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Other voices: ‘Marines don’t cut and run’

PA state senator offers prospective

By Devlin Robinson

Watching as Afghanis clung to the sides of American transports during takeoff only to plummet to their deaths as their allies flew off, is a spectacle beyond bearing.

I once fought on the very ground their falling bodies struck. I fought in Afghanistan and many of my comrades did not return.

We went there with a simple task: Oust a terrorist regime and deliver the country from the grip of extremist zealots.

We fought with the certainty that our sacrifice would bring a flourishing democracy to a people who had endured oppression by the Soviets and, later, by religious extremists with neither conscience nor imagination.

Marines don’t cut and run. That’s what sickens me the most about the administration’s decision not only to abandon the people of Afghanistan, but to do so in a way that sinks to the level of criminal incompetence.

Joe Biden might blame his predecessor, but Biden is president and he was the president who made the final decision to flee Afghanistan and leave its people in the hands of a regime so vicious that its very name — Taliban — has become a synonym for evil and oppression.

To understand what I fear for the Afghani people, you need to consider their condition when I first deployed there.

My Marine unit was sent to Kunar, a province along the Pakistan-Afghan border. It was a center of drug trade, warlords and endemic corruption. The region accounted for 60 percent of casualties in Afghanistan.

Our mission was to secure the province in anticipation of a national election intended to transform Afghanistan into a democracy.

Part of that work involved cautious meetings with tribal elders. Another part was helping sick children with bellies so distended we could feel the worms moving around just by pressing on them.

Then we would make a circuitous route back to our base, avoiding the one we took in for fear of improvised roadside bombs. This was the condition of a people after decades of rule by thugs and ideologues.

When my deployment wrapped up at the end of June, members of my unit returned home and went their many ways. Some of us, me included, were redeployed to Fallujah in Iraq.

While there, I learned that Hamid Karzai had become the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan, leading a field of 23 contenders.

When I dug deeper, I was grateful to know he’d carried Kunar, the place my unit had met with the elders and treated their youngsters.

Then, with many of my fellow veterans, I watched in despair as Afghanistan devolved into a maze of corruption and self-dealing. Drug kings flourished.

No one can know how our continued presence might have shaped a nation that has been a battleground since the days of Alexander the Great.

What we provided to the people of Afghanistan was not perfect by any means, but the vision of those men clinging to the side of a U.S. transport plane tells me they preferred to risk death than return to a land governed by the Taliban.

The men and women with whom I served kept their word and, whatever the outcome now, their honor is intact.

The people of Afghanistan now run a gauntlet of thugs on the road to the airport, fleeing their homeland.

Our shame is that we gave them no other option.

State Senator Devlin Robinson (D-37th) is a Marine veteran of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. His district includes portions of Allegheny and Washington counties.

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