The devastated father of a young U.S. Marine slain in Thursday's terror attacks at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan vented his anger and frustration Friday, placing some of the blame for his son's death squarely on President Joe Biden's shoulders.
"They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security," Steve Nikoui told the Daily Beast through tears during an interview.
"I blame my own military leaders ... Biden turned his back on him. That's it," he said.
Nikoui, a Trump supporter, added that he wanted to "respect the office" of the president, but found it extremely difficult at the moment.
The grieving father's reaction is a pointed representation of the rage many Americans are feeling as they watch the Biden administration bungle withdrawal and evacuation efforts in Afghanistan. By failing to successfully depart the country before Taliban militants could sweep through, the administration has left many American service members and citizens trapped in the fray.
Nikoui's son, Kareem, was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed Thursday during a suicide bombing attack carried out by ISIS-K terrorists outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The attack also killed at least 90 Afghan nationals and wounded more than 150 others, including 18 U.S. service members.
Nikoui recalled that he feared the worst when he heard about explosions in Kabul, where his son was stationed.
"I stayed home from work yesterday because there was that attack and I knew he was there," the California carpenter told the Daily Beast. "So all day, I was glued to the TV."
Waiting all day to learn whether his son had survived was "excruciating," he said. Then at around 7:15 p.m. PT, he saw a group of Marine representatives approach his door.
They were "more choked up than me," Nikoui said. "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."
Nikoui added that he is still in shock and hasn't been able to sleep or "grasp everything that's going on." His next step is to go to Dover, Delaware, and pick up his son's remains.
Nikoui reflected on his son's time in the Marines. He noted that Kareem "loved what he was doing [and] always wanted to be a Marine."
Fortunately, too, while stateside, Kareem was station in nearby Camp Pendleton and was able to come home on weekends. Nikoui said that Kareem often brought along "10 or 15 other Marines" with him on visits home.
"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 recounted. "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."
Military officials have not officially published the names of the slain U.S. troops, which reportedly include 10 Marines, two Army soldiers, and one Navy medic.