The Afghanistan Disaster Through Young Eyes

September 8, 2021 Updated: September 8, 2021


As a Generation Z journalist, I’m one of the few in the industry who can’t remember 9/11. Therefore, my perspective on the Afghanistan disaster differs from most voices in the media.

Though I’m too young to recall the attack on the World Trade Center, I have felt its impact. Like any other American, I’ve lived with its legacies, from airport security to suspicion and division. Perhaps most profound of all: the sense that the security of America—and our cushy lives here—are not, in fact, guaranteed.

I grew up in the tristate area, so 9/11 hit close to home, both literally and figuratively. I know families who lost their loved ones. My own mother, even, worked in the World Trade Center a few years before the attack. And, living in New York today, the tower’s glaring absence is there whenever I look southward. Certainly, then, the justification for war in Afghanistan is more than understandable.

But the fight has dragged on for the vast majority of my life, rendering it merely a fact of life. It was rarely reported in the news—and rarely considered by me. After 20 years, suggestions to pull out sounded more than reasonable. That’s why I joined the nearly three-quarters of Americans who supported withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. After all, it’s one of the few things that both Trump and Biden can agree on.

Over the course of my life, the goalposts of the war on terror shifted so dramatically that our purpose for remaining there indefinitely felt unclear, as did our justification for risking the lives of our sons and daughters deployed there. Above all, I had faith in my nation’s ability to execute this withdrawal properly.

But what transpired in carrying out the common will of the American people horrified me. From planning to execution to the fallout now, the withdrawal of our troops has been grotesquely mismanaged in virtually every conceivable way.

The speed of Afghanistan’s collapse at the feet of the Taliban revealed just how delicate the veneer of peace really was. It also demonstrated that the fight for freedom can only be waged by the will of the people, not by interventionist weapons and force. A general failure to fortify our allies in Afghanistan with the strength and strategy to exist independently was staggering.

But even more obvious is the utter lack of basic planning. With no good reason, we have left behind not only our equipment but also our allies and our citizens to the Taliban. Whether a result of gross negligence or an overeagerness for good optics on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, watching our botched withdrawal has been nothing short of horrifying to me as a young American.

My heart aches for those in Afghanistan, suffering on account of my nation’s mistakes. I worry for the Americans still stranded, who have been totally abandoned. Their mistreatment denigrates the very sanctity of American citizenship. I, too, worry for the women of Afghanistan who are totally helpless, their liberties stripped and their schools shut down. They have been left at the mercy of extremists and ideologues intent on repressing them.

I’m concerned for the young people in the country who, like me, also can’t remember a time before the American forces arrived in Afghanistan. The median age in the nation is a shocking 18.4 years. The majority of its citizens, therefore, are entirely unprepared for their new lives.

I also think of the Afghans who believe in liberty, some of the bravest of whom no doubt are the translators who helped American forces. They knew the risk of doing so but chose to trust the Americans, aligning themselves with our mission of freedom and holding onto the faith that it will come for them. Now, they’ve been left to their own devices, relabeled as traitors in their own homes, and abandoned by their supposed saviors.

My worries are domestic, too. Perhaps the most obvious concern is security, particularly as a resident of New York City. Despite 20 years of investment, I can’t help but wonder if we even slightly mitigated the threat we set out to quash in Afghanistan. The same forces who terrorized us before have risen back to power. Are we not now just as much of a target? Are we not projecting our weakness?

And what of our allies? In Afghanistan we left them defenseless, with none of our promises kept. Why would they trust us again? And why would other foreign allies take our word? Will they be at our side in our times of need? As a member of Generation Z, these concerns are heightened. I hope I have a long life ahead of me, but what will the legacy of this disaster be? How will it impact my nation’s prestige? My nation’s security? Its longevity?

We need accountability. We need answers. These are questions I hope all my peers—my fellow inheritors of this nation—are asking, too. They are questions I hope every parent and grandparent is asking for the sake of their progeny. And, most importantly of all, these are questions that I hope are keeping our leaders up at night.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Rikki Schlott is a writer and student based in New York City. As a young free speech activist, her writing chronicles the rise of illiberalism from a Generation Z perspective. Schlott also works for "The Megyn Kelly Show" and has been published by The Daily Wire and The Conservative Review.