For my brother who served in Afghanistan, the inane end of the war is no blame game

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For my family, the terrible reality of the war in Afghanistan, if not the war itself, dates back over ten years. It ceased to be personal.

It was the year my youngest brother, a U.S. Army Ranger, ended his eight-year military career to join civilian life. It was pretty cool being the sister of a tough guy in Special Ops (my words, not hers) – her business was specialized and often covert raids during her intermittent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan – and that. was also scary.

Paul was shot dead in a firefight in Iraq and lost part of a hand. After painful rehabilitation, he learned to pull the trigger without his finger and deployed again. He came home for good in 2011 with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

As far as I know, he has not suffered any lasting psychological damage. He went to work as a military analyst in Austin, and we stopped worrying all the time. For me, as for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the so-called war on terror has fallen into the abstract.

The inane ending of the war, of course, brought her back to the fore. We reacted as we always do to bad news: with venomous partisan blame that temporarily took over our perpetually wandering attention.

I called Paul, who is now 39, to see what he thinks about it. He lives in Philadelphia, where he recently moved for the successful career of my sister-in-law.

Whose fault is it ? I wanted to know. Who is going to roll his head?

He didn’t bite. It’s not easy for him, because he’s a lot more thoughtful than an average politician or a praised badass or a know-it-all columnist.

Unlike the rest of us, he never stopped paying attention, but he has the prospect of time to dampen a soldier’s reflex outrage at the sudden and brutal collapse of Afghanistan in the face of the Taliban. .

It was almost like talking to two Pauls: my brother the soldier, who jumped out of planes and got shot and saw people die, and my brother the expert, the informed but detached analyst.

“If you had asked me when I got out, I would be f ————, he said, echoing members of the military who report a sense of betrayal and of futility. “I would have echoed that sentiment.”

Paul’s perspective is less immediately personal than that of an active soldier, but carries the authority of someone who has in fact been paying attention for 20 years.

“I’m not surprised it all fell apart,” he said. “We lost our strategic focus – we probably should have left nine or ten years ago. We have had diminishing returns. It was not sustainable. “

The war in Afghanistan, he said, had a very sane and perhaps noble point at first: in case you forgot, it was a response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country. country.

“Have we destroyed al-Qaeda? Paul asked – he has an academic habit of asking rhetorical questions – “No. Have we destroyed the Taliban? Obviously not.

“Did we hurt the guys who did this a lot and fight them?” Absoutely.”

It hurt the bad guys a lot. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Not simple, and in retrospect, chimerical in its extravagant ambition, was the so-called ‘mission runaway’, the idea that, while we’re here, we’re going to fix everything: build a new democratic government, create a modern economy, achieve social justice and train a 21st century security force in a region barely established in the 19th century.

“We were not going to go there and make Afghanistan the 51st US state,” he said. “We were never going to ‘win’ unless we held on forever. “

President Joe Biden therefore deserves credit for doing what his predecessors were unable to: end an unsustainable, costly and increasingly less focused mission. “No one wanted to make the hard decision, so we just kept walking on the water,” said Paul.

It is analyst Paul speaking, the one who would like to remind Americans so recently passionate about “eternal wars” that this is precisely what they wanted.

But then there’s Private Paul, the one who, when we spoke, was “f —— pissed off” by the merciless and ill-conceived end of the war. The military and intelligence clearly believed they had much more time before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban. They had a disastrous and unforgivable mistake.

Her voice became harsh.

“It’s a moral failure, hands down,” he said, recalling the Afghan people who assisted in the American war effort and who were left behind in the chaotic fall of Kabul. “They risked their lives for us, and we owe them something whether we are victorious or not…

“We owe them. Give them a scary house, bring them here, anywhere. Bring them to Nebraska.

Nebraska? It was perhaps the safest place he could think of.

“I really hope they got on the plane,” he said, after an unusual moment of silence.

“I hope they’re not already dead.

Jacquielynn Floyd is a former Dallas Morning News columnist and columnist. Paul Floyd, who lives in Philadelphia, plans to pursue a new career in nursing.

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