Was the war in Afghanistan worth it? An Interview with Obaid Barakzai and West High’s Major Jonathan Kehr

Jacob Duran

Many have perceived the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan as one of U.S. President Joe Biden’s most controversial actions. It has been in the national spotlight for weeks. Many have mixed feelings about it: some are upset about those left behind, others feel as if they are reliving Saigon all over again, and still others believe that, after twenty years of conflict, it was about time the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan.

Living halfway across the world from the crisis in Afghanistan, we have watched this news from afar. So, I thought that in order to gain a better perspective on the U.S. withdrawal, it was important to speak with people who have been directly affected by the situation in Afghanistan.

I interviewed both Major Jonathan Kehr and Obaid Barakzai. Major Kehr is known to most at West as the West High JROTC teacher. He served in Afghanistan for eight months in 2008, and was able to provide an opinion based on both his experiences there and his twenty years of Marine Corps service. Barakzai is an Afghan immigrant who was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. All of his immediate family is still living in Afghanistan, but he now resides in Utah.

Was the war worth it?

“We never changed anything for twenty years.” said Major Kehr. He explained that although there were some battles won, such as the Battle of Garmsir (which he took part in), overall no lasting change was made.

“It’s not going to end well. It’s not ending well,” he stated.

Major Kehr believes that one of the main reasons behind the Taliban’s return is the fact that “we didn’t cut off their source of income.” There are multiple videos of the Battle of Garmsir where soldiers fought amidst sprawling poppy fields—fields that provided a huge source of revenue for the Taliban through the heroin trade. Major Kehr believes that this may have been a determining factor in the U.S.’s lack of success against the Taliban.

Do you think anything changed? And, what could have been done better in terms of the evacuation?

 Barakzai’s perspective is that “the process of evacuation is still vague, leaving many to live in uncertainty.” He believes that “the Afghans who worked with the U.S. forces all these years should have been identified, notified, and given instructions on how to safely evacuate from the country and come to the U.S. ahead of time. This could be done through secure communication platforms to ensure every Afghan had a seat on the departing planes. Instead, with everything being closed and limited internet, people had to find ways to contact the U.S. embassy and fill out applications to get evacuated. Many are still waiting to be notified on when and how to leave the country.”

However, he thinks that the evacuation could have gone worse if “the U.S. didn’t take a single Afghan.”


From an American Service Member’s perspective, the war in Afghanistan required some huge sacrifices. The U.S. Army deployed its soldiers for an average of twelve months.

“Lives are destroyed by being apart for a year,” explained Major Kehr. And twenty years later, service members are questioning whether it was worth it at all. As for now, there is no clear answer. 

Barakzai said that “every Utahn should do their part by raising awareness on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan on their social media platforms and over-family dinners. Everyone should do what they can to help settle the new Afghan refugees in Utah [and] to ensure a greater sense of inclusivity and hospitality in our state.”