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Updated Aug 29, 2023, 7:08am EDT
politics

Military families demand answers on two-year anniversary of Afghanistan withdrawal bombing

Department of Defense/Handout via Reuters Connect
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The call to Coral Briseno, 43, came at 1:43 a.m., two years ago on August 29th. She remembers because she hadn’t slept after hearing about the bombing at Abbey Gate during the U.S. emergency evacuation from Afghanistan. And her son, Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez, hadn’t logged onto Facebook Messenger in the last 20 hours.

“We have information about your son,” she recalled the person saying. She still has the voicemail.

Briseno and nine other family members of the 13 servicemen and women who died at Hamid Karzai International Airport will attend a roundtable on Capitol Hill this afternoon to discuss the Aug. 26, 2021 terrorist attack — and they have questions. Briseno wants a detailed accounting of the day, the mission, and the decisions leading up to it, and said a 3,000-page book that officers allowed her to view was so heavily redacted it was challenging to understand.

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“I want them to come and say, ‘We messed up. We did it wrong, and we are so sorry,’” Briseno told Semafor during a phone interview.

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The Republican-led House has been investigating the withdrawal since taking the majority. It’s a sensitive topic for the White House, which has argued it was constrained by the Trump administration’s prior decisions and that intelligence agencies did not anticipate the U.S.-backed government would collapse so quickly.

In his latest request, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, R-Texas asked the Pentagon to make available a high-ranking officer that could speak to claims that a sniper was denied permission to engage after reporting a suspected suicide bomber shortly before the attack, which killed more than 170 Afghans in addition to the American casualties. Before that, McCaul sought the military’s “after action report” as well as a State Department dissent cable that members of the committee were able to view after months of demands and a subpoena threat.

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Earlier this month, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. hosted the Abbey Gate family members for a hearing at the Escondido City Hall in California. Darrin Hoover, 55, the father of slain Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, appeared at the August 8 event and will also be in the Capitol today petitioning for more information.

“They can start by telling us the TRUTHS of what happened in the days and weeks leading up to that fateful day,” Hoover told Semafor in a group chat with other family members. “Why did they wait SO long to start evacuating our citizens until it became a crisis in the truncated timeline that this administration placed on our military? This should not and cannot happen anymore.”

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Notable

In the first excerpt of his forthcoming book on President Biden’s first two years, The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer chronicles the administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021.

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