TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – At U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, they’ve been working on the exit from Afghanistan for months.
Military commanders there organized the exit of U.S. military personnel, embassy workers, and even the withdrawal of U.S. military equipment.
In the last few weeks, the effort has turned to chaos as thousands of Afghan citizens have flooded into the airport in Kabul in a desperate attempt to leave.
Greg Celestan is a West Point graduate who had been assigned to Central Command and was part of the team assigned to track Osama Bin Laden and other high-value targets during the war on terror.
He says it was never going to be easy for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan.
“I think that regardless of what was going to happen, you were going to have some level of chaos and some level of disturbance because there was never a formal decision of what the number was,” Celestan said.
Part of the problem was knowing how many people would want to leave.
“Was it just going to be personnel who worked with the U.S., only those who had been interpreters? If you look at some of the people coming out now, these are family members, these are second, third order of folks who may have worked at the embassy or on the embassy grounds,” he said.
Many Americans now wanting to leave put off their evacuation past the point it was safe to leave.
“Some of them have a close tie and connection to people they are working with, they don’t want to leave too soon, they want to finish their mission,” he said.
Celestan also pointed out many of the people with U.S. citizenship still in the country also have citizenship in other countries.
“Most of them I think are Afghani Americans because the people who are U.S. citizens, born in the United States, if they are still there and working at the Embassy, they have a way out,” he said.
Now the question becomes, do the people evacuating the country have ties to terror groups.
“It’s going to be very difficult to sort out who is who,” he said.
Celestan told 8 On Your Side it may be months or years before we know who has left the country during the last weeks of chaos.
“It’s a short-term decision to bring them out and now we’ll be dealing with it, maybe even a year or two,” he said.