LOCKWOOD — It’s been eight years since Jessica Stiles was in Afghanistan doing detainee operations at the prison on Bagram Air Base. It’s a time she still sometimes lives with.
“I get night terrors and had a hard time adjusting at first,” the Lockwood resident said this week.
Stiles is one of the thousands of Montanans who served in the Afghanistan War, the longest war in United States history. “It was certainly an experience that I will never forget,” she says.
She says it was difficult watching scenes that played out this week of the United States leaving and the Taliban quickly taking over the country.
“Initially, I was pretty upset because there was a lot of hard work that we put in for 20 years that went down the drain pretty damn quick, but now that I’ve actually thought about it, it’s not really on the United States' shoulders. In fact, we have been training them for 20 years to take over and care for their own country,” she says.
Stiles says didn’t expect the Afghan government to fall as quickly—and is left to wonder how it could have happened.
“It might be that they might be afraid of what the Taliban will do or they don’t have faith in their government, maybe” she says.
Stiles believes pulling out of Afghanistan in slower stages might have prevented the chaos that is currently taking place and led to a smoother transition.
Still, she is not certain the end result would not have been the same. She's concerned about what will happen to those who worked with the U.S. military and what could now happen to women and children in the country with the Taliban taking control.
And when it comes to the question of whether it was all worth it, Stiles gives this answer.
“No, it wasn’t worth soldiers losing their lives. Families losing loved ones. Soldiers like myself coming back with PTSD. Some of us can cope and re-adjust but some of us aren’t. So yeah, in my book it wasn’t worth it,” she says.