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Colorado veteran shares insight as U.S. defense forces continue evacuations amid threats in Afghanistan

Ken Zavada served two tours in Afghanistan
Colorado veteran shares insight as U.S. defense forces continue evacuations amid ISIS threats
Posted at 7:01 AM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 09:01:10-04

DENVER — As U.S. forces continue their efforts in Afghanistan for evacuations, Colorado veterans who served there are well aware of how the situation will continue to rapidly evolve.

Ken Zavada joined the United States Marine Corps in 2007 after college, serving as an officer. Zavada recalled his unit's close interactions with the Afghan people and the Taliban.

"For the people in the village that did not want the Taliban there, I didn't want them to look at this flag everyday," Zavada said, holding a Taliban flag he seized during one of his two tours in Afghanistan.

The flag was left behind after an IED explosion targeted one of Zavada's units.

"The next day we went to the site and they had planted this flag," he said. "Nobody was killed, thankfully"

But Zavada knows many others who were killed by the Taliban.

During his second deployment, he knew 15 marines that were killed.

Like others who've served, the Taliban's seizure of Afghanistan has been painful for Zavada to witness. The veteran's time spent overseas has also provided an awareness of the challenges currently being faced by the U.S. military.

"I can't imagine what they're going through right now in that dynamic and fluid of a situation where you have a large amount of people, thousands of people trying to get into the airport in Kabul with a minimal amount of security," Zavada said.

On Saturday, U.S. defense officials said new threats from ISIS against the airport in Kabul prompted them to look at alternative evacuation protocols.

The same day, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan issued a security alert about the situation warning U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport.

"I think you have to take it very seriously especially if you're a local or someone that's not in uniform holding security there because they [Taliban, ISIS] don't operate by any set of rules," the veteran added.

ABC News reported from a defense official that the U.S. is now trying to coordinate small groups of Americans and Afghans to move through transit points.

Zavada said he remains hopeful that the job can get done.

"So now we have various coalition forces that are trying to figure this out with a very rapidly changing situation in Kabul," he said. "I hope they get everybody out but I know just from moving Marines on scheduled deployments how difficult it is getting people where they're supposed to be."