‘Ripple Effect’: Military Families Pay For Biden’s Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal
- One year after the Biden administration’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. soldiers, Dakota Halverson, the brother of one of the Marines killed, took his own life.
- The family says President Biden has refused to take responsibility for mistakes made in the withdrawal, a factor that may have influenced Halverson’s decision.
- “We’re seeing the heartbreak of the Afghanistan surrender continues every day for American soldiers and their families,” Carrie Filipetti, Vandenberg Coalition executive director and a former policy adviser for terrorism and Middle East affairs, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Biden administration has yet to account for the effects of the suicide bombing at an airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26, 2021 that killed 13 U.S. soldiers and is still taking a toll on those left behind, family members and experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Dakota Halverson, 29, committed suicide on Aug. 9 at Ingalls Park across from a permanent memorial for the fallen soldiers in Norco, California, where he used to play with his brother, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, who died in the blast. Their mother, Shana Chappell, said the “ripple effect” of President Joe Biden’s botched withdrawal and subsequent unwillingness to take responsibility for mistakes made contributed to Halverson’s decision to take his own life.
“Dakota was so proud of Kareem, that he was a Marine, and bragged to everybody about his brother being a Marine and why he was deployed,” Chappell told the DCNF. “So when Dakota found out that his brother was dead, it took a toll on him.”
“We’re seeing the heartbreak of the Afghanistan surrender continues every day for American soldiers and their families,” Carrie Filipetti, Vandenberg Coalition executive director and a former policy adviser for terrorism and Middle East affairs, told the DCNF.
Chappell and Halverson sought to remain strong for the Marines, friends of Nikoui’s, who visited Chappell’s house every weekend and grew close to Halverson, Chappell told the DCNF. Underneath, however, Halverson was wrestling with the loss of his brother and the Biden administration’s culpability in the bombing.
“When his brother was deployed, he talked about how this administration better not get his brother killed — and then this administration got his brother killed,” said Chappell.
“I did not think that [Halverson] would take his life because he missed his brother so much that he just wanted to be with him.”
A lone member of the terrorist organization ISIS-K reportedly perpetrated the explosion that killed nearly 200 people and injured twice that many, marking the third-deadliest day for U.S. soldiers in 20 years of the Afghanistan War.
Top Department of Defense (DOD) officials reportedly instructed inferiors worldwide to prepare for an imminent “mass casualty event,” along with intelligence that ISIS-K might attempt to carry out a “complex attack,” the day before the bomb went off at Abbey Gate, Politico reported. While commanders on the ground decided to close the gate, Americans opted to leave it open longer to accommodate the British military’s accelerated withdrawal from a nearby hotel.
“Our children were treated like they were disposable and replaceable,” said Chappell.
The Biden administration “could have at least just acknowledged it … that they were at least sorry these kids died,” Shaelynn Chappell, Halverson and Nikoui’s older sister, told the DCNF. “It doesn’t seem like they care. They got kids killed.”
Shana Chappell and her husband, Steve Nikoui, called in January for the Biden administration to take responsibility for its role in the tragedy, but Chappell told the DCNF that there has been “zero” accountability.
Biden called the 13 “heroes” in a speech on Aug. 31, 2021, saying “we owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay but we should never, ever, ever forget.” However, Chappell said that since her encounter with Biden at Dover Air Force Base days prior for the dignified transfer of her son, she has not heard from the president.
Findings from a Department of Defense investigation of the attack, laid out in a 2,000-page report, found that it was not a “complex attack” and no gunfire was present. Witnesses who reported hearing gunfire and sustaining bullet wounds disputed the DOD’s claim.
When asked for comment about accountability measures the DOD is pursuing and how it would respond to the news of Halverson’s death, the DOD referred the DCNF to a press release about the report.
The Afghanistan War Commission, authorized in the 2023 annual defense bill, will conduct a comprehensive review of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan from June 2001 to August 2021. However, the commission is not required to submit its final report until three years after its first meeting.
The State Department referred the DCNF to an Aug. 15 briefing, where State Department spokesman Ned Price discussed the status of the after-action report, when asked the same questions presented to the DOD. While the full report will remain classified, Price said the department’s “hope and expectation” is that officials will release elements of the report to the public soon.
Filipetti said the administration should release Afghanistan after-action reports to the public to provide closure to the families of Americans who lost their lives in Afghanistan. The Biden administration “needs to be clear and up-front to servicemembers and their families about the responsibility that falls at the feet of this administration,” she added.
The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Our sacred obligation to the families of these heroes will last forever. pic.twitter.com/lPx4a4ebS7
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 29, 2021
Accountability would not only serve the families of those who lost their lives, but the thousands of post-9/11 Afghanistan War veterans, many of whom must learn to cope with severe mental distress, experts told the DCNF.
“The Biden administration has caused moral injury and psychically damaged a generation of warriors who volunteered to serve their country and keep Americans safe from another 9/11. These thousands of warriors need and deserve accountability and a true reckoning of last year’s decisions and actions,” Simone Ledeen, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, told the DCNF.
The White House did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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