I really considered not making this post. However, on the way to work this morning I was listening to a talk on NPR that immediately infuriated me.
Susannah George of The Washington Post stated that some people believe, that “Really, the United States set Ashraf Ghani (president of Afghanistan) up to fail, and the blame rests on the U.S.” To Susannah George: No.
For the last 20 years, we, the United States, have had boots on the ground in Afghanistan. We have been engaged in direct combat against the Taliban with our partner forces such as the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) by our side in these operations. We came in to defeat terrorism and liberate the Afghan people who were subject to atrocities like beheadings, firing squads, gang rape and much more under Taliban rule.
In many ways, we did “win,” if you want to call it that. Battle after battle, we smothered out the Taliban’s ability to operate effectively. We kept the pressure on them. When the transition from American to Afghan lead operations happened, the same fervor in which we engaged the Taliban, was not replicated. As we drew down our forces, the Taliban gained ground, the Afghan army failed its people. City after city has fallen and with little to no fight.
And now, as we have all seen on television, the government has now capitulated to Taliban forces. Places that many Americans have never heard of — but ones that I and fellow Marines hold sacred — we watch fall into enemy hands in videos on Instagram and on the news.
I say all this in response to the opening quotation, we, the U.S. Armed Forces and our government, did not fail Afghanistan.
We set them up for success through 20 years of combat operations, under our wing. They had every opportunity to learn for 20 years. We have supplied them with just about every asset of war that we used to fight the enemy. Up-armoured trucks, tanks, night vision, rifles, machine guns, air assets. You name it, we gave it to them. The only thing we could not instill them with was the zeal and tenacity one has for their cause. That is only developed internally in oneself through the heart of the warrior, fighting for their cause.
I end with this. I am incredibly proud of what my brothers and I did in Afghanistan. I am blessed to have fought with such a group of Marines, you are pipe hitters and I am proud of every one of you that I served with in Marjah. For a time, no matter how long that was, we DID make a difference.
To the Afghan people I say this; take back your government, restabilize your country and do not let these thugs continue to terrorize your families. Be the change you want to see, the strength and ability to defeat the Taliban lies within you.
NOTE: Nicholas Clifford, a native of Rome and 2010 graduate of Rome Free Academy, served in the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2017. He took part in combat operations during the Marjah Campaign, a hotly contested region in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
He served there as a Pointman in an infantry rifle squad from May 2011 until January 2012. Given the current turmoil in Afghanistan, Clifford reflects on his service and the years of sacrifices America and our military have made to bring democracy and stability to the region.