Assessing Afghanistan

An Afghanistan Army veteran worries what might happen to the country now that the Taliban are in charge and have access to a large supply of military weapons.

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August 20, 2021 - 2:00 PM

From left to right, Joe Czikalla, Jason Buck and Kyle Griffeth pose for a quick photo while in Afghanistan. Courtesy photo

Kyle Griffeth, who served as an Army bomb tech in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, worries about what happens next in the country now that the Taliban has taken control.

He knows it’s typical for the U.S. military to leave some equipment and weapons behind when they leave a conflict zone. But such equipment usually winds up in the hands of their allies.

“Most of it goes to the military we were working with and not the terrorist organization we were fighting against,” he said. “They were beating us with mostly lamp cords, alternator wires and mortars. Now they have everything we have. It makes a big difference in what they can do.”

The Taliban seized power in just 10 days, about two weeks before U.S. military troops were set to withdraw from the country after 20 years. 

The Taliban, a militant group, took control of the country in 1996 but were ousted from power during a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. The U.S. has spent more than $2 trillion on the effort since then, and more than 2,448 U.S. servicemen and women died during the conflict. 

Many fear the Taliban’s return to power will be a return to their harsh interpretation of Islamic law that severely restricts the rights of women and enforces harsh punishments, including stoning. 

Griffeth said he’s disappointed with the way the withdrawal has been handled. 

“I’m not looking forward to seeing what happens now that they have what they have.”

Griffeth also said he believes every taxpayer should be outraged about the billions of dollars in military equipment now in the hands of the Taliban.

“The Taliban said they won the war. If you look at it monetarily — what we spent compared to what they spent — and how the war went, they probably did.”

GRIFFETH, who grew up in Iola and played basketball for Allen Community College upon graduating from high school in 2003, joined the military when he was 23 years old. He served six years in the Army as part of the 89D Explosive Ordnance Disposal, more commonly known as a bomb tech. He was stationed in Afghanistan with the 705th company from November 2010 to November 2011.

He’s now medically retired from the military, from permanent joint damage caused by hauling a massive pack full of explosives up and down mountains, along with malnutrition and four IED blasts that leveled him to the ground.

He’s recently spoken with other veterans who also are disappointed about the recent turn of events. Many wonder if their efforts were in vain, or if they made a difference.

Griffeth, though, isn’t surprised at the outcome. The Taliban were dangerous, but working with the Afghan National Army was always unpredictable, he said. 

He shared a story, which he said happened during his time of service, of an Australian military force who were teaching members of the ANA how to use a large machine gun mounted to a Humvee. During the training, the ANA members “turned around and shot the whole team that was training them.”

“Most of the ANA are only trustworthy day by day,” he said.

He also worries what will happen to the civilians, interpreters and others who helped American military forces and their allies. 

“Obviously, they’re going to have a target on their back. The Taliban says they’re not going to do that, but I wouldn’t take them at their word,” Griffeth said.

“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like now.”

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