North Country veteran, state lawmaker react to crisis in Afghanistan

New York

Veterans and lawmakers who served in Afghanistan are joining calls for the federal government to step in amidst the chaos after the Taliban seized the capital city of Kabul on Sunday.

“There’s a feeling that everything we tried to do for the past 20 years was for naught,” said New York State Sen. Rob Ortt. “That’s tough to swallow.”

Ortt says the situation is personal. He served as a combat mentor to the Afghan national police in 2008. He says their mission was to build a safer and more stable country. Now, Ortt is working to help an interpretor from that group escape the brutality of the Taliban regime.

“If they find him and think he had anything to do with the U.S. or coalition forces, they will execute him,” Sen. Ortt said. “We need to do everything we can do get them out of Afghanistan, and if we don’t do that, shame on us. Our credibility will be even more damaged than it already is.”

Videos circulated Monday, showing U.S. forces struggling to conduct an evacuation at the airport. Desperate Afghans climbed onto moving military planes to try to get out of the country. At least seven people have reportedly died trying to escape.

“If we were there for 20 minutes, or 20 years, the result would have been the same,” Andrew Joyce said, a New York Army National Guard member. “We tell ourselves, a part of our responsibility it is to keep a lot of this to ourselves. And we do these jobs and to make sure the folks at home don’t have to experience that. But these stories need to get told so we don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.”

Joyce also spent time overseas, training the Afghan army and police. American forces are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by September 11, 20 years after the attack which led to the conflict. Senator Ortt says there are a lot of questions that need to be answered about how the situation unraveled so quickly.

“We’ve now ended 20 years with an equally colossal intelligence failure,” he said. “How someone in a position, the Joint Chief of Staffs, the President, National Security Council, could not see this was going to happen?”

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