After 20 years of military occupation in Afghanistan, American troops have been fully withdrawn from the region. The Biden administration’s ongoing evacuation was completed Aug. 30, as the last C‑17 Globemaster departed the Kabul airport at 11:59 p.m. local time, leaving Afghanistan under Taliban rule.
Over the span of the two-decade occupation of Afghanistan, many service members fought for, defended, and lost their lives in the protection of their country. Multiple professors and students at Hillsdale were themselves stationed in Afghanistan, or had family and friends there.
Assistant Professor of History and 1st Lt. Jason Gehrke ’07 was awarded the Bronze Star in 2013 for his service providing support to combat operations in Afghanistan. Gehrke said he hoped the military operations in Afghanistan would inspire renewed reflection on the principles that should guide American actions abroad.
“In the next few weeks, maybe even months, we will continue to hear a good many commentators proclaiming their various certainties about what has happened. But we should remember with Socrates that the future is uncertain,” Gehrke wrote in an email. “Whether or not this withdrawal serves the advantage of the United States will depend a great deal on the prudence of our leaders going forward.
And in that vein, I hope Americans (or at least Hillsdale students) will resist the temptation merely to observe and forget the withdrawal.”
Citizens should discuss the event cautiously, he added, making sure not to contribute to America’s “collective cynicism.”
“This event should inspire a renewed and collective engagement with western intellectual and military history, and with those commentators, whose learning or experience has earned them the right to speak,” Gehrke said. “Otherwise, the withdrawal will become just another instrument of America’s collective cynicism. And that truly dishonors the American warfighter.”
Associate Dean of Men, Jeffrey “Chief” Rogers served in the U.S. Navy for 26 years. Rogers noted that he was glad the fight stayed overseas.
“I will always support away games. I never, I repeat never, want to take the fight home,” he said. “Afghanistan in my humble opinion was a safety value to keep our eyes on the biggest threat to democracy around the world: radical Islamic extremists.”
Citizens at home, however, were still profoundly impacted by the effects of U.S. presence overseas. Rogers highlighted the importance of intentional prayer for servicemen and women and their families.
“I’m praying for the families whose sons and daughters paid another installment to democracy,” he said. “Unfortunately freedom and democracy are not free. It can ultimately cost the lives of those who love freedom. May God continue to bless the United States of America.”
Professor of Ancient History Kenneth Calvert participated in mission trips in Peshawar, Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. Calvert explained that Afghanistan has been caught in four decades of competing interests between Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China, and the United States, saying that the military’s retreat from the country was not necessary.
“There was a process in place involving NATO allies to make Afghanistan something akin to the Korean peninsula. Such a settlement is now impossible. The Afghan people, their culture and politics, will return to the ferocity of the 1990s,” Calvert said. “Daily reports tell of summary executions and the reestablishment of a strict Sharia law. Waves of refugees are again fleeing into Pakistan. The Afghan people need our prayers and what support we can provide.”