August 15, 2021

No one wanted the war to continue, but it didn’t have to end like this.

No one wanted the war to continue, but it didn’t have to end like this.

Written by: Chris Purdy, Defense Council Member, Truman National Security Project 

With word of Kabul’s imminent collapse and the rapid capitulation of the Afghan security forces, Americans are justifiably enraged, saddened, and demoralized. Reports from the country are that Taliban fighters have brought back their reign of terror and have begun committing public atrocities on anyone suspected of having worked with a Western power. The United States now has more troops in the country than at any time since the start of the withdrawal, but it is unable to secure enough territory to help those in need. 

Like many others, the September 11th attacks shaped my view of service and duty to my country. I joined the military to serve alongside thousands of other young people who were similarly affected. Together, we formed the largest cohort of veterans since World War Two. In a spirit of national pride, our fellow Americans showed immense public gratitude for the millions of members of the armed forces who joined after the Twin Towers fell. However, the only thing that we really wanted in return, was  that our sacrifice be worth it. 

We have lost so much over the last twenty years. This generation was asked to fight for our country, and we answered that call. We gave up our best years to engage in foreign wars because we believed that we were building a better world. We lost our friends to combat, to suicide, to any number of ailments that can be traced back to these conflicts. What would the United States look like if we had taken a different path? How many of our friends would still be sitting at the table alongside us? How many lives could have been saved if we had just done things differently, and not been so short sighted?

Now, as we look at the total collapse of the mission that started it all, we can’t help but forever be changed once again. The return to power of the same terrorist organization who had a hand in the murder of thousands of Americans will weigh heavy on this generation of post-9/11 veterans for the rest of our lives.  Like the Vietnam generation, we now bear the burden, the moral injury, the trauma of seeing thousands of those to whom we made commitments perish at the altar of our broken promises. No one wanted the war to continue, but it didn’t have to end like this.


Chris Purdy is the Program Manager of the Veterans for American Ideals project at Human Rights First. VFAI is an organization of veterans dedicated to advancing human rights at home and abroad. Chris served for eight years in the Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer, deploying to Iraq in 2011. He holds degrees in Sociology, Education, and Public Affairs.