Tri-Cities retired Afghan police trainer talks Taliban takeover

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities law enforcement officer who was third in command of training Afghani police said the remaining Americans in Kabul need to evacuate as quickly as possible, following the Taliban takeover of the country.

Rick Watterson told News Channel 11 that after spending four consecutive years training the Afghani population to be police, he does not think that any American should remain in Afghanistan for a second longer than necessary.

Watterson left the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office as a senior patrolman in 2000, after nearly 16 years of service, to become chief of riot control for DynCorp International in Kosovo. In 2009, he went to Afghanistan, where he served as the third in command for the Presidential Program, aimed at training locals to become like law enforcement, Watterson explained.

However, over the past week, he said it is clear that the Taliban has overrun the country and that the Afghani police are not following their training.

“If America thinks, ‘Hey, we still need to change hearts and minds,’ they don’t want to listen. Even when we’re on the ground. We couldn’t get them to listen the next day,” Watterson said. “We have to get our people home. That’s what we do.”

The retiree said he is shocked at the fast pace at which the Taliban seized control of nearly most of the country.

“What’s happening over there, them taking over, it is absolutely unbelievable. I figured, and I think I had posted something before, something that it would take weeks or a few months, but this is unreal that they have taken control of nearly the whole country. In like, less than a week. And Kabul is a capital, I mean can you imagine somebody taking over DC?”

He said he understood why troops were necessary for Afghanistan at the beginning of America’s longest war, but after the reported death of Osama Bin Laden, he could not understand the constant presence any longer.

“I thought, pretty much, that once we got him, we may be coming home after that, but we continued the mission over there,” Watterson said. “With what’s happening now, it’s not a shock, but everybody that worked over there, when I was there, we knew this was going to happen.”

He explained some of the atrocities that soldiers and personnel like himself had to endure at the hands of the Taliban during the war, saying that is the reason he believes they need to get all troops and support personnel out of the country as soon as possible.

“I was there, I seen it. I lived it. And it was hell. It was evil as you can believe.”

Watterson said he saw combat during his four years in Afghanistan, most of which was spent in Kabul. He said he does not think sending a few thousand troops to aid in the U.S. evacuation will be enough.

“I don’t think we want to go one-on-one,” Watterson said. “I know America is the greatest country in the world. We are the most powerful military in the world. I know we are. But 5,000 against – you got 32 million people there. So, if the public is now cheering the Taliban, which I’ve seen, you don’t have anybody that’s on your side now. They were on our side before. I think they’re going to overpower 5,000.”

His fear is that the Taliban has too much control and gunpower already.

“They have control of all of those vehicles, they have control of the planes, they have control of everything,” he said. “All of those bases has all the weapons, all the tanks, all the big guns. And the airport is where they’re based at.”

He said folks at home could not possibly understand what life could be like for the Afghan people when the Taliban takes control.

“The news is reporting, but unless you had boots on the ground, unless you know where things are, I think they will have a different outlook on it,” Watterson said. “I want everybody to come home safe, and if 5,000 is gonna get them home, then, 5,000 gets them home. If I wanted them home, I wouldn’t bet on 5,000. I would go more,” he said.

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