“Why does Afghanistan matter so much to you?”
This is a question that comes up a lot in my interviews, most recently with a young reporter while discussing the actions of Operation Pineapple Express and other volunteer groups during the botched August 2021, evacuation of Kabul.
I was floored. How could these people not know why Afghanistan mattered so much to all of these veterans?
Then, it hit me. They don’t remember why we were there. They didn’t even live through 9/11.
How do you explain this deadly lack of understanding to generations who weren’t born yet or were too young to understand what was happening? Or to those who were there, but have simply forgotten?
How can you make them understand that history is about to repeat itself, but it doesn’t have to be that way?
There is a generation of Americans that can never forget the images burned into their minds of planes striking the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, killed 2,977 people, and for the veterans, it was personal. It happened while they stood vigil. American warriors, eyes narrowed and fixed on the smoldering rubble displayed on the television, made a single, silent vow “never again on my watch.” 800,000 American warriors would deploy to Afghanistan, sacrificing youth, marriages, limbs, mental health, and in some cases, their very lives.
America built relationships and made promises during those two decades of war.
Al Qaeda’s attack was largely due to bad U.S. ground intelligence and the inability of a partner force to counter them in their unrestricted planning and preparation. To prevent this from happening ever again, our combat veterans and civilians built partnerships with Afghan police, soldiers, nonprofits, Afghan schools, and a myriad of other organizations. America asked the people of Afghanistan to stand up, reach for freedom, and oppose oppression in all its forms. Like proud parents, we assured them they could be whatever they wanted to be, and we would be there by their sides.
Then, in August 2021, we left. We broke those promises, squandered those relationships, and handed control back to the very oppressors we fought against 20 years before.
Why can’t veterans forget?
Veterans know something most Americans don’t. The enemy gets a vote in what happens next. The United States might be done with al Qaeda and ISIS, but they aren’t done with us. This enemy will follow us home.
There is credible evidence that al Qaeda is fully re-constituting right now. Foreign fighters from Syria, Iraq, North Africa, and even Southeast Asia are openly training on former Afghan Army bases in Kandahar and Helmand. The Taliban are fully accommodating and have gone so far as to issue visas to al Qaeda members that allow them to move freely throughout the country in clear violation of the Doha Agreement.
Additionally, Iran and al Qaeda have set sectarian differences aside and are cooperating to foment disruption in the Middle East. According to numerous Afghan Special Operations Forces, this al Qaeda is a younger, more capable force. ISIS-K is also in play.
There is an unthinkable yet highly possible scenario in how all this plays out. It’s not a stretch to imagine that America’s enemies will launch another catastrophic attack on the homeland. Out of the ashes emerges a freshly mobilized U.S. blinded by revenge and short-term memory toward “bringing justice to the evildoers.” Backed by American citizens, young warriors will load up again on C-17 cargo planes and fly back into the graveyard of empires to exact justice.
But this time it will be different.
Instead of Northern Alliance resistance allies waiting on the ground to receive and work with our troops, there will be thousands of forlorn, pissed-off former Afghan commandos who are well-trained and well-equipped in U.S. tactics and gear. They have been co-opted by al Qaeda after watching their children starve, salivating for revenge over unkept promises.
This September 11th, Americans should demand change and accountability from their government. It’s not too late to protect our homeland if we act now.
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The U.S. government must resume all sanctions on the Taliban and stop all aid. Credible sources tell us that millions of dollars in humanitarian aid is not getting to its intended victims.
The government must assume the care and management of Afghan special operations partner forces and other at-risk, high-impact Afghan security officials from veteran groups.
And the government must support the Afghan National Resistance Front, which is the legitimate Afghan Government. They are the best option for standing against terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.
Even if America doesn’t pull its head out of the sand, veterans won’t stop trying to intervene in this impending disaster because they know what’s at stake. Without immediate action, the next 9-11 Commission testimony is practically writing itself.
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