I'm a U.S. Veteran Who Served in Afghanistan. America's Withdrawal Disgusts Me | Opinion

By the time this piece is published, the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan will be complete. Watching the images of Taliban fighters riding in stolen American vehicles, Afghans waiting in line at government passport offices hoping to flee the country, and U.S. Army helicopters evacuating diplomatic personnel, I have been overwhelmed with emotion over the complete and utter waste that has followed America's disastrous withdrawal. Besides the incomprehensible human suffering that will undoubtedly unfold, particularly for Afghan women and minorities, I am disgusted by the damage that America's retreat has already done to the United States' credibility among both its allies and enemies alike.

I served in Afghanistan from September 2014 to September 2015. I initially worked as an intelligence advisor to the Afghan Ground Forces Command before I was selected to be the aide to the brigadier general in charge of NATO's Rule of Law mission. In this role, I was a given a privileged view of the war effort. I came to know Afghanistan, Kabul, and the Afghan people intimately well.

The author, Micah Jones, in Afghanistan.
The author, Micah Jones, in Afghanistan.

From weekly meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan to discussions with the Afghan Vice President to briefings with four-star generals, I had the opportunity to be the fly on the wall in the rooms where the decisions were truly being made. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to work with dozens of dedicated and patriotic Afghans who wanted nothing more than to improve their country.

Returning home from that year-long deployment, I came away with the understanding that America was likely not going to ever have a decisive victory against the Taliban. Nevertheless, I left Afghanistan truly believing that America and its NATO allies were genuinely improving the lives of the Afghan people. I believed that our continued presence in Afghanistan had been successful in preventing the Taliban and Al Qaeda from ever being strong enough to recreate a 9/11-level attack on American soil.

Kabul airport
Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. AFP via Getty Images

And I believed that American bases in Afghanistan gave us broad force projection throughout a dangerous and chaotic part of the world. With borders to China and Iran, American bases in Afghanistan gave the United States strategic leverage to push back against those nefarious actors.

I am someone who firmly believes that America is a force for good in the world. When the United States retreats, the world becomes a darker place. And when it is not American and Western values being shared in an area or projected throughout the world, it is someone else's, who is likely reprehensible and antithetical to everything we believe in.

With thousands of American troops currently stationed throughout the word, including Japan, Germany, and Korea, I did not believe it was a heavy lift to maintain a minimum number of troops in Afghanistan. With no combat deaths since 2020, the American mission in Afghanistan had essentially become a peace keeping mission in which the price to pay was small when compared to the dangers that could arise following an ill-timed, and unprepared exit.

Tragically, that is exactly what has happened and what we are collectively watching in real time. The Biden Administration's complete and utter lack of preparation to facilitate a strategic withdrawal is evident as the Taliban have run roughshod over the country, taking over many provincial capitals in a matter of days. Even worse, America now looks like a paper tiger. We have lost credibility amongst both our allies and enemies.

For our allies, why would anyone risk their life, literally, to work with future American endeavors? Yes, the United States is attempting to bring many Afghan interpreters and civilians who aided the 20 year war-effort back to U.S. soil, but many thousands more will be left behind. I do not trust for one moment that the Taliban will treat them well.

Furthermore, why would America's allies the world over trust us to back them up if they were to go to war? Why would Taiwan now think that the United States would be a credible foil to China? Why would Israel believe that America would back it against Iranian aggression? Those countries would not be wrong for having second thoughts about America's commitment.

We have also lost all credibility with our enemies. The lesson here is that if you wait out the United States long enough, Americans will cut and run. It also demonstrates to America's strategic enemies—Russia, China, and Iran—that if America does not have the will to defend its interests in a country where it has all available assets, what stomach, if any, will it have in preventing those nations from exerting more control over their own spheres of influence?

China will likely fill the vacuum we have created, thus extending its authoritarian regime over an even greater portion of the world.

The feeling of disgust that I have in the United States withdrawal in Afghanistan will never go away. But for my generation of veterans who served, and for those of us who will eventually be in positions of power and influence, I hope that we never forget these images and this moment in history so that we do not make these same mistakes in the future.

I hope that we never forget the good that we did for so many Afghan people. I hope we never forget our friends who were killed in service to protect the United States of America from future terrorist attacks.

And I hope that we never forget that America is a force for good.

Micah Jones is a publishing adjunct at The MirYam Institute. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service.

The views in this article are the writer's own.