Local Afghanistan veteran shares thoughts on Taliban takeover

CENTERVILLE — Images of the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan are haunting for Centerville psychologist, Katherine Platoni, Psy.D., DAIPM, FAIS.

A retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, Platoni spent a year in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, where she led an around-the-clock combat stress control clinic, which led her on dangerous missions to remote parts of the country.

Seeing the news of the last week and a half, she described a “visceral” reaction. “Just seeing the images of people clamoring to get out, knowing the dangers they’re facing,” Platoni said. “I’m panic-stricken with the uncertainty of what is going to happen to American troops…what is going to happen to the Afghan national army…what’s going to happen to the Afghan people.”

Platoni said during her time in Afghanistan, the Taliban were always on the minds of she and her fellow troops. But she said she never expected to see the Taliban take control so quickly as the U.S. withdrew this year. With concerns over the human rights of people remaining in the country, and of the safety of those who aided the U.S. in its mission, Platoni said she thinks of a man who helped her unit as an interpreter.

Not wanting to mention his name, for the sake of his safety, Platoni said she worries about the “wonderful soul” with whom she spent so much time.

“Doing what he did at risk to his life and his family’s lives as well,” she said. “I don’t want to think what may become of him.” (Platoni said she helped him get his visa to the U.S. 11 years ago, but is unsure whether he ever relocated.) As a psychologist, Platoni said this week is a challenging one for her many clients who are veterans.

“Many of them feel betrayed that we sacrificed so much,” she said. “That ‘everything we did was for nothing.’” Platoni recommends veterans who served in Afghanistan re-connect this week to discuss and process what they’re seeing, admitting, this week is “crisis time” for so many who served there over the last 20 years.

Because, she said, the Taliban’s resurgence does not change the service she and the thousands of other troops provided.

“Our sacrifices were absolutely not in vain,” Platoni said. “We did what we did with the hope that we’d have the best outcome imaginable. And that’s out of our hands. This takes nothing away from what we did.”

Katherine Platoni, Psy.D., DAIPM, FAIS is editor of Combat Stress magazine published by The American Institute of Stress.

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