The Chaotic End of the 20 Year War

Veterans’ Opinions on the Collapse of Afghanistan


Paul Grillo and his Brothers in Their Air Force Uniforms. Courtesy: Paul Grillo.

Ronan Smith, Staff Writer

     Throughout the beginning of the 21st century, the United States has been embroiled in the war and politics of one nation: Afghanistan. For 20 years, the fire of war raged through the country until the sudden evacuation of US forces in August 2021. Because of this quick evacuation, Afghanistan’s democratic government fell to the Taliban advance on August 15.

     With this fall comes the end of the war and the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Now, many veterans are outraged at the implosion of the government and how thousands of weapons and vehicles were left behind, quickly falling into the hands of the Taliban.

     Mr. Jerry Pelligrino is a Milford resident who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991, and within that time, he fought in the Gulf War in Kuwait and Iraq. 

     Pelligrino says, “[Afghanistan] was handled poorly when the military stopped making decisions and the politicians got involved. Kinda like Vietnam actually.” 

     Many people have noted the similarity between the fall of Kabul and the fall of Saigon, which were both military collapses of capitals after long wars where not much was resolved in the long term. 

     Pelligrino continues, “We should’ve pulled out much earlier… we shouldn’t have been there 20 years.”

     Mr. Paul Grillo is a veteran of the US Air Force who served in the Connecticut Air National Guard from 1995 to 2006, and is a paraprofessional at Foran. 

     He shared similar views to Pelligrino, stating, “Our troops were taken out much too quickly. So quickly that the Taliban has control over our military equipment that was simply left behind!” 

     In fact, it was reported by Forbes that of both US and Afghan equipment, over 350,000 rifles, 125,000 pistols, 60,000 machine guns, and nearly 20,000 Humvees were left behind, only to be captured by the Taliban advance. 

     In the words of Grillo himself, “You cannot trust the Taliban.”

     The Kabul government has fallen, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled to the United Arab Emirates, and most of the National Assembly’s members have fled to central Asia. As President Biden says, “That assumption — that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown — turned out not to be accurate.” Despite this situation, however, there is still hope for a free Afghanistan. 

     In the remote Northern province of Panjshir, the Northern Alliance, an anti-Taliban force that has been around since the first Taliban government in 1996, is still holding some territory. The former Vice President, Amrullah Saleh, has declared himself President and is working with the Northern Alliance. While Afghanistan is in its darkest days, there is still a beacon of hope shining through. And while the vast majority of the Afghan Government is still in exile, there is still a chance that it will be a free country once more.