Monday, May 20, 2024

Memorial Day Post: Honor Those Fallen During Our Afghanistan Withdrawal

On August 26, 2021, ISIS-K detonated a deadly bomb outside of the Abbey Gate of Kabul's international airport. The blast killed 13 U.S. service members and 170 Afghans. It occurred amidst the chaos of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The pullout was indeed chaotic and marked by a series of rapid events that unfolded unpredictably. 

Here's a sequence of events:

Initial Plans

The withdrawal was part of a broader plan initiated by the Trump Administration and continued by the Biden Administration. If we listened to representatives from either Administration, you would think it was the sole fault of the "other" Administration. Both have their fingerprints on it. As my former Navy division officer once told me, "Careful pointing fingers because the others are pointing at you."

Rapid Taliban Advance

As the withdrawal commenced, the Taliban rapidly gained ground across Afghanistan, seizing control of provincial capitals and major cities with surprising speed that was not predicted by U.S. forces nor intelligence. Afghan security forces that we trained struggled to resist the offensive. As provinces fell, the Taliban acquired U.S. weapons and equipment.

Fall of Kabul

The situation escalated dramatically when the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15th, leading to the collapse of the Afghan government. President Ashraf Ghani fled. Chaos ensued as panicked residents rushed to leave the city.  

Evacuation Efforts

The U.S. military, along with our allies, launched a massive airlift operation to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies, and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul's airport. The scenes of desperate Afghans crowding the airport, clinging to departing planes, became emblematic of the chaos and desperation of the situation. U.S. troops stationed there and new troops shipped over to assist with the evacuation were concentrated at the airport. A ripe target for terrorists to indiscriminately kill to grab headlines.

Concurrent with the fall of Kabul and chaotic evacuations, there were heroes. Retired Green Beret Lt. Colonel Scott Mann assembled a group dubbed the Pineapple Express, so named because Afghan allies were instructed to display pineapples on their phones to gain access to the Kabul airport and eventual freedom. The group of active and retired military orchestrated the evacuation of those that helped U.S. forces during our time there. Mann's account of what happened can be found in his book, Operation Pineapple Express

Amidst the chaos, an explosion. ISIS-K is no friend to the Taliban. Although the Taliban would form an Islamic State, ISIS are generally more radical, believing only God can rule. From time immemorial despots have been using God's name to assume power over people. ISIS-K took advantage of the chaos surrounding the airport and at the Abbey Gate in particular to do their "Godly" deed. 

Those Who Perished

Below are those U.S. forces that perished in the blast outside of Abbey Gate while they were trying to establish security during the evacuation. Their photos are courtesy of NBC News. I ask that you remember them this Memorial Day.

David Espinosa, 20, Laredo, Texas

Nicole Gee, 23, Sacramento, California

Darin Hoover, 31, Salt Lake City, Utah

Ryan Knauss, 23, Corryton, Tennessee

Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Dylan Merola, 20, Rancho Cucamonga, California

Kareem Nikoui, 20, Norco, California

Hunter Lopez, 22, Riverside, California

Johanny Rosario, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts

Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana

Jared Schmitz, 20, Wentzville, Missouri

Maxton Soviak, 22, Milan, Ohio

Daegan Page, 23, Omaha, Nebraska


Kabul airport explosions: US Marines among troops, Afghans killed | CNN

Service members killed outside Kabul's airport remembered as heroes (

Timeline of U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan -

Ex-army generals testify on chaotic US Afghanistan withdrawal - BBC News

Two weeks of chaos: A timeline of the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan - The Washington Post

What Was Operation Pineapple Express In Afghanistan? (

Special op veterans carry out secret ‘Pineapple Express’ mission to rescue 500 Afghans | The Independent

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