My son was a student at the University of Colorado when he joined the National Guard. He’d used up the four years worth of college tuition his mother and I promised and needed more to keep going. His focus was on paying for school, but his sport was biathlon (skiing and shooting), and the National Guard was the sport’s biggest financial sponsor. It was a good option.
He didn’t think he was going to go to war when he signed up. Neither did I when I joined the Marine Corps. It was a remote possibility in both cases but given the circumstances we saw opportunities to learn essential skills that could save us in case it did happen. I became a fighter pilot. He became a Special Forces soldier.
I was luckier. I finished my 8-year commitment before Vietnam got big, but in the wake of 9/11 he and his Special Forces team were among the first US troops deployed to Afghanistan. Their mission was to track down Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora.
Yesterday, in response to the calamitous pullout of US troops and affiliated civilians, he wrote the following:
“Watching the news is hard the last couple of days. I hear my friends asking, “Did we make a difference?” These are my brothers and sisters, who have stood shoulder to shoulder with me in some of the hardest times and with whom I would stand back-to-back with against any odds. Quiet professionals who committed to doing the best job they could no matter what the obstacles in their way were.
I remember watching my teammates interact with the locals in Jalalabad, kicking a soccer ball or throwing a frisbee, seeing the laughter in the children and their parents.
I remember searching the mountains and meeting with people to find the tools of war that could have brought down a plane of innocents and taking them to be destroyed.
I remember meeting an old man who just thought that firing his anti-aircraft weapon was fun and telling him that might not be a great idea.
I remember our medics helping people to have clean water so that their children could be healthy.
I remember one man who turned his fighters around to come and save my friends when everyone ran.
Maybe the big picture is hard to see right now. I hold by what Admiral William McRaven has said much more eloquently than I can. “One person can change the world by giving people hope.” If I or my teammates have affected one person, if we have given one person hope, the effect cannot be denied and is exponential. Would I do it again? Yes. Absolutely. If I have given one person hope through my actions, then every sacrifice and all the effort to get me to that moment was worth it.”
I’m proud of his service and agree with his statement. From Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, America has fumbled the ball repeatedly. Since the end of WWII, our leaders haven’t shown they don’t know how to set goals, execute a plan, achieve it, and get out. Korea. Vietnam. Bosnia. Afghanistan. Iraq. All failures.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, America’s stated goal was to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and decimate his organization. My son’s team chased him through Tora Bora but were called off so the Afghan army could get credit for doing the job. We know how that worked out. Then George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle co-opted the 9/11 opportunity to “liberate” Iraq, something they had been aching to do since George H.W. stopped at the border in the Gulf War. The rest is history. Osama vanished and Afghanistan morphed into an endless tribal conflict and second-tier nation building exercise.
Shortly after this picture was taken, a clueless new “Big Army” General was all over my son’s SF team for uniform violations. They were under pressure to shave their beards, take off the keffiyeh scarves, and wear traditional Army field uniforms – the functional equivalent of turning them into targets. Fortunately, they survived and completed their tour because they got the job done. They returned to the US unharmed. He retired two years ago after 20 years in Special Operations and a dozen overseas deployments.
In the 20 years since the war in Afghanistan began the US has spent roughly 1 trillion dollars. There have been 3500 coalition deaths, 21,000 US soldiers injured, 64,000 Afghan security and national police killed, and according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), nearly 111,000 civilians killed or injured since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009. (BBC.com)
I’m profoundly upset and angry that Joe Biden, a man whose judgment I respected until now, couldn’t order and execute an organized and peaceful withdrawal of American troops and vulnerable Afghan partners.
Shameful…and so is the BS defense he’s throwing up since Kabul fell on Saturday. Today, the Taliban controls the streets and access to the airport. The tarmac at Kabul International Airport is a mosh pit for thousands of desperate Afghans. A failure of colossal proportions.
Own it, Mr. President! Saying, “The buck stops here” then retiring to the isolation of Camp David doesn’t cut it. When mistakes are made the Commander-in-Chief needs to step up and fix it even if it means taking”friendly fire” from friends and foes. We owe it to the troops and our Afghan partners to provide a safe exit and safe havens before we cut and run.
Get your ass back to the White House and manage this crisis.