Was so much sacrifice worth it? That is the question – unanswered – that a generation of American soldiers is asking in the face of the rise to power of the Taliban and the destruction of the Western model of society they tried to build in Afghanistan .
Some 800,000 young Americans have fought in the war in Afghanistan since its inception after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City .
Delivery of a baby to US soldiers in Kabul.
Picture of despair: Afghan baby is handed over a wall in Kabul to US soldiers
According to the Pentagon , 2,352 have lost their lives and more than 20,000 were injured , although the numbers could be higher due to the difficulty of counting suicides and mental health problems.
Chris Velazquez is one of the names behind the numbers. He was in the Afghan province of Helmand between March and December 2009, but on his return he left the Marines and for almost a decade he was dealing with the fear and anxiety of post-traumatic stress syndrome, fueled by drug abuse.
Over the years, he realized that his experience in Afghanistan was a “loss of life and time” not only because of the damage he suffered, but because he believes that the US did not understand Afghanistan and occupied the territory during almost 20 years trying to build a nation without success.
No mission and no escape plan
“Many people, many war veterans believe that behind it there would be like a ‘great plan’ about what was happening, but they did not realize that, in reality, behind everything there was only a group of people trying to make conjectures “, he reflects .
He believes that Washington was never clear about its mission and, therefore, is not surprised by the chaos surrounding the evacuation of US citizens and Afghan collaborators .
Shipment of the repatriation of Spaniards and collaborators in Kabul.
Spain evacuates the first plane from Afghanistan amid uncertainty over the alleged ‘evolution’ of the Taliban
Of the same opinion is Jeremiah Knowles, who was a “19-year-old boy” when in 2008 he began working as an intelligence analyst at the Camp Phoenix military base in eastern Kabul and famous for being one of the preferred targets of the Taliban to carry out suicide bombings.
He hardly ever left the base, but on one occasion he was ordered to go to a town to collect intelligence information. He told the locals that he was going to “check their eyesight”, but in reality he dedicated himself to doing retinal examinations and taking their fingerprints to put them in a database that was used by Washington to identify Afghans, in case of that they were arrested.
“Any aid to the civilian population was done to serve the interests of the United States,” Knowles says with a touch of bitterness. And so, little by little, he came to the conclusion that the war was “useless.” “We only worked with the version of Afghanistan that was favorable to the West , but we did not work with the Afghan people,” he now observes.
Ups and downs
Others, however, have a different view and believe that the war had two faces: a positive one with the weakening of Al Qaeda and a negative one with a trail of deaths .
On Facebook , Lieutenant General James “Jim” Slife, chief of the Air Force Special Operations Command, considered that he experienced “ups and downs”, with moments of triumph such as the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 and other bitter ones such as the “innumerable” soldiers he sent to the battlefield and who, in some cases, never returned.
“Like many, I find it difficult to make sense of all this,” confessed a few days ago the lieutenant general, who between 2002 and 2011 was “in and out” of Afghanistan constantly . Slife is not alone among the top US military commanders who have devoted much of their careers to the war in Afghanistan.
Monolith in memory of the soldier Idoia Rodríguez Buján, who died in Afghanistan in 2007, in her hometown of Friol, Lugo.
The parents of Idoia, the first Spanish soldier killed in Afghanistan: “We can’t watch TV”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III himself, who led soldiers on the battlefield between 2003 and 2005, recently acknowledged at a press conference that the fall of Kabul to the Taliban is something “very personal” to him.
“This is a war that I fought, that I led. I know the country. I know the people and I know those who fought alongside us,” Austin said. A A remain in Afghanistan nearly 6,000 US military with the aim of securing Kabul airport and allow the flight of US citizens and their Afghan partners.
In total, along with the US, 51 other countries – including NATO partners and allies – have participated in the war in Afghanistan. In addition to American lives, the war has left 66,000 Afghan soldiers and police dead, in addition to some 47,200 civilians dead and another 2.5 million who have had to flee their homes , according to data from the UN and Brown University, dedicated to investigate the costs of the conflict.