The events currently transpiring in Afghanistan have left me heartbroken. I spent several years in the Middle East, commanding U.S. soldiers in Iraq and as the senior adviser to Afghanistan’s Minister of the Interior. The way we left Afghanistan felt like we pulled the rug out from under a 20-year commitment paid in life, treasure, and blood.
After September 11, 2001, Americans and NATO allies agreed that Taliban rule over parts of the Middle East was a national security threat to us all. Citizens from all walks joined the military, Congress voted, and the president’s office affirmed: we needed to deploy to the region. Our mission was to punish the Taliban for harboring Al-Qaeda and allowing them to plot terrorist attacks across the globe. With the support of American soldiers and allied forces, the Afghans made significant progress towards that goal and began to establish a democratic and inclusive system. That system allowed women, children, and young girls to experience new freedoms and attend school and universities.
I agree that no one desired to stay in Afghanistan forever. Not only did I serve in the region, but my son did as well. Two generations of the King family serving in one war is too much, but an organized and well-managed withdrawal was needed. Yet the actions of our current administration left not only our Afghan partners and numerous American citizens at risk, but forfeited the gains made towards a democratic nation. The result: lives are being lost, chaos has ensued, and individual liberties are being threatened. Our hasty withdrawal also eroded our trust with our NATO allies and severely damaged the relationships we need for future conflicts.
I served as a senior advisor to the Afghanistan’s Minister of Interior, who commanded their national police force of about 93,000 officers. I traveled the region for 13 months without American security, relying on Afghan forces to keep me safe. I will never forget the bonds I built during that time.
Since the Taliban’s resurgence, many of those fighters I worked with have contacted me. They have gone into hiding, expecting to face certain death, with the disturbing reality that their families will not be able to experience the freedoms and liberties they worked so hard to establish. They are pleading for help getting their wives, children, and especially their daughters out of the region. Already the Taliban is asking for all women above the age of fifteen to be identified so they can be married off to Taliban fighters.
Over the last two decades, we were able to scale down our forces in the region and provide minimal non-combative support to the democratic government and maintain law and order in the country. Immediately upon hastily removing these boots on the ground, we saw horrific scenes of desperation and a humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of our eyes. The news clips from the Kabul Airport will forever replay in my mind.
I know service to this nation is indeed a privilege, and I don’t take it lightly, but I can’t help but worry if the sacrifices of our servicemen and their devotion to this country were made in vain. I fear that we will be forced to return to Afghanistan in the future to restore 20 years of progress that was washed away in a matter of days.
Please join me in praying for Afghanistan and our unwavering servicemen.
John F. King is Georgia’s Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner. He also serves as a major general in the U.S. National Guard, served as chief of police for Doraville and in was once an Atlanta Police Department officer.