Congress is set to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 service members killed in the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport amid the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Rep. Lisa McClain, Michigan Republican, and 158 co-sponsors introduced a bill to award the medals just days after the Aug. 26 ISIS-K suicide bomb attack ripped through the crowded airport killing close to 200 Afghan civilians.
“These heroic men and women are gone far too soon, and we must honor them for their bravery in helping U.S. citizens and Afghan allies safely evacuate Afghanistan,” Mrs. McClain said in a statement introducing the bill. “My heart aches for the families and loved ones of our service members. We will always remember their service and pay tribute to their sacrifice.”
The attack marked the single deadliest day for U.S. service members in Afghanistan in more than a decade.
The measure to award the Congressional Gold Medal, one of Congress’ highest honors, now has more than 300 co-sponsors in the House and is expected to pass overwhelmingly this week.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and Steve Daines, Montana Republican, have introduced the same measure in the Senate.
The Biden administration received several warnings of increased threats to the airport leading up to the attack and warned of the risk of troops remaining in-country beyond the Aug. 31 deadline set for the withdrawal.
The Pentagon surged troops to the airport in the final days of the withdrawal as Kabul descended into chaos following the Taliban’s takeover. Close to 6,000 U.S. troops were tasked with securing the airport, almost three times the amount of troops that were in the country when the withdrawal began in the spring.
The U.S. launched multiple airstrikes on suspected ISIS-K members in response in the days following the attack.
On Aug. 27, a U.S. airstrike took out two ISIS-K planners in Nangarhar province, who the Pentagon said were involved in the attack on the airport.
Two days later, the Pentagon launched a drone strike on a suspected ISIS-K operative in Kabul. A follow-on investigation confirmed that 10 civilians were killed in the strike, and raised doubts as to whether the individual targeted in the strike was an ISIS-K militant. In mid-September U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie confirmed following the investigation that it was unlikely that any ISIS-K members were killed in the Kabul airstrike.