Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma on Friday both marked the first anniversary of a terrorist attack outside Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. military personnel.
The blast at Abbey Gate, which also took the lives of more than 170 Afghans, served as a tragic endpoint to America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
“The heroes we lost that day gave their lives to defend their teammates and to help save the lives of tens of thousands of innocent Afghan people who sought freedom and the opportunity for a better life,” Secretary Austin said in a statement.
Sen. Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the attack came amid the “needless pandemonium of President Biden’s unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
He said ISIS-K, an Islamic State affiliate group, took advantage of “the chaos at Hamid Karzai Airport and claimed not only the lives of these brave and devoted service members, who were trying to evacuate Americans and at-risk Afghans but also the lives of at least 170 Afghans.”
Mr. Austin said the milestone would be agonizing for the families and loved ones of the American troops — 11 U.S. Marines, a soldier, and a sailor – who died at Abbey Gate last year.
“I also know that this is an extremely difficult time for all of us who mourn the 2,461 U.S. military personnel who lost their lives in our nation’s longest war, and for all of us who served in Afghanistan and continue to bear the wounds of war,” he said.
Mr. Austin ended his military career in April 2016 following a three-year tour as commander of U.S. Central Command, responsible for operations in the Middle East, including Afghanistan.
“I hope that every American will pause in solemn remembrance of the valorous service of their fellow Americans – the brave volunteers in uniform and their families, who sacrificed so much to protect the United States from terrorism,” he said.