Veteran Gus Biggio on the Removal of Troops in Afghanistan
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On Podcast
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On today’s episode, Frank “Gus” Biggio, author of The Wolves of Helmand, discusses modern warfare and his own experience in Afghanistan.
From the episode:
Andrew Keen: Gus, let’s not forget, this was a war in Afghanistan and continues to be a war. It’s not just about getting on well with the local population. That may have been your job and business, but many people were killed. Many people continue to suffer, both in Helmand Province and in Afghanistan generally. Your book comes with a very warm introduction from General Stanley McChrystal. He’s been in the news recently because he’s been very critical of Donald Trump and indeed in some ways of the war in Afghanistan. How political are you about this war? Can we look back and argue that it’s been a complete failure?
Gus Biggio: I’m reluctant to call it a complete failure. Like I said earlier, we’re going on 20 years there, and there are men and women who are serving in Afghanistan who were not alive when the events that brought us there happened. The mission has changed several times and sometimes on a confusing basis, so it’s difficult. I’m reluctant to say that we lost because during the time that I was there, the Marines I served with, we did tremendous work for the Afghan people and for the reputation of our country and the Marine Corps. We’re about to be on our fourth president overseeing the Afghan war—
Andrew Keen: We hope so. Let’s touch wood and let’s make sure that we do actually get the president that America voted for. But the news, I checked before this conversation, the news from Afghanistan is pretty bleak. The Americans are preparing apparently to clear out Afghans, maybe some of those translators you spoke very warmly about caught in the crossfire. The Taliban are back, or they never went away. I mean, has anything changed? Is this really ultimately like the Russian invasion of the 1980s? The Westerners come in, they kill a lot of people, they make a lot of promises. In the end, they’re defeated and they leave. And Afghanistan is back to square one.
Gus Biggio: It’s possible that that might be the end state The difference between our presence there and the Russians’ presence is we there with the full expectation and the hope that we could enable the Afghans to take charge of their own future and destiny. We weren’t there like the Russians were to impose communism or capitalism or anything else.
Andrew Keen: Gus, what should Biden do? What should the Biden policy be in Afghanistan, in your view?
Gus Biggio: Well, I don’t know what President Biden’s specific tactical or strategic objectives will be—
Andrew Keen. You’ve written a book about it, you’ve seen both the best and the worst of the country and of the American war there. What would you like to see under a Biden administration?
Gus Biggio: What I would like to see is some kind of continued presence but dramatically drawn down. I think that we need to look at Afghanistan from a strategically geographic perspective and that we might need to have some facilities and operations there to support other counterterrorism and counter insurgency operations within 500 or a 1,000 miles of the epicenter there. I think it’s not wise to completely abandon our post in Afghanistan, but I don’t think that at this stage, going on 20 years and trillions of dollars and countless thousands of blood and treasure shed there, that we should have the same type of presence that we had back when I was there almost a dozen years ago.
Frank (“Gus”) Biggio served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from mid-1993 until December 1997 after graduating from Denison University. After his initial service, he returned to his native Ohio to attend law school at Case Western Reserve University. Biggio then lived and worked in New York City and Washington, D.C., picking up a degree from Georgetown University along the way. Nearly ten years after first leaving the service, he rejoined the Marine Corps in October 2007. With his country at war, the same itch that drove him to volunteer in the 1990s drove his desire to serve again. His writing about the military and politics has appeared in the The Plain Dealer, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, Military Times, and the online journal, War on the Rocks. The Wolves of Helmand is his first book. Through his work, he spends his time between Switzerland and Washington, DC, but has always called Ohio home.
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