Another 1,000 82nd Airborne troops heading to Kabul to assist in evacuations, U.S. officials say

Michael Perchick Image
Monday, August 16, 2021
Another 1,000 82nd Airborne troops heading to Kabul, officials say
As the US attempts to wind down its military presence in Afghanistan, veterans who served in the country are reacting to the Taliban seizing control of several regions and now the Presidential Palace.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- Another 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne -- based at Fort Bragg -- have been ordered to head directly to Afghanistan's capital of Kabul instead of Kuwait to assist in evacuations of U.S. personnel and Afghans who assisted in the U.S. mission, a U.S. official told ABC News.

In total, that means 2,000 of the 6,000 soldiers heading back to Afghanistan hail from the 82nd Airborne Division.

ABC News reports the increase of service members to Kabul follows Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command, met with representatives of the Taliban to tell them not to interfere with the US mission at the airport. The US is sending 6,000 troops to Afghanistan to help facilitate this process, a figure which includes redirecting 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kabul; those soldiers were originally set to head to Kuwait.

"We're focused on the mission. We are flowing forces in and protecting our operations and our people and that is what Secretary Austin made clear to commanders today. We are mindful of the security environment and we're focused on the mission," a spokesman for the Pentagon said.

As the US attempts to wind down its military presence in Afghanistan, veterans who served in the country are reacting to the Taliban seizing control of several regions and now the Presidential Palace.

"I'm pretty heartsick by the whole thing. I mean obviously, I know a lot of those Afghan soldiers, police that have given their lives and that have fought in this war. And it's just sad to see it happen. I'm not sure that at this circumstance there's much we can do about it other than get our people out," said Retired Lt. General Daniel Bolger, who served as Commander of the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013.

Bolger is now a military history professor at NC State and has been closely following the developments over the past week.

"It's just horrible to see this. And I do fear for the good people of Afghanistan which is the vast majority, the half of the country that's women are going to be put back in the Middle Ages. No school, not much of a life. And I hate to see that," said Bolger.

US and Allied presence in the region led to increased educational and professional opportunities for girls and women, and fears persist those gains will quickly be erased as the Taliban gains control.

"Once (the US) made the decision to pull out it sucked the air out of the balloon that was the Afghan government and the Afghan security forces. They felt that no one had their back, and they quickly collapsed," said Bolger.

The focus now is on safely removing remaining US personnel, citizens, and Afghans who assisted the military. Part of that latter group includes interpreters.

"They were pretty vital. Without them, we couldn't get anything done basically," said Emanuel Munguia, who served in Afghanistan and now lives in Fayetteville.

Munguia relayed the story of one interpreter he worked closely with.

"He was able to build that trust. He could, when we're doing interviews or doing key leader engagements with others, he could tell right off the bat if this person was Taliban or not," Munguia said.

Munguia said the interpreter was able to get out of the country, though he still has family that remains.

"He is genuinely concerned," said Munguia.

Munguia is fearful for the fate of those interpreters, as the Special Immigration Visa Process for Afghans is arduous, especially in a country with limited technological means.

"We owe it to our people that are there, our diplomats, our other American citizens. Get them out. And hopefully, as many of the Afghans who worked with us as we can. We'll see how that develops. That's going to play out over the next few weeks. And I don't know the results of that. I know that it's a dangerous mission, and I sure don't trust the Taliban. Any deals they made, anything they signed is not worth the paper it's written on," said Bolger.