What is happening in Afghanistan? A reflection

I wanted to highlight my thoughts of watching what is happening in Afghanistan with the Taliban take over Afghanistan. I debated back and forth on creating this episode. And then had second thoughts after it. Should share these personal feelings? In the end, I decided it is important for others to hear veteran voices. So I’m sharing my reflection. I included my initial notes in blog form for those of you interested in seeing my thoughts.

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What is happening in Afghanistan?

Twenty years after being removed from power in a U.S.-led invasion, Taliban militiamen swept to into Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, on Sunday, facing little resistance from Afghan government forces. On Monday, August 16th President Joe Biden addressed the Nation. I served in Afghanistan. And as I watched President Biden talk about the events that happened over the weekend and the events leading up to the US withdrawing from the war. He talked about a key pivotal moment in the war that affected my life because my deployment was after this shift.

I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. When I arrived at training, they kept focusing on a new buzzword of Counterinsurgency (COIN) and I learned all about what COIN meant and the theory behind it. But until Monday I hadn’t realized how important the shift was when the war went from counter-terrorism to counter-insurgency.

It also made me think about how we just as easily could have decided to switch from counter-terrorism and instead of staying in Afghanistan for the next 12 years we could have left then. How would have my life changed had this political decision taken place? It is crazy to think about the war ending then.

Reflecting on September 11th

Maybe the reason this is so impactful to me is because September 11th happened during my senior year of high school. And my high school history teacher focused so much on Vietnam and Korea and we dove deep into what going to war required and the various safeguards that were supposed to prevent another Vietnam war from happening.

Maybe that was one of the many reasons the news of the Taliban taking over was so hard to hear. How was this happening? Didn’t we have safeguards in place to prevent these events from happening? The war in Afghanistan was not supposed to be a repeat of history.

Deployment struggles and new thought

As much as I struggled with my deployment. I never considered the fact that maybe America should not have shifted from whatever they were doing before to this new war strategy of counterinsurgency. Somehow, I missed what I can now clearly see. The safeguards in place to protect our military had somehow been bypassed by government officials. And now in 2021, we watched the Taliban takeover weeks after the US pulled out.

It is heartbreaking to watch. To think of the time resources and energy that have gone into helping change the future of Afghanistan. On Monday, I wrote an article for We Are the Mighty (published Tuesday morning). And while I did not know what comes out when I thought back to my time deployed to Afghanistan and how the news was affecting me. I was surprised by how much anger and frustration came out with my words. To be honest, I try and keep that part of my story hidden. I try to focus on the positives that came from serving overseas. But when I thought about where we are today and things we tried to bring up to leadership as challenges we were facing on the ground in Afghanistan. That frustration that I have often ignored came out.

Another perspective

And then, one of the investment channels we follow on YouTube came out with a video. Dave Lee on Investing shared a personal piece of his experience after learning his dad and his family escaped North Korea at the end of World War II. This led to a lot of emotions. But he had a unique perspective having gone to Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. He had talked to the people. And he did explain the difference in culture and how different American culture is from others. And while the media gives you a high-level Americanized view of the experience the emotions. Experiences on the ground are very different.

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While my team and I were trying to push back on the military’s plan to build two-story schoolhouses in villages that were lined with mud huts and shacks. Dave got to the essence of how different the American solution was to an Afghan problem. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Try as you might it just was not the right solution.

And it makes me sad to realize we were right. It makes me sad to know that our voices were not heard past one level up. I think a lot of military members are not surprised by the takeover. Especially if they spent time off base and interacting with the Afghan people. Not that it makes it any easier to watch. Extra difficult, if we know people over there who are now targets of a new regime because they supported American troops.

It has been a hard week. And I’m still trying to wrap my mind about how to put all this into words. But this is where I am today. And I wanted to share my experience to help those who did not serve in Afghanistan understand at least the take of one veteran. And to also remind those of you who have served no matter what the capacity was to reach out and talk to others when you need to.

I was featured on The Spouse Angle this week sharing more of my initial reactions in an interview recorded Monday afternoon before the President’s address.

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