I’m sure all of you are aware at this point that after 13+ years of war, the United States has turned over command of the main focal point in Afghanistan (Camp Leatherneck & Camp Bastion) to the Afghan National Security Forces. With the recent closing of Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion, I can’t really say I’m all too thrilled about it and in the same breath, I don’t really know how I feel about. I can’t help but have a certain uneasy feeling that Afghanistan will slowly but surely head down the same path as Iraq and will be just as bad if not worse than the current state of Iraq. When I originally read the story from various military affiliated newspapers, I couldn’t help but think, “just like that… all of a sudden… POOF! No more Camp Leatherneck and Camp Bastion.” I remember it was the dead of night when our C-130 touched down in Camp Leatherneck. That’s when I knew it was game time. The sand being kicked up into my face, the loud roar of the plane engine, the weight of my body amour and rucksack and the sudden dryness of the air once I stepped off the plane, assured me that all bets were off at that point and it was time to lock n’ load. We wanted our so called fight, we wanted it at the highest level. Although we were a bit apprehensive, we knew what we had to do and we were as ready as we ever were to endure the hardships of 7 or 8 months and all that the sandbox had to throw at us. Embrace the suck right??? But looking back on it all, I wouldn’t trade not one single day of it. I’m damn proud of the time I spent over there, with some of the greatest people who I now consider best friends and extended family.
Between the two conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iraq was considered the bastard child. No one really supported it anymore and everyone just wanted to wash their hands clean of it. Afghanistan up until that point had somewhat become the long, lost forgotten war that some people didn’t even know the United States was still involved in. When President Obama announced the 30,000 troop siege back in 2009, we were going into Afghanistan with a clear objective, “hearts and minds.” That was our number one goal. We did not want to make the same mistakes that we had previously made during our operations in Iraq. We wanted to limit the number of civilian casualties while in the same instance eliminating the enemy.
So fast forward to today, although Afghanistan appears to be in semi-decent shape, and Afghan Security Forces are taking more of a leadership role in combat operations, there does seems to be something brewing beneath the surface that is just ready to explode. That something will of epic proportions will occur and evidentially undo all of what we have spent the last decade trying to accomplish.
After I’ve heard from several people on multiple occasions that Afghanistan will crumble to the Taliban once more once our presence there starts to dwindle bit by bit. Now, in a weird kind of way, I’m beginning to have the same feeling that Vietnam veterans had when the NVA took back over South Vietnam and overthrew our embassy, once the United States had finally withdrawn.
So I resort to my original question in the title of this article, where do WE, the guys who called Camp Leatherneck & Camp Bastion home at one point or another, the men who fought for valiantly, the men who shed their blood and in some cases watched their brothers die on the battlefield of that God forsaken country, go to from here? I’d be lying if I said I was a bit optimistic about Afghan Forces, (that we spent millions and millions of dollars equipping and training) actually being able to hold on the ground that has been made and continue to push back against the Taliban and take their country back. Only time will tell to see what the future holds for Afghanistan and its people. Will they come together as one and take back their country or will they fall once more to the Taliban and other radical extremists who want nothing more than to suppress people and use the country as a terrorist safe haven?
So now we sit and we wait. We sit and wait to see if Afghanistan will head down the same path as Iraq and evidentially causing the United States to re-open a fresh wound and start up yet ANOTHER war. While at the same time, leaving Afghanistan veterans shaking their heads and asking the exact same question Iraq veterans originally asked… “was it all even worth it?”
Only time well time….