US war veterans say America lost battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, wasted blood
Many US military veterans who fought in the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan have expressed disgust at American politicians who launched and supported the conflicts in those two nations, saying the US "lost the war" and the blood and money spent there was wasted.
"A hundred percent we lost the war," said Jason Lilley, a member of US special forces who fought in multiple battles in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The whole point was to get rid of the Taliban and we didn't do that. The Taliban will take over," Lilley, 41, said in an interview with Reuters.
Lilley was on the front lines of America's so-called “War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost 16 years, earning years of up-close experience of those devastating wars.
US President Joe Biden announced on July 8 that America's military campaign in Afghanistan will end on August 31. The White House said Biden made the decision after concluding it's an "unwinnable war" and one that "does not have a military solution."
The nearly 20-year conflict was America's longest war. It led to more than 3,500 US and allied military deaths, the deaths of more than 47,000 Afghan civilians, the killing of at least 66,000 Afghan troops, and over 2.7 million Afghans fleeing the county, according to the nonpartisan Costs of War project at Brown University.
"I don't think one life was worth it on both sides," Lilley said as he described his service and his perspective in the Reuters interview at his home near Los Angeles, California.
Lilley and other US veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and spoke with Reuters compared those wars with the conflict in Vietnam. They say both wars had no clear objective, multiple US presidents in charge, and a fierce adversary.
While in Afghanistan, Lilley said he grew to understand why historians have called it the "graveyard of empires."
Britain invaded Afghanistan twice in the 19th century and suffered one of its worst military defeats there in 1842. The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, leaving after 15,000 of its troops were killed and tens of thousands were wounded.
Another of Lilley's comrades is Tristan Wimmer, also a Marine scout sniper who fought in Ieaq and Afghanistan. Wimmer's brother Kiernan, also a Marine veteran, died by suicide in 2015 after receiving a traumatic brain injury in Iraq before deploying to Afghanistan.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimated in 2012 that 22 US war veterans die by suicide each day.
Wimmer said of Afghanistan: "By any metric you choose to measure it, it was a fruitless effort. Getting rid of al Qaeda or the Taliban - we didn't succeed. Increased peace and prosperity for the Afghan people? We didn't succeed."
"In the process we sacrificed a lot of wealth, we sacrificed a lot of time, we sacrificed a lot of lives, not just American lives, but coalition lives and especially Afghan lives, to walk away essentially having accomplished not a lot. That's a really hard thing to stomach."