- The United States withdrew from Afghanistan about a year ago after the Taliban regained control.
- Last year, Matt Zeller, a war veteran and former CIA analyst, described his frustration and pain during the withdrawal.
- On Thursday Zeller said it’s “a shame that people only seem to care when it’s around a calendar anniversary.”
A former CIA analyst and war veteran said the effort to save people in Afghanistan is an ongoing struggle — not something that should only be considered important around the one-year anniversary of the US withdrawal.
Matt Zeller — co-founder of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping American translators and workers in Iraq and Afghanistan — told Insider last year that it was impossible for anyone to leave Afghanistan after the war ended.
“It’s over. We can’t get people out,” Zeller said on Aug. 25, 2021, a day before a suicide bomber killed more than 170 people at Kabul airport and five days before the U.S. military formally completed its withdrawal. from the country on August 30.
“My heart aches for these wonderful people,” he added last year.
Zeller served in Afghanistan in 2008 as an integrated combat advisor. Since his time in the military, he has become an advocate for current and former service members and is the author of Watches Without Time: An American Soldier in Afghanistan.
When asked Thursday about his main space a year after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said not much has changed.
“I’m exactly where I was a year ago,” Zeller told Insider. Trying to get these people out has been living this as our daily existence for the last year.”
Zeller — chairman of the advisory board for the Wartime Allies Association, an organization that helps refugees and allies — said he hasn’t been able to get a single person out of Afghanistan in the past year.
“It’s good that you all are checking in, seeing how we’re doing, but this is still a very ongoing mission. And it’s just a shame that people only seem to care when it’s around a calendar anniversary,” the Army veteran said. . .
Throughout the war, 2,448 US service members, approximately 66,000 Afghan National Army and Police officers, and over 47,000 Afghan civilians died, according to Brown University’s Costs of War project.
The US evacuated about 124,000 individuals during the withdrawal last August. Since then, the Biden administration has evacuated 800 American citizens from the country, Politico reported earlier this month, citing House and State Department investigators.
The New York Times reported last year that thousands of Afghan nationals who helped the US government during the 20-year war were seeking asylum.
Zeller said they still need help getting out.
Although Biden has called the recall a “tremendous success,” he faced heavy criticism for the recall from members of both parties.
“The guy in charge seems to have washed his hands of the whole situation and wants to move on from something that happened last year. And it’s a shame,” Zeller said of Biden, adding that helping people stuck in Afghanistan. “it would take this administration to actually care.”
The Taliban’s current control of Afghanistan is marked by reports of executions, amputations and abuse of women – reminiscent of its oppressive regime from 1996 to 2001, despite promises of moderate rule.
“It’s very difficult to stand out in this world when there are so many other problems demanding our attention,” Zeller said.
“I think this is a life lesson for all of us: we cannot abandon issues because they become difficult or because we don’t like the results,” he added. “We have to see commitments through to the end. Otherwise, in this case, people literally die.”