‘Heartbroken’: Grand Rapids veteran fears for future in Middle East

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan veterans are sharing their sadness and fear as the Taliban continue to invade parts of the Middle East that have been protected by the U.S. for nearly 20 years.

“You can’t be anything but heartbroken when you see stuff like that,” U.S. veteran Brett Allen said. “Twenty years of being given a glimpse of hope at a better future and then just see all of that scrubbed away in literally a couple weeks.”

It’s been over a decade since the former Army captain of the 10th Mountain Division has served in Afghanistan. Since then, he’s had the opportunity to spend more time with family and even write a novel. Allen served in the U.S. Army for four years, where he spent time in Afghanistan.

He says it’s tragic seeing the Taliban take control so hastily however, this was expected to a certain extent.

“If you’ve been there over the last 20 years, you’ve seen the U.S. trying to train the forces up over there and a lot of them have been successful, but they still had a long way to go when I was there,” Allen said.

By the time Allen left Afghanistan in 2009, he says U.S. forces were trying to hand over missions to the Afghan National Army and the National Police after training by the U.S. on how to handle certain missions and situations. He said their ability to execute couldn’t always be trusted.

“It would start that way but then would end up with the U.S. taking over for safety and security reasons,” Allen said.

He fears the worst for Afghanistan and isn’t sure if it was ever possible for them to stand on their own without U.S. support.

“You’re trying to build a national force in a country where people don’t necessarily recognize themselves as a national entity,” Allen said.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R- St. Joseph, released a statement Monday afternoon about the situation in Afghanistan.

“The withdrawal from Afghanistan was horribly botched from the get-go and easily predicted. Several weeks ago, I joined most of my colleagues to expedite safe passage to the United States for thousands of Afghans who aided our brave troops over the last 20 years. This debacle casts a black eye on America, and has put Americans and those who have helped us at severe risk. The still vivid memory of Saigon should have driven an orderly transition rather than the horror that we now see, the devastating nightmare that Afghans will face under Sharia law, and the potential for world terrorism that again threatens us. All we can do now is hope and pray that President Biden’s pledge to get everyone to safety will come to fruition.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton

Allen says though he may see why other veterans think their time in the service may feel wasted, he still believes they made a difference in the people’s lives they helped protect.

“Twenty years of a taste of freedom. I mean otherwise, people over there wouldn’t have had. I hope veterans can see it that way or that they just answered the call to serve,” Allen said.

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