US & World

‘Remember Abbey Gate!’: Gold Star Dad Disrupts State Of The Union

Ghosts of botched Afghan War withdrawal still haunting Joe Biden …

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It’s been two-and-a-half years since the United States’ botched military withdrawal from the ‘Graveyard of Empires,’ a.k.a. the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

One of the most humiliating defeats in American military history, the withdrawal was a political disaster for U.S. president Joe Biden – who appears to have seriously misjudged the capabilities of the ruling Taliban in the months leading up to the withdrawal. For the friends and family members of the 2,402 U.S. service members who lost their lives during this conflict, it was obviously something much worse than that.

On Thursday, August 26, 2021 – as Taliban forces overran the Afghan capital of Kabul – American troops were overseeing evacuations from Hamid Karzai international airport. This was grisly work, as Taliban soldiers were torturing and executing hundreds of Afghan citizens en masse outside the airport. Afghans were so fearful of falling into the hands of the Taliban many of them took their own lives on the concertina wire surrounding the American positions.

According to Marine sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews – who was stationed at the airport at the time – multiple Afghans “tried to kill themselves on the razor wire in front of us” rather than allow themselves to be “brutalized and tortured by the Taliban.”



In the preceding days, the Biden administration had received numerous reports of a possible suicide attack at the airport – including a report received that very afternoon from the armed forces minister of the United Kingdom.

During testimony before the U.S. House a year ago, Vargas-Andrews spoke of his team receiving specific credible threats that afternoon – and described the moment he recognized an individual in the crowd matching the description of “a suicide bomber in the vicinity of (and nearing) Abbey Gate” just south of the Karzai airport.

“Over the communication network, we passed that there was a potential threat and an IED attack imminent,” Vargas-Andrews recalled. “This was as serious as it could get.”

Vargas-Andrews sought permission to shoot the bomber, but was allegedly “ignored.”

At approximately 6:00 p.m. local time, the suicide bomber – aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – detonated a IED packed with five-millimeter ball bearings near a canal where American soldiers were assisting evacuees with their paperwork. Among the 182 people killed in the attack were thirteen American military personnel. Another forty-five American service members were wounded – including Vargas-Andrews, who lost a leg and an arm.

These are the American soldiers who lost their lives in the attack …

Maxton “Max” W. Soviak – 22, Berlin Heights, Ohio (U.S. Navy)
Ryan C. Knauss – 23, Corryton, Tennessee (U.S. Army)
Darin T. Hoover Jr. – 31, Salt Lake City, Utah (U.S. Marines)
Johanny Rosario Pichardo – 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts (U.S. Marines)
Nicole L. Gee – 23, Sacramento, California (U.S. Marines)
Hunter Lopez – 22, Indio, California (U.S. Marines)
Daegan W. Page – 23, Omaha, Nebraska (U.S. Marines)
Humberto A. Sanchez – 22, Logansport, Indiana (U.S. Marines)
David L. Espinoza – 20, Rio Bravo, Texas (U.S. Marines)
Jared M. Schmitz – 20, St. Charles, Missouri (U.S. Marines)
Rylee J. McCollum – 20, Jackson, Wyoming (U.S. Marines)
Dylan R. Merola – 20, Rancho Cucamonga, California (U.S. Marines)
Kareem M. Nikoui – 20, Norco, California (U.S. Marines)

“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 and into our men and women at Abbey Gate,” general Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, concluded following an investigation into the incident. “The disturbing lethality of this device was confirmed by the 58 U.S. service members who were killed and wounded despite the universal wear of body armor and helmets that did stop ball bearings that impacted them, but could not prevent catastrophic injuries to areas not covered.”

Curiously, military officials determined that – despite multiple prior warnings – the suicide attack on the Abbey Gate was “not preventable.”

The attack on Abbey Gate is back in the news this week after Steve Nikoui – the father of one of the slain service members – cried out “Remember Abbey Gate!” and “United States Marines!” during Biden’s 2024 State of the Union speech on Thursday evening.

(Click to View)

The remains of the American soldiers killed in the suicide bombing are loaded onto a transport plane at Hamid Karzai international airport on August 27, 2021 (Centcomm)

Nikoui, 51, stood and disrupted Biden’s remarks at approximately 10:15 p.m. EST – just as Biden bragged that America was “safer today than when I took office.” Nikoui cooperated with U.S. Capitol Police officers as they escorted him from the chamber, handcuffed him and charged him with a misdemeanor.

“Disrupting the Congress and demonstrating in Congressional buildings is illegal,” Capitol Police said in a statement. “This is a routine charge on Capitol Hill.”

Nikoui attended Biden’s speech as a guest of U.S. congressman Brian Mast of Florida. Mast, 43, is an Afghan War veteran who lost both of his legs and a finger on September 19, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED. Mast was a bomb technician who was supporting a team of Army Rangers.

“Joe Biden has never honored those killed at the Abbey Gate and still hails the catastrophic withdrawal as a success!” Mast tweeted following the State of the Union.

While I do not condone such breaches of decorum, I respect Nikoui’s peaceful protest – just as I respected the shocking protest two weeks ago of 25-year-old U.S. airman Aaron Bushnell, who self-immolated in opposition to ongoing American involvement in latest Middle East conflict.

According to estimates from Brown University’s Costs Of War project, America spent $2.313 trillion on the war in Afghanistan.

“This total does not include funds that the United States government is obligated to spend on lifetime care for American veterans of this war, nor does it include future interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war,” the school noted, adding that the total spent on Afghanistan was just “a portion of the total estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars.”

Was it worth it? Did it really make us safer?



(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.



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J.Sugarbaker March 9, 2024 at 11:49 am

Here’s how I know Biden over-performed at the SOTU: Will is over here peddling this mess, trying to blame Biden for something without a single mention of how Trump was the one who ordered the Afghanistan withdrawal. Trump’s grand pronouncement came as a shock to our allies and to Trump’s own military advisors. Anyone remember when he proposed bringing the Taliban over to Camp David on the anniversary of 9/11 and was forced to reel that brilliant idea back in after the outcry from the 9/11 families? Sure, let’s entertain Muslim Terrorists at Camp David on the anniversary of the worst Muslim attack on our nation and do it on American soil. Anywho, apparently, Will has forgotten that part of this tale, along with several other important details, like how Trump, forced the Afghan’s to release 5,000 Taliban terrorists from prison, in the later half of 2020, including many of the Taliban’s senior military leaders. Why, it’s almost as if Trump knew he was going to lose the 2020 election and wanted his successor to have to deal with the ensuing chaos of a planned US withdrawal. But of course, being Trump, there was no plan–his own military advisors didn’t know what he was going to order or had any plans drawn up to accomplish the feat. By the time that Biden took office on 1/6/21 (pretty sure some of you MAGA cultists remember that day of infamy), there were just 2,500 US troops remaining and the Taliban was in their strongest position since the start of the Afghan war thanks to Trump’s negotiated release of those Taliban fighters and military leaders. The withdrawal was further complicated by the utter lack of the transition planning by the outgoing Trump administration with the incoming Biden administration. These troop withdrawals further weakened the US ability to safely withdraw our troops. I’m sorry this man’s son died as a result, but his anger is wrongly placed. Just as it’s disingenuous of Will to try to link this soldier’s death to Biden without mentioning the key role that Trump played in destabilizing Afghan, doing deals on behalf of the Taliban, which ultimately endangered our troops.

A Name March 9, 2024 at 3:45 pm

Is Fits”News” sure it wants to bring up the Afghanistan withdrawal that Trump and his inept team orchestrated?


You’d think that after all the failures and backfires Republicans have had trying to project Trump’s horrible record onto Biden they’d try something new to fail at ;-)

Republican mass demintia. March 9, 2024 at 4:05 pm

Don’t forget, it was a Republican President who go us into Afghanistan in the first place.

Tom Jones March 9, 2024 at 6:50 pm

America’s exit from Afghanistan was always going to be violent and messy. I’m old enough to remember the few remaining Americans in Vietnam being plucked from the building roofs as the North Vietnamese took over the country.

Biden was blamed for not giving more lead time before the extraction but the airport would’ve been completely overrun if he had done so. Of course Will failed to mention that this entire process was instigated by Trump in another one of his amazing foreign policy decisions. I believe this decision was one of the few he didn’t have to take back after Trump discovered his decisions had consequences.

Losers gonna lose March 9, 2024 at 11:00 pm

Republicans have no shame and no morals.

They take this Father’s grief (that Trump holds a huge part in the cause of with his deal with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan) and through lies and mistruths, encourage him to act out at Biden and end up getting arrested.

If there is one thing Republicans have been HUGELY successful at, is lying to and getting their followers arrested by the thousands.

Katie Top fan March 11, 2024 at 8:26 am

Blame Trump all you want. Biden was ultimately in office and it was his team that handled the exit. If this was Trump’s plan, Biden did not have to go with it.

Bell Curve Need Not Apply March 11, 2024 at 11:12 am

“If this was Trump’s plan, Biden did not have to go with it.”

Yeah, just what the USA needs, just let the rest of the world view our government as bipolar. I’m sure we can get lots of countries to go along with us when we change our minds every 4-8 years on practically everything. It’s not like we’ve already diminished ourselves greatly on the world stage with GOP nonsense as it is.

For what it’s worth though, Obama should have gotten us out. It was clear Dubya wouldn’t. These failures left it up to the biggest failure of all, and it turned out exactly as one would expect when left to said biggest failure.


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