On the two-year anniversary of a devastating incident in which 13 U.S. military personnel and over 170 Afghans were killed, Mark Schmitz, a Gold Star father who lost his son to a suicide bomber in the final days prior to Joe Biden’s chaotic and hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, expressed his outrage during a House hearing.
He and other Gold Star families called for accountability as Taliban forces regained power following the US withdrawal from Kabul’s international airport.
NBC News reported:
In testimony at a roundtable hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, parents of the fallen service members described their children and what their sons and daughters experienced when they aided the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan and expressed anger with the administration over its response to failures that occurred.
[Troops] were helping people evacuate from the country when the attack happened. The Defense Department concluded that “a single explosive device killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members by explosively directing ball bearings through a packed crowd.”
“We’ve been lied to about what happened that day, as well as what happened to our children. We’ve been lied to about our relationship with the Taliban, which, by the way, have done more to take out the leaders of this attack than our own leadership has,” said Greg Page, the father of Marine Cpl. Daegan W. Page, NBC News reported.
After the Republican Party took control of Congress in January, the House Foreign Affairs Committee prioritized an investigation into the ill-advised pull-out.
During a roundtable hearing, the stepmother of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz read aloud all 13 personnel who were killed that day and emphasized that they were not simply casualties of war.
“They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, that were pawns in some agenda, and we deserve some information and collaboration from all political parties,” Jaclyn Schmitz told lawmakers.
His father, Mark Schmitz, added: “I identify as a father, a husband, a pissed-off, fed-up American patriot, and now, thanks to this administration, a Gold Star dad — a title no one ever wants to have.”
He went on to say he spoke to his son while he was in Afghanistan, noting “he said he thought he was going to die there” after he had gone through several days of chaos. “He said, ‘Dad, the look on these people’s faces was that of human desperation, and there’s no way we can save them all.’”
“The next day, the explosion happened. The next day,” Schmitz said, pausing and choking up, “My son was gone forever. Fortunately, I was able to tell him I love you one last time.
“Two years has gone by, and where are we?” he continued. “To be frank. We’re knee-deep in bulls—.”
No one within the Biden administration or at the Pentagon has been held publicly accountable for the disaster. Not surprisingly, the Pentagon released a report this week following an alleged investigation which concluded that the attack could not have been prevented, indicating to some observers that troops on the ground were placed in an untenable situation.
Several family members specifically criticized Biden for his response and demanded accountability and an apology. The father of Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, Steve Nikoui, said their children should be honored at the White House at a Rose Garden event. The father of Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez called on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to release a complete investigation of the Afghanistan withdrawal and asked for a “complete account of the actions and inactions leading up to this attack on Aug. 26, 2021.”
When NBC asked the White House for a comment, officials pointed to a statement put out by Biden earlier in the week that said: “Today, Jill and I remember and mourn these 13 brave American service members and the more than 100 innocent Afghan civilians who were killed in the horrific terrorist attack at Abbey Gate. Many more were injured and will carry the impacts of their wounds and the horrors of that day for the rest of their lives.”