Sage Rafferty | Afghanistan: A Veteran’s Perspective

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

In 2013, I deployed to Afghanistan with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. I spent most of that time at Bagram Airfield as the support operations deputy. In this role, I had oversight for logistics (wheeled vehicle maintenance, ammunition and explosives, fuel for aircraft, parts procurement, mortuary affairs) for all the helicopter units in Afghanistan, except for a small aviation unit supporting special operations. 

I decided to write this piece in response to the talking heads that the media is now holding up as “experts” and uninformed opinions flying around social media. I would like to offer my own expertise to clear up some of the misconceptions and misinformation. 

Why don’t the men we see evacuating Afghanistan stay and fight for their country? 

Many of the Afghan men that you see may not have family in Kabul. One of the great failings of the Afghan National Army was trying to nationalize a fighting force in a country that is culturally very tribal. Many of the young men you see swarming airplanes and desperately waiting to leave the country may have been Afghan soldiers who were deployed to Kabul but originally came from other areas in Afghanistan. The war is over, save for the upcoming civil war with remnants of the ANA that is reportedly regrouping in Panjshir province. The Taliban will execute people who have assisted NATO. It is common sense for people to flee the situation. 

The Taliban has sophisticated American military equipment! 

Pundits and the media are disturbed that the Taliban now has possession of sophisticated American military equipment. On some level, this is a real fear. The biggest prizes that the Taliban have are small arms, night vision goggles, and other personal gear that will have an impact on the battlefield. I am much less worried about vehicles and helicopters. 

When I arrived in Afghanistan in 2013, the 10th CAB was replacing the 101st CAB. This was the beginning of the initial drawdown under President Barack Obama. This meant that a lot of the resources the 101st had come to rely on to provide logistical support to the various forward operating bases across Afghanistan simply disappeared overnight. My team and I developed a plan to keep ammunition, parts and supplies flowing across the country to support aviation assets that were providing support to the Afghan Army. Without revealing details about the plan, let’s just say that it involves a lot of moving pieces and assets that will be out of reach for the Taliban. 

My main point is that most people have no idea what kind of financial, logistical and maintenance support it takes to keep U.S. military equipment going. To maintain the equipment they have recently acquired, the Taliban would have to spend trillions over the next several years, develop a first-rate logistical network, and hire multiple subject matter experts. The Taliban is unlikely to do any of this. Their favorite mode of transportation will likely continue to be Toyota pickup trucks. 

The military had no way of knowing that the Afghan Army would fold, and the Taliban would take over so quickly. 

I have been speaking to my fellow Afghanistan veterans over the past few days, and so far, every one of us agree that we are not at all shocked that the ANA folded so quickly. When I was in Afghanistan in 2013, Afghan soldiers were often hesitant to engage the enemy. Everyone knew that the Taliban was waiting and gathering strength in Pakistan. We all knew that the Afghanistan government was corrupt. I do not think anyone who deployed to Afghanistan thought that the ANA would be able to stand on its own, without significant aid from the United States. 

I hope I have been able to shed some light on the situation in Afghanistan and dispel some misinformation. As a veteran who deployed to Afghanistan, my heart has been heavy watching the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan by NATO forces. We have a moral obligation to get Americans and our Afghan allies out, and I hope we meet that obligation. President Joe Biden inherited a messy situation and Trump’s crappy deal. The quick collapse of the Afghan Army proves that Biden made the right choice to continue with the withdrawal, even if the execution was poor. 

Sage Rafferty 

Santa Clarita

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