NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many are left wondering if the decades the U.S. spent in Afghanistan were worth it.

CBS2’s Alice Gainer discussed the topic with veterans from our area on Monday.

“It’s not a failure. It’s a … I’m getting kind of upset talking about it,” former Army Capt. Kevin Lynch said.

Lynch, a West Point graduate, served as a Ranger and an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We knew this was going to happen, so now it’s just the rest of the country who didn’t go over there is seeing it in the worst fashion,” Lynch said.

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War veterans that spoke to CBS2 on and off camera said the Taliban takeover was inevitable since the Afghani army mostly lacked the will.

“Afghanistan is a very divided country,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Butler served six years active duty as a Navy surface warfare officer and is now in the Reserves.

“They see themselves as members of their tribe, maybe religious based, but not as Afghans. So, there never was a cohesive binding force around the military. That was one of the things we overlooked,” Butler said.

“More loyal their village — their village elder, their family — than they would be to say someone from a different part of the country,” Lynch added.

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President Joe Biden said the mission was never to create a unified centralized democracy or nation building.

“I know classmates that had to build infrastructure. They had to build schools. One of my classmates, Laura Walker, died doing that. I would consider that nation building,” Lynch said.

When asked what he understood the mission to be, Butler said, “Hunt down capture and kill those responsible for the 9/11 attacks.”

“To kill or capture terrorists,” Lynch said.

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Both say those things did happen, but Butler and his group are now concerned about Afghan allies trying to evacuate now under the Special Immigrant Visa Program, which was put in place in 2008.

“It did not need to get to this point,” Butler said.

The president said some didn’t want to leave sooner. As the world continues to watch, Butler said to those veterans struggling right now, “Absolutely, it was worth it. You served honorably. You did what your country sent you to do.”

He’s hoping the taste of freedom they provided some of the people of Afghanistan encourages them to fight back.

Alice Gainer