The last couple of weeks have been full of coverage and commentary about the U.S. military leaving Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and the nearly complete withdrawal of American troops. Our time in Afghanistan is indeed coming to an end. Perhaps just about every single news media outlet has published or shared some article or thoughts about this withdrawal. How come these events are so significant?

SOF Humvee along the Helmand River in Afghanistan
A SOF Humvee along the Helmand River after a multi-day campaign to push Taliban and other Jihadist forces out of an Afghan village in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. (Courtesy of author)

A Bitter-sweet Event and a Confusing Sentiment

For many people, like myself, this is an extremely bitter-sweet event for many reasons. Having served in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army, I still miss it, after many years. I have come to the conclusion that I will always miss it. There will always be a huge sense of frustration, romanticism, and nostalgia about Afghanistan.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s acclaimed Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now, Charlie Sheen plays U.S. Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard. At the beginning of the movie, just as he is about to return to Vietnam for a special mission, his thoughts summarize this seemingly impossible irony quite perfectly: “When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle.”

Now, of course, we can replace “jungle” with “the most beautiful, desolate, remote, backward, primitive, mountainous desert in the world.”