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Statement | Sept. 15, 2023

Statement Attributable to Michael T. Lawhorn, CENTCOM spokesperson


“In November 2021, U.S. Army Central (ARCENT) completed its investigation into the August 26, 2021 terrorist attack at Abbey Gate. The tragic bombing claimed the lives of 13 American heroes and more than 170 innocent Afghan civilians. The ARCENT-led investigation reviewed thousands of pages of documents and obtained information from more than 130 witnesses. Since the completion of that investigation, some service members have publicly testified about their experiences at Abbey Gate and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“In early June 2023, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, formally directed Lt. Gen. Pat Frank, the current ARCENT commander, to conduct a review of public testimony to determine whether it contained any new information not previously considered in the ARCENT-led investigation of 2021.

“Frank completed his review in August. One of the witnesses, Sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews, USMC, who was not interviewed as part of the earlier investigation, made statements about his experience that contained new information not previously shared by any other witness.

“Frank's review also identified additional service members wounded during the Abbey Gate attack who were not interviewed, due to their immediate medical evacuation in the aftermath of their attack.

“As a result of the review, Gen. Kurilla has formally directed Lt. Gen. Frank to conduct interviews with these service members and other personnel, as necessary. The purpose of these interviews is to ensure we do our due diligence with the new information that has come to light, that the relevant voices are fully heard and that we take those accounts and examine them seriously and thoroughly so the facts are clear. These interviews will seek to determine whether those not previously interviewed due to their immediate medical evacuation possess new information not previously considered, and whether such new information, if any, would affect the results of the investigation, and to ensure their personal accounts are captured for historical documentation.

“The primary next of kin of the service members killed at Abbey Gate were being informed of the supplementary interviews as of Sept. 15.

“The process of conducting these interviews will begin in the coming days. Although Gen. Kurilla has requested an update within 90 days, he has also directed Lt. Gen. Frank to take whatever time is necessary to ensure each of the witnesses not interviewed as part of the investigation have an opportunity to share their experience and perspective.”