Afghanistan war veterans blast decision to pull out of country and leave it to Taliban

US veterans of the war in Afghanistan have expressed their anger and frustration over the government’s decision to pull out of the 20-year war as the Taliban continues to conquer city after city. 

Tom Amenta, 40, a U.S. Army veteran and Chicago native, told The Washington Post that he got angry as he caught the latest headlines on Thursday, describing the Taliban’s take over of Kandahar and Herat and the crumbling of the Afghan government, all in the final days of the U.S. withdrawal. 

Amenta, who plans to publish a book on his interviews with nearly six dozen veterans next month, recalled the death of his friend, Jay Blessing, who was killed by an improvised bomb in 2003. 

‘I mean, why did my friend get blown up? For what?’ said Amenta.

‘[Afghanistan] has never had a clean solution. But now that it’s gotten hard, we’re just going to bounce? It doesn’t make it right.’ 

Taliban forces are accused of committing war crimes against Afghan citizens and troops. Pictured, Pakistani security forces escorting an ambulance of an Afghan man who died waiting for the border to reopen in Chaman on Thursday

Taliban forces are accused of committing war crimes against Afghan citizens and troops. Pictured, Pakistani security forces escorting an ambulance of an Afghan man who died waiting for the border to reopen in Chaman on Thursday

Taliban forces are accused of committing war crimes against Afghan citizens and troops. Pictured, Pakistani security forces escorting an ambulance of an Afghan man who died waiting for the border to reopen in Chaman on Thursday

The Taliban have completed their sweep of the country’s south on Friday, as they took four more provincial capitals

Tom Amenta expressed their anger and frustration over the U.S. government's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan amid the Taliban's growth

Tom Amenta expressed their anger and frustration over the U.S. government's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan amid the Taliban's growth

John Whalen said: 'Now, all the people who went and served, are like, 'Why did my friend die?''

John Whalen said: 'Now, all the people who went and served, are like, 'Why did my friend die?''

U.S. veterans Tom Amenta, left, and John Whalen have expressed their anger and frustration over the U.S. government’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan amid the Taliban’s growth

The U.S. has lost about 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan, the most out of the four dozen countries who deployed troops there, apart from Afghanistan itself.  

Amenta’s anger not only stemmed from the death of friends – like Blessing and NFL star Patrick Tillman – but also from the U.S. government’s decision to leave Afghanistan during such a tumultuous period. 

President Joe Biden has followed through on a Trump Administration decision to withdraw troops from the country.

Now the speed of a Taliban advance has rattled officials three weeks ahead of President Biden’s August 31 deadline to bring all troops home. 

The Trump administration negotiated the terms of a U.S. withdrawal in talks with the Taliban last year. 

Biden has repeatedly said he has no regrets about pushing ahead with his timetable. 

Amenta said he was horrified by news of Taliban fighters committing alleged war crimes against civilians and Afghan troops. 

He is one of many veterans voicing their concern and shock over the Taliban’s rapid come back in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban currently controls half of the country’s 34 provincial capitals and is taking aim at Kabul, where the U.S. embassy is based.   

Pat Tillman, famed NFL star, joined the U.S. Army Rangers after the attacks on Sept. 11. Tillman, a friend of Amenta, died on April 23, 2004, in Afghanistan

Pat Tillman, famed NFL star, joined the U.S. Army Rangers after the attacks on Sept. 11. Tillman, a friend of Amenta, died on April 23, 2004, in Afghanistan

Pat Tillman, famed NFL star, joined the U.S. Army Rangers after the attacks on Sept. 11. Tillman, a friend of Amenta, died on April 23, 2004, in Afghanistan 

Taliban forces have taken over half of the Afghanistan's 34 provincial captials. Picture are militants patrolling the recently conquered Herat on Saturday

Taliban forces have taken over half of the Afghanistan's 34 provincial captials. Picture are militants patrolling the recently conquered Herat on Saturday

Taliban forces have taken over half of the Afghanistan’s 34 provincial captials. Picture are militants patrolling the recently conquered Herat on Saturday

‘It’s just frustrating,’ army veteran John Whalen, 34, of Arizona, told the Post. ‘We knew that this would happen. Now, all the people who went and served, are like, ‘Why did my friend die?’ ‘

‘I ask that question, too,’ Whalen said.

The news of the Taliban taking over Kandahar hit Whalen especially hard as two of his friends died near the city in 2010. 

Whalen said Andrew Meari, of Illinois, and Jonathan Curtis, of Massachusetts, were guarding an entry point at Combat Outpost Sanjaray when an individual entered the base and detonated explosives he had wired on himself. 

‘He was just a kid,’ Whalen said of Meari, who was 21 when he died. ‘He was so motivated. He was just so excited to go out and live his life. But he got killed. And he didn’t get to live his life.’ 

Whalen also felt that the U.S. withdrawal broke an unspoken promise with the Afghan people. 

‘I’ve felt that there was this idea behind America. That America would make the world a better place,” he said. “But there are kids in Afghanistan that have only seen war during their lives,” said Whalen, who has a 7-year-old son, Oliver. 

Afghan security forces tried to protect the city of Herat from the Taliban

Afghan security forces tried to protect the city of Herat from the Taliban

Afghan security forces tried to protect the city of Herat from the Taliban

Taliban fighters have seized more territory just south of Afghanistan’s capital and launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major city in the north defended by powerful former warlords, today.

The Taliban captured all of Logar province, just south of the capital, Kabul, and detained local officials, said Hoda Ahmadi, a politician from the province. She said the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just seven miles south of Kabul. 

The result is a growing humanitarian emergency and frantic efforts to evacuate western embassies.

Some 3000 U.S. troops are on the way to Kabul’s airport to assist a partial evacuation of the American embassy, as staff prepare to destroy documents, computers and sensitive data.

‘It’s normal procedure to destroy anything sensitive before getting out, but it suggests that things are much further along than the State Department is saying,’ said a former diplomat in contact with embassy staff.

CNN obtained a management memo sent to staff advising them to destroy anything that could be useful to the Taliban

‘Please also include items with embassy or agency logos, American flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts, it said.

Critics say this is President Biden’s Saigon moment – drawing comparisons with the chaotic, humiliating evacuation of the Saigon embassy in 1975 – and even allies have voiced anger at the way the U.S. withdrawal is being handled

Taliban take northern Afghan stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif and enter the outskirts of Kabul sparking refugee crisis: US prepares to evacuate the Embassy and first of 3,000 soldiers arrive amid crisis

The Taliban took the Afghan northern stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif Saturday, the capital of Balkh Province, which was one of the last three major cities under government control, including the Kabul.  

‘The army is not fighting. It is only Atta (Muhammad) Noor and (Marshal Abdul Rashid) Dostum’s militias defending the city,’ Mohammad Ibrahim Khairandesh, a former provincial council member who now lives in the city, told The New York Times. ‘The situation is critical, and it’s getting worse.’ 

Dostum is an infamous warlord and a former Afghan vice president who has survived the past 40 years of war by cutting deals and switching sides, and Noor is longtime power broker and warlord in Balkh Province who fought the Soviets in the 1980s and the Taliban in the 1990s, according to The Times. 

The Taliban now controls territories to the North, South and West of Kabul and is squeezing the throat of Afghanistan’s capital city, which is where the US Embassy is located and thousands of refugees are trying to flee the country.  

US Embassy staff are destroying ‘sensitive’ materials while the first two waves of 3,000 US Marines and Army soldiers arrived to help evacuate Afghanistan’s capital as the Taliban prepares to strike. 

The US military is preparing to lower the American flag over the Embassy – if the State Department gives the order – signaling its closure.  

The situation appears to be dire as insurgent forces have tightened their grip around Kabul after warlords captured two more provinces on Saturday and moved within seven miles of the city.  

Herds of civilians who escaped the violence flooded the streets of Kabul and set up camps while diplomats work with other countries to see who’s willing to take in Afghan refugees.  

The State Department is in talks with several other countries to house US-affiliated Afghan refugees, and Canada has already welcomed 20,000 Afghan refugees threatened by the Taliban, the IRCC – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – said in a Twitter statement. 

So far, about 1,200 Afghans have been evacuated to the United States and that number is set to rise to 3,500 in the coming weeks under ‘Operation Allies Refuge,’ with some going to a U.S. military base in Virginia to finalize their paperwork and others directly to US hosts, Reuters reported.

A deal  house about 8,000 Afghans in Qatar, which hosts a large US military base, has been close for weeks, a US official told Reuters, although no official deal has been announced. 

While the American government works to get people out of Kabul, US Embassy officials are shredding and burning sensitive material, which a Department of State spokesperson said that was ‘standard operating procedure’ to avoid enemy propaganda efforts.  

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation in a minute-long video statement Saturday morning (US time) that was translated into English. 

‘Afghanistan is in serious danger of instability,’ Ghani said. 

Scroll down for video statement.  

Refugees flooded the Kabul in recent days as the Taliban continues to circle the city

Refugees flooded the Kabul in recent days as the Taliban continues to circle the city

Refugees flooded the Kabul in recent days as the Taliban continues to circle the city 

Smoke rises about the Kandahar, Afghanistan as Taliban forces took the country's third largest city

Smoke rises about the Kandahar, Afghanistan as Taliban forces took the country's third largest city

Smoke rises about the Kandahar, Afghanistan as Taliban forces took the country’s third largest city 

Diplomats are working with other countries to see who's willing to take in Afghan refugees who had to flee their homes

Diplomats are working with other countries to see who's willing to take in Afghan refugees who had to flee their homes

Diplomats are working with other countries to see who’s willing to take in Afghan refugees who had to flee their homes 

The IRCC - Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada - said the country has welcome 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban

The IRCC - Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada - said the country has welcome 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban

The IRCC – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – said the country has welcome 20,000 vulnerable Afghans threatened by the Taliban

‘Though I know that you are worried about your current situation and your future, I assure you that as your president, my focus is prevent the expansion of instability, violence and displacement of my people,’ Ghani said.

‘As part of a historical mission, I will do my best to stop this imposed conflict on the Afghan people to result in further killing of innocent people, loss of your achievements of the last 20 years, destruction of public property and prolonged instability.’ 

He said he’s engaging with Afghan and international leaders, and consultations are ‘urgently ongoing and the results will soon be shared.’ 

This was his first public comment since the Taliban demanded he resign. 

Between Friday and Saturday, the Taliban made major advances in what’s already been an efficient takeover of the country. 

They captured Herat and Kandahar, which are the country’s second- and third-largest cities, as well as the Logar province, just south of Kabul. 

The Taliban continues its swift movement towards Kabul by capturing Mazar-i-Sharif.

Insurgents now control 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the center and east, as well as Kabul. 

Encampments of displaced civilians, who fled their homes because the Taliban took over, are set up in Kabul

Encampments of displaced civilians, who fled their homes because the Taliban took over, are set up in Kabul

Encampments of displaced civilians, who fled their homes because the Taliban took over, are set up in Kabul

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for Biden to launch US airstrikes against the Taliban after speaking to to US Ambassador to Afghanistan Adela Raz on Friday.  

The Kentucky Republican said in a statement that ‘this debacle was not only foreseeable, it was foreseen.’ 

‘With that said, it is not too late to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul,’ McConnell said. 

‘The Administration should move quickly to hammer Taliban advances with air strikes, provide critical support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) defending the capital and prevent the seemingly imminent fall of the city.

 ‘If they fail to do so, the security threat to the United States will assuredly grow and the humanitarian cost to innocent Afghans will be catastrophic.’ 

But it might be too late. Axios is reporting that the Biden administration is preparing for the fall of Kabul, despite the president’s statements in recent days showing confidence in the Afghan military to ward of insurgents. 

Hoda Ahmadi, a lawmaker from Logar province, told The Associated Press that the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, which is just seven miles south of Kabul. The latest to fall is reportedly Gardez, the capital of Paktia. 

The American flag flying over what’s considered US Territory will be brought down soon and brought back to the United States or a different safe haven, Axios reported. 

A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

A Taliban fighter stands guard over surrendered Afghan security member forces in the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13 

Afghan policemen inspect a car at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14

Afghan policemen inspect a car at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14

Afghan policemen inspect a car at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14

Taliban forces began reclaiming land they lost during the United State’s 20-year occupation months before Biden announced his plans to withdraw troops by September 11. 

Between May and June, the Taliban recaptured 50 of Afghanistan’s 421 districts, Deborah Lyons, the UN’s special envoy on Afghanistan, told Newsweek.

But the troop drawn down sped up the take over, and now the Taliban has a vice grip around the capital. 

‘Clearly from their actions, it appears as if they are trying to get Kabul isolated,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, referring to the Taliban’s speedy and efficient takedown of major provincial capitals this past week. 

Kirby declined to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment of whether the Taliban will converge on Kabul.  

Currently, there are 650 American troops still in the country to help protect the nation’s diplomatic presence, according to the Associated Press, but there’s no plan for how long the 3,000 Marines and Army infantrymen will remain in the country and there appears to be no appetite from either party to engage the Taliban. 

‘This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus,’ Kirby said. 

Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, told The Associated Press that sending the troops is a morale killer for the Afghan military. 

‘The message that sent to Afghans is: “The city of Kabul is going to fall so fast that we can’t organize an orderly withdrawal from the embassy,”‘ Biddle told the news outlet. 

This suggests to Afghans that the Americans see little future for the government and that ‘this place could be toast within hours.’

Scroll down for video. 

Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

Taliban fighters stand guard inside the city of Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

The Taliban has rapidly seized provinces in Afghanistan since the US left. They inciting violence and fear in the citizens of Kabul as they move closer to seizing the city

The Taliban has rapidly seized provinces in Afghanistan since the US left. They inciting violence and fear in the citizens of Kabul as they move closer to seizing the city

The Taliban has rapidly seized provinces in Afghanistan since the US left. They inciting violence and fear in the citizens of Kabul as they move closer to seizing the city 

 Meanwhile, Biden was on his way to Camp David in Maryland on Friday but didn’t speak to reporters. 

He’s been taking criticism at home and abroad for pulling the troops out of the country.  

Ata Mohammed Noor, an Afghan warlord and key US ally during the occupation, said the withdrawal was ‘irresponsible’ and the sudden exit weakened the Afghanistan military, which Noor said is not in a position to ward off insurgents, Newsweek reported.    

He has since warned about a possible civil war.  

Within the US, several Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have ripped Biden for this decision. 

Friday night, McCarthy tweeted, ‘Tonight we held a call with Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the US to discuss the deteriorating situation. I remain deeply concerned with the Biden Admin’s mismanagement of their bungled withdrawal. Much like his failed withdrawal from Iraq, it is an embarrassment to our nation.’ 

Biden continued to defend his decision to pull the troops out of Afghanistan.  

On Tuesday, the commander-in-chief said the Afghan military is more powerful than the Taliban.

‘The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese Army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability,’ Biden said this week from the White House. ‘There’s going to be no circumstances where you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the United States from Afghanistan.’

The president alluded to the $1trillion and 20 years worth of investments to train and arm the Afghan forces. 

‘And Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost to death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,’ Biden said. 

An Afghan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14 as Taliban forces close in on the capital

An Afghan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14 as Taliban forces close in on the capital

An Afghan policeman stands guard at a checkpoint along the road in Kabul on August 14 as Taliban forces close in on the capital 

Passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in the terminal in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

Passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in the terminal in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

Passengers trying to fly out of Kabul International Airport amid the Taliban offensive wait in the terminal in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 13

The US is not the only country pulling out of Afghanistan. 

European countries – including Britain, Germany, Denmark and Spain – all announced the withdrawal of personnel from their respective embassies on Friday.

For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear of what lies ahead.

‘We don’t know what is going on,’ one resident – Khairddin Logari – told AFP.

The Taliban has reportedly been ruthless when during its takeover.  

Taliban fighters are going door-to-door and forcibly marrying girls as young as 12 and forcing them into sex slavery as they seize vast swathes of the Afghanistan government forces.

Jihadist commanders have ordered imams in areas they have captured to bring them lists of unmarried women aged from 12 to 45 for their soldiers to marry because they view them as ‘qhanimat’ or ‘spoils of war’ – to be divided up among the victors. 

They’re also killing Afghan government troops who surrender, the US claimed. 

Video taken in Faryab province last month appeared to show Taliban fighters massacring 22 Afghan commandos after they had surrendered, including the son of a well-known general. 

Hundreds of government troops have surrendered to the Taliban since fighting escalated in May with the withdrawal of US troops – some without firing a shot, others after being cut off and surrounded with little or no chance of reinforcement or resupply from the government in Kabul.

A Taliban fighter looks on as he stands at the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan August 14

A Taliban fighter looks on as he stands at the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan August 14

A Taliban fighter looks on as he stands at the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan August 14

Taliban fighters pose as they stand guard along the roadside in Herat on August 14

Taliban fighters pose as they stand guard along the roadside in Herat on August 14

Taliban fighters pose as they stand guard along the roadside in Herat on August 14

People walk near a mural of President Ashraf Ghani at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul. The Taliban has called on Ghani to resign

People walk near a mural of President Ashraf Ghani at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul. The Taliban has called on Ghani to resign

People walk near a mural of President Ashraf Ghani at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul. The Taliban has called on Ghani to resign 

The scale and speed of the Taliban advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.

Days before a final US withdrawal ordered by President Joe Biden, individual soldiers, units and even whole divisions have surrendered – handing the insurgents even more vehicles and military hardware to fuel their lightning advance.

Despite the frantic evacuation efforts, the Biden administration continues to insist that a complete Taliban takeover is not inevitable, as McConnell believes. 

‘Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday, while acknowledging that Taliban fighters were ‘trying to isolate’ the city. 

Officials took pains to avoid describing the operation as an evacuation as they announced that the State Department would reduce its civilian footprint of 4,000 people to a ‘core diplomatic presence.’ 

But that was before Saturday’s news that the Taliban have moved to within seven miles of Kabul, which has triggered fresh questions about whether Biden had been right to announce a complete withdrawal. 

Officials insist they always had contingency plans to help American staff leave safely, but critics said the result has been chaos.

But even allies have expressed concern. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the Trump administration had forged a ‘rotten deal’ with the Taliban that risked allowing terrorists to return.

‘I’ve been pretty blunt about it publicly and that’s quite a rare thing when it comes to United States decisions, but strategically it causes a lot of problems and as an international community, it’s very difficult for what we’re seeing today,’ he told Sky News.

The city of Kabul police are patrolling the streets and defending civilians who have flocked to the city

The city of Kabul police are patrolling the streets and defending civilians who have flocked to the city

The city of Kabul police are patrolling the streets and defending civilians who have flocked to the city

Kabul police - pictured here - secure areas in the central part of the city on August 13 as Taliban forces surround the city

Kabul police - pictured here - secure areas in the central part of the city on August 13 as Taliban forces surround the city

For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear of what lies ahead

Afghan police are guarding a checkpoint along a road in Kabul on August 14

Afghan police are guarding a checkpoint along a road in Kabul on August 14

Afghan police are guarding a checkpoint along a road in Kabul on August 14

The Taliban offensive has accelerated at the end of the week with the capture of Herat in the north and Kandahar – the group’s spiritual heartland – in the south.

Kandahar resident Abdul Nafi told AFP the city was calm after government forces abandoned it for the sanctuary of military facilities outside, where they were negotiating terms of surrender.

‘I came out this morning, I saw Taliban white flags in most squares of the city,’ he said. ‘I thought it might be the first day of Eid.’

Eid is one of two celebrations in the Islamic faith. 

Pro-Taliban social media accounts have boasted of the vast spoils of war captured by the insurgents – posting photos of armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and even a drone seized by their fighters at abandoned military bases.

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