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FBI trainer from SLC reflects on his time in Afghanistan and its future

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)

SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty years of sacrifice, blood and treasure lost in a weekend. And just like that, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan.

According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan from October 2001 until September 2019 had reached $778 billion.

The Associated Press picks up the coverage:

President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials were stunned by the pace of the Taliban’s nearly complete takeover of Afghanistan during the weekend, as the planned withdrawal of US forces turned deadly at Kabul’s airport Monday as thousands tried to flee the country. Senior U.S. military officials said the chaos at the airport left seven people dead, including some who fell from a departing American military transport jet. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Retired Salt Lake City FBI supervisor Karl Schmae, who was deployed to Afghanistan, joined Dave & Dujanovic on KSL NewsRadio Monday to discuss the precipitous collapse of the country and what he sees as its future.

Gone in a blink

“This is incredibly sad for the country, for the people of Afghanistan that are being left behind,” Schmae said. “I think it’s a disaster for the US. We spent so much money, we had so many lives of US servicemen given, including from Utah. It’s just a shame that it came to this so quickly.”

Schmae said he was deployed to a base outside Kabul, the capital, about 10 years ago. He said in the relative security of the Green Zone where the US Embassy is located it was still dangerous because of so-called green-on-blue attacks where Afghans being trained by the US military were shooting their American trainers.

Schmae added that he worked with Afghans who were patriotic and grateful the US military was helping secure their country.

“But by the same token, there was this other element, the Taliban out there, that definitely wanted the US out of there,” he said.

Safe haven again for terrorists?

Al-Qaeda, a militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, which had its headquarters in Afghanistan, attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. Two hijacked passenger airplanes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; a third plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C.

Schmae said he doesn’t think the Taliban has changed during the past 20 years. 

“They haven’t changed their stripes, so I think we’re gonna have to really monitor to see what happens going forward. Do they allow foreign fighters to come in and start setting up bases again?” he said.

What future do Afghan women and girls have?

After the US military toppled the Taliban regime early in the war, women could leave the house, work jobs, and girls could attend school, Schmae said. 

“That’s all going to go by the wayside because the Taliban believe in a very strict interpretation of Islamic law — Sharia law — and they’re going to want women to be covered in full burqas. It’s going to revert back to the dark ages for women,” he said. 

Listen to Dave & Dujanovic weekdays nine to noon on KSL.