These were some of my Afghan comrades. Some valiant, some survivors, but all of them freedom fighters. Some will fight to the death.
Everyone has an opinion on AFG right now. I deployed there during a counter terrorism period where only US Special Forces conducted operations. It wasn’t a state building mission. It hasn’t been for a long time. Rose colored glasses about how this war was going ignores the situation on the ground. There was no end state; a leadership failure.
We have wasted lives and money on this war. We needed to leave. Yet it would have taken my team ten minutes to think of problematic contingencies and how to mitigate them.
Everyone who was on the ground expected a full Taliban take over. It is not a surprise to any of us. What is surprising is how little forethought went into the pull-out process. It’s the same lack of effort and forethought that was given to my injury situation by the Army.
I was enthusiastic about killing the enemy, but I cared for the people of AFG. I medically treated them, tried to build schools and clinics, and led convoys to give children supplies and gifts. I cared.
I almost died for it. Friends have died. Families torn apart. All of us with lingering symptoms of trauma, stress, and anxiety. My trauma is tied to what is going on now. It’s strange and difficult. We needed to leave, but we needed to do it better than this. And now it’s too late.
Useless violence and war is archaic, immature, and dumb. Sometimes it’s necessary, but we never were going to defeat the Taliban. Every administration dating back to the Iraq invasion is culpable. It’s not surprising the Taliban have taken hold; their war of attrition strategy has been public all these years. And it’s not surprising our leadership failed. Again and again.
We should be ashamed. We should understand our failure and learn from it. And maybe we shouldn’t waste American lives and money on bullshit wars we aren’t committed to.
I don’t weep for our embarrassed pride or changing strategic situation. I weep for the people.
(I do not know of any credible programs to help AFG SOF. I do not know how to help. People keep asking how I feel and this is it.)