Was so much sacrifice worth it? That is the unanswered question that a generation of American soldiers is asking in the face of the Taliban’s rise to power and the destruction of the Western model of society they tried to build in Afghanistan.
About 800,000 young Americans They have fought in the war in Afghanistan since its inception after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
According to the Pentagon, 2,352 have lost their lives and more than 20,000 were injured, although the numbers could be higher due to the difficulty of counting suicides and mental health problems.
Chris Velazquez is one of the names behind the numbers. He was in the Afghan province of Helmand between March and December 2009, but when he returned he left the Marines and for almost a decade he was dealing with fear and anxiety of post-traumatic stress syndrome, fueled by drug abuse.
Over the years, he realized that his experience in Afghanistan was a “waste of life and time” Not only because of the damage it suffered, but because it believes that the US did not understand Afghanistan and occupied the territory for almost 20 years trying to build a nation without success.
“Many people, many war veterans believe that behind it there would be like a ‘great plan’ about what was happening, but they did not realize that, in reality, behind everything there was only a group of people trying to guess“, he reflects in a conversation with Efe.
It considers that Washington was never clear about its mission and, therefore, no wonder the chaos surrounding the evacuation of US citizens and Afghan collaborators.
Of the same opinion is Jeremiah Knowles, who was a “19-year-old boy” when in 2008 he began working as an intelligence analyst at the Camp Phoenix military base in eastern Kabul and famous for being one of the Taliban’s preferred targets to carry out suicide bombings.
He hardly ever left the base, but on one occasion he was ordered to go to a town to collect intelligence information.
He told the locals that he was going to “check their eyesight”, but in reality he dedicated himself to doing retinal examinations and take your fingerprints to put them in a database that was used by Washington to identify Afghans, in case they were arrested.
“Any aid to the civilian population it was done to serve the interests of the USA “, it says to Efe Knowles with a point of bitterness.
And so, little by little, he came to the conclusion that the war was “useless.” “We only worked with the version of Afghanistan that was favorable to the West, but we do not work with the afghan people“Watch now.
Others, however, have a different vision and believe that the war had two faces: a positive one with the weakening of Al Qaeda and another negative with a trail of deaths.
On Facebook, Lieutenant General James “Jim” Slife, chief of the Air Force Special Operations Command, considered that he lived “ups and downs”, with moments of triumph such as the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 and other bitter like the “innumerable” soldiers that he sent to the battlefield and that, in some cases, never returned.
“Like many, I find it difficult to make sense of all this “, confessed a few days ago the lieutenant general, who between 2002 and 2011 was “in and out” of Afghanistan constantly.
Slife is not alone among the top US military commanders who have devoted much of their careers to the war in Afghanistan.
The US Secretary of Defense himself, Lloyd J. Austin III, who led soldiers on the battlefield between 2003 and 2005, recently acknowledged at a press conference that the fall of Kabul to the Taliban is something “very personal” to him.
“This is a war that I fought, that I led. I know the country. I know the people and I know those who fought alongside us, “Austin said.
Still left in Afghanistan nearly 6,000 US military with the aim of securing the Kabul airport and allowing US citizens and their Afghan collaborators to flee.
In total, together with the US, 51 other countries – between NATO partners and allies – have participated in the war in Afghanistan.
In addition to American lives, the war has left 66,000 Afghan military and police dead, in addition to some 47,200 civilians killed and another 2.5 million who have had to flee their homes, according to data from the UN and Brown University, dedicated to investigating the costs of the conflict.