Kan. veteran expresses frustration with Afghanistan withdrawal efforts

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 11:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Veterans across the country are still trying to process what’s happening in Afghanistan after attacks at the airport in Kabul killed more than 70, including 13 U.S. military service members.

Kansas veteran Pat Proctor said when he served in Afghanistan in 2012, there were discussions of America ending its involvement in the country. Part of Proctor’s mission was planning the transition for Afghan security forces to take a more active combat role. He said what’s happened over the last few weeks should have been avoidable.

“I’m forced to ask, like a lot of my fellow veterans, ‘why,’” said Proctor, a retired U.S. Army colonel who teaches as an assistant professor of Homeland Security at Wichita State University and represents his area as a state lawmaker. “...We had this plan on the shelf to evacuate all of the civilians, Americans and Afghans, for years. And how could it have (been) so terribly botched?”

Proctor said he can’t help but grieve for the 13 U.S. service members who died in the attacks.

“I grieve for their friends that are still there and have a mission to do that I’m absolutely sure they’re going to do their best of their absolute ability despite this setback,” he said.

Proctor said the first priority needs to be getting Americans out and Afghans who supported the U.S.

“We would go there, would would do our tour, our time and then we would go home. Some of these Afghans that we are abandoning in Afghanistan, they’ve been serving for decades,” he said.

He said the evacuation should have been ongoing for months.

“Now we’re really faced with a lot of really bad options,” Proctor said. “Either we leave people, which I don’t think is acceptable, or we have to essentially reinvade Afghanistan.

He said he sees the security threat growing and with the U.S. presence diminishing, it will get more and more difficult to get intelligence.

“I don’t think people appreciate just how big of a county Afghanistan is either,” Proctor said. “If you don’t have that physical presence on the ground, you can’t get them.”

He said the Afghans he worked with while serving in Afghanistan are in the U.S., but he knows other veterans still waiting to hear the evacuation status of Afghan interpreters with whom they worked. Proctor said for some, he’s not expecting that news to be good.

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