Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a U.S. Marine Corps sniper who survived the deathly suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport during Biden’s blotched withdrawal from Afghanistan, testified before Congress on Wednesday. Vargas-Andrews told Congress that he was denied permission to shoot the suicide bomber that killed 13 service members and over 170 civilians.
Sgt. Vargas-Andrews was catastrophically wounded in the blast, losing his right arm and left leg.
Sgt. Vargas-Andrews’s emotional recount of the events leading up to the blast that day:
On August 22, an Improvised Explosive Device ID probe took place down the canal, running along the perimeter of HKIA. This was ISIS or the Taliban performing an IED test run. We reported this to our chain of command. Days later, we received word to be on the lookout for two vehicle-born IDs, described as a gold or white Corolla and a green Mazda convertible.
Around 02:00 AM On August 26, intel guys confirmed the suicide bomber was in the vicinity of and nearing Abbey Gate. He was described as clean-shaven, brown-dressed, black vest, and traveling with an older companion. I asked the intel guys why he wasn’t apprehended sooner since we had a full description. I was told the asset could not be compromised. Throughout the entirety of the day on August 26, 2021, we disseminated the suicide bomber information to ground forces. Abby Gate. He was spotted somewhere from noon to 01:00 PM by myself, then Sergeant Charles Schilling, and another. The anomaly in the crowd, who was clean-shaven and fit the description exactly, traveling with an older gentleman. The individual was consistently and nervously looked, looking up at our position through the crowd. The older of the two wore a black silky hijab that was covering his face most of the time. They both had obvious mannerisms that go along with who we believed him to be. They handed out small cards to the crowd periodically, and the older man sat calmly and seemingly coached the bomber.
Over the communication network, we passed that there was a potential threat and an ID attack imminent. This was as serious as it could get. I requested engagement authority while my team leader was ready on the M110 semiautomatic sniper system. The response: Leadership did not have the engagement authority for us. Do not engage. I requested for the battalion commander, lieutenant Colonel Brad Whited, to come to the tower to see what we did. While we waited for him psychological operations individuals came to our tower immediately and confirmed the suspect met the suicide bomber description.
He eventually arrived, and we showed him our evidence, the photos we had of the two men. We reassured him of the ease of fire on the suicide bomber. Pointedly, we asked him for engagement authority and permission. We asked him if we could shoot. Our battalion commander said, and I quote, “I don’t know,” end quote. Myself and my team leader asked very harshly, “Well, who does? Because this is your responsibility, sir.”
He again replied he did not know but would find out. We received no update and never got our answer. Eventually, the individual disappeared. To this day, we believe he was a suicide bomber. We made everyone on the ground aware operations had briefly halted, but then started again. Plain and simple, we were ignored. Our expertise was disregarded. No one was held accountable for our safety.
About 1730, Staff Sergeant Darren Hoover, friend, and mentor, came to get me from the tower to go help find an Afghan interpreter in the crowd. We found the interpreter and his brother, born with American passports. They told us five told us they had five family members still in the canal. I stayed there waiting for the family members standing against a two-foot canal wall ten minutes past. 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 lying 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. I saw my lower abdomen soaked in blood. I crawled backwards roughly 7 feet because I thought I was still in harm’s way. My body was overwhelmed from the trauma of the blast. My abdomen had been ripped open every inch of my exposed body, except for my face to ball bearings and shrapnel. I tried to get up but could not.
Laying there for a few minutes, I started to lose consciousness when I heard Chas, my team leader, screaming my name as he ran to me. His voice calling to me kept me awake. When he got to me, he dragged me to safety and immediately started triaging me, tying tourniquets on my limbs, and doing anything he could to stop the bleeding and start plugging wounds. With the help of the other Marines. I was awake through most of it, screaming, moaning, and cursing.
Please I ask you to please ask me about getting shot at the tower and Abbey Gate and how no one wanted my report post-blast. Even NCIS. The FBI failed to interview me.
I was asked to elaborate on my ordeal post blast and asked me about this one little girl in her family that I reunited.
Our military members and veterans deserve our best because that is what we give to America. The withdrawal – 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.
Thank you for giving this opportunity.