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By Elise Cooper
Today is Veterans Day, a holiday honoring those past and present who have served in the armed forces, including in the war currently being fought in Afghanistan. The president claims he will complete the troop withdrawal by the end of 2014, but will maintain a yet to be determined number of U.S. troops. American Thinker interviewed some military veterans to get their thoughts about the current situation in Afghanistan.
In 2008 Obama said in his campaign that Afghanistan was the ‘good war’ but his actions have made it clear that it is now the ‘complicated war.’ It will be interesting to see if he will keep a troop presence there and will continue to support training, logistics, intelligence, special operations, and some air power.
Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer, who wrote Into the Fire about his experience in Afghanistan, wants Americans to understand that whether they believe in the war or not, the troops must always feel that they are supported, so take the time to do something for them on Veterans Day. Regarding the war, he believes that the soldiers over there do not think nation-building is working since “it is impossible to turn Afghans into Americans. They have a different culture. You can’t go in and transform other countries. You can’t convert people to something they do not want to be.”
A former SEAL agrees and goes further, telling American Thinker that no one can understand what it is like in Afghanistan unless they have been there. He used a quote from Nelson DeMille’s latest book, The Panther, to describe his feelings: “Demille, a former Vet, wrote, ‘Not to underestimate these people. They may be backward, but they’re not stupid.’ The rule of law is the village elder who bases his decisions on 1000-year-old traditions, and has disdain for our way of life. They are able to infiltrate us, having ‘green on blue attacks.’ It is a lawless country that pretty much mirrors the Wild West. Let the Afghans take control of their country.”
A former CIA operative who spent a lot of time in Afghanistan wants to return to the previous strategy. He thinks that the American presence there should be as it was in 2011: “Right after 9/11 the CIA went in there with special forces and our air force. By December Al Qaeda and the Taliban were on the run. Then we decided to go in there with armies to develop their country. Forget about nation-building. If the Afghan government is not capable of securing their nation that is their problem. What we need to do is get the hell out of there, which is unfortunate because Afghanistan women will suffer and the country will go back in time as the Taliban comes back.” He is also hoping that Americans on this holiday will also think about those CIA officials who lost their lives serving their country.
Is Afghanistan of strategic importance and does the president have an objective to his strategy? A former Army major believes that keeping the troops there is just to fill out a timeline. By 2014 the Taliban will get stronger and “the president’s objective is now a time-line, not to win or cripple our enemy. My fellow Americans are dying there for no reason. Do you want to send your sons and daughters over there to fight and possibly die so women in a backward culture can have more rights? I am sorry for them but the reality is we will not change them; they have to do it. Who wants to be the last one to die there? Instead of honoring them on Veterans Day their family will be doing it on Memorial Day.”
Recently retired Army veteran and National Guard captain Pete Hegseth, who heads the organization Concerned Veterans for America, went over there believing that a good outcome could be achieved but after his last deployment this past January has become very pessimistic. He also blames the President’s timetable, since “the enemy is able to calculate accordingly. In Afghanistan we surged and Obama undercut it with the timetable. Looking at this eleven years later — what have we achieved? We were unable to affect the minds and hearts of the Afghan population since they do not believe we will stay, and do not trust their own military and police force to defend them. How absurd is it to surge troops while at the same time stating a deadline? The timetable has everyone looking at the clock and hedging their bets. By ending the surge early he undercut any possibility for it to be successful.”
A quote in Vince Flynn’s recent book about Afghanistan, The Last Man, summarizes it best: “… the Americans were too self-conscious to hunt the Taliban down like the dogs that they were and exterminate them.” Retired US Air Force Colonel Dan Hampton, author of Viper Pilot, has a similar attitude and blames the political leadership for “wasting blood and treasure in a place that currently serves no purpose. The political leadership seems not to understand that the military is a sword and should not be used for cultural sensitivity. The president should have understood that once we were sent to fight we should have been allowed to pull out all the stops. You don’t do it in half measures. The military should have been given the objectives and then allowed to do it in a way they saw fit.”
Former Marine and military author Bing West has been to Afghanistan a number of times. He thinks there should be a force of 10,000 to 20,000 American troops left there to prevent future terrorist attacks, and to help the Afghan forces become as strong as possible. West also wants to continue the monetary aid to make sure the Afghan soldiers get paid, but only with U.S. supervision. Scott Taylor, a former SEAL and special ops OPSEC chairman agrees partially with West, but wonders what happens if the Karzai regime is toppled? “Does America still provide the money to those who will come to power, but does not have our best interests at heart?”
Americans should take the time on this Veterans Day to thank the soldiers still in Afghanistan who have to constantly look over their shoulders anticipating assaults from their supposed allies. Those fighting in Afghanistan and those who have fought in all previous American wars should be honored 365 days a year, not just on Veterans Day. U.S. soldiers have gone above and beyond the call of duty for the good of this country. Every American should reflect on this holiday, on how every soldier has put their life on the line, so their fellow citizens can enjoy the basic freedoms delineated by the Founding Fathers.