PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While watching the footage coming out of Kabul Thursday, R.I. Chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Dora Vasquez-Hellner checked in on other local veterans.
The planned attacks at Kabul’s airport killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 Americans, marking the deadliest day for U.S. troops stationed there in more than a decade.
“At this point, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that have been woken up,” Vasquez-Hellner said. “It’s not an easy item to process, and so because of that, it’s great that we have each other that we can lean on to have these conversations.”
Vasquez-Hellner served in the U.S. Army for 23 years as a Spanish interrogator and paratrooper. She said she’s struggling to comprehend what has unfolded overseas in recent months.
“I’m having a lot of difficulty digesting the turn of events in Afghanistan,” she said. “But what is helping me is having these conversations with all of my fellow veterans.”
Vasquez-Hellner believes in leaving the politics to the politicians, but agrees with a letter sent Thursday by National Commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Fritz Mihelcic.
“How is it that we placed our trust, the security of our operations and the lives of our nation’s sons and daughters in the hands of the violent extremists we have been fighting against for the past 20 years?” the letter reads. “The time for Congress to act, and act decisively, is now.”
“I stand by [Mihelcic’s words] 100%,” Vasquez-Hellner said.
Rep. Jake Auchincloss served in Afghanistan in 2012 with the U.S. Marines. He believes the original mission there was successful, but that over time, it mutated into a counter insurgency.
That’s why he agrees with President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops.
“In situation room after situation room, people were saying more time, more troops, more treasure – we can fix this,” Auchincloss said during a recent interview on Newsmakers. “President Biden finally said ‘no, we can’t. We’re leaving.'”
He also thinks terrorists are looking to use the photos and videos coming out of Kabul as a tool for a bigger strike on U.S. soil.
“They are looking for a propaganda cue with images like this to recruit new terrorists and to build momentum for strikes even closer to home,” he said. “We need to strike and strike hard against threats like this.”
Vasquez-Hellner said the National Veterans of Foreign Wars is calling upon Auchincloss and other lawmakers to investigate the coordinated attacks and deliver swift answers to the public.