The last of U.S. troops were pulled out of Afghanistan on the 31st of August Afghanistsn time. Their departure brings to a military end the longest war in American history.
I thought it was appropriate to ask a veteran of Afghanistan about that history and the military perspective produced by that experience. I have no better candidate than my son Ben who is on terminal leave from the United States Air Force and is scheduled to retire in October.
He was assigned to Joint Base Andrews as a pilot flying in the vicinity of the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. As he flew his aircraft that morning, he was notified of the developments at the New York World Trade Center twin towers. He continued his mission, but at the same time monitored communications to see if his work that morning was to change. As he headed back to the base he noticed smoke in the distance that appeared to come from the center of Washington D.C. On landing back in Andrews he confirmed the smoke to be coming from another plane attack, this time on the Pentagon. What followed was 48 hours of trauma and the hard work that goes with rescue in what was in effect a war zone.
The country then decided to go to war both in Iraq and Afghanistan that were portrayed as a featured parts of the war on terror. Ben deployed twice to Iraq and 3 times to Afghanistan.
10 year later on May 2, 2011 Osama Bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 attack on the United States, was located and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by American Navy SEALs.
By that time, nation-building seemed to be in high gear in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The war on terror had become a corollary to creating national infrastructures in the war zones.
The military perspective on Afghanistan is very much reflected in Ben’s answer to the question on the issue.
-I am proud of what my friends and I accomplished in Afghanistan. I’m also proud of what my compatriots in the military and in the civil service have accomplished over the last 20 years under some very trying circumstances. At the end of the day, the military executes policy. It’s the citizen that gets to decide whether to go to Afghanistan, for how long, and at what cost...which is the way it should be.
I guess my question to you my fellow citizens is, “Do you think it was worth it and what has the blood and treasure we have spent over the last 20 years taught you?” It may take some time for you to take an accounting. That’s okay. It’s important that you get it right, because you have asked the men and women in the military to go to a lot of different
places over the years (places like Niger, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, etc), and in some cases they are still there. Those men and women need to know that you think it’s worth it.-
That is a lot to unpack. Yet, it is most important because the future is at stake.
I also asked about the chaotic evacuation scenes at Afghanistan’s Kasai Airport. He stated that, “War is ugly. It is not precise. Even the easiest things are made hard in war. I’m sure the men and women that executed the departure did the best they could with the time and resources they had.”
9/11 is history. Now the departure from Afghanistan has also joined it.