By Marc Kelley
On September 11, 2001 our country was attacked by a group of Muslim terrorists who hated everything America stands for. On that fateful day we lost 2,977 of our brothers and sisters in four separate attacks. As smoke billowed from the crash sites, the American belief in leaving no American behind was seen across our country. Countless stories of heroic acts played out in real time, and the American Spirit was on full display. Many lives were lost that day, and many more would follow in the days to come. When the smoke cleared, we buried our dead and shed countless tears for their loss. Then, we wiped our tears away, and made the promise to “Never Forget,” and began the planning, to hunt down those responsible, wherever they might hide.
t’s very easy to argue whether America pursued the right road in the choices made by our political leaders. Far too many conflicts of interests, and far too little courage have become commonplace in American politics. Congress is increasingly viewed by the people as a waste of time, energy, and money. The Founding Fathers left the declaration of war to Congress, not trusting our country to a single individual, or one political party. Yet once again, Congress failed the American people, approving an Authorization for the Use of Military Force in 2001, capitulating to the use of American Troops, rather than voting on a Declaration of War. This AUMF, as it is known, has been used time and time again to justify the continued deployment of American Troops. This act, considered by many as a dereliction of duty by the US Congress, is arguably the single most precipitating factor, which kept our troops in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.
Fighting and winning any conflict requires a strategy, and in the case of Afghanistan our purpose should have begun with a clear mission. Find those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and kill them, develop a clear exit plan to bring our troops home, and avoid the temptation to fundamentally change the lives of the Afghan people. Now, 20 years later, we have accomplished only one of these goals. On May 2, 2011, a U.S. Navy SEAL team killed Osama Bin Laden. This act was viewed by most Americans as the central goal in delivering retribution for the September 11, attacks. Accomplishing this act should have been viewed as the perfect time to bring our troops home, and declare victory for America, if only we had been following a clear mission plan.
On August 19, 2021, as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan began to fall apart, my thoughts, like many other American’s, turned to our brave Veterans who served our country and sacrificed so much, for those of us who remained secure in our homes, and insulated from the horrors of war. Like many others, I picked up my phone and reached out to my friends who had served in Afghanistan, letting them know, America was thinking about them and their sacrifices were not in vain. What follows, is the story of just one such Vet and how he helped me to understand just how different Afghanistan is from the U.S.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a man who had served 8 years as a Special Forces Operator in Afghanistan. Over several years we became friends, and at my urging, he talked about his time in Afghanistan, and the people who live there. My friend epitomizes the concept of the American War Fighter being, no better friend, and no worse enemy. He loves the people of Afghanistan and is proud of the work our troops did on the ground. Yet, through all of his stories, he would tell me, “America simply does not understand the mindset of the Taliban. They don’t care about world politics, they don’t care about money, and they certainly don’t care about human life as we in America see it.” As part of his duties, my friend was tasked with establishing relationships with local tribal leaders. These relationships included offering, medicine, security, and building trust between the U.S. and the people of Afghanistan.
Developing these relationships required meetings with local people who in turn provided introductions to tribal leaders. As American’s, we are constantly in a hurry, working off tight schedules, and expecting others to do the same. In Afghanistan, the concept of time holds a much different meaning, and is far less rigid. My friend would always laugh at me when I would make appointments with him to come by the shop, always acknowledging the appointed time, yet ending our conversation with the word, “Inshallah.” One day I asked my friend about the term, and he smiled, telling me it is a term he learned from the Afghan people, meaning, “If God wills it.” For me personally, this was the first time I realized what my friend had long ago learned about the Afghan people…We have the clocks, but they have the time.
Hearing Joe Biden tell the American people our military was bound to a timeline set by the Taliban for the withdrawal of our troops is absurd, laughable on its face, and a bold face lie. By his actions, Joe Biden has caused America to suffer yet another senseless loss of our brave military men and women, so he could declare he “ended the war in Afghanistan”, and pose for a photo op on the 20 year anniversary of 9/11. I fear for the worst, as details emerge about the number of Americans Joe Biden has chosen to leave behind. I fear his decision will be responsible for the deaths of more Americans than we suffered on September 11, 2001.
No one should argue the U.S. needed to retain large numbers of our troops in Afghanistan; however, choosing to sacrifice our military, abandon our own citizens, and turn our back on the very Afghan people we promised to protect in exchange for their help, can only be seen as an unconscionable act. An act which defies American ideals, makes our country less safe, and worst of all, disrespects the loss of so many of America’s best and brightest. Under Joe Biden’s lack of leadership, America has lost her way. We have acted more like the terrorists who attacked us, than people who value life in every form. Yet, America will once again find her bearings, and we will once again walk the walk the good man keeping to the path of the righteous…Inshallah.