Afghan War Veterans, Gold Star Families Asking, 'Did This Sacrifice Matter?'

( – “We might be done with Afghanistan, but it’s not done with us,” Lt. Colonel David Scott Mann (Ret.) told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, at a hearing examining the Biden administration’s disastrous departure from Afghanistan.

“America is building a nasty reputation for multi-generational, systemic abandonment of our allies that we leave as smoldering human wreckage from the Montagnards of Vietnam to the Kurds in Syria,” Mann said in his opening statement to the committee.

Mann addressed the “moral injury” suffered by U.S. troops, Gold Star families and other military families who sacrificed so much, only to see the war end the way it did, with their Afghan allies abandoned:

“A moral injury is an injury to the soul,” Mann said. “A violation of what we know to be right by leaders whom we trusted.”

He said the moral injury has been inflicted on veterans and military families, especially Gold Star families, who are now trying to figure out, “what was this all about? Did this sacrifice matter?”


Mann said the only way to move from “moral injury” to “moral recovery” is for leaders, from the commander-in-chief on down the ranks, to “step forward…and take responsibility for what happened.”

Mann admitted that he made “tons of mistakes” in Afghanistan “that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.”

“There’s some folks that are not here because of some of the mistakes I made,” he said.

In his written statement, Mann talked about broken promises:

“There is a promise in the military, certainly in special operations, that is both explicit and implicit: ‘I have your back.’ We were trained that way. In a 20-year war, we were held to a standard that you don’t leave a partner force hanging.

“And then the very leaders who held us to that standard went silent while our partners were abandoned and, in many cases, killed in cold blood. I never in my adult life thought I would see this kind of gross abandonment followed by career-preserving silence of senior leaders, including military senior leaders.”

Mann said in August 2021, the U.S. government “walked away from our Afghan allies with no warning, men and women who fought alongside us for 20 years. But our veterans did not walk away. And they will not.”

Mann is the founder of Task Force Pineapple, a group formed to rescue hundreds of Afghan special operators and American citizens left behind.

“Relinquishing Afghanistan back into the hands of 20 other violent extremist groups undoes the intelligence and partner capacity we fought for, and it takes us back to pre-9/11 vulnerability. Every veteran knows it, even if no one in our government understands it,” he said.

Mann said the wounds of the U.S. withdrawal “run deep.”

“In fact, 73 percent of Afghan war veterans feel betrayed, and 67 percent feel humiliated. Reporting also indicates a 81 percent increase in calls to the VA hotline,” he said.

Mann said 22 veterans commit suicide every day, “and that number is growing.”

“We are on the front end of a national security crisis and veteran mental health tsunami, and our veterans know it. This is not a Democrat issue. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s an American issue.

Mann urged Congress to “set politics aside” and do the following:

— determine accountability for the abandonment of U.S. allies;

— put measures in place to prevent it from happening again;

— encourage political and military leaders to address the “moral injury and mental health challenges manifesting in our active duty and veteran communities”;

— overhaul State Department policies for providing safe passage to at-risk Afghan allies who are being hunted.


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