The top Pentagon official marked the two-year anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan with a somber message Saturday.
“As we mark this painful milestone, my heart is with the families of these 13 American heroes,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “Today, the entire Department of Defense stands in sorrow with them — along with all of the families whose loved ones gave their lives during our 20 years in Afghanistan.”
An Aug. 26, 2021, suicide attack at Abbey Gate of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport killed 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one soldier, as well as approximately 170 Afghan civilians.
“Their selflessness and valor helped defend their comrades and lift tens of thousands of Afghans to safety, allowing them to pursue new lives in freedom,” Austin said of the fallen service members. “We will never forget what they gave to serve this country that we love.”
The deadly bombing, and the entire withdrawal from Afghanistan, remain a subject of controversy.
Critics of the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation, including one Marine veteran who was injured in the Abbey Gate attack, have pointed to what they see as a lack of planning and accountability within the federal government. A majority of Americans did, however, support the decision to withdraw troops from the country, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted late August 2021.
The U.S.-led evacuation transported more than 120,000 Afghans and Americans out of Afghanistan as the Taliban solidified its control over the country, but tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States were left behind.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.