‘I worry about their futures:’ Kingsport native recalls diplomacy in Afghanistan

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TRI-CITIES (WJHL) Monday, United States officials announced the completion of total withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, signifying the end of the “endless war.”

Officials say the last flight out of Kabul carried the final U.S. military commander and remaining chief diplomat that were in the country.

“Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended,” said President Joe Biden Monday.

When it comes to reaction to America’s pullout from Afghanistan, a former diplomat and Kingsport native says she has been in shock watching the events unfold since Taliban fighters overran Kabul on August 15.

“It was disturbing. Unexpected. I really didn’t think things would happen as quickly as they did,” said Sara Buchanan. “So many people that I know have lost their lives, friends of mine in the foreign service who have died. It’s a very disheartening situation, especially when you have invested so much of your time and your life in it.”

Buchanan helped advance humanitarian efforts from 2005 to 2007 in Afghanistan. Later, she worked directly with the Afghan government from 2011 to 2012 on public administration reform. She experienced car bombs, rocket attacks and a worsening atmosphere in her time there.

“There were periods where I was really scared for my life,” Buchanan said.

However, she remembers the Afghan people as welcoming and kind.

“They care about their families. They want peace, they want to be able to get ahead. I think we have made a change in Afghanistan and I think it has been a positive change,” said Buchanan.

It is change that now hangs in the balance with Taliban takeover.

While working in Afghanistan she led initiatives to help girls and women get an education.

“For 20 years there was an opportunity to do something different. To go somewhere. To learn something. Now, it’s like everything has been completely shut off. Women aren’t getting outside. Their hope is completely gone,” she said.

Buchanan does not believe the Taliban will keep their promises to protect the rights of women and girls under their regime.

Right now, Afghans she knows and worked with are trapped in their home country. Buchanan says she helped them with paperwork, contacted Tennessee senators and tried to get them evacuated.

“I did everything that I could but I still feel like its not enough. I worry about their futures and what’s gonna happen to them,” said Buchanan through tears.

Her fears for the daughters of families she knew is the same fear she has for all females in Afghanistan.

“Now it’s just a question mark. If they will even be able to work, or go to school, or if they are gonna be taken by the Taliban and married off,” she said.

Buchanan hopes even with the total withdrawal of U.S. forces there will still be some American involvement in the days ahead. She said she would return to the country to serve in a diplomatic role if needed.

“I think we need to take action to be sure there is not backsliding on the things we care about and our values we have tried to institute there.”

She hopes more than anything what she helped change as a small part of an effort spanning two decades stands. That includes the values of education for girls, women’s rights, and freedom of speech and religion.

“If we could cultivate those things we have already planted the seed for and get them to continue, that would make a difference,” said Buchanan. “It’s up to the Afghan people to do what they can, to build on what we’ve given them.”

She added as the Afghan economy has been propped up by U.S. government for 20 years, citizens there will need assistance immediately from outside sources to help feed and shelter them during the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Buchanan now works as an agency planner for the Appalachian Community Action and Development Agency in Gate City, VA.

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