Top experts warn that the standing of the US as the ‘partner of choice’ for global allies has waned after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • Sen. Joni Ernst and former Bush advisor Karl Rove say US credibility is falling
  • Ernst says allies and partners pulled her aside with questions after the deadly August withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • Rove says the US should have explained the US’ presence in the country better
  • He was part of the team that promoted the invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror 

Current and former US officials say the role of the US as a reliable partner in international security has been tainted by this year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw 13 soldiers killed and the country returned to Taliban rule.

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, said Saturday that ‘many of our traditional allies and partners’ pulled her aside and to ask about the chaotic scenes at the Halifax International Security Forum last month.  

‘They are not turning to us and seeing leadership at this moment in time,’ she said. ‘We can’t just continue to promise to be the partner of choice.’

Her points were echoed by former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, who opposed the withdrawal and suggested that leaders needed to explain the invasion to Americans better.  

Current and former US officials say the August withdrawal from Afghanistan after a 20-year war and invasion has damaged the US’ standing as a ‘partner of choice’ in global security

Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, said partners have pulled her aside to ask questions about the withdrawal. ‘We can’t just continue to promise to be the partner of choice’

Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove, who opposed the withdrawal and helped promote the invasion of Iraq to the public, blames President Biden for lacking ‘detailed planning’

‘What would have happened if we had had a description over the last several years of what actually our mission was – that we’d ended the combat mission, that we were providing intelligence and air support and training?’ Rove wondered, according to Fox News.

Erns and Rove spoke in Simi Valley, California at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, a conference that brings together government officials and defense industry executives to ‘review and assess policies that strengthen America’s national defense in the context of the global threat environment.’

Sen. Ernst, 51, said US credibility was ‘jeopardized in the last year with the hasty and haphazard withdrawal of Afghanistan.’

‘We have to have action in this area and show the rest of the world that we are the partner of choice,’ Ernst added. 

The War in Afghanistan is the longest war in US history. It was started in 2001 by the Bush administration after the US accused the Taliban-ruled country of being a safe haven for al-Qaeda, which perpetrated the September 11 attacks.

Ground operations have been winding down for years, but President Joe Biden announced the drawdown of all remaining troops in the country in April.

The US evacuated over 130,000 people before the country fell back under Taliban control, but lost 13 troops to a suicide attack at the airport

Biden announced a full withdrawal in May. Above, the president delivers remarks on August 26 after 13 troops were killed at an airport in Kabul

The hasty withdrawal was completed on August 30, with the US evacuating an estimated 130,000 people out of the country as it fell back under Taliban rule. 

Thirteen US troops were killed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport as the US evacuated interpreters and other vulnerable populations, such as women and children.

Rove, 70, has previously questioned the need for the withdrawal and blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for its outcome.

‘Apparently, Mr. Biden didn’t require detailed planning for this major policy initiative. He announced his goal – the US out of Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, later changed to August 31 – but the execution was supported only by wishful thinking,’ Rove said in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

In September, top military officials told lawmakers that they had advised Biden to leave troops in Afghanistan in order to prevent a Taliban takeover. 

Rove, 70, has been criticized for his role in promoting the War on Terror during the Bush administration

Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in September: ‘I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. Those are my personal views.’ 

Biden previously told ABC News that his military advisors did not advise against a full withdrawal.

Rove suggested the US’s presence in Afghanistan hadn’t been sold to the public correctly.  

‘This is a reflection of less on where the American people are and more on the failure of their leadership to be heard on these important questions, like saying we need allies, we need to be engaged in the world,’ Rove said.

Ernst, who served in the Iowa Army National Guard, added: ‘It should always be America first but not America only.

‘We have to do a better job at explaining why America needs to engage globally,’ Ernst said. ‘And we haven’t seen that for maybe a few decades now.

‘I think if the public knew and we had more transparency on why we are in certain areas of the world they would be a lot more supportive.’

Rove has been criticized for speaking out against the withdrawal when he and others in the Bush administration vehemently pushed for the War on Terror and the invasion of Iraq, which most Americans now see as a mistake.

PICTURED: All 13 US troops killed by ISIS-K suicide bomber during Kabul airport evacuation

On August 26, 2021, 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman, and one Army staff sergeant were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul that also claimed more than 160 Afghan lives. The US servicemembers were on a mission of mercy to evacuate at-risk Afghans after the disastrous US withdrawal led to a Taliban takeover. These are their stories:

Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23

Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee was was a maintenance technician with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Roseville, California.

A week before she was killed, Gee cradled a baby in her arms at the Kabul airport. She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, ‘I love my job.’ 

Sgt. Mallory Harrison, who lived with Gee for three years and called her a ‘sister forever’ and best friend, wrote about the magnitude of her loss.

‘I can’t quite describe the feeling I get when I force myself to come back to reality & think about how I´m never going to see her again,’ Harrison wrote on Facebook. ‘How her last breath was taken doing what she loved – helping people. … Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.’

Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, is seen four days before she was killed, escorting Afghans on to a plane in Kabul

Just days before she was killed in the suicide blast, St. Nicole Gee was photographed holding an Afghan baby

Gee, 23, (left and right) of Roseville, California was among those killed in the attack in Kabul 

Nicole Gee (left middle), a maintenance technician with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), awaits the launch of an MV-22B Osprey during an exercise in April

Gee’s Instagram page shows another photo of her in fatigues, holding a rifle next to a line of people walking into the belly of a large transport plane. She wrote: ‘escorting evacuees onto the bird.’

The social media account that includes many selfies after working out at the gym lists her location as California, North Carolina and ‘somewhere overseas.’

Photos show her on a camel in Saudi Arabia, in a bikini on a Greek isle and holding a beer in Spain. One from this month in Kuwait shows her beaming with her meritorious promotion to sergeant.

Harrison said her generation of Marines hears war stories from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, but they seem distant amid boring deployments until ‘the peaceful float you were on turns into … your friends never coming home.’

Gee´s car was still parked in a lot at Camp Lejeune and Harrison mused about all the Marines who walked past it while she was overseas.

‘Some of them knew her. Some of them didn´t.’ she said. ‘They all walked past it. The war stories, the losses, the flag-draped coffins, the KIA bracelets & the heartbreak. It´s not so distant anymore.’

Friends mourned Gee (right) whom they called a ‘model Marine’ and a ‘Marine’s Marine’

‘She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person,’ said friend and fellow Marine Mallory Harrison in a Facebook post on Gee (center right)

‘She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person,’ said Harrison in a Facebook post. 

‘I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine,’ she said.

‘She was doing God’s work…..a warrior. Searching Afghan women and children trying to get out of country,’ Captain Karen Holliday said in a Facebook tribute.

Holliday called Gee a ‘Model Marine. A leader on the ground in a chaotic situation.’

She said that a photo released of Gee a few days before her death, showing her escorting Afghans onto a waiting plane, had been bombarded with sexist online comments ‘degrading her for being a female Marine.’  

Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, 20

Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, 20

Lance Corporal Merola was a Marine from Rancho Cucamonga, California. 

He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, California. 

The 20-year-old was a graduate of Los Osos High School, according to KABC-TV.

Students honored him at the football game on the Friday after the attack by wearing red, white and blue. 

‘Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier,’ said family friend Joseph Matsuoka on a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral.

Matsuoka said that Merola ‘paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the evacuation.’ 

Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo was a Marine sergeant from Lawrence, Massachusetts assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

She was a graduate of Lawrence High School and attended Bridgewater State University. 

On social media, friends issued and outpouring of grief and devastation at Rosario’s death. 

Nastassia Hyatt, a former Marine, recalled Rosario helping her through difficult times in a Facebook post.

‘You brought me back to life. Back to life… back to life….’ Hyatt wrote. ‘I wish i could bring you back to life for just one last hug, one last smile, one last nap, one last meal… one last anything.’

‘She the second half of my heart next to my son. Like she’s everything to me. She is the greatest love I’ve ever known in a human besides my son. This one hit hard,’ Hyatt said. 

‘We are heartbroken by the death of the service men and women due to the bombing in Kabul this week. I and the City of Lawrence are particularly saddened that one of those brave souls was a daughter of our City,’ said Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez in a statement to WCVB-TV.

The Dominican Republic’s embassy in the United States tweeted that Rosario was originally from that Caribbean nation.

On social media, friends issued and outpouring of grief and devastation at Rosario’s death

Sonia Guzmán, the Dominican Republic´s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the Dominican community shares in the loss.

‘Peace to your soul!’ she tweeted in Spanish.

Rosario served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which praised her efforts as supply chief this spring and thanked her for a job well done.

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said he has been in contact with the family.

‘We are heartbroken by the death of the servicemen and women due to the bombing in Kabul this week,’ he said. ‘I and the city of Lawrence are particularly saddened that one of those brave souls was a daughter of our city.’

The family wishes for privacy ‘and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was,’ the mayor said.

Rosario (center) was a Marine sergeant from Lawrence, Massachusetts with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Melendez said people have strong feelings about the U.S. involvement that’s coming to an end after two decades in Afghanistan.

‘There are people on both sides of the fence. I get it,’ he said. ‘This is about one of our own, a daughter of Lawrence. For us it is definitely about her service and her family´s sacrifice. That´s what will be focusing on.’

‘I have been in touch with the family of the Lawrencian killed in action to extend mine and my family’s most sincere condolences and offer all of the aid that my administration can provide as they grieve this great loss,’ the mayor said.

‘At this time, the family’s most immediate wish is to be given privacy and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was.’ 

Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 20 

Soviak, an Ohio native, joined the Navy after high school and became a hospital corpsman

Maxton William Soviak was a Navy corpsman from New Berlin, Ohio. He was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California

Weeks before his death, he made a tragic Instagram post on June 10, sharing a photo posing with other service members in what is believed to be Afghanistan.

‘It’s kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side,’ he wrote in a comment on the post. Navy corpsmen often work alongside Marines, who do not have their own medics. 

Soviak’s sister Marilyn said in her own Instagram post that her brother was there to ‘help people’. 

‘My beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives. He was a f***ing medic. There to help people and now he is gone and my family will never be the same,’ she wrote. 

‘He was just a kid. We are sending kids over there to die. Kids with families that now have holes just like ours,’ she added. ‘I’m not one for praying but d**n could those kids over there use some right now. My heart is in pieces and I don’t think they’ll ever fit back right again.’

Soviak was named as a casualty of the attack by his high school in Milan, Ohio, where he graduated in 2017. 

‘It is with deepest sorrow that I am sharing this news,’ Edison Local School District Superintendent Thomas Roth said in a statement. 

‘Max was a good student who was active in sports and other activities throughout his school career. He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him. Max was full of life in everything he did.’ 

Maxton William Soviak (center), a medic in his early 20s, made this tragic post on June 10, writing ‘It’s kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side’. Marines Hunter Lopez (left) and Daegan Page (right) were also killed in the attack

Soviak’s sister Marilyn said an Instagram post that her brother was there to ‘help people’

Soviak took pride in his Navy service and worked alongside Marines in Afghanistan

In high school, Soviak was on the honor roll and played football. He was named as a casualty of the attack by his high school in Milan, Ohio

Soviak’s family confirmed his death to local media and have asked for privacy. 

In high school, Soviak was on the honor roll and played football, according to the Sandusky Register. 

Soviak was among the nearly 6,000 US troops now working frantically to evacuate Americans and Afghan refugees from Kabul, with just days remaining before President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw. 

Lance Corporal David Lee Espinoza, 20 

David Lee Espinoza, 20, was one of the Marines killed in the attack

David Lee Espinoza, was a 20-year-old U.S. Marine from Rio Grande, Texas.

His mother, Elizabeth Holguin, said: ‘He was a very good person. He served his country. He helped in any way he could. He was there (in Afghanistan), helping innocent people.’

This was his second deployment; he first made a trip to the Middle East and arrived in Afghanistan for about a week.

Holguin said she was uneasy about him being deployed there.

‘I prayed every day,’ she said.

He is one of four children; he is not married and has no children.

The mom last spoke with him the Tuesday before the attack.

‘I just told him to be careful, that I was worried about him and I couldn’t wait for him to come back,’ Holguin said. ‘He told me he was fine and not to worry…. He was brave. If he was scared, he didn’t show it.’

She said she holds no animosity toward the president, saying her son ‘wanted to be there.’

Holguin learned her son was dead when she received a phone call on the Friday after the attack at 2.30am.

‘He was just brave enough to go do what he wanted and to help out people. That´s who he was, he was just perfect,’ his mother, Elizabeth Holguin, told the Laredo Morning Times.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Espinoza ’embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor. When he joined the military after high school, he did so with the intention of protecting our nation and demonstrating his selfless acts of service.’

Cuellar concluded, ‘The brave never die. Mr. Espinoza is a hero.’

Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, 20 

Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum was killed in the attack

Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum was named by his high school in Wyoming as a casualty in the attack. 

He was expecting to become a father and was pictured with his pregnant wife shortly before deploying to Afghanistan in April.

Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s sister, told her brother had wanted to be a Marine since he was a toddler – and that his own baby is due in just three weeks.

‘Rylee was an amazing, man with a passion for the Marines. He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just 3 weeks,’ she said.

‘He wanted to be a marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots.

‘He was determined to be in infantry and this was his first deployment. Rylee was sent to Afghanistan when the evac began. Rylee was manning the check point when he suicide bomb went off.

‘Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.

‘To his friends and teammates and coaches, he was family. Rylee will always be a hero not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper. We love you Rylee.’

Rylee McCollum graduated from Summit Innovations School in Jackson in 2019. 

Wyoming Schools Superintendent Jillian Balow said in a statement: ‘Saying that I am grateful for Rylee’s service to our country does not begin to encapsulate the grief and sadness I feel today as a mother and as an American.’ 

‘My heart and prayers are with Rylee’s family, friends, and the entire Jackson community,’ she added.

Rylee McCollum was named by his high school in Wyoming as a casualty in the attack

Rylee McCollum was due to become a father. He is pictured with his pregnant wife, right, shortly before deploying to Afghanistan in April

The Wyoming-born Marine’s wrestling coach and close family friend, Benjamin Arlotta said ‘heads should roll’ over the disastrous US exit and that the young soldier’s family is ‘absolutely broken’.

Arlotta told that even in diapers McCollum would stand watch on his porch with a toy rifle, first said he wanted to be a Marine aged eight, and signed up on his 18th birthday.

In a glowing eulogy to the young expectant father, whose new baby is due in three weeks, Arlotta described McCollum as a ‘personal hero’ and a ‘fantastic brother, fantastic uncle, and a wonderful friend’.

‘I was his wrestling coach since he was six. He was one of the best. A great kid, a great young man and an American patriot. He loved being a Marine,’ Arlotta said.

‘He was just a good man all around. We’re all hurting pretty bad.

‘It’s impossible. I’m sitting here with the family right now – with his dad and two sisters, his brother-in-law and niece. They’re shattered, they’re absolutely broken. The entire community is.’

Arlotta, 37, said he is furious at the Biden administration and blames the White House for putting soldiers in an unnecessarily dangerous position.

‘It’s a junk show, an absolute junk show. Not just for Rylee but for every serviceman and woman over there. They were put in a very terrible spot. In my opinion this entire circumstance has been mismanaged from every level,’ he told

‘The only thing I can hope for is that accountability isn’t forgotten. Because for the 13 men who were killed yesterday, heads need to roll for the way things have gone.

Benjamin Arlotta, and his wife, Talia, are long-time family friends of the McCollums. Benjamin said he is angry and devastated 

‘We’re just seeing the beginning of it. It’s not over, it’s only going to get worse. Everybody in the country needs to be praying for our servicemen and women right now. They have a scrap out in front of them.

‘Sadly those 13 Marines aren’t going to be the last ones to perish because of these terrible decisions that were made.’

Recalling fond memories of the young Jackson Hole native, the wrestling coach told a heartwarming story of McCollum’s determination.

‘When he was 13 he came into the competition season 32lbs heavier than where he wanted to be,’ Arlotta said.

‘He told me he would lose it. We made a bet. I was going to quit chewing tobacco if he could get down there. That was September, by the time the state championship rolled around in January he had made weight.

‘He entered the wrestling tournament at that weight and I quit chewing that day.

‘He was first and foremost a man of his word. If he said he would do something, by goodness gracious he stood right in front of you until he did it.’

McCollum moved to California for training. His pregnant wife Jiennah ‘Gigi’ Crayton lives in the San Diego area.

The 20-year-old lance corporal wanted to be a soldier since childhood, first telling his parents he would join the Marines age eight.

‘We were driving back from his first state wrestling tournament, I was riding with his family,’ said Arlotta. ‘We asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said he wanted to be in the Marines.

‘He enlisted on his 18th birthday,’ the coach added. ‘When he actually enlisted his recruiter told him he could be anything, he could do any job. He swore up and down he wanted to be an infantryman.

‘If you know Rylee, you know you can’t talk him out of a damn thing, so that’s what he did.’

U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a fellow Wyoming resident, issued a statement when she learned of Rylee’s passing. 

‘I want to offer my deepest condolences to Rylee McCollum’s family and loved ones. His bravery and patriotism will never be forgotten. His willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep our country safe and defend our freedom represents a level of selflessness and heroism that embodies the best of America. 

‘We know that the McCollum family is grieving this tragic loss. I ask that people in Wyoming and across the country please keep those close to Rylee in their prayers, and remember that we are only free because of the courage and valor of service members like him.’ 

Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, 20

Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz was a 20-year-old from Wentzville, Missouri

Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz was a 20-year-old from Wentzville, Missouri. 

His father Mark Schmitz told KMOX the Marines notified his family about 2.40am on the day following the attack about his son’s death. 

‘This was something he always wanted to do and I never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he could be,’ Mark Schmitz said.

The grieving father grew emotional as he spoke about his son, welling up with tears.  

‘His life meant so much more. I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.’ 

Mark Schmitz slammed Biden and blamed him for his son’s death. 

‘Be afraid of our leadership or lack thereof. Pray every day for the soldiers that are putting their lives at risk, doing what they love which is protecting all of us,’ Schmitz’s father said.

He added that he was relieved when his son signed up as a Marine when Trump was in office because he ‘really believed this guy didn’t want to send people into harm’s way.’ 

Jared Schmitz was killed in the attack

Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, 20

Marine Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui was a native of Norco, California

Marine Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui was a native of Norco, California.

Nikoui’s father Steve, a carpenter, vented his frustrations at Biden in an interview with the Daily Beast. 

‘They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security. I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it,’ he said

Steve Nikoui said he knew his son was dead when he saw two Marines approaching his home on the day of the attack at 7.15pm PST. 

He said he sat with the two emotional Marines, who cried more than he cried, and then had them leave. 

Steve also appeared on Fox with Tucker Carlson the day after his son’s death to further criticize Biden in an emotional interview where he said the attack could have been avoided. 

‘From what I saw of the airport that they’re in, looked like a Turkey shoot. It’s funneled in to a single file-type entry point at which if you have in sort of chaos of any sort, they would all like gather to that one funneled area, which they would all be accessed. That’s what happened. It was just basically so chaotic and not really planned out,’ Steve said.

As he teared up, he also said he was upset by how long it took to learn of his son’s death. 

‘How long does it take for the military to, you know, inform the next of kin?’ 

Marine Kareem Nikoui, pictured with his mother, was killed. His father said he blames Biden for abandoning them in Kabul

‘I was actually trying to console them. But at the same time, I just wanted them to get out as soon as possible so that no one from my family came back and saw them.

‘I thought it appropriate that I be able to tell them,’ he said.

He added that his son, who was based at Camp Pendleton in California, would often bring other Marines home on the holidays if they couldn’t get back to their own families.

‘My wife and I felt very honored that [since] these other boys weren’t around their homes, that we were able to provide some sort of family life for them. 

‘He really loved that [Marine Corps] family. He was devoted—he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty,’ he said.

Speaking outside Kareem’s home, a relative told that Kareem’s family were inside signing the documents required to repatriate him. 

He added: ‘They’re totally devastated and they need some time. All the family are here and we’re supporting them.’ 

A steady stream of people have been seen coming and going from the home all day, among them some of Kareem’s colleagues from the Camp Pendleton Marine base in San Diego. 

Steve Nikoui, right, father the late Kareem Nikoui, spoke with Fox’s Tucker Carlson the day after the attack to condemn the Biden administration’s efforts in Afghanistan that he said led to his son’s death

An American flag flew half-mast outside Norco Intermediate School in honor of Nikoui

Kareem’s mother Shana Chappell posted angrily on social media, blaming Vice-President Kamala Harris for the loss of her son.  

At the social media message of condolence from the Vice-President, she wrote: ‘This c u next Tuesday is a joke! They are the reason my son is dead.’ 

Kareem’s death is also being mourned by his home city of Norco – a small community of 26,000 people nicknamed ‘Horsetown’ that sits 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

Confirming his death, the city released a message of condolence that read: ‘The City of Norco mourns the loss of Norco resident U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui who was killed in action while stationed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26, 2021. 

‘The U.S. Marine, who graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in JROTC, was committed to serving his country and is survived by his mother, father and siblings.’ 

The city of Norco plans to honor Nikoui by placing his name on the ‘Lest We Forget Wall’ at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Lance Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22

Marine Lance Corporal Hunter Lopez 

Marine Lance Corporal Hunter Lopez, a native of California’s Coachella Valley and the son of two police officers, was also killed in the attack, Sheriff Chad Bianco confirmed.

‘I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero,’ Bianco wrote. 

‘Hunter Lopez, son of our own Captain Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez, tragically lost his life while serving our country in the United States Marine Corp. He was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26th,’ the sheriff added.

‘Before joining the Marine Corp, Hunter proudly served in our Sheriff’s Explorer Program. Our entire department is mourning this tragic loss. The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self.’ 

City of La Quinta issued a statement: ‘Our La Quinta Family is in mourning today with the tragic loss of Hunter Lopez, one of the fallen United States Service Members in the attack in Afghanistan,’

‘Hunter is the son of Captain Herman and Alicia Lopez, both members of the Riverside Sheriff’s Department. Captain Herman Lopez is our Police Chief and Captain over at the Thermal Station,’ the statement added.

‘We are all so humbled by the service and ultimate sacrifice that Hunter gave to protect our country. He was a brave and selfless soldier who answered the call to be a United States Marine. Like his parents, Hunter wanted to help serve others and protect his community.’  

Marine Hunter Lopez, a native of California’s Coachella Valley and the son of two police officers, was also killed, Sheriff Chad Bianco confirmed

‘The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self,’ said the local sheriff 


‘I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero,’ Bianco wrote of Hunter Lopez (above)

Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, of Salt Lake City, Utah

Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover 

Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was another of the service members killed outside the Kabul airport, his family told KSL-TV. 

He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. 

Friends and family mourned his loss, including fellow students who graduated in the Class of 2008 at Hillcrest High School with him in Midvale. 

‘Soooooo glad I got to see him before he left. I love you son!!! You’re my hero!! Please check in on us once in a while. I’ll try to make you proud!!’ Hoover’s father, Darin Hoover, wrote on Facebook.

‘My handsome nephew, Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover. Taylor spent his entire adult life as a Marine, serving. Doing the hard things that most of us can’t do. He is a hero,’ Jeremy Soto, an uncle, wrote. 

‘We are wounded. We are bruised. We are angry. We are crushed… but we remain faithful. Thank you for your courage nephew. We love you always.’

‘Always a smile. Always respectful. A joy to be around. He is adored beyond measure. The world has lost a true light. Our hearts are broken. Shock, disbelief, horror, sadness, sorrow, anger and grief,’ Brittany Jones Barnett, an aunt, added. 

‘Thank you sweet boy for the ultimate sacrifice. For giving your life for us all. Fighting for freedom and giving absolutely everything you had. You will never ever be forgotten. We love you so much,’ she added. 

Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, pictured holding a young family member, died in Kabul

Taylor Hoover, a Utah native, was mourned by his mother Kelly Barnett, left, and girlfriend, Nicole Weiss, right, following his death

‘He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can´t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country,’ said father Darin Hoover, who lives in a Salt Lake City suburb, in an AP interview.

He said he had heard from Marines who said they were grateful they had his son as their sergeant.

‘They look back on him and say that they´ve learned so much from him,’ Hoover said. ‘One heck of a leader.’

Hoover said his son was also a best friend to his two sisters and loved all his extended family. He had a girlfriend in California and was the kind of guy who ‘lit up a room’ when he came in, his father said.

Hoover, center, was among the Marine troops in Afghanistan to helping with the evacuation 

Hoover pictured in his uniforms, ‘died a hero doing what he always wanted to do and was proud to do, ‘ a family member said

Nate Thompson of Murray, Utah, first met Hoover when they were 10 years old in Little League football. They stayed friends through high school, where Hoover played lineman. He was undersized for the position, but his heart and hard work more than made up for what he lacked in statute, Thompson said. As a friend, he was selfless and kind.

‘If we had trouble with grades, trouble with family or trouble on the field, we always called Taylor. He´s always level-headed, even if he´s struggling himself,’ he said.

U.S. Representative Blake Moore, who represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District, also mourned the loss of Hoover. 

‘We’ll be forever grateful for his sacrifice & legacy. He spent his last moments serving our state & nation, and we’ll never forget his unwavering devotion,’ he wrote in a statement. 

Utah Senator Mike Lee wrote in a statement, ‘Burying a child is a grief no parent should bear. Sharon and I mourn with the Hoover family and with all who loved [Hoover]… who gave the last full measure of devotion in Afghanistan. 

‘He died completing a mission to save his countrymen and civilians from evil and oppression. He lived the Marine Corps motto by living and dying always faithful.’

Utah residents tied fellow ribbons to flags in front of Hoover’s family home

Neighbor Lena McIllece helped arranged the flags to honor Hoover and the other fallen troops

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at all state facilities and public grounds effective immediately until sunset on August. 30 to honor Hoover and all those who died in the recent attack. 

‘We are devastated to hear of the passing of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover. Staff Sgt. Hoover served valiantly as a Marine and died serving his fellow countrymen as well as America’s allies in Afghanistan. We honor his tremendous bravery and commitment to his country, even as we condemn the senseless violence that resulted in his death. Abby and I pray for Staff Sgt. Hoover, his family and loved ones during this most difficult time,’ Cox said in a statement.  

A family member told ABC 4 that Hoover, ‘died a hero doing what he always wanted to do and was proud to do, serve his country. 

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, was a native of Tennessee

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23 

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, was a native of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

He first was identified as one of the victims by his grandfather, Wayne Knauss. 

‘He grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through 8th grade and spent, four years at Gibbs High [School],’ said Wayne about his grandson. 

‘A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in God’s heaven.’ 

Wayne told ABC 6 that Ryan had served right out of high school for five years with special training in Psychology Operations. 

Ryan’s stepmother, Lianne Knauss, added that Ryan told them he was looking forward to returning to the U.S. and moving to Washington D.C. 

‘He was a super-smart hilarious young man,’ she said. 

Knauss, 23, right, said he wanted to move to Washington D.C. when he returned 

Members of the Knauss family mourned Ryan’s death on social media

U.S. Representative Tim Burchett, a fellow Knoxville resident, also tweeted a tribute to the fallen marine. 

‘Ryan gave his life outside that airport helping people he didn’t know get to safety. This is what true heroism looks like and Ryan’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. The Knauss family is my prayers.’ Burchett wrote 

Diane Trulson Amundson Knauss also urged people to support Wayne and the troops in Afghanistan. 

‘Please pray for our military in Afghanistan and all over the world,’ she wrote. ‘Our hearts ache for Wayne and Neena… and all families.’  

Marine Corp. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was a native of Omaha, Nebraska

Corporal Daegan Page, 23 

Marine Corp. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was a native of Omaha, Nebraska. 

In a statement, Page’s family confirmed that he was one of the slain service members at Kabul airport. 

‘Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time,’ the family said. 

‘Daegan’s girlfriend Jessica, his mom, dad, step-mom, step-dad, 4 siblings, and grandparents are all mourning the loss of a great son, grandson, and brother.’ 

Page grew up in Omaha and Red Oak, Iowa. He enjoyed playing hockey for Omaha Westside in the local hockey club and was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan.

He also oved hunting and spending time outside with his father. 

His family said he was a longtime Boy Scout who was eager to join the U.S. Marine Corps. 

‘Daegan joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School. He loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.’  

Corp. Daegan William-Tyeler Page died in the Kabul airport bombing attack

Page, left, was a Marine and member of the 2nd Battalion Marine Regiment

They added that Page was looking forward to coming home to see his family and friends. He also had plans to go to trade school, contemplating a career as a lineman. 

‘Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other Marine and Navy families whose loved ones died alongside Daegan,’ the family said. 

Shana Nicole, a friend of Page, added that ‘the world lost an amazing hero. 

‘My heart hurts for everyone who knew Daegan. He was so so kind always,’ she wrote on Facebook. 

The Omaha, Nebraska, native was looking forward to returning home, his family said 

Page, center, hoped to reunite with friends back home and go to trade school

Page, third from the left, rear, was drawn to the sense of brotherhood within the Marine Corps 

U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who represents Page’s home district, also issued a statement mourning the loss of the young marine. 

‘I was just notified about the death of Marine Corporal Page. My heart was already broken over our country’s loss of 13 service members in Afghanistan. Now the loss is even harder,’ Fortenberry said. 

‘God bless Corporal Page. He saved lives and served his country honorably. His life was cut short but had ultimate meaning. By his bravery and will, many others will have a chance. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family.’ 

Marine Corp. Humberto Sanchez was among those killed

Corporal Humberto Sanchez, 23 

Officials in Indiana confirmed that Corp. Humberto Sanchez was also among the dead.

Sanchez graduated from Logansport High School in 2017. He also attended Columbia Elementary.

‘Like many, I have been heartbroken over the recent loss of the 13 U.S. service members who were murdered in the terrorist attacks against our evacuation efforts in Kabul, Afghanistan,’ Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said in a statement on Facebook.

‘Even more heartbreaking is learning the news today that one of those killed was from right here at home in Logansport, Indiana.

‘This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him. Any plans he may have had for his post-military life were given in sacrifice due to the heart he exhibited in putting himself into harm’s way to safeguard the lives of others.’

Adrian Gazcon, a friend, also wrote a tribute on Twitter for Sanchez, saying that ‘it hurts that he’s gone.’ ‘Thank you for your service, you’re a hero bro.’  

Sanchez pictured carrying friend Rhiannon Rickerd while attending Logansport High School in Indiana

A friend posted a tribute to Sanchez when he learned about his death

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