Veteran reflects on US withdrawal from Afghanistan


Following the final U.S. departure from Afghanistan after two decades of war, Jack Miller, a faculty member at the School of Communication and Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan, reflects on the crisis there.

As Jack Miller watched the rapid collapse of Afghanistan unfold recently – including the striking video of Afghans clinging to a departing US military transport plane – his phone began to vibrate with messages from his Afghan friends and their families, most of whom he met while serving in Afghanistan is in desperate need of help.

“People started sending me messages that they were hiding from the Taliban, begging my help. Watching this flight take off struck a chord. It was heartbreaking, ”said Miller, an assistant professor of professional practice at the University of Miami’s School of Communication, who flew two missions to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.“ I lost friends there. I had an extreme flood of emotions watching it happen.

Miller was a public relations officer in the US Air Force from 1992 to 2014. While in Afghanistan, he served as an advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Afghan ministers during the largest US troop deployments of the war. But as part of his role, Miller also worked closely with interpreters and Afghan civilians. 20 years of military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The evacuation came as President Joe Biden warned that staying longer in the besieged country carries serious risks for foreign troops and civilians.

Jack Miller pictured on the western outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2009.

Like others, Miller is worried about the rapid fall of the previous Democratic government and fears the fate of the remaining Afghan civilians.

After returning from his last tour of Afghanistan, Miller served under the US Secretary of Defense as an adviser on Middle East policy in 2011. He now sees similarities in how the United States left l Afghanistan and the way the troops withdrew from Iraq.

“When we left Iraq without a status of forces agreement, we handed them everything we had,” Miller said. “We were at the mercy of Iraq, and we created what is called a power vacuum. Without a US military presence, Miller added, the withdrawal gave impetus to the rapid rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS.

Now that US troops have left Afghanistan on Monday, Miller is worried about the rise of Islamic State Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, a regional affiliate of the Islamic State. The attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday killed 13 U.S. servicemen and at least 170 others. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack.

The most recent bombing left Miller in anguish, describing the attack as inexcusable and utterly devastating to the US military and citizens. Still, he thinks US troops should “keep their heads up.”

“It’s incredibly unfortunate for all of us,” he said. “A lot of young men and women have been there and, like me, have lost friends,” he said. “They gave their lives, their limbs, in some cases their mental stability. But they did exactly what their leaders told them to do, and they gave all they could. “

In addition to his role at the School of Communication, Miller is an advisor to the Veteran Students Organization (VSO).

Zachary Danney, a senior student in human resources management, served as a sergeant in the US Marine Corps from 2013 to 2018 before enrolling in college. Now he advocates for veteran students on campus as president of the VSO.

Danney, who has never been deployed to the region, said watching the crisis in Afghanistan, especially for veteran students who served in Afghanistan, has been incredibly difficult. He hopes he can help campus veterans overcome the unique challenges they face while attending college.

“The veteran student organization serves not only as a space for military-related students to socialize and connect, but also as a resource for these students to navigate these challenges inside and out. outside the classroom, ”he said. “We are committed to inclusion and community because we are made up of veterans, civilians who have compassion for veterans, active duty members, reservists and more.”

Danney and Miller have both expressed support for troops and veterans who may feel helpless.

“They should be proud of what they have accomplished as military personnel in Afghanistan and what they have done for the Afghan people,” Miller added. “I could see where some veterans feel helpless, but I think veterans can be very strong and can persevere. I hope they understand that what has happened in Afghanistan in recent weeks is not in their image.

For more information on veterans resources on campus, visit Veterans Services. To learn more about the Veteran Student Organization, follow them on their Instagram pages.

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