President Joe Biden’s bungled withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, where it now looks like the U.S. will have fought 20 years to leave without even a diplomatic presence, has left some veterans pondering the point of their sacrifices.
As of Saturday, the Taliban was still seizing huge swaths of land all across Afghanistan. That was land that was paid for with blood by men and women of the U.S. military. Now that it is becoming apparent that the planned exit from the country is an unmitigated political disaster, some of those who handled the military aspect of the generational engagement are sharing their disgust.
The Washington Post spoke with veterans of America’s longest war about the colossal failure of the government to ensure their sacrifices were not in vain.
“It makes me angry, really angry,” said Tom Amenta, whose boots first touched the ground in isolated Afghanistan in 2002.
Amenta said he was watching TV news coverage of the disaster when he remembered friends who had died fighting to secure the country. Amenta told the Post that Afghanistan “has never had a clean solution. But now that it’s gotten hard, we’re just going to bounce? It doesn’t make it right.”
On the fall of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, to the Taliban, U.S. Army veteran John Whalen told the Post it made him wonder why he fought, and what his friends died for.
“It’s just frustrating,” Whalen told the outlet. “We knew that this would happen. Now, all the people who went and served, are like, ‘Why did my friend die?’”
“I ask that question, too,” the veteran, now a cybersecurity consultant, said.
Whalen told the outlet he had two friends killed near Kandahar a decade ago. The man seemed to share some survivor’s guilt, noting that while he is working and living, his friends lost their lives in 2010 in a city occupied by terrorists.
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“I like where I am right now. I’m doing good … But they’re dead,” he said of those he served with who didn’t return.
Meanwhile, a coalition veteran, South Korean Army retired Col. Jeong Jangsoo, expressed his dismay with his country’s involvement in the conflict. The man commanded 300 men through combat operations in 2007 after Taliban fighters kidnapped a Christian group from his country. He shared his thoughts on the expected fall of Kabul.
“I felt disappointment … a sense that all had been in vain, and thought, ‘So this is how it ends, huh,’” he told the Post.
Other veterans of the war shared their thoughts online:
Complicated feelings that I thought I might be too numb to feel watching parts of Afghanistan I helped occupy fall to the Taliban while texting with my interpreters (three brothers who are now in Texas) & a Vietnam veteran friend who’s memories of Saigon ’75 are all stirred up. pic.twitter.com/5YchWJIPLo
— TheHuntForTomClancy (@HuntClancy) August 13, 2021
As someone who fought in Afghanistan, I’m troubled by the collapse of the country after our withdrawal. We spent 20 years fighting for what? The same – or worse – taking over the country after we leave? Did my friends die in vain? It’s been a very tough week.
— Ruby Talyn (@RubyTalyn) August 14, 2021
Walked over to look at some photos of Afghanistan and I disturbed The Little Kitty. I’m sure there’s a metaphor there but since we fought for 20 years by metaphor, I’ll let it pass. pic.twitter.com/rjaPomYKor
— Patrick Skinner (@SkinnerPm) August 14, 2021
With all that’s been going on with Afghanistan I look at this picture and feel overwhelmed with pride. Proud of all the troops I fought with on Herrick 8 and @16AirAssltBde. I’ll never forget the experiences out there in Musa Qala & I’ll never forget our fallen. 💙 pic.twitter.com/ti2NP3AF4V
— A Soldier, A Gambler, A Recoverer (Drew) (@ARecoverer) August 13, 2021
The men and women on the ground did their part throughout the war that saw American sons fight against the same enemy as their fathers. They served with distinction, and now it appears Kabul will soon fall with the rest of the country.
But it was the nation-building politicians who failed these brave fighters.
America will soon leave Afghanistan for good, and apparently without even leaving behind an embassy despite two decades of blood sacrifice and incalculable human loss. These men and women should be held up right now by a country that never wavered on being proud of their sacrifices. The American people love their troops.
God bless these brave few, and may God give his everlasting comfort to those whose lives remain scarred for those who never returned — for those who have empty chairs at dinner tables.
Our service members gave another people group a chance to experience freedom, and they should be proud of that.