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Reflections on U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan

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It was about to worsen.

Many of the embassy’s staff left Afghanistan that night or early the following day. But Mr. Wilson and about 30 other American diplomats stayed on for 2 more weeks, trying to search out and evacuate other U.S. residents and everlasting residents, and foreign allies, among the many tens of 1000’s of panicked Afghans just outside the airport, begging to be rescued.

“They’re having to make selections: ‘Yes, you’ll be able to are available in,’ or ‘No sir, you’ll be able to’t,’” Mr. Wilson recalled of the diplomats’ work on the airport gate during 12-hour shifts, amid gunfire and explosions, and against the constant roar of the gang. “And you realize, that’s really hard.”

“Nobody who wasn’t on the market really can imagine how awful it was,” he said.

Mr. Wilson was among the many 4 last diplomats to go away Kabul, departing on the ultimate American military plane that flew out shortly before midnight on Aug. 30. The flight headed to Doha, Qatar, where he was taken to a military hospital for tests and was told he had the coronavirus. Few people wore masks throughout the long and devastating days on the Kabul airport, but Mr. Wilson had assumed the fatigue and other symptoms he had been experiencing were the results of working 20-hour days for five straight weeks.

He flew to his home outside Minneapolis to isolate and formally resigned his post at the tip of September. That part had all the time been the plan: Mr. Wilson had retired from the Foreign Service in 2008 after a 30-year profession as a diplomat. But he had never served in Afghanistan before he was asked, to his surprise, to fill in because the chargé d’affaires in January 2020 while the Trump administration and Congress fought over who to send as a everlasting ambassador.

“To be honest, my response was, they ought to be asking other individuals who had served there,” Mr. Wilson said. But once asked, “it was my duty to do it.”

Nearly a 12 months later, Mr. Wilson stays in contact with American diplomats who were with him throughout the final weeks in Kabul, lots of whom he said were still shaken. The brutal memories have, in some cases, overshadowed the silver lining of an evacuation mission that spirited greater than 124,000 people from Afghanistan.

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