McCaul Delivers Opening Remarks at Full Committee Hearing Examining Admin’s Disastrous Evacuation From AfghanistanPress Release
Washington, DC- Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul gave the following remarks at a full committee hearing examining the administration’s disastrous emergency evacuation from Afghanistan.
-Remarks as delivered-
In the spring of 2021 –against the advice of his top generals and the intelligence community – President Biden announced he would unconditionally withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, a decision I opposed.
I, and many on this committee, received multiple briefings – from the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and the difference in their assessments was stark.
Both DOD’s and the IC’s outlook were very grim. While the State Department – mimicking the White House – consistently painted a rosy picture, ignoring the realities on the ground.
The president promised “There is going to be no circumstances where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy like in Vietnam.” Yet they were.
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 15th – 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.
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 26th.
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.
We are joined today by Marine Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews and former Army Specialist Aidan Gunderson. Both were deployed to Afghanistan during the evacuation. They can give a first-hand account of what it was like inside the Kabul airport during those harrowing two weeks.
Sergeant Vargas-Andrews, a sniper at Abbey Gate, was gravely injured in the terrorist attack there. He has undergone 44 surgeries, and has lost both his leg and his arm, as well as his kidney.
Thank you, sir for the courage to be here today.
Former Specialist Gunderson, a medic with the 82nd Airborne, was one of the first people on the scene, helping anyone he could.
Gentlemen, this nation owes you a debt of gratitude.
Not just for your service to our country. But also for the work both of you did to help get numerous people to safety during the evacuation saving so many lives.
You should be proud of all you have done. And I would like to thank you for your service.
I would also like to ask the many Afghanistan veterans here today to please stand and be recognized.
On behalf of a grateful nation, we thank you.
In the midst of the unfolding chaos in Kabul in August 2021, the United States State Department was all but useless.
Like myself, many of my colleagues – including people on both sides of the aisle in this room today – were forced to become mini-State Departments.
We worked any avenue we could to rescue Americans, green card holders, and our Afghan allies that we promised we would protect. No one left behind was a credo, we violated that promise.
Thankfully though– in the void left by an absent State Department – many Americans stepped up to fill the vacuum.
Primarily organized by veterans, groups like Allied Airlift 21, Team America, and Task Force Pineapple – just to name a few – that saved thousands of lives.
That is why I’m honored to have France Hoang, Peter Lucier, Scott Mann, [and Camille Mackler] here with us today as well. All [four] of these [people] worked tirelessly to rescue as many people as they could during the evacuation.
It is often referred to like Schindler’s List. If you’re on the list, you made it out alive. If you weren’t, you didn’t.
What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level – and a stunning, stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration.
Because even though President Biden said, and I quote, “if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.” – we now know he left more than 1,000 American citizens in Afghanistan.
In addition to the almost 200,000 Afghan partners and allies that we promised we would save. We promised them we would help them – only to abandon them to the Taliban.
Not to mention the women who were left behind to the mercy of the Taliban under Sharia Law.
This was an abdication of the most basic duties of the U.S. government: To protect Americans and leave no one behind.
I want every gold and blue star family member, and every veteran out there watching this today to know:
I will not rest, and this committee will not rest until we determine how this happened – and hold those responsible for it accountable.
And before I close, I want to honor the 13 servicemembers who died at Abbey Gate. That tragic, tragic day:
Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover;
Sergeant Johanny Rosario;
Sergeant Nicole L. Gee;
Corporal Hunter Lopez;
Corporal Daegan W. Page;
Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez;
Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza;
Lance Corporal Jared M. Schmitz;
Lance Corporal Rylee J. McCollum;
Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola;
Lance Corporal Kareem M. Nikoui;
Petty Officer Third Class Maxton W. Soviak; and
Staff Sergeant Ryan C. Knauss.
Can we please have a moment of silence to honor the memory of these fallen heroes and all of the fallen heroes in the Afghan Conflict.
May God bless them and God bless their family, and God bless the United States of America.
And with that, I turn to our Ranking Member for his opening statement.