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Opinion

One Year Later – Reflections On The Afghanistan Disaster And US Military And Political Leadership

Image by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley meets with Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov in Bern, Switzerland, Dec. 18, 2019

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One year ago, Afghanistan veterans such as myself were treated to the horror of watching the Afghanistan government and military collapse.  The dreaded black and white Taliban flag was planted in far too many familiar regions I had been deployed to.  Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul provinces.  My niece was hastily deployed to Kabul Airport to assist in the frantic and embarrassing retreat of the US and the humiliating end of America’s Longest War.

Like many, I am forever haunted by the sacrifice of veterans and their families.  NCOs sobbing while recalling pulling charred US bodies out of downed aircraft.  A soldier with a gunshot wound through his hand cutting a thumb hole so he could operate a turret .50 cal machine gun and get back in the fight with his comrades.  An NCO drowning himself in a submerged vehicle so his unconscious friend in the overturned vehicle had enough oxygen to survive until rescue.  Watching countless patrols depart daily to fight the Taliban and other terror organization in the Afghanistan countryside, without fear or hesitation.  I personally pronounced many US and coalition warriors dead and signed their death certificates.  The Talibans’ release of thousands of hardened terrorists and murders who had been incarcerated with much sacrifice in US blood and money was a terrific insult to the warriors who captured them.  Reading stories of the torture and murder of Afghan nationals abandoned by President Biden, betrayed by a lie from US military and political generals, was infuriating.  Military families saddled with deployment stress, divorces, and deaths equally bear the horrors.  My wife continues to provide counseling to Afghanistan veterans with PTSD still struggling to put their lives back together.

Meanwhile, the US military has done its best to sweep the debacle under the rug to hide the shame of its leaders.  4 months after the last US service member abandoned the country to terrorist rule, GEN Mark Milley was honored at the sidelines of the US Military Academy and US Air Force Academy Football Game in Dallas, Texas.  Generals who failed the servicemembers and America continue to serve and get promoted.

The US Military appears to have been doing no introspection on how August 2021 came to pass  West Point’s Dean of Cadets told USMA graduates that West Point’s leadership sees no need to have cadets analyze Afghanistan’s strategic failure.  The US Army Chief of Staff’s Reading List has been updated in the past year to include books on social justice and internet misinformation, but no additions to strategically analyze the failure of US generals and politicians in Afghanistan.1  Sadly, some of the best books on the US military leaders’ failure in Afghanistan were published nearly a decade before August 2021 and obviously were ignored by generals more concerned with promotion and fame than with making a stand for what was easily seen as a failed strategy for years.    In the Graveyard of Empires (2010)2, Afghanistan the Perfect Failure3 (2012), Losing Small Wars4 (2011) are examples of books nowhere to be seen in US Army military professional development lists.  

The honorable thing to do would have been for US generals to resign in protest.  Honor is obviously a foreign thing to ‘leaders’ like GEN Mark Milley who was more interested in consorting with Chinese generals (the enemy) than looking after his charges.  Unlike most organizations like sports teams and corporations, the military rewards and promotes failed leaders instead of firing them and replacing them with leaders with integrity and a will to win.

 The post Afghanistan Department of Defense has been busy promoting pronoun education5 and separating veterans for covid vaccine noncompliance (70% of whom received General Discharges)6.  Morale is so low that US military is failing miserable to achieve its recruiting goals.  28 July 2022 saw Democrats take advantage of veterans by adding on $400 Billion in spending to a veteran benefit bill and politicizing the plight of veterans when the GOP blocked it and demanded a clean bill.  Looking back, President Biden’s State of the Union address that called for veteran health benefits for toxic chemical injuries appears just to have been a ruse to fool America into more reckless spending.  

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Despite the best efforts of US military flag officers and politicians, the scars of the war will never be forgotten by those that truly matter.  The sacrifice of the living and the dead was very real.  Failed leaders such GEN Milley need to be remembered alongside traitors such as Benedict Arnold for their treachery and selfishness.  While Afghanistan may have ultimately been ‘unwinnable,’ and missteps were made by both political parties, the manner in which the US ended its misadventure is unforgivable.  US Voters and historians must never let President Biden and his Democrat supporters off the hook for their transgressions.  Worse, the military’s leadership appears to have learned nothing and its senior leaders/advisors are destined to doom American to future disasters.  Ironically, it was far left CNN’s own reporter who summed up the disaster best.  “If This Isn’t Failure, What Does Failure Look Like Exactly?7

John Hughes, MD

Emergency Physician

USMA Class of 1996 (#1 graduate)

3rd Generation West Pointer

4 combat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan

1 www.army.mil/leaders/csa/readinglist  as of 4 AUG 2022.

2 Jones, Seth.  In the Graveyard of Empires.  WW Norton & Company.  2009.

3 Cook, John.  Afghanistan.  The Perfect Failure.  Xlibris Corporation.  2012.

4 Ledwidge, Frank.  Losing Small Wars.  Yale University Press.  2011.

5 Sicard, Sarah.  “Where each military branch stands on pronoun use in signature blocks.”  Militarytimes.com  7 Jan 2022;

6 Myers, Meghann, et al.  “The vast majority of troops kicked out for vaccine refusal received general discharges.”  Militarytimes.com  27 Apr 2022,

7 Joyella, Mark.  “CNN’s Clarise Ward in Afghanistan:  ‘If This Isn’t Failure, What Does Failure Look Like Exactly?’”  Forbes.com  19 AUG 2021.

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2 comments

Daniel August 5, 2022 at 12:21 am

Will the American Citizens still trapped in Afghanistan be supplied with mail-in ballots?
Just wondering…

Reply
Steven August 9, 2022 at 2:33 pm

The political objective of the Biden regime was met, withdrawal by the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
Biden didn’t see anything wrong with it and certainly the command structure of the military wasn’t shaken by it in the least.
The media, after initially being critical, has effectively avoided (cancelled), any mention of it because it could indicate incompetence, the very last thing the media will report on with reference to any Democratic Party led government.
Anyone who joins the military now, as well as anyone in any uniform, even the police, with any self awareness, realizes they are expendable to achieve political objectives.
Any complaining, in or out of uniform, will be seen as revisionist, in opposition to progressive policies, and won’t be tolerated.

Reply

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