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Marine sniper was denied permission to shoot ISIS suicide bomber who killed 13 US troops; testimony

March 14, 2023

A Marine Corps sergeant said he was denied permission to take out the Kabul airport suicide bomber who killed 13 American troops and over 170 Afghans in August 2021.

Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a sniper stationed at the Kabul airport, shared the testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

“I requested engagement authority when my team leader was ready on the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System,” Vargas-Andrews said, testifying in his personal capacity. “The response: leadership did not have the engagement authority for us — do not engage.”

One of the men killed in the explosion, Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, was considered a friend of Vargas-Andrews. Hoover later came to have Vargas-Andrews help him find an Afghan interpreter in the crowd.

“Ten minutes passed, then a flash and a massive wave of pressure — I’m thrown 12 feet onto the ground but instantly knew what had happened,” Vargas-Andrews explained. “I opened my eyes to Marines dead or unconscious around me.”

Vargas-Andrews testified that he experienced serious wounds, including “100-150” ball bearings now in his body.

In addition to the explosion, U.S. military personnel started taking gunfire following the explosion. His team leader soon came to his side to treat his bleeding while Vargas-Andrews was in extreme pain.

“The withdrawal was a catastrophe in my opinion, and there was an inexcusable lack of accountability and negligence,” he added. “The 11 Marines, one Sailor, and one Soldier that were murdered that day have not been answered for.”

The lives lost in the violent event were part of a volatile final month of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghans were evacuated in addition to the withdrawal of American military personnel.

Much controversy followed the U.S. military departure, as claims of many Americans left behind arose, along with numerous Afghan allies.

In addition, the radical Taliban government resumed power, taking control of billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment.

“What happened in Afghanistan was a systemic breakdown of the federal government at every level, and a stunning failure of leadership by the Biden administration,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

McCaul also addressed the testimony during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“I intend to move forward with this investigation. And I want to know what the commanding officer was thinking when he denied permission to take out the threat, and how, what levels did it go to within the United States government? I think those are all very important questions,” he argued.