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‘Heartbroken and Disgusted’: Families of Marines Killed in Kabul Decry Biden Admin’s Afghan Pullout

‘Heartbroken and Disgusted’: Families of Marines Killed in Kabul Decry Biden Admin’s Afghan Pullout

U.S. Marines provide assistance at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, on Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla via Reuters)

Ross Muscato

Ross Muscato

8/9/2023

Updated: 8/10/2023

The families of U.S. service members killed in the suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in the final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan angrily denounced the Biden administration at an Aug. 7 hearing for what they said was a flawed evacuation plan and lack of accountability for what went wrong.
The Aug. 26, 2021, attack killed 13 American service members and wounded 18. There were 169 Afghan civilians killed and at least 150 wounded.
The hearing was the first public forum at which Gold Star families—close relatives of U.S. military members who died in combat or in support of certain combat operations—could testify on the events of that day. Organized by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his staff, it was held in Escondido, California.
“Let me make it clear; we’re not here to make speeches,” said Mr. Issa in opening the hearing. “This is the last, other than short closing remarks that I make. We’re here to hear from you.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) speaks at a hearing on oversight of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington on July 13, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) speaks at a hearing on oversight of the Federal Trade Commission in Washington on July 13, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

President Joe Biden, the Pentagon, and State Department have been widely criticized for the manner in which the evacuation was carried out. Critics contend that confusion and lack of coordination resulted in the unnecessary deaths of U.S. military personnel and the abandoning of Afghan citizens who aided Americans at great personal risk.
At the hearing, Kelly Barnett, the mother of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, recalled messages her son shared soon after arriving in Afghanistan in mid-August, just weeks before the bombing. She said he was uneasy about the operation and felt the proper support and organization were not in place.
“His concern began the moment that he landed and saw what he saw,” said Ms. Barnett. “His words were ‘chaos,’ ‘no communication,’ ‘lack of leadership.” He said he’d never seen anything like it.
“He told me, ‘Mom, I now know that the command cares nothing for us.’ My son and 12 others left this earth thinking that their command cared nothing for them. The wounded feel that their command felt nothing for them. The survivors felt that their command felt nothing for them. I feel this as well.”
Struggling to compose herself, Ms. Barnett spoke to what she saw as the government’s indifference toward those who died and their families.
“What kind of disrespect?  What kind of hatred … for our military?“ she said. ”What kind of mess? ... Confusion. Deceit. Lost. Angry. Sad. Heartbroken and disgusted.”
She continued:  “We were told lies, given incomplete reports, incorrect reports. Total disrespect. There were gunshots. All I wanted to know ... where my kid was, where he fell. How long did he last? Did he fight?
“I was told to my face he died on impact. That’s not true. The only reason I know this is because witnesses told me the truth. I was lied to and basically told to shut up, that that’s the way it was.”
Staff Sgt. Hoover’s father, Darren Hoover, then came to the microphone.
The Biden administration failed his son, he said.
“The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General [Mark] Milley—to say that they’re satisfied with the withdrawal of our troops is nothing short of disgusting and ignorant,” said Mr. Hoover. “Retired Marine Corps General [Kenneth] McKenzie can be included in this as well, as these were his Marines.
“And he should have known better. With all of these generals having approximately 90 years of experience combined ... and to come up with a plan that they attempted to carry out ... is despicable. And to say to Congress that they thought it was a good withdrawal ... [they] are sorely, sorely mistaken.”
Mr. Hoover said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Gen. Milley, Gen. McKenzie, and Marine Lt. Col. Brad Whited need to own up to their mistakes and “learn from them so this doesn’t happen ever … ever … again.“  Mr. Blinken, Mr. Austin, and Mr. Milley ”need to resign immediately.”
“Our sons and daughters have more integrity in their little toes than every one of them combined,” said Mr. Hoover.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Pentagon and State Department for comment.

Praise for Trump and Doha Agreement

Steve Nikoui, father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, commended the Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy for having kept the Taliban in check and the U.S. military safe.
“One of President Donald J. Trump’s campaign promises was to end the war in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Nikoui. “I think he recognized ... he saw the corruptness of the Afghan government and the Afghan National Security Forces.”
At a July 27 hearing on the withdrawal from Kabul. the House Foreign Affairs’ Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee heard testimony from witnesses.
“I was disgusted, disgusted knowing that the Afghan military commanders were creating ghost soldiers so they could take their pay, that they were selling their soldiers food, fuel, and ammunition on the black market as part of the theocracy that became the Afghan government,” said retired Army Col. Christopher Kolenda, a West Point graduate who led troops in Afghanistan and participated in Doha talks with “the Taliban’s version of diplomats.”
“I’m sure that the president could see that the puppet government would not be able to assure the one thing that he wanted: [that] American soldiers stop being killed. So, he negotiated with the Taliban the Doha Agreement …. And for 18 months, there were no American casualties.”

Those Who Fell in Service to the Nation

Following are the names of the members of the U.S. military who were killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul on Aug. 26, 2021:
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
Marine Corps Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
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Ross Muscato

Ross Muscato

Author

Ross Muscato covers the U.S. Congress for The Epoch Times.

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