‘This was a long time coming’

Veteran, UA professor react to US troops leaving Afghanistan
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 6:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For some familiar with the history and war in Afghanistan, the events unfolding were imminent.

Peter Martin, a US Marine, served two tours in Afghanistan. Looking back on his time there, and some pictures, he said the country was always going to be handed back to the Taliban.

“My initial thought was, unfortunately, a little bit cynical. That this was a long time coming,” said Martin. “The long and short of it is, unless the American people were like we’re going to be there forever, our evacuation was always going to look like this.”

Martin said the tribal nature of the population there made it difficult to instill a national patriotism people would be willing to lose their lives for. He also said the equipment the Afghan National Arm was left with was sub-par to what the Taliban was capable of.

From a different perspective, University of Arizona professor, David Gibbs said much of the same thing, though shocked at how fast it happened.

“I’m as shocked as everyone else at how quickly it happened, but as far as the longer-term trajectory, I think anyone with a serious knowledge of Afghan history, this wasn’t all that surprising,” said Gibbs.

Both see similarities with other wars fought, like Vietnam. It made the fall of Kabul all too familiar.

“The fall of Saigon…I remember it. I’m old enough to remember it, watching it on TV.” Gibbs said. “It looked an awful lot like what we’re seeing now in Kabul. The parallels are very striking, indeed.”

It’s a similar sentiment for veterans from Vietnam, Martin said. He works with veterans experiencing PTSD. He said a sense of accomplishment is missing from veterans of both wars.

“The problem with Vietnam vets, and veterans of this war, is they don’t have that salve, they don’t have that thing to hang their hats on,” said Martin. “To be very frank with you, if it wasn’t for my Christian belief system… I don’t think I’d ever really be able to get over that because the amount that I had to lose and sacrifice, and the amount that I saw other people sacrifice was too great if there really is no purpose.”

Other historians point out many differences between Vietnam and Afghanistan, strikingly service members were drafted in Vietnam, versus volunteers who headed to Afghanistan.

However, they arrive at the same conclusion: There may be new scrutiny of American power and the power of presidents to enter wars.

“I think the most likely effect of this is, it’s going to make it very difficult for the United States to engage in any overseas adventures,” said Gibbs.

As people flee to the airport and shocking images of Afghans attempting to board planes, Martin can only feel sadness for interpreters and Afghans he worked with while serving.

“I would say that we left a lot of the people that supported us vulnerable in the way that we pulled out,” said Martin. “Those guys are probably going to be executed in a pretty horrific fashion.”

Today, the Taliban released a statement vowing not to seek violent retribution, but the truth remains to be seen.

It’s estimated the US has spent $2.3 trillion over the last two decades in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.