Although the primary military mission in Afghanistan may have been accomplished years ago, the nation-building effort that followed explains why the U.S. is still in the predicament today. Dan Blakeley, having served with the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, explains to American Family News that the initial mission in Afghanistan in 2001 was to "expel al-Qaeda and find Osama bin Laden to bring him to justice [for his role in the 9/11 attacks]."
According to Blakeley, the majority of that mission was accomplished in the first year of the war, as al-Qaeda and much of the Taliban were sent fleeing from Afghanistan. When bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011, the former Army Ranger adds, the mission was fully accomplished.
"But the mission was reshaped and it became much more about nation-building," he continues. The moment the United States committed to nation-building rather than going after terrorists, he says it became a long-term commitment – one that has lasted 20 years … and one that has erupted into utter chaos with a looming deadline.
With the experience of six tours in support of the Global War on Terror, the Army veteran explains that "the military plans for the best case, the worst case, and the most likely case." While he would like to believe the country's leaders did the best they could to assess the situation in Afghanistan prior to a U.S. withdrawal, he states that one thing is certain: "It is clearly the worst case."
"The plan could have been much better, ensuring that all U.S. allies, partners, American citizens, interpreters, and many others had been notified well in advance," Blakeley contends. "There should have been a plan in place from the very beginning to find a more expediated way of getting them out of the country so circumstances wouldn't be what they are right now."
In addition to the current predicament, Blakeley contends a multitude of other concerns – here and abroad – aren't being shared very widely.
"There are going to be long-term effects to what's happening to Afghanistan," he warns. "[The United States needs] to be prepared for what those effects are going to be and start planning now – [and] nothing should come as a surprise."
The former Army Ranger emphasizes that a number of contingency plans are needed.
"How are we going to act if terrorism comes back in full force in Afghanistan?" he asks. "What plans are in place for Afghans wanting to continue to leave the region and find safe harbor elsewhere?"
"Moreover," he adds, "what's going to happen to all the American veterans who have been fighting in the last 20 years?"
While he is hopeful adequate support will be available to the nation's veterans, he laments that "the long-term effects to veterans of this long war is a conversation not many people are talking about yet."
Dan Blakeley is co-author of the book The Twenty-Year War, a photo journal dedicated to veterans of the Global War on Terror.