When the Afghan government collapsed last Aug. 15, Sardar, a 38-year-old Afghan major, could not believe that the institution he gave 12 years of his life to collapsed like a deck of cards. He’d dodged years of threats from insurgent groups and plenty of bullets—only to watch then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fly away and leave them all to the mercy of a vengeful Taliban.
The first thing Sardar (he asked not to use his full name for security reasons) did was take off the army uniform that placed a target on his back and stashed away his “Brita”—his government-issued Beretta M9 sidearm. “My pride was reduced to dust; all my dreams were gone at once. When I reached home, I couldn’t even tell my mother what I had done, stripping away my honor with the uniform,” he said.