The devastatingly mismanaged withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan earlier this year, in which many Americans and allies were left to fend for themselves against the incoming Taliban regime, was a national embarrassment of historic proportions, and according to the Daily Caller, the experience caused untold emotional trauma to some inside the state department as well.
One insider explained in an interview given to Politico that the entire process of attempting to evacuate American citizens and those who assisted U.S. troops in recent years was “extremely demoralizing” and one that “broke a lot of people.”
This was, according to one of Politico’s sources, due to the fact that the State Department was “inundated by personal requests” to provide help to individual people, but staffers themselves were “powerless to do anything” in response.
The helplessness engendered by the administration’s chaotic retreat and apparent lack of advance planning prompted department staff to become “manic,” with some going through what was described as a “complete mental breakdown.”
Adding to the emotional toll taken was the frantic nature of the assistance calls State Department staffers were responsible for taking, with one official describing a telephone exchange with an Afghan man at the same moment the Taliban were banging on his door seeking entry.
The official lamented, “It’s so scary. You don’t know if you’re going to be on the phone with someone when they get shot. You don’t know if the email you’re getting from that person is going to be the last email from them.”
According to the Daily Caller, mental health assistance offers have been extended to the State Department by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), including the availability of a 24/7 support line centered on suicide prevention and addressing post traumatic stress disorder as well as virtual support sessions.
Shockingly, however, the State Department rebuffed the suggestion that the VA lend a hand, something one staffer characterized as “really disturbing,” as Politico noted.
When asked about the mental health concerns faced by employees in the aftermath of the immediate crisis, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated to Politico that personnel had been offered a range of resources to help them navigate any emotional difficulties, and department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged that “the mental health ramifications of the Afghanistan evacuation are not over – we expect employees to potentially have adverse mental health in the months and years to come.”