Rockford veteran worries for Afghan allies left behind as Taliban overrun the country

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — “It does feel like a slap in the face,” said Rockford veteran Larry Eissler, who has watched the events unfolding in Afghanistan with frustration, saying he and other veterans feel their sacrifices were for nothing.

Two weeks prior to the date the U.S. was scheduled to withdraw all its troops from the country, a re-energized Taliban routed Afghan security forces and took control of the country.

“Many people are upset, that a lot of us made sacrifices. We lost dozens and dozens of people, now for nothing,” Eissler said Monday.

He went on to say that he feel bad for the Afghan people who helped the U.S. and Coalition troops during the conflict.

“[You work] extensively with a handful of interpreters, and when you’re there for a year and see these guys every day, you become friends with them,” he said. “There was one [guy there] all the time, and when I deployed, my son was just born, so he and I just kind of bonded over that. We both had really young kids. And you feel bad. You feel horrible.”

Ches Thurber, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northern Illinois University, said, “The risk of reprisal violence [is high] as the Taliban may likely seek to target those who it sees as collaborators over the past 20 years.”

Thurber said he believes the U.S. should stay to help.

“We have a pretty strong moral obligation to repay the favor that many Afghans paid to us over the last several decades, of putting their lives at risk, working for us as interpreters, in many different capacities. They had out backs, now it’s time for us to have their backs.” Thurber said.

President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan a day after the Taliban took control of the country.

Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision, but acknowledged the Taliban took control “more quickly than we anticipated.”

At least 6,000 troops have been sent to Kabul to protect the evacuation of Americans and their diplomatic allies, as well as some Afghan civilians. Biden said 2,000 Afghans and their families had moved to the U.S. since July, and the number could have been higher if more were willing to leave their country at the time.

Eissler said he’s hoping for the best.

“When you go to war…you like to have as many options as you can,” he explained. “In case Plan A fails. you have Plan B. We’re on Plan Z now, and Plan Z is to get everyone out that you can, and hope for the best.”

Eissler says local residents should check in on veterans who served during Afghanistan to see how the recent events have impacted their mental well-being.

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