Staff Perspective: The Impacts of the Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Staff Perspective: The Impacts of the Withdrawal in Afghanistan

Dr. Sharon Birman

All of us have seen the dramatic images of the recent Taliban capture of Kabul. While the mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq will continue, many Americans are eagerly seeking explanation of the rapid-moving complex events surrounding the end of the war in Afghanistan.

We often hear about the cost of war in monetary value; for example, the total cost of the U.S. fighting in Afghanistan has been estimated as $2.3 trillion. However, the impact that war has is far beyond financial. More than two million veterans served during the global war on terrorism. This includes over 800,000 who served in Afghanistan since October 2001. Until recently, the nation had not lost a uniformed Service member in Afghanistan since 8 February 2020. Nevertheless, the recent attack at the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. troops and wounded 18. Such incidents have left many veterans and Service members confronting great psychological pain.

With the constant media coverage and disturbing images exhibited, veterans and Service members have certainly been impacted by the chaos characterizing the desperate evacuation efforts. The unchallenged Taliban seizures of power and constant narrative of U.S. failure combined with stories of abandoned Afghan interpreters and other U.S. supporters have aroused great emotional distress in our nation’s veterans and Service members. The heavy emotional impressions caused by the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been apparent to suicide hotline workers who have experienced a significant increase in crisis calls related to these recent events.

Feelings of defeat and powerlessness are not unique to veterans and Service members who served in Afghanistan. Many Vietnam veterans have reported that the scenes in Afghanistan echo the evacuations in Saigon.

It is important during such a difficult time for many that we take the time to:

  • Encourage veterans and Service members to seek help
  • Provide veterans and Service members the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling
  • Watch for potential suicide warning signs or other signs of crisis
  • Promote resilience and coping
  • Encourage use of the Military/Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support:
  • Call 1-800- 273-8255 press #1
  • Text 838255
  • Chat online at

The opinions in CDP Staff Perspective blogs are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science or the Department of Defense.

Sharon Birman, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist serving as a Military Behavioral Health Psychologist with the Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.