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Kansas City Veterans Concerned For Their Afghan Allies

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A closeup of Jason Kander with a black T-shirt standing next to a grey wall with a slight smile on his face.
Luke X. Martin
/
KCUR
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander served in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer.

The Taliban takeover of the Afghanistan government is putting the lives of thousands who worked for the U.S. at greater risk.

The reactions of Americans to the conclusion of the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan include shock and outrage.

But for some military veterans and contractors who were stationed in the country, there is also worry for the Afghans who worked with them. Three of these men offer their thoughts on the withdrawal of U.S. forces and its effects.

"I've been thinking about them a lot," said Army veteran Jason Kander, "I'm really worried about them and it's a real helpless feeling." While some of the translators Kander worked with are now in the United States "I spent time with Afghan soldiers . . . who I saw nearly every day who I don't know what their fate will be."

Veteran Will Akin worked as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan training members of the Afghan National Police. "I think about all the Afghans I worked with . . . especially my female counterparts when I worked with the Family Response Unit," Akin recalled, "because during my experience I saw that the value of a female in Afghanistan was very little . . . I just hate to even imagine what their future is going to look like."

Retired Army Master Sergeant Brian Huey was engaged directly with the Afghan army for nine months, interacting daily with an Afghan major, a noncommissioned officer and an interpreter. He remembers the interpreter telling him he would change buses four times going to and from the base to avoid the Taliban discovering the work he was doing. Of those three Huey said, "I often wondered what happened to them after I left."

When it comes to those left behind to face the Taliban regime Huey is critical of the United States' exit strategy saying, "A lot of people put their lives on the line to work with the U.S. We could have given them a heads up and worked the visa process well in advance."

Of the bus-changing interpreter Huey explained he "was working a visa back in 2010 and was trying to get references so he could come to the United States even 10 years ago because he was afraid of the collapse that would eventually take place." Brian Huey doesn't know if the interpreter ever made it to America.

  • Jason Kander, president, Veterans Community Project
  • Will Akin, sheriff, Clay County
  • Brian Huey, commander, VFW Post 111, Kansas City, Kansas
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
Chris Young is an Assistant Producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact him at chrisy@kcur.org.