I spent 33 years in Special Operations as both an active duty soldier and civil servant. My son also served in Special Operations and did five tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been trying to follow the chaos and the situation changing hour by hour in Afghanistan. Folks, as of the writing, it is not good lucking for anyone. Therefore, Americans are angry, perplexed and confused about how our President, Vice President, the intelligence apparatus, the State Department and military leaders have made so many miscalculations.
A few years ago, on Veterans Day, I was at Buffalo Wild Wings. I looked over and saw a veteran and his friends. They were drinking, eating and laughing. As I looked at this man, his legs were gone, scars and burns were noticeable on his hands and face. At that moment, my heart was happy because this veteran was being the best he could be, having a good time and enjoying every moment he could.
On September 18, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF. It states: "That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."
December 2009: President Barack Obama spoke about Afghanistan, "As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam … After the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden — we sent our troops into Afghanistan."
May 2, 2011: Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by the U.S. military.
December 2018: To deliver on his longtime pledge to exit from "endless wars," President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to withdraw about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently deployed to Afghanistan. In November 2020, President Trump ordered the Pentagon to accelerate a drawdown of U.S. troops to 2,500.
April 14, 2021: U.S. President Joe Biden announces that all troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
He accelerated his timeline to August 31.
May 4, 2021: The Taliban launches its first major offensive on the Afghan military in Helmand and surrounding provinces.
July 2, 2021: The U.S. quietly withdraws soldiers from Bagram Air Base, which was their main military base throughout the war.
August 13, 2021: The Taliban took Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city.
August 14, 2021: U.S. President Joe Biden puts out a statement confirming the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to help with the evacuation from Afghanistan.
August 15, 2021: Kabul is seized by the Taliban. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani leaves the country. The U.S. embassy is evacuated.
As the images of Afghan people hanging onto airplanes flooded the news, Americans realized that something was still happening in Afghanistan. For Fort Bragg, Fayetteville and hundreds of
thousands of military personnel and their families, the wars for the past 20 years have been part of their lives.
For many Americans, the decision to pull out of Afghanistan was way overdue. For most, it was not the pulling out of Afghanistan that has the world baffled; it was the stupidity of it.
After the killing of Bin Laden, many thought that the authority under the AUMF was complete. Still, every president has used it to continue to neutralize bad people around the globe to keep terrorist groups from growing and bringing their terror here.
President Biden left an estimated 10,000 – 50,000 Americans in that country to fend for themselves and the embassy. Didn't he learn anything about Benghazi (he was V.P. at the time)?
Somewhere in the military, some Specialist is getting an Article 15 for losing a pocket watch, and we left C-130s, A-29s attack aircraft, UH-60 Black Hawks, and other helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. We left thousands of armored vehicles, HMMWVs, MRAPs, night vision goggles, and yes, we left drones. The State Department left their helicopter, for crying out loud. It appears that the only published report of any guidance came from a Washington Post article which reported that a leaked memo to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul read "destroy items which could be misused in propaganda efforts, which included American flags."
I heard the President's speech about how they did not think the Taliban could take Kabul so quickly, but it did come out that they knew it would happen within a month or more. To be honest, it is hard to put a date on something when it is evident that people are just trying to spin a bad decision. Or was it a bad decision? If you knew the Taliban were already on the move, then why would you leave all the goodies unless you intended to give the Taliban a modernized army and air force.
They knew the Taliban was going to be in power. Those reports came out under Trump's administration. We watched the Taliban leaders do a press conference announcing their place on the world stage as the new government of Afghanistan. We knew some of them because President Barack Obama released five of those leaders because they were Taliban commanders from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for American deserter Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in 2014. At the time, President Obama assured the public that the dangerous enemy combatants would be transferred to Qatar and kept from causing any trouble in Afghanistan. They didn't know that much of the Taliban was hanging out in Pakistan. It has been the back door the whole time we have been in Afghanistan. With all of the intelligence services we have out there, yet no one knew that there was an offensive coming?
It has been tough to comprehend this mess. I know that a lot of military and their families are mad as hell. I know a lot of civil service people are mad as hell. I know the families of their fallen soldiers and the contractors who have died there are mad as hell. As of April this year, 2,448 American service members have been killed in Afghanistan, and an additional 3,846 U.S. contractors also lost their lives." That is a total of 6,294 lost. It is hard to find out how many U.S. personnel have been wounded in Afghanistan, but it appears to be over a million when you count the post-war physical and mental issues, and sadly, the suicides.
We do not account for the hardships on the families. The lonely nights. The single parent who is trying to keep things together. The joys, difficulties and emotional roller coaster ride when they return from war. For the fallen, the nightmare of the parents, spouses and children cannot be measured. Nothing can fill that void.
So how do we comprehend this? For everyone mad as hell, you have every right to be mad as hell. For all of those who have friends or family left behind over there, you have every right to be mad as hell.
You may question. Why? What was this for? What about all of those precious years wasted? What about all the lives and destruction? You have every right to ask those questions.
But I would like to remind you of a few things. It was not you that threw the first punch. You joined the military and did your job. For 20 years, Americans and other countries provided a generation of people freedom from a tyrannical regime. You gave little kids a chance to grow up. You gave some people a chance to see a better life. You have let them see a different way of life. You gave them medicine and healed their sick. They heard the music they would have never heard. They have read books they would have never seen. You will be in their minds for their lifetime, and you gave them a vision of a better life. That is a lot to be proud of!
For those still in the military, continue whatever your orders are and do it well. The American people still need you. We are proud of your service, your sacrifices and for always being on guard for us.
Although it is tempting to be mad as hell, try to focus on your well-being, enjoy your family, your friends and your freedom. Please do not let this be an excuse to mess up your life. Be the best you can be, have a good time and enjoy every moment you can. From all of us, to all of you: thank you again for all that you do every day, and may God keep watch over you.
Pictured above: U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, provide assistance at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 21. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)