Veterans described the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and subsequent Taliban takeover as “gut-wrenching,” “predictable,” and “heartbreaking,” blaming Joe Biden’s failed leadership for the debacle.
“No, I’m sorry, the American president and the secretary of defense set the conditions,” he said. “But it seems just the opposite of that…it’s heartbreaking after 20 years in Afghanistan to see the blood, sweat and tears that have been spent there now evaporating into this debacle.”
“It’s really gut-wrenching to watch this,” said Pennsylvania state senator Douglas Mastriano. “So much sacrifice. So much commitment. So much blood, sweat, and tears. And for nothing. It was squandered.”
Mastriano, who served active duty for 30 years in the Army, including three tours in Afghanistan, believed that it was time to wind down our troop presence in Afghanistan, but said Joe Biden’s method of retreat caused a “catastrophe” in the country.
The Afghan military force, he said, was trained to rely on the United States and western military tactics. When that was ripped away from them with the U.S. withdrawal, they were unable to hold their own.
“This was predictable, to say the least,” he said.
Army veteran Jack Carr was in Afghanistan in 2003, and predicted then that when the United States withdrew from the country, those on the ground would be left to fend for themselves at the mercy of the Taliban.
“I was thinking about the future of everyone that we worked with over there,” he said. “Knowing that someday, somebody was going to come for them, and not just them, but their families.”
Despite this, he said the situation could have been handled “so much better.”
“It’s almost as if we were trying to make a mess of this,” he said. “We could not have done this worse had we been actively trying to do the worst job we actually could.”
Wesley Hunt, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, said the current crisis in Afghanistan has stemmed from leadership who has “completely ignored the last 20 years.”
Hunt said the United States had the situation in Afghanistan under control, and all Joe Biden had to do was “nothing.”
Instead, Hunt said, Joe Biden wanted his “moment,” and to be able to say on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that there were no troops in Afghanistan.
“That’s not leadership,” Hunt said. “When you lead, you do what’s right, not politically expedient.”
Republicans, Democrats, and members of the media have all criticized the chaos that ensued after Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, with several making calls for his resignation and the resignation of members of his national security team.
Pfluger called Biden “disconnected from reality,” both on the ground in Afghanistan and among the American public.
Carr noted that all it took to predict the current climate in Afghanistan was “common sense.”
“That’s it, that’s the baseline,” he said. “Our leaders are proving over and over how inept they are.”
Mastriano spoke of an Afghan guard who risked his life to save U.S. troops by stopping a car bomber from detonating his bomb.
“His nickname was Rambo,” Mastriano said. “And someone like that needs to come with us.”
Hunt, who is running for Congress in Texas, also noted that the situation in Afghanistan could be made worse by the influx of migrants at the southern border.
“Al Qaeda or an organization like al Qaeda will certainly be back,” he said. “They don’t have to get on planes and fly into buildings this time. They will just walk across our southern border. You can’t have an unsecure southern border and an unsecure haven for terror.”
“I can assure you, a terrorist attack in the future is imminent if we don’t do something now to stop the bleeding,” he said.
The southern border is not the only threat that is made worse by the crisis in Afghanistan, Hunt noted. China, Russia and Iran see the chaotic withdrawal as weakness, and will use it to their advantage, he said.
Carr said that the “enemy” is learning from this political turmoil in the United States, including the current crisis in Afghanistan, and applying it to their future battle plans.
“It certainly seems like China and Russia have studied their history, and are taking advantage of the situation,” he said.
Pfluger added that we were ceding ground to the Chinese Communist Party, and that allied countries like Taiwan “have to be feeling very insecure, and asking the question ‘does the American president have our back?”
Joe Biden claimed to be the president to restore America’s relationship with countries around the world, he said, but that now many of our allies were questioning the president’s leadership.
Watching Afghanistan fall to the Taliban is hard for many veterans, service members, and Gold Star families, and Carr said if you see a veteran who appears to be having a hard time, they probably are.
“If you feel like there’s somebody out there, you suspect there’s somebody out there having a hard time, well, you’re probably right,” he said.
“There’s a lot of questions they’re going to be asking, if their sacrifice is worth it, and they’re going to be questioning that a lot in the days ahead,” he continued.
“Think about the Gold Star families,” Pfluger said. “They’ve sacrificed everything. Their loved ones did not come home from Afghanistan, and they’re the ones that sacrificed everything in the name of liberty and freedom and all the values that our country was founded on.”
“I just want to remind soldiers out there, and airmen, Marines, sailors, anyone else that served, your service was not in vain,” Mastriano said. “You answered a call when so few were willing. And so, although we were betrayed politically, militarily, you did your job honorably, with distinction, and you made a difference while you were there.”
Hunt shared the same sentiment, emphasizing that the sacrifice of the thousands of troops that served in Afghanistan was “absolutely not in vain.”
“We were able to fight terror abroad so that they would not come here to harm us for the past 20 years,” he said.
In the end, the actual rescue of Americans in Afghanistan will fall to the “brave men and women at the tactical level,” said Carr, who is also a #1 New York Times bestselling author.
“They’re going to do the best they can in spite of their senior leaders in air-conditioned offices in Washington,” he said.
Pfluger, who spent 20 years on active duty and is still a reserve officer, said that from those executing the missions in Afghanistan, he sees an “exceptional professionalism.”
Hunt concluded it was critical for the American people to understand the “heart of the American soldier.”
“Sure, we messed this up, but people like me, and thousands of other brave men and women sign up to fix stuff like this,” he said, adding that if thousands of troops had to be sent back to Afghanistan to rescue Americans trapped behind enemy lines, they would do it with a sense of “patriotism, honor, and duty.”
Fox News’ Joshua Comins contributed to this report