Eight Americans Reflect on the U.S. Redrawal: The Last Days of Afghanistan

It was only going to get worse.

The majority of the staff at the embassy left Afghanistan the following day or the night before. However, Mr. Wilson and 30 other American diplomats continued to stay on for another two weeks to try to rescue other Americans and permanent residents.

“They have to make choices: Yes, you are allowed in’ or No sir you cannot’,” Mr. Wilson said of diplomats working at the airport gate for 12 hours, amid gunfire, explosions and the constant roaring of the crowd. “And you know what? That’s really difficult.”

He said, “No one who was not out there really can envision how terrible it was.”

Wilson was one of the last diplomats to leave Kabul on the final American military aircraft that left shortly before midnight on August 30. He was transferred to Doha, Qatar for further tests. There were few people who wore masks in the terrible days at Kabul airport. But Mr. Wilson assumed that the fatigue and other symptoms he was experiencing were due to his five-weeks of 20-hour work days.

To isolate, he flew to Minneapolis and officially resigned at the end September. This was the plan. Wilson, who had spent 30 years as a diplomat, had retired in 2008 from the Foreign Service. He had never been to Afghanistan, so he was surprised to be asked to serve as charge d’affaires in January 2020, while Congress and Trump fought for the right to send a permanent ambassador.

“To be truthful, my response was that they should ask other people who have served there,” Mr. Wilson stated. However, once they asked me, I felt it was my duty to answer.

Nearly one year later, Wilson is still in touch with American diplomats who were there during his final weeks in Kabul. Many of them, he stated, are still shaken. In some cases, the terrible memories have overshadowed what was good about an evacuation mission that evacuated more than 124,000 Afghans.