

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