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The United States has been a world leader since the end of World War II. In today’s world of cyberattacks and asymmetrical conflict, our nation’s leadership is tested in unique ways.
That is why, as a combat veteran, President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan alarms me.
Withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan is not wrong – it’s long overdue. In 2014, after 13 years, we ended our combat mission. It should have ended years earlier, after we defeated the Taliban elements that harbored those responsible for 9/11.
After years of arrogant nation-building efforts, President Trump’s 2020 ceasefire agreement with the Taliban finally set the right course. We’ve lost thousands of American lives and spent nearly $200 billion helping the Afghan government build an army to defend their country against the Taliban. Now is the time for the Afghan army to do just that.
Withdrawing or disappearing?
Yet, the Biden administration’s disorganized withdrawal is an affront to our sacrifices, as a military and as a nation. Last Friday, in the middle of the night, Bagram Airfield was evacuated. Without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, we cut the electricity plunging the complex that once housed 100,000 U.S. troops into darkness.
As the sun rose, the Afghan army became aware of what was going on. They arrived to find looters ransacking buildings. Most amazing of all, the Biden administration’s evacuation plan left behind weapons, ammunition, thousands of trucks and vans, and hundreds of armored vehicles. A picture from the abandoned airbase shows about a dozen armored Humvees the Afghan Army was able to hold onto.
The picture of those Humvees struck me hardest.
I remember countless rides in Humvees like those in the picture. As an infantry platoon leader one September evening in 2008, I was riding with in a M1151 Humvee in Kandahar. Another platoon north of us was taking fire and we advanced to help them.
Then, our Humvee erupted in flames. We had hit a roadside bomb, an IED.
I nearly died in Afghanistan
In an instant, I was on fire. I screamed for my God and my mother. I was rolling on the ground. The fire would not stop. I threw sand in my face. The flames burnt on.
I don’t know how long I fought the flames. It seemed like forever. It might have been 30 seconds. Daylight was fading. My men were scattered.
The enemy was firing at us from behind the walls of a village. I was still burning, and I couldn’t see anything because my face was on fire. I hit a point where I just let go. I was ready to die.
Then, as bullets whistling around me, I heard a voice. It was one of my soldiers. He said, "sir, I’ve got you” as he and others began to smother the flames.
In war, as in life, we depend on each other. As a nation, as neighbors, as friends and family, we support each other. We help with things small and large. We keep our commitments, and if we can’t accomplish something, our loved ones know we tried.
The Biden administration did not try. Their reckless withdrawal from Bagram is an incredible, incompetent error of commitment and judgement.
Bagram is about 400 miles west of China and about 500 miles east of Iran. It is a strategic asset that should have been passed to Afghan government with care. Instead, the Biden administration abandoned Bagram in the middle of the night with no coordination, no warning, and no effort.
Worst of all, our abrupt departure did real damage to the Afghan army’s chances of success. The equipment, vehicles, arms and ammunition we left behind have now been looted by the Taliban, strengthening an enemy that enthusiastically supports terrorism.
What we tried to accomplish as a nation, what I and so many other fought for was damaged by the Biden administration’s negligence.
President Biden should launch an investigation. The American people deserve to know why this mistake happened, and we should hold our leaders accountable.
In today’s complex world, we need to learn from our mistakes. Anything less than trying to understand how this happened and addressing our leader’s failures, would betray not only the Afghan’s trust, but the trust of the American people.
Captain Sam Brown is a disabled U.S.Army veteran. He now resides in Washoe County, Nevada. He is a Republican considering challenging United States Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal dismisses our sacrifices: Disabled vet