Remembering Afghanistan: 1 year after U.S. withdrawal, reflections on what it all meant

There are certain moments stuck in our memories like pages in a history book.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 1:00 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It was a war that ended in chaos.

It cost American lives and many U.S. allies were left behind to fend for themselves. One year since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, what did it all mean for those forced to leave and those who chose to serve?

Was it worth it?

In the words of Marine Corps veteran, Garrett Carnes, who lost his leg in an IED explosion, “none of what we did over there - what we lost over there - will be in vain by any means.”

There are certain moments stuck in our memories like pages in a history book.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the morning of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the conclusion of a U.S. conflict lasting 20 years in a country on the other side of the world.

After two decades of victory and loss, America’s longest conflict in Afghanistan ended on a somber note. President Joe Biden’s decision to pull American troops by the end of August 2021 sparked widespread panic.

What followed was a nation in chaos.

The Taliban quickly regained power over the country. Thousands of Afghans desperate to escape looked to the U.S. for help.

Americans and our Afghan allies were locked in a race against time. The final chapter of Afghanistan was a botched evacuation that cost 13 U.S. service members their lives.

We watched powerful images unfold on our television screens.

Thousands of civilians gathered in the heat and chaos at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in an attempt to escape the country. Babies were hoisted by soldiers above the barbed wire. Desperate civilians clung to a moving aircraft before inevitably falling to their deaths.

Thousands got out, but many U.S. allies were left behind.

One year later, Afghanistan remains internationally isolated. Under Taliban rule, women remain removed from the public. The economy is in chaos and famine has brought families to the brink of starvation.

In a special edition of ‘On Your Side Tonight’, “Afghanistan: 1 Year Later” brings us a glimpse into the lives of the stories forever changed by war.

Related: Young girl who fled Afghanistan last summer wins first-grade award

We heard from veterans, a Gold Star widow, political leaders, Afghan interpreters now trying to find new lives for their families here in America, and a young Afghan with a prominent life in Kabul. He shared the story of his escape from the country with the danger of the Taliban looming.

“It’s never easy, leaving your country, your hometown where you grew up, and you have a lot of memories are leaving back your beloved ones.”

We also spoke to a Charlotte woman on a mission to help our Afghan allies who risked their lives to help U.S. troops who were left behind.

She spoke to our chief investigative reporter, Nick Ochsner, who lost his own father while serving in Afghanistan.

“We’re not going to have the same level of trust with allies in future conflicts because we’ve not only just completely broken, but we abandoned our moral obligation to our wartime allies,” said Sarah Verardo, a national advocate for wounded veterans and their caregivers.

Afghanistan holds different memories and emotions for everyone.

The stories of the war and withdrawal continue long after the final U.S. aircraft left the dust of Kabul and vanished into the sky.