By DAVID EASTMAN
On my first flight to Afghanistan, I passed through Kyrgyzstan. Luckily, we were there the day the government of Kyrgyzstan fell during the Tulip Revolution. Fortunately, the revolution was largely peaceful. My first visit to Kabul itself was on April 10, 2005. The US and NATO military presence in Afghanistan was high and it was a relatively peaceful time to be in Kabul and surrounding areas. It was the best moment.
Yes, there were bombardments. One morning, a vegetable cart exploded outside a local high school. Another morning, a bomb-laden bicycle blew up a taxi. There have been suicide attacks. There were improvised explosive devices. My brother will later outlive four of them. Shortly after arriving in the country, we suffered our first of many rocket attacks. One of the soldiers in my unit lost his leg in response to that first attack.
Five months after the deployment, one of my West Point classmates was kill. Less than two weeks later, my second classmate was killed. This was Afghanistan in the good old days.
On one mission, my soldiers were led into a firefight only to find it was a family battle rather than a military one. An uncle and his men had clashed with his nephew and his men. The uncle took it away. The nephew and all his men were massacred.
We hear stories of the wild and wild west. The stories I have heard have nothing to do with Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, we were shown what looked like a desert, and told how it was once a fertile valley…until Genghis Khan plundered it in the 13th century. No kidding.
Policing in Afghanistan was as much a problem as a solution. Stories were frequent of local police setting up unofficial checkpoints to shake off anyone who passed.
Police checkpoints have been set up on the highway leading to Kabul. Officially, the goal was to stop illegal drug shipments to Kabul. US soldiers were tasked with providing security for police officers at checkpoints. But the checkpoints were not set up to stop drug shipments. How can I know? Because after completing one of these missions, I received a complaint from the Afghan government in Kabul. That night, someone in the government failed to inform the local drug cartel about the checkpoint. The checkpoint had forced the drug convoy to turn back, and the cartel had reached out to the very upset Afghan government! The Afghan government immediately called us to complain that “we were in the wrong place”. We weren’t.
On one occasion a group of policemen from Kabul grabbed a teenager from the street in front of one of my soldiers on the base and started raping the teenager. US soldiers rescued the teenager from the attack and arrested those responsible. The police supervisor contacted Washington, DC to file a complaint against me. Kabul is that kind of place.
Read: New York Times: US soldiers must ignore sexual abuse of boys by Afghan allies
Afghanistan is the Wild West today. Those who live there are allowed to have an AK-47 at home for personal protection. Perhaps the events above can help explain why. Afghanistan is that kind of place.
That is, they were allowed to use an AK-47 until today. Today is August 31. The deadline for the withdrawal of American troops has now arrived. All firearms and ammunition are now prohibited, and those in Afghanistan have less than a week to hand over any ammunition or firearms they have to the Taliban. Only the Taliban can have weapons. According to the Taliban, citizens no longer need such a pprotection.
As the provost marshal and senior law enforcement official for Camp Eggers, that’s what I saw.
There were two places on the base where soldiers could spend money; the cafe and the one-room department store (PX). During my first months on the job, the cafe manager was fired and sent back to the United States for embezzlement. So was the manager of the one-room department store.
It was Afghanistan that we saw.
We have now added tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment to this war-torn country.
We have left hundreds, if not thousands, of American citizens at the mercy of our declared enemies.
Today, our allies in Afghanistan are being hunted down using weapons and technology provided by the US military and US taxpayers. In the future, it will become clear how many terrorists have been brought to our shores by military flights from Afghanistan. We know American lives were lost on Thursday. We know that American lives will be lost in the future due to what was allowed in the past 18 days. What we don’t know yet is how many lives.
From where I’m sitting John Harrington was certainly onto something four centuries ago:
“Betrayal never prospers, what is the reason? For if it prospers, no one will dare call it Treason. – John Harington
David Eastman is the representative for District 10, Wasilla/Talkeetna. His website is www.davideastman.org.