PHOENIX — A Valley veteran who was part of the first airstrikes of the 20-year-war says it's troubling to see the chaos erupting in Afghanistan after the United States began withdrawing troops.
Carl Forkner, a retired Navy Veteran, was aboard an aircraft carrier responsible for some of the very first aerial attacks on Afghanistan as part of "Operation Enduring Freedom" on October 7, 2001. The attacks were aimed at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York, NY on September 11, 2001.
"Afghanistan, from the air, is how I saw it, was a combination of desolate and mountains," said Forkner, who served in Afghanistan during his tour from July 2001 to January 2002. "It's very difficult to win a war when you look at six people and you don’t know which ones are the enemy."
On Sunday, Taliban forces re-seized control of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan.
"It’s very troubling for us to watch it. It’s harder still for those who can put a human face on it," said Forkner. "It makes you feel like a lot of young lives were lost for minimal gain."
Sunday night, the White House announced nearly 6,000 more troops to the region to help with evacuations of American citizens, locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul, and vulnerable Afghan citizens. The United States will also "accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas."
For the veterans who risked their lives to instill democracy in Afghanistan, Forkner said to seek help if struggling mentally or emotionally.
"There is no stigma to going and getting professional help before you get to the deep dark place," he said. "They’ve done their best job to do their duty, and I think everyone should hold their heads up with honor."
Forkner, a research psychologist, and veteran advocate works with veterans daily to help file claims with the Veteran's Affairs Hospital, and volunteers to help with resumes, job searching, and other pro-veteran organizations.