US Congress kicks off Afghan withdrawal investigation with emotional testimonies

The US Congress House Foreign Affairs Committee held its first hearing on Wednesday as part of its official investigation into the US’s exit from Afghanistan in August 2021.”

According to CNN, two US Army soldiers gave emotional testimonies on what they witnessed in the final weeks of the country’s two-decade-long military engagement in Afghanistan, including the deadly suicide attack on 26 August 2021 outside Kabul airport as tens of thousands of Afghans awaited to escape the Taliban.

US Marine Corps Sergeant, Tyler Vargas-Andrews, recounted what he saw in the aftermath of the suicide attack, which killed more than 180 people, including 13 US Army personnel. 

“A flash and a massive wave of pressure. I’m thrown 4 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,” he said. 

Vargas-Andrews described the brutal treatment of Afghans by the Taliban and the atrocities ignored by the higher command of the US military. “Some Afghans turned away from HKIA tried to kill themselves on the razor wire in front of us that we used as a deterrent,” he said. “Countless Afghans were murdered by the Taliban 155 yards away from our position day and night.”

He said that they were aware of an imminent IED attack, but the battalion commander failed to act, responding to the request to fire with, “I don’t know.”

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The witnesses also spoke about the efforts to help evacuate Afghans who had worked alongside US troops during the war, the majority of whom, they said, were left behind and eventually disappeared. 

Francis Hoang from Allied Airlift 21, who organised evacuation flights, told the committee about the thousands of Afghans left behind. “We wept as we listened to messages left by children pleading for our help,” he said.

“It is our turn to summon the courage to fulfill our commitment to the Afghan allies still left behind,” Hoang added.

The Biden administration’s chaotic retreat from Afghanistan has been harshly criticised by some in the US, with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, who recently attacked the Biden for “willful failure” on Afghanistan.