Gold Star families spoke at a House Foreign Affairs Committee roundtable on Tuesday
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says that House Republicans could threaten to withhold funding for certain programs as part of a broader effort to get answers for families who lost loved ones in the 2021 Abbey Gate terror attack in Afghanistan.
“I would expect on Appropriations there will be some language that requires certain things be done or certain funds will be withheld,” Issa told Fox News Digital. “That’s a very effective tool. We don’t want to use it indiscriminately, but these families deserve answers.”
Issa, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke to Fox after the committee heard testimony from Gold Star families about their anger at the decisions made by the administration in connection to the suicide attack in Aug. 2021 at Kabul Airport amid a chaotic withdrawal from the country.
Relatives have accused the administration of mismanaging the withdrawal and of failing to provide complete information to them. The bombing killed 13 U.S. service members, and families had marked the second anniversary of it this week. Issa, who has organized events so that the families can share their stories, paid tribute to those killed in the attack and their relatives who spoke at the event.
“People who tell us that the next generation isn’t like our generation or the one that came before us haven’t listened to the parents talking about these 13 fallen men and women. These are the next generation, and they are every bit the soldiers, sailors, and marines that we would hope will keep coming our way.”
“One question that they answered was, ‘with what you’ve had to go through do you think we should still be standing our post in Poland, with NATO, in Ukraine and in North and South Korea and so on?’ And every single one said yes. And that just says so much that even the parents who have lost so much are still part of that generation that, rightfully so, believes in America’s role in the world,” he said.
The administration has responded to the criticism it has faced, with Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley releasing a lengthy statement just before the hearing began in which he also paid tribute to the families.
“We owe them transparency, we owe them honesty, we owe them accountability. We owe them the truth about what happened to their loved ones,” Milley said in a statement to Fox News.
Milley addressed some of the claims from Gold Star families about incorrect information.
“I trust the Army, Navy and Marine Corps did the best they could in briefing the families who had loved ones killed at Abbey Gate. I believe the briefers gave every piece of information that they could. If there was issues with that, we need to take whatever corrective action is necessary,” he said. “And our hearts go out to those families.”
He continued, “This is a personal thing for all of us in uniform. We don’t like what happened in Afghanistan. We don’t like the outcome of Afghanistan. We owe it to the families to take care of them. Their sacrifices were not in vain.”
The Pentagon also released a statement expressing “our deepest condolences to the Gold Star Families who lost loved ones during the tragic bombing at Abbey Gate.”
“We are forever grateful for their service, sacrifice, and committed efforts during the evacuation operations. We also commend the historic and monumental efforts of all our service men and women who served honorably during the withdrawal period from Afghanistan,” the statement said.
It went on to say that U.S. Central Command conducted a “comprehensive, credible and definitive” investigation into the attack.
“As then CENTCOM commander Gen. McKenzie highlighted, ‘The volume of evidence collected, the testimony of more than 100 people, the analysis of experts, the findings of fact, and the conclusions of the team based upon evidence gives a compelling and truthful examination of the event.’ U.S. military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan made the best decisions and provided their best military advice based off what was known at the time and leaders took appropriate action in response to reported threat streams.”
“From the investigation at the tactical level, the Abbey Gate attack was not preventable without degrading the mission to maximize the number of evacuees, and the leaders on the ground followed the proper measures and procedures,” the statement said.
Issa, however, was dismissive of the statement by Milley.
“That’s a political statement. He’s been Joint Chiefs chairman for two years,” he said. He has had these two years to get it done. Our requests and demands have gone unanswered during that period of time. So his statement that he’s going to do it in what I understand to be about his last 60 days on the job would seem to be pretty hollow.”
As for how he felt about whether there would be further action, he said that he was less optimistic than he was two years ago. However, he stressed that it was an important battle to fight.
“I think America believes that we leave no one behind and that we take care of the families of the fallen. And if we’re not doing it for these 13 high-profile deaths, then who believes for a moment that we’re doing it for the thousands of others?” he said. “And so these families speak not just for the 13 of their own forward, but for so many others that have given it all throughout the years.”