SAN DIEGO – Local military veterans are sharing feelings of frustration and post traumatic stress as they watch Afghanistan fall to the Taliban amid a withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Now, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is urging them to seek help.
“All of those feelings are really understandable,” said Dr. Sonya Norman with the Veterans Affairs of San Diego. “I think people are feeling really frustrated. Really sad. Wondering if their service was worthwhile. Worried about people that they knew in Afghanistan. I would try not to fight them; not to avoid them.”
Scenes of chaos playing out in Afghanistan this week have made international headlines as the U.S. moved to end the nation’s longest war. As many as 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban took full control of the nation last weekend, Associated Press reporting shows.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he’s committed to keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until all Americans are evacuated, possibly even beyond the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal. In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Biden said the U.S. will do “everything in our power” to evacuate Americans and U.S. allies from Afghanistan before the deadline.
Pressed repeatedly on how the administration would help Americans left in the nation after Aug. 31, Biden said, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out.”
But the exit and ensuing turmoil make veterans such as former Army photojournalist Amber Robinson, who served three tours in Afghanistan, feel a sense of helplessness.
“To see so many people terrified,” Robinson said. “You see the video and everybody is terrified and they should be.
Robinson said she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and she worries the fall of Afghanistan could be a triggering event for many veterans like her.
“It’s a mix of anger,” she said. “Angry at our own government for mismanaging it from the beginning. Devastation because we worked side by side with Afghans for years and those are our allies. Those are our friends.”
According to the Associated Press, John Kirby, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said that over 24 hours about 2,000 people, including 325 American citizens, had left aboard 18 flights by U.S. Air Force C-17 transport planes. The number of departing Air Force flights was likely to be similar in the coming 24 hours, Kirby said, although he said he could not estimate how many people they would carry.
He said the administration was considering its options for dealing with a separate but related problem — the abandonment by Afghan security forces of an array of military equipment, weapons and aircraft that have fallen into the hands of the Taliban or other militant groups.
As Americans continue to evacuate Afghanistan – ending a more than two decade conflict which came following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – Veterans Affairs is urging U.S. military veterans to take advantage of treatment and helpful coping mechanisms.
Robinson said she has been reaching out to her fellow veterans to let them know they are not alone and that their service mattered.
“My advice fellow veterans is reach out,” she said. “Don’t try to suffer through this alone. We are stronger together. Reach out to me. Find me on Facebook. Message me. Don’t be alone.”