Afghanistan: a word to those who served

Within 48 hours, twenty years of United States government foreign policy and the longest war in American history, not to mention trillions of dollars’ worth of investments and spending, went down the drain.  On August 15, 2021, the Taliban terrorist group captured the capital city of Kabul and re-inaugurated the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan’s previous government was also Islamic but perhaps more modern in the sense that there was a parliament and associated democratic processes, schools open to girls and boys, and a kind of narrow openness to some things from outside the Islamic world, though this was something decidedly small; they did still practice Sharia Law.

The Taliban’s version of Islam is more “pure” in the sense that it follows more closely the prophet Muhammad’s example in the hadiths as well as the commands of the Koran.  We in the West have no idea of the distinction, but as the images of thousands of Afghans clinging to C130 military transport planes to escape from the Taliban are released, we come to understand the Afghans know very well the distinctions, and are utterly terrified.  I do not have time to go into the theological differences and what exactly makes the Taliban enemies of the Shiites or other terror groups such as ISIS.  No.  This article is for all those men and women who went to enlist in the aftermath of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001; all who answered the call for their country’s defense and went on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and today are wondering, “What was the point?”  This article is for the families who lost a son, a daughter, a father, or a mother.  Every soldier who came back home suffering with lost limbs and mental trauma and now look back and wonder why.  This is for everyone who watches the television and sees the actions and hears the words of the members of the government of the United States and feels embarrassment and disgust.  If you are someone like me, you are asking, “Are we not better than this?”

To this day, the events that happened on that Tuesday morning in 2001, September, is something that is very much alive in my psyche.  A whole generation lived through it, and my children’s generation was born in the aftermath of it.  My children will never know a pre-9/11 world where there were no massive security checks at the airport, and one could go up to the gate of the airport to say goodbye to one’s loved ones or to welcome them back with great joy.  Since that day, if not a state of war, then a constant state of foreboding of war has been a part of existence.  We prayed and cried out to God every day for victory and safety for this nation, as well for the soldiers of this country who were in harm’s way.  We believed what those in the executive branch, the Congress, the Security and Intelligence wings told us about the war and the conditions in these countries and how things were getting better.  Yet, in some way in my mind, particularly every time I went to the airport, there was always the awareness that danger was never far away.

I did not vote for President Barack Obama, but I celebrated with the rest of the United States on May 2, 2011, when he announced to the world that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by United States Navy Seal Team Six in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A little-known fact is that a couple of months later, in August, insurgents from Pakistan shot down a Chinook helicopter transport that had 17 Navy Seals and 22 other Navy personnel, something that many observers concluded had the involvement of the Pakistan military and/or intelligence service.  (It was way too perfect of a strike to have been in done by terror elements that do not have the professional training and enough intelligence assets to carry out such an attack.)  Still, we relished the victory over Al Qaida and the death of Bin Laden.  But that was when more terror proxies began to rise.  ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  Al Shabab in Somalia.  Boko Haram in Nigeria.  And the world was introduced to new levels of brutality, and the old thought which Americans generally hate started to come into the mind again: Are we the world’s policemen?

President Trump asked the right questions.  Why did we go into Iraq and why are we still in Afghanistan?  Why do we still give money to countries that are state sponsors for terrorist groups?  Why are we in the Middle East and playing world policeman in other danger spots?  How is it that we spent trillions of dollars in these countries, and yet these countries seem to display angst toward the United States?  His foreign and domestic policy was designed to take the United States out of these countries which have never known the kind of peace that the United States has known for the last 244 years.  President Trump and his advisors understood that there are certain things in this world that we will not understand, so the best alternative is to have as little as possible to do with such areas diplomatically, economically, strategically, or any other way.

Afghanistan may well have been a failed operation before the United States went into this nation with regards to its governing.  It is a fact that since the time that the Mujahedeen who defeated the Soviet Union, the Taliban has been the one group to hold at least a semblance of some order, and so they were invited back to the diplomatic conference table during both the Obama and Trump Administrations because of the corruptions and ineptitude of the previous government of Afghanistan under the leadership of both Hamid Karzai (2001-2014) and Ashraf Ghani (2014-2021).  Corruption was rampant.  Assassinations, suicide bombings and security breaches were the norm, as were intertribal grievances.  Despite being considered an uncivilized backwater nation, this country is part of the international narcotics trade with its chief export of opium, something that has kept many nefarious “governments” and personalities in power.  Still, in this proverbial “junkyard”, the people of this nation experienced a type of freedom that they had not experienced previously.  And we come back to the present day.

The world is in a state of shock and sorrow.  President Joe Biden and his staff and administration could not have done a more atrocious job of handling this situation.  In July, he said that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would retake the country “any time soon.”  One fellow said last week that “there was no way that the Taliban would retake the country between Friday and Monday.”  And here we are today.  The Taliban have taken Afghanistan.

According to many reports, the failure in leadership with Afghanistan was the biggest problem.  Soldiers in the field were purportedly stranded in the field by their leaders.  (Did we just say that the previous government was corrupt?)  It goes without saying that the Taliban invasion caught no one in “upper management” by surprise, including the government of the United States.  President Biden and his national security team knew full well what was going on.    The United States had fully armed the Afghan Army that was supposed to be defending the nation against the Taliban.  Now all that equipment has been surrendered to the Taliban, seemingly with little fight.  One wonders: was this whole debacle intentionally unleashed by the Biden Administration?  If so, it is not the first time that the government of the United States has followed this kind of course.

This happened in China in the aftermath of the World War 2, during the civil war that erupted between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists under Mao Tse Tung, a war with 15-20 million casualties.  The two sides had put aside their differences during World War 2 to join the allies and fight the Japanese.  At the end of the war, the Nationalists were very much in control of mainland China, but this was because of the presence and extensive support of the United States and the British Empire.

Without going into the details, the corruption of Chiang Kai-shek and his family is a matter of record.  They absconded with hundreds of millions of dollars of aid (in the 1940s) which was supposed to be for the war effort and the people of China, that instead as funneled into their private bank accounts.  As a result, when the Chinese civil war restarted, Chiang Kai-shek was on his own, and the Communists easily exploited his corruption in the world press through its communist sympathizers.  Chiang and his administration were relegated to the island of Taiwan, and since then, the world has had to deal with the People’s Republic of China, a nation whose human rights records no one wants to talk about, or the fact that they made and released the Wuhan coronavirus to the world.  Chiang’s government even lost their seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to the new People’s Republic of China under Mao.  Even now, the Republic of China (aka Taiwan) has to constantly fight for recognition of its existence as a legitimate government.  All of this could have been avoided; but was not.

The same story happened in Vietnam.  For several years, the United States supported the government of South Vietnam against the communist North Vietnam.  But once again, the ruling government of the South was extremely corrupt, and the Communists and their supporters and contacts among the liberals here exploited that corruption.  The American public decided: 20 years and close to 60,000 American deaths was enough, not one more life for such a government and such a people.  What is more, in next-door Cambodia, as the Khmer Rouge took that nation, American strategists were willing to accept that new horror because they (the communist Khmer Rouge) hated the communist Vietnamese, the first nation that purportedly defeated the United States in a military conflict.  The casualties after the Americans left South Asia were in the millions.  And chances are, such events are going to take place in Afghanistan.

This article is not a diatribe against the happenings of the last couple of days in Afghanistan, but is rather for a generation of people who are questioning the actions, words, and ideas that have moved this country and the world for the last 20 years.  And I hope that they find some comfort at the end.

There is a lesson that I learned from a very special place in the hills of the nation of Italy, specifically in a military cemetery at Monte Cassino, the resting place of 1,072 Polish soldiers.  No nation suffered in World War 2 like the nation of Poland.  25 percent of the nation was killed both by the Nazis and the Communists.  The Nazis turned the country into Hades (the Land of the Dead in Greek Mythology) with death camps whose names will forever be nightmares to mankind: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, Belzec, and Chelmno.  The communist Soviet Union was no less brutal, and made it its official policy to destroy the crème de la crème of that nation: the best and brightest minds who were in the officer corps of the Polish Army: 22,000 of them died in the Katayn Massacre.  They did this as well as torment the people of Poland throughout the war.

Throughout the war, Polish expatriate soldiers and airman longed to fight for the liberation of their homeland from the Nazis as well as the Communists.  Great Britain entered the war under this pretext and repeatedly they (as well as the other Allied Powers) expressed their solidarity with and for the Polish people.  But as the war progressed and the Soviet Union joined the Allies, it became clear that Stalin was not planning to give up Poland, a nation he had forcibly divided with Hitler in 1939.  The Allied leader did not relate this fact to the Polish leaders and government in exile but rather fanned the flames of hope that after the war, Poland would be free.  Regardless, the Poles wanted to be counted with the nations who did their part to drive out the Nazis.

Their most famous action was in the Battle of Monte Cassino where 55,000 Allied soldiers were killed in the military action to take a group of hills on which the German army was entrenched.  This obstacle had to be cleared as the Allies begin the process of liberating Italy with the intention of taking the city of Rome.  All the commanders involved testified to the military skill and prowess of the Polish soldiers in this battle but despite their efforts here and other battlefields, as well as in the military intelligence department of the Allies throughout the war, in the end they suffered the worst of indignities.  Stalin made a deal with Churchill and Roosevelt and the nation of Poland lost over 1/3 of its territory as well as its independence; the Communists were not leaving.

Prime Minister Churchill angrily berated Polish military commanders and diplomats who protested the actions while Stalin and the later Communist leadership continued their abuses unhindered for the next 50 years.  The Polish expatriate solders were not even allowed to march with the rest of the Allied armies in the Victory Parade in London.  Those who could made their way to the United States.  Some stayed in Europe.  A few returned to Poland.  But they all lived in perpetual grief.

This cemetery on Monte Cassino was the best testimony they could leave behind to a world that treated them with such gross contempt.  In this cemetery are buried Catholics, Orthodox-Christians, and Jewish soldiers, all from Poland.  One of the epitaphs reads:






In a recent BBC documentary about World War 2 which details the absolute malfeasance of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the narrator points out that the war only ended for Poland in 1989, when Communism was finally thrown out and the Polish people stood proud and independent under their own flag.  The closing scene was the above epitaph from the Monte Cassino Polish Military Cemetery.  It may have taken 50 years, but their sacrifice was not in vain.

All I can say to those who grieve the “Wasted Years,” the last 20 years, is not to focus on government leaders whose incompetence are a source of irritation and anger.  “Are we not better than this?” Yes, we are.  But you are not going to hear that from the current leadership in Washington, D.C., or see it in the future.  Rather, I would urge you to look at a different set of pictures and videos.  Look at the pictures of Afghans who are desperate to get their families out of a Taliban controlled Afghanistan that they are literally tossing their babies and small children into the arms of American and British soldiers crying “take them-please!”  Look at the footage of an American soldier giving cold water from his own bottle to small children.  Such scenes are a testimony to the world that some people were blessed by the Human Kindness that came through the troops who wore on their uniforms the flags of the United States and the United Kingdom.

No soldier or family who served on behalf of these western nations should ever regret their service in Afghanistan because it was a service to God himself on behalf of a broken, hopeless people who never knew a moment of peace in over 100 years.  In 20 years, people in that country bore witness to the kindness of American soldiers to the point that they are willing to place their children in the hands of men whom they probably do not know and may never see again.  It is an action greater than the cheap words of diplomats, politicians, and activists, many of whom who have been contemptuous of the American military presence in Afghanistan and elsewhere (Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour, etc.).

To those who were wounded in body and mind in the street and hills of Afghanistan and Iraq; to those who lost sons and daughters and fathers and mothers; look to God.  The world knows and this country knows you gave your hearts for the United States.  Your blood, sweat, and tears have fallen in foreign lands.  You share something in common with the One who hung on the Cross of Calvary, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Look to the Cross and give your soul to Him.  The future and the final results of all your work belong to Him.

PS August 26, 2021:  While we were in the process of proofreading and uploading this article, the news came of a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in which 13 men of the United States Armed Forces (Marines and Navy) were killed as were several Afghan civilian, perhaps over a hundred.  It is with great sorrow that we pray for the families of these servicemen as well as for the people of Afghanistan.  Because of the haphazard withdrawal of U.S. Armed forces, the biggest defense/intelligence asset that the United States had in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Force Base (an endeavor that cost over $10 billion to build), was lost to the Taliban.  There is only one exit point from Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai International Airport, which only has one highway.  That means every enemy gun is pointed at the people, planes and personnel at this location.  There is no other way to go in or out.  We want everyone who reads this article to pray for this situation, and if you have loved ones who serve currently in the military, in Afghanistan are elsewhere, be assured of our constant prayers and support.