Texas veterans of the war in Afghanistan hope a treaty between the U.S. and the Taliban will end two decades of fighting and bring a sense of closure. But they have doubts about whether the peace will last and whether the progress made in recent years to improve the lives of Afghan women will hold.
San Antonio is known as Military City USA for its Air Force and Army installations and its population of active and retired military.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is home to many veterans of the war in Afghanistan, who either attend classes or work there.
Daniel Hendley works at the university’s Center for Military Affiliated Students. But for much of 2012 and 2013, he was an Air Force staff sergeant, working in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Afghanistan. He supports the treaty.
“I desperately hope it works. … I’ve lost people either from things they dealt with over there or directly in fighting or through other circumstances. Not everybody gets to come home from over there,” he said.
The treaty calls for the U.S. to depart the country during an 18-month drawdown of troops. In return, the Taliban are expected to prevent the country from becoming a haven for international terrrorism.
The Taliban are also expected to enter peace talks with the Afghan government as part of the deal.
Matt Walker is a UTSA student and in 2008 was a marine in Afghanistan taking part in the build-up before the surge in Helmand Province. Based on past experience, he’s not sure the Taliban can be trusted to uphold their end of the treaty.
“I definitely want Afghanistan to end well. If it does, then yes, it does bring closure. I’ve lost a lot of friends and gone through a lot as well, but...I’m hopeful that it does happen. But history kind of tells the tale,” he said.
Johnny Macias is a student at UTSA, but he spent some time after 9/11 as an Air Force Tech Sergeant working on KC-135s in support of operations in Afghanistan. He said the proposed treaty offers a new approach to conclude the war.
“I’m sure there’s doubts across the board, and I’m sure there’s people who are truly in support of this,” he said. “I believe quite honestly that our approach does need to change. You know we’ve been doing this for quite some time, ever since the Bush administration.”
April Flores works at the school’s Center for Military Affiliated Students. During much of 2011 and 2012, she served in the U.S. Army as a convoy security gunner. Like the other veterans, she is hopeful for the end of the war. But she does not see lasting peace..
“It may die down for a bit, but I believe that they are just going to go back to their old ways,” she said. “I had a friend who was one of our medics and actually from Afghanistan and what he told us then — this is back in 2012, so things may have changed by now — but he says that they have been fighting the same battle for the past two-thousand years and nothing is going to change.”
All four veterans, including Flores, said they believe the treaty should have some protections for women, which it currently lacks.
“They certainly do need more rights,” Flores said. “They usually are at the bottom of the totem pole. Even women who get raped there, by either Taliban or just random people, a lot of the times they’re often … they’re disgraced at this point even though it wasn’t their fault. But they have to take care of a child and a lot of them are just homeless on the side of the road.”
Over the past couple of decades of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, women in parts of the country have returned to work and school.
The four veterans believe women in areas under Taliban control should have the same rights.
The last Bush Administration even argued women rights was yet another reason to fight the Taliban.