Veterans, experts reflect on Afghanistan war’s end

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 9:07 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As the U.S. continues bringing troops back home from Afghanistan, veterans and advocacy groups are reacting to the end of America’s longest war. Experts are reflecting on the past 20 years and what the next steps are moving forward.

Former Marine infantry officer Kyle Bibby was inspired to join the military after witnessing firsthand the devastation of September 11th.

“From where I live, you could see smoke,” said Kyle Bibby. “People in the New York City area, it was particularly traumatizing.”

Bibby deployed to Afghanistan during the Obama-era surge, eager to fight terrorism. But eventually he became disillusioned with America’s involvement in the conflict. For Bibby, the troop draw-down brings about mixed emotions.

“Most of the veterans I know support ending the war. They do think that 20 years has been too long, that there isn’t necessarily a military solution in Afghanistan,” said Bibby.

Now Bibby works as the national campaigns manager for Common Defense – a progressive veterans advocacy group – that fights for greater transparency of the dozen or so ongoing U.S. military operations abroad.

“It’s not just about ending the conflicts. It’s about figuring out a process that is accountable to the American people and does not allow for open-ended, endless war,” said Bibby.

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) says leaving Afghanistan allows the U.S. to focus on other growing security threats, like China. Military leaders recently testified before the House Armed Services committee that China is destabilizing Latin American nations by funding criminal organizations and disrupting parts of West Africa through illegal fishing.

“China does not play by the rules. China has zero respect for human rights and China creates a tremendous amount of disruption,” said Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

Critics of the troop draw-down, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) say leaving now is a mistake and would be disastrous. In a statement, he said, in part, “…conditions are developing in Afghanistan for a reemergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS which will directly threaten the American homeland and our allies.”

President Joe Biden says he’s confident the trillion dollars the U.S. spent training and sharing equipment with Afghanistan’s defense forces will provide stability to the region. He vows that America will continue supporting security efforts.

The Biden administration says the troop draw-down will be completed by the end of August. The State Department and Department of Defense are also actively working to help evacuate interpreters and other allies in the region whose lives are endangered by the Taliban.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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