After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, the United States is withdrawing all military forces and contractors in the coming weeks — bringing to an end its involvement in a conflict in which nearly 800,000 service members, and countless contractors, served.
During those years, the strategy for securing the country and installing a stable and lasting democracy shifted, expanded, pivoted and shrank as new military and civilian leaders came in, scrapping their predecessors’ plans and carrying out something entirely new. This happened so frequently that the war could in same ways be explained as 20 different conflicts, restarted year after year, instead of one cohesive mission.
But connecting each of these shifts in leadership and objective were the servicemen and women deployed across the country to carry out those plans. They built roads, trained Afghan security forces, defended territory, carried out night raids, worked with women and children, fought against the Taliban and then the Islamic State. Some people deployed to Afghanistan four, five, six times — each to a slightly different version of the war. Some never made it home. Since 2001, more than 2,300 service members have died in Afghanistan and more than 20,000 have been wounded.
The Times is asking service members and veterans who served in Afghanistan in the past 20 years to share your experiences while deployed and how they affected your life when you returned home. We would also like to hear your feelings about the final withdrawal. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be sharing some of these submissions with our readers, alongside our continued coverage of the U.S. pullout.
We won’t publish any part of your submission without contacting you first.