On July 8, President Biden was asked if he saw any parallels between the ongoing Afghan withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam. His answer was “None whatsoever. Zero. They’re [Taliban] not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”
Taliban Takeover Kabul
Unfortunately, it turns out the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Vietnam are very comparable. Our military, our veterans, our allies, and mostly the Afghan people are extremely surprised and reeling from the shock of abandonment and swiftness of capitulation. A Taliban force trounced the country in a little over a week, leaving a wake of fear and desperation in the Afghan people.
As the Taliban took the Afghan Capital of Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country this weekend, the despair of the millions of impacted Afghan men, women, and children was in the air. Thousands fled the countryside into Kabul in hope of extraction. However, the Taliban will probably vengefully pursue these allies who are now in extreme risk.
Heavy Hearts Watching it All Unfold
Our military and veterans who have served in Afghanistan are also grieving with heavy hearts as they watch the weekend’s events unfold. Many of these men and women who deployed to Afghanistan are voicing their concerns on social media, not only for the Afghan people, but also their personal sadness and discouragement. Know there is a tremendous outpouring of sympathy for all veterans who served in Afghanistan; for those who were wounded or killed and especially their families.
Freddie Kim, a former Army Major and Special Forces Detachment Commander stated over the weekend, “I personally spent two years of my life in Afghanistan, working with the Police, Army, Intelligence forces, and local leaders to defeat the insurgents. But now, it feels like all of that was for nothing. And our Afghan friends and interpreters are in harm’s way yet again, as the Taliban will most likely target them and exact revenge.”
Our allies from around the world operated alongside us throughout Afghanistan for nearly twenty years. Disillusionment is felt by many coalition soldiers supporting the effort in Afghanistan. Oliver Lee, Colonel, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), and former Commanding Officer of the 45th Commando Group, stated yesterday, “The modest international presence was maintaining some level of equilibrium and hope. That has now evaporated in the face of perverse, weak, and flawed decision making. The history books will assess this as shameful. I am horrified by it.”
Hope Was Provided in A Time of Need
As a former Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) veteran, know your sacrifices have not been in vain. No matter what your mission, understand that you have helped immeasurably. Hope was provided – in a time where none had existed for many years. Your support provided security for families, enabling them to come out of their homes and go about daily life. You assisted in opening schools for girls. Children were able to use parks for the first time. As Mother Teresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Please remember, you have made a difference.
I remember the fall of Saigon very well. There are many parallels and hauntingly similar images reflected over the weekend. However, the biggest difference today is our desire to help veterans who have suffered, due to conflict. There are many more services available to veterans today than ever before. If you are grieving or feeling suicidal, please reach out to someone immediately or dial 800-273-8255 for the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.