Local veterans react to fall of Afghanistan

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The images of Afghanistan’s fall from Taliban forces have been difficult to see for much of the country. Still, it has been especially devastating for U.S. veterans who served there—working side by side with the Afghan people. NEWS10 ABC spoke with local veteran leaders to hear their perspectives. 

“We tell ourselves, a part of our responsibility is to keep a lot of this to ourselves,” said Andrew Joyce, Albany County Chairman. “And we do these jobs and to make sure the folks at home don’t have to experience that. But these stories need to get told, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.”

Joyce is currently an Officer in the NY Army National Guard and a combat veteran who served in the military for over 19 years, including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of those deployments involved training the Afghanistan Army and Police.

“It’s discouraging as somebody who spent a year in Kabul working and believing that we were making a difference,” Joyce said. 

He said that if you look back 50 years, you won’t see much change in the country, which was even apparent during his time in Afghanistan.

“Whether we had been there 20 minutes or 20 years, the result would have been the same,” Joyce said. 

Joyce said top brass are the ones to blame, but those who served did their jobs valiantly. Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive, is still active in the National Guard and echoes that disappointment.

“What breaks my heart is for the sacrifice, that not just the men and women of this country, but the men and women of Afghanistan and Iraq have done to change the outcome of their countries,” McCoy said. “And to see it crumble so fast is devastating to me as a veteran today.”

McCoy said it was the right move to withdraw from Afghanistan, but it wasn’t the right strategy. 

“Watching the way we’ve pulled out, I think it’s been an epic failure,” McCoy said. 

Chris Gibson, President of Siena College, has served over 29 years in the Army and four combat tours in Iraq. He said the overall military effort in Afghanistan went wrong from the outset, right after 9/11.

“When we were attacked, we had every right, and it was just for us to respond,” Gibson said. “We needed to destroy the al-Queda; we should have obliterated them and the Taliban who were associated with them. And then we should have walked away.”

He said the Afghanistan withdrawal operation has been bungled on every level, including the treatment of the Afghan people who worked with U.S. forces.

“At this point, I believe we have a moral obligation. If they want to seek asylum and they worked with us, we should give them asylum,” Gibson said.

And when NEWS10’s Stephanie Rivas asked him what his message is to Afghanistan veterans today?

“First of all, it’s not their fault. This one’s on the politicians. The soldiers over there did everything they could to fulfill what it is they were asked to do,” Gibson said. “And that mission was a mistake from the very beginning.” 

Gibson also pleaded with Americans to see a lesson through this devastating day, so history doesn’t repeat itself. 

“It fundamentally starts from a misunderstanding of who we are as a people. We are not an empire; we are, by design, a republic that is mindful of their own liberty and economic prosperity,” Gibson said. 

He added that America should not occupy other countries nor get entangled in long-term wars. He added that wars like the Afghanistan War only continue to divide the country and create generations of wounded veterans. 

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