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SU Maxwell Assistant Dean, A Veteran, Worries For Afghanistan's Future After US Withdrawal

Paratrooper Departure
U.S. Department of Defense
Paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division prepare to board a U.S. Air Force C-17 on August 30th, 2021 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Maj. Gen. Donahue was the last American Soldier to leave Afghanistan ending the U.S. mission in Kabul. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Public Affairs).

A Syracuse University associate dean and military veteran who served time in Afghanistan is raising doubts about America's recent withdrawal from the Middle Eastern nation.

Maxwell School of Citizenship Assistant Dean Mark Jacobson, an Army and Navy reserve veteran, said he doesn’t believe a total troop pullout was necessary.

“This phrase ‘endless war’ — it’s inaccurate and pejorative," Jacobson said. "People forget President Obama ended U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014. We’ve had a training mission there. And if we can sustain 2,500 troops in Iraq — which honestly, I mean, Iraq’s not looking too bad. So, I did think we could continue the training mission at 2,500 to 3,000 (troops in Afghanistan).”

Jacobson drew on his personal experience to in a Syracuse University-hosted discussion with local residents. In addition to Afghanistan, the dean previously deployed to Bosnia, and took on roles as a representative to NATO and with the Senate Armed Service Committee.

Jacobson said he's worried the U.S. government can't support groups trying to preserve freedoms in Afghanistan, plus civil and women’s rights.

“We can’t right now directly work with the Afghan ministries because they’re in Taliban control right now. I can tell you that the leadership of the Afghan Red Crescent Society had to flee as well. The United Nations is still there, so that might be the only way to do it," Jacobson said.

Also lost, Jacobson warns, are intelligence sources that did exist under the former Afghan government, that would provide information about possible rises in ISIS or Al-Qaeda activity.

Jacobson said he wonders if Afghans in their 20s and 30s will provide resistance to increasingly strict rules, not wanting to give up freedoms and lifestyle they had during the period when the Taliban were largely absent.

“Twenty years of no Taliban have created a generation and a half, who are like, ‘no, we’re not going to stand for this. We’re going to have our smart phones; we’re going to be able to travel; we’re going to play music; women are going to play sports,’" he said. "I don’t see a military resistance (but) the question is can there be any sort of political resistance.”

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.