‘We went over there and completed our mission’: Retired Army sergeant major reacts to the end of Afghanistan War
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As the U.S. continues evacuation efforts out of Afghanistan, it’s stirring up emotions in people across the world. One South Mississippi veteran is now speaking out about the 20-year war.
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Hulum III of Gulfport talked to WLOX about the war effort.
“It’s easy for someone to sit at home and ‘Monday morning quarterback’ this. It’s easy for people to blame the current administration or the past administration,” he said.
Hulum spent two tours in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2016. He served as the Essential Function 5, Senior Enlisted Logistical Advisor to the Command General.
“We trained, advised and assisted,” he explained.
He said the withdrawal under the Biden Administration was predictable after past administrations began to gradually send troops home.
“We saw it was coming,” he said. “That’s why a lot of military personnel aren’t really shocked. We are only taken aback because of all the work done over the past 20 years. We put all our emphasis and efforts in training, advising and assisting the locals in Afghanistan.”
However, Hulum said the Afghan forces and President Ashraf Ghani should have most of the blame for the Taliban’s quick takeover of the country.
“Their government has to take some ownership in that,” he said. “For the service members not to fight for their own country, that says a lot.”
More than 2,400 American military members died over the course of the 20-year war, but Hulum said their sacrifices are not in vain.
“We went over there and completed our mission, completed our task. Everything else is not in our hands,” he said.
Along with helping and training Afghan forces, U.S. troops helped bring about women’s suffrage and more access to education in the country.
Hulum also said the brave men and women prevented more 9/11-style attacks on U.S. soil.
“In 20 years, we have not had an outside attack on U.S. soil carried out by the Taliban, carried out by Al-Qaeda,” he said.
Now, he is calling for aid for the refugees who sided with the U.S. through the war.
“We owe a debt to the ones that worked with us and we must honor that debt,” he said.
He wants more focus shifted on veterans returning from the decades-long conflict.
“Physically, mentally, families torn apart over these past 20 years,” he said.
The White House said 13 flights Tuesday airlifted 1,100 U.S. citizens, permanent residents and their families from the Kabul airport, adding that the pace was expected to pick up Wednesday and through the week.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that up to 22,000 Afghans and their families could be housed at the installations. Kirby did not identify more specific locations.
Thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. as interpreters and in other roles have been desperate to leave Afghanistan since before the government fell to the Taliban over the weekend, in the shadow of an Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
Kirby told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the U.S. Defense and State departments are working together to evacuate as many Americans and Afghans as quickly as possible.
Kirby says several thousand U.S. service members now arriving in Afghanistan will be there for the next couple of weeks to help with the evacuation.
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