COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — As the situation on the ground in Afghanistan changes rapidly, men and women in the Chattahoochee Valley who fought there are watching intently.
As the Taliban has reclaimed Afghanistan following the U.S. troop withdrawal, what was the human cost of that 20-year war?
About 2,500 American service members were killed in Afghanistan.
Another 3,800 U.S, contractors’ lives were lost.
And, 66,000 Afghan military and police – the people the Americans were helping — killed.
The speed of the collapse has been breathtaking said one retired officer.
“Well, I think that the speed of the collapse of Afghanistan has surprised just about everybody out there,” said Col. Ret. David Fivecoat, who served in Afghanistan in 2011-12 and worked on the war from the Pentagon until 2014. “My friends that I have been talking to and folks I used to serve with are all surprised at how quickly the government fell and the president left the country to Tajikistan and now the Taliban has occupied the presidential palace.”
Brig. Gen. Ret. Peter L. Jones was there in 2014-15 and says that he’s thinking about three groups of people and the impact on them.
“One is our Gold Star family members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by losing a loved one,” Jones said. “… They have been the one group that nobody wants to join. They have really bared the burden of the fight. The second group to really think about is the ones we are leaving behind. And those are our Afghan interpreters and supporters. The folks who helped us on our forward operating bases and our combat outposts. You kind of wonder what’s going to be in their future. The future we hoped was going to be bright but is now brought into turmoil and we are not sure what the next step is going to be for them and their families.”
There is a third group that Jones is concerned about.
“It is the young men and women we have here at Fort Benning,” he said. “They are the next generation that is going to have to step into harm’s way. And how this is going to affect them. But more importantly gives them a guiding light on the world being a dangerous place and we should be thankful we have that next generation willing to step up.”
Jones and Fivecoat both offer advice for ways to help the Afghan War veterans in your world. There are several thousand living in the Chattahoochee Valley.
“Reach out,” Jones said. “There will be those who want to talk. There will be those right now who don’t want to. But it’s the act of reaching out and showing that we understand their service and we have a conduit of communication with them.”
“It is a conflicted time,” he said. ” If you know people who fought in Afghanistan to reach out and talk to them. See how they are doing. Let them vent. Provide an ear, what they are thinking and how they are handling what’s going on in Afghanistan.”
Jones says the developments in Afghanistan will make this year’s rededication of the Global War on Terrorism memorial even more poignant. The museum is expecting more than 400 Gold Star family members to attend the events on September 10 and 11.