Afghanistan: It didn't have to be this way

Aug 24, 2021 Issues: Foreign Affairs and Defense

The unfolding horror in Afghanistan is a sobering reminder of the evil in this world. It is particularly tragic as we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2011. Our Afghan friends who have been fighting side by side with Americans against the Taliban for nearly two decades are once again living under tyranny and the lives of U.S. citizens who remain in the country are at great risk.

It didn't have to be this way. While most Americans, including me, agreed that we needed to withdraw our troops from this war torn nation, it had to be done responsibly. President Biden carried out this mission in a manner that led to the collapse of the Afghan government in a matter of days. He has since blamed everyone but himself, including former President Trump, Afghanistan's political officials, its army, and its people, and has also refused to take questions from the press. He did this as thousands of Americans are still trapped in the country and desperately trying to reach the Kabul airport for evacuation. This is not what leadership looks like.

While we know this situation could have been handled differently and more effectively, let's not lose sight of something really important: Thousands of Americans lost their lives in Afghanistan and tens of thousands more came home with physical and emotional wounds that will never fully heal. Our brave veterans fought valiantly to protect the U.S. homeland from terrorism and to give freedom to Afghans for twenty years. They should be proud of what they did. Even so, some of these heroes are hurting as they grapple with what has happened this week. It is crucial that they know they aren't alone.

If you or a veteran you know is struggling, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a veterans crisis line staffed 24/7 with qualified responders, many of whom are veterans themselves. Visit the Veterans Crisis Line website or call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 for assistance.

Our veterans fought for us, and we must always be there for them.