Vt. National Guard commander reflects on Afghanistan collapse
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating as Taliban forces move across the country seizing cities and government buildings.
The Taliban Friday went on a lightning offensive capturing much of the country and isolating Kabul, the Afghan capital. The fighting comes as the United States ordered Marines to prepare to evacuate workers and other personnel if the capital falls.
Vermont Adjutant General Greg Knight says the chaos is tough to watch. After all, Vermont soldiers risked their lives in Afghanistan and came back home with physical wounds, and some to this day continue to suffer the hidden traumas of war. But Knight maintains Vermont’s sacrifice was worth it. “In my perspective Adam, it is absolutely worth it. We go overseas to do these very challenging jobs and sometimes it doesn’t work out to the degree that we would like,” he said.
Vermont National Guard soldiers first went to Afghanistan in 2003 after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11th attacks. In 2010, the Green Mountain State was part of a large-scale deployment of 3,000 soldiers activated to fight the global war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They went out and did their jobs and that speaks volumes to me about their dedication to the missions that they were assigned,” said Knight.
But that job, which included complete operational control over certain areas of Afghanistan, appears to be unraveling as Taliban fighters retake city after city. “It is a disaster on the ground,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. He says the priority now is to make sure American citizens and allies who are still in the country can get out safely. “Of course we spent a trillion dollars or more in Afghanistan propping them up. You would think by now they could handle their own affairs. They are not,” Leahy said.
As for the soldiers who are already home, Vermont’s top general says it’s imperative they get the support they need. “Part of my job is to make sure they have the resources available and encourage them to use it. I did,” Knight said.
Knight himself spent a year deployed in Iraq. He says wounds from war are not just suffered on the battlefield and that there are mental scars that could be exacerbated by recent news on the ground. “If they are frustrated and feeling the pinch -- for our Gold Star families who lost members -- I will tell them, and I continue to tell them, you are not in this alone,” he said.
The National Veterans Crisis Line is dedicated to veterans and their families. Servicemen and women can also contract the V.A. Medical Center in White River Junction to get more information about the local resources that are available.
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