The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scored a long-awaited interview in its investigation into whether a military sniper was denied permission two years ago to shoot the terrorist who detonated a bomb at the Kabul airport, killing 13 U.S. troops and 170 others in a tragic end to the bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Lawmakers will question the commanding officer at the time, Marine Lt. Col. Brad Whited, on Sept. 11, the 22nd anniversary of America’s most deadly terrorist attack, Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas) chairman of the committee, told Just the News on Tuesday.
He made the comments after the committee met with Gold Star families of the service members killed in the 2021 attack.
The Abbey Gate terrorist attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has become a powerful symbol of the Biden administration’s failures in withdrawing troops chaotically from Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to return to power after a two-decade war in the country.
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier called the withdrawal from Afghanistan “disastrously unplanned.”
“The Marine Corps finally got back to us after I talked to General Milley,” McCaul told Just the News. “I said, ‘I don’t understand why you’re not making this man available.’ And he talked to Secretary Austin and now he will be made available to the committee for an interview and it’s scheduled I believe September 11, ironically 9-11, and I’ll be back in town for that and I’m going to personally attend.”
Just the News has learned that McCaul invited all committee members to the meeting but only one Democrat, Pennsylvania Rep. Madeleine Dean, and 10 Republicans participated. The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, was not in attendance. His spokesperson did not return a request for comment before publication.
Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews initially testified before the House committee in March that he had the suicide bomber in his sights before the bombing, but was ordered to stand down. “We communicated the atrocities to our chain of command and intel assets but nothing came of it,” Vargas-Andrews said. Lt. Col. Whited was Vargas-Andrews’ commanding officer at the time of the attack. Vargas-Andrews attended the meeting on Tuesday with lawmakers and the Gold Star families but he declined interviews on-site.
McCaul wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on August 15 requesting that he make Lt. Col. Whited available for questioning based on Vargas-Andrews’ account of what transpired before the deadly attack in Afghanistan.
“In the early morning on the day of the attack, intelligence was provided to Sergeant Vargas-Andrews and his team a description of the bomber, identifying him and noting his presence in the area,” read the letter. “This implies components of the military and others had more than twelve hours of advanced warning. Additionally, the military’s reliance on the Taliban to provide security at the airport created an environment rife with opportunities for security breakdowns.”
Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), a member of the committee and a war veteran who served in Iraq, told Just the News after the meeting that he thinks the order to stand down on that day goes even higher than Whited.
“I think it’s definitely higher than the commanding officer, which is why I’ve submitted my articles of impeachment on the Secretary of Defense, and I think that it goes one step higher when it comes, ultimately, to a person, when you call yourself the commander in chief, and you’re ultimately responsible for the safety of your American armed forces that you deploy abroad,” Mills said. “The buck stops at you.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.) also a member of the committee, was asked if he is surprised that the person who made the call not to shoot the terrorist before the attack is still unknown to the committee and the public even after two years since the attack that might have been thwarted.
“I’m not surprised that there has been denial followed by delay by this administration. I think the question is, how much longer will it be tolerated? And the answer from the Speaker has been not very much,” Issa, who served as a captain in the U.S. Army, added.