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  • ‘Wars are fought by humans’: Veterans lead new campaign against endless war in Afghanistan

    Endless War in Afghanistan


    Dan Caldwell looks like a Veteran.

    That struck me the moment he sat across from me in the Washington Examiner office, noticing his plain navy suit, short black hair, camo-colored watch, and serious demeanor.

    “Wars are fought by humans,” he replied almost instantly, after I asked him what Americans are missing about foreign policy. “A lot of people think that wars have almost become like a video game,” he said, “but the brunt of these conflicts has been borne by actual real human beings, not machines.”

    Caldwell didn’t always understand this, but he saw it firsthand when he joined the Marine Corps after graduating high school in Arizona. He spent two years in D.C. before deploying to Iraq.

    “I was in an infantry unit, a member of Fox company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. We were spending a lot of time in Humvees and driving around, we were all over the country,” he said. “I was very... lucky for the most part, you know, to have a mostly quiet deployment. But at the same time, you know, I saw a lot there that kind of made me wonder. When I got back from Iraq, I started to learn more.”

    Caldwell told me how he made a “concerted effort” to learn more about the conflict and its history. After doing so, he said it “became very apparent” that “the invasion of Iraq was probably one of the worst national security decisions in the history of the United States.”

    Caldwell, like many Veterans, came to embrace a foreign policy philosophy that he said is “rooted in realism and restraint.” In his telling, “It’s not isolationism, it's not noninterventionism, and it's not weakening the military," but "if there is not a clear threat to our national interest, we should not be getting involved in a conflict.”

    These foreign policy views led Caldwell to get involved with Concerned Veterans for America. He served as executive director of the Veteran's advocacy group for almost two years but then transitioned to a role as senior adviser.

    Concerned Veterans for America, or CVA, works on three main issues, Caldwell said: reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, addressing the growing national debt, and advocating for a restrained foreign policy and an end to what he calls “endless war.”

    The national debt?

    I asked Caldwell to explain because all the economic arguments aside, I didn’t understand what he meant when he said that debt could be a security threat.

    “A lot of other military leaders have said that if we don't get our fiscal situation under control, then our economy is going to suffer and therefore our national defense is going to suffer,” he said. “The best way I can describe it is actually by telling a story from another country, and that's Greece.”

    “The Greeks were in such bad financial shape, primarily because of their inability to control their national debt, that they could not afford fuel for their fighter jets. There's nothing that says that we, as the United States, could not reach that point.”

    But while their debt advocacy is certainly interesting, CVA has made more headlines recently for their foreign policy efforts.

    On Wednesday, the organization launched a massive paid media campaign to lobby the White House and congressional Republicans to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. The campaign is called “Honor Their Sacrifice,” and it urges policymakers to honor the sacrifice of our Veterans by pursuing better, more restrained foreign policy.

    “Now we have a six-figure television ad that's playing in the D.C. area on Fox News,” Caldwell said. “And this is coupled with an intense grassroots push, contacting members of Congress, making phone calls, office visits, and so on.” He described impressive advocacy efforts, with over 15,000 Veteran activists working with CVA regularly, all across the country. The goal of this campaign, more particularly, is to end the war in Afghanistan.

    American troops first invaded Afghanistan in 2001, in the wake of 9/11. The invasion was a response to the Taliban’s harboring of the al Qaeda terrorists who planned the terrorist attack. But we punished the Taliban and all but defeated al Qaeda in the first few years of the conflict. The decade since has been spent in a failed nation-building attempt to prop up an Afghan government that’s still faltering.

    This brought Caldwell and me to the discussion of President Trump, who broke with long-standing Republican orthodoxy to campaign against endless war and nation-building in his 2016 campaign.

    I pressed Caldwell on this because all his noble promises aside, we’re over two years into Trump’s presidency, and we still have roughly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. This is, in part, because the administration’s attempts to broker a peace deal with the Taliban have broken down.

    But Caldwell doesn’t think this is prohibitive. “Our view is that we should get out of Afghanistan, peace deal or no peace deal. It's not in our national interest to still be there,” he insisted.

    He was high on praise for President Trump when it comes to foreign policy, at least.

    “President Trump deserves a lot of credit for both campaigning on ending some of these endless wars and not starting any new wars, despite intense pressure from the national security establishment to do so.”

    He said that Trump owes his 2016 election to his anti-war stances, at least in part.

    “One of the reasons Trump won in 2016, especially in key states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, was because of his advocacy of a more restrained foreign policy,” Caldwell said.

    “You saw that some of the counties that he flipped for Republicans in 2016 had higher levels of residents who were killed in action or wounded in action. And that you saw that those voters and their families were more inclined for President Trump.”

    It remains to be seen, however, whether Trump follows through on his promises. Still, President Trump loves Veterans, and many of them are calling on him to end the failed war in Afghanistan.

    In fact, Caldwell said that most Veterans agree with the work Concerned Veterans for America is doing. He cited a recent poll they conducted in April, which showed that 60% favor exiting Afghanistan, with only 30% in favor of remaining. This, Caldwell said, “is just not an issue where you see a 50-50 split anymore.”

    CVA’s new campaign makes it clear that thousands of Veterans such as Caldwell have seen the cost of war up close and are clamoring for an end to the forever war in Afghanistan as a result. But only time will tell if President Trump heeds their call.


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  • Afghanistan War Veterans, still waiting for a peace deal, ask: Was the sacrifice worth it?

    Afghan War Vets


    Isiah James was stationed in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago. But something the village elders would whisper haunts him to this day.

    “They’d look at us and say, ‘You may have the watches, but we have the time,’” says James, 32, a onetime Army infantryman.

    After 18 years of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, that waiting game continues, leaving some Veterans questioning whether the conflict — and the personal risks they took for their countrymen — were worth it. President Donald Trump, who has complained about wasted "blood and treasure” in Afghanistan and has vowed to pull all U.S. troops, now seems less sure of a full withdrawal.

    “Afghanistan is an unwinnable war, an empire killer," says James, who is now running for a Democratic congressional seat in New York. "Ask Alexander the Great, ask the Russians. America is no different."

    The Trump administration appeared poised to wrap up a conflict that began as a Special Operations campaign shortly after 9/11 and peaked a decade ago with a massive presence of 100,000 troops. It has since become the nation's longest war, costing in excess of $2 trillion.

    Last October, U.S. diplomats opened up peace talks with Taliban representatives in Oman, negotiations that had built to once-secret meetings at Camp David. But on Sept. 9, in response to a Taliban attack that killed a U.S. soldier and 11 others, Trump called that dialog “dead.”

    The violence has since escalated. On Sept. 16, two Taliban suicide bombers killed 48 people in attacks aimed at disrupting Afghanistan’s Sept. 28 presidential elections, in which President Ashraf Ghani is seeking a second five-year term.

    Roughly 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Some 2,400 U.S. soldiers have died in the war.

    “In scholarship circles, there are roughly two camps on this war: one crowd that says ‘This never would have worked, and we should have seen that,’ and the other that says ‘It could have, but we’ve done it all badly,’” says Aaron O’Connell, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, who is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and served as special assistant to General David Petraeus in Afghanistan.

    O’Connell says some of the mistakes made include the withdrawal of troops and aid when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq in 2003, which led then-President Hamid Karzai to “strike corrupt bargains with strongmen that delegitimized his government.” But perhaps the biggest problem was simply establishing a presence as “military occupiers” that fundamentally undermined nation-building efforts, he says.

    Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., says launching the war was likely an error from the beginning.

    “Sticking kids over there without the right training for the job at hand wasn’t right,” says Jones, director of the center’s Transnational Threats Project and author of “In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan.” “It was a mistake to think we could use conventional forces for this mission.”

    For those who risked their lives while tasked with improving the quality of life in Afghanistan, questions about wrapping up the war have become more intense as the Trump administration has debated officially ending the conflict.

    “It’d be great if Afghanistan were now like Switzerland, a beautiful mountainous place that’s free and peaceful with no Taliban, but it’s not,” says Erik Haass, 43, a management consultant from Chicago and Veteran of two Afghan tours as part of the Army’s Chosen Company, which repelled a storied 2008 Taliban attack in the Battle of Wanat.

    “I’m glad we got in and I’m proud of what we did,” Haass adds. “But I can also understand that after almost two decades of open conflict, it’s a lot to ask of our military and the American people.”

    A recent Pew Research Center poll suggests that both the general public and U.S. Veterans agree things were not handled well. In a survey conducted last spring, 59 percent of the public and 58 percent of Vets said that, when considering cost versus benefit, the Afghanistan War was "not worth fighting."

    “History will indict us to some degree,” says Paul Toolan, a Green Beret who was in Afghanistan half a dozen times between 2003 and 2012 and is now deputy commander at the 1st Special Warfare Training Group in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

    “Our motto while there was, ‘You can’t want it more than they do,’” says Toolan. “Our biggest problem is we were never able to step far enough back to allow the Afghan infrastructure to stand on its own two feet. But for our national security interests to be assured, the Afghans had to govern themselves. So we got heavily invested.”

    For some Veterans, the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden should have spelled the end of operations in Afghanistan.

    When President George W. Bush initiated Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, the stated aim was killing bin Laden. On May 2, 2011, that mission finally was accomplished in a nighttime raid on bid Laden’s redoubt in neighboring Pakistan.

    Kyle Bibby, 33, of Jersey City, New Jersey, was a Marine stationed in Afghanistan on the day bin Laden died. “Right after that, my first thought was, what the f--k are we still doing here?” says Bibby, now a lead organizer with Common Defense, a New York-based nonprofit with a mission is to draw Veterans to progressive causes. “When we didn’t leave, it seemed like we were suddenly OK with an endless war.”

    Bibby says he is lucky because he came back “with all my digits and body parts, but a lot of guys died and you have survivor’s guilt, you wonder if their sacrifice was in vain.”

    Other Afghanistan War Vets say they grapple with the same doubt. Ian Eads, 37, another Chosen Company Veteran who did two tours in Afghanistan a decade back, says he would “never trade the experience for anything and I’d never want to do it again.”

    Eads, now a police officer in Newport, Kentucky, saw his service as a job, one that sometimes meant killing people and other times meant befriending them. “I remember one Afghan that had a little shop at our base,” he says. “I’d trust him with my kids.”

    But when he returned home, his survivor’s guilt sometimes had him contemplating suicide, he says. He has battled valiantly to find purpose and meaning.

    “So many people were lost, it was so big a price to pay,” he says quietly. “If it’s going to end, I feel like that’s good. But is it that we’re just giving up, or did we fix it?”

    For many Vets, another frustration stems from wondering if they’re the only ones thinking about the situation in Afghanistan. Unlike the Vietnam War — which ended in 1975 after 20 years and claimed 57,000 American servicemen — the Afghanistan War is being fought with a volunteer force.

    “Because we don’t have a draft, the average American person isn’t impacted by these conflicts, but we need to look at how something like this 18-year war impacts families who are involved,” says Brooklynne Mosley, 35, of Lawrence, Kansas, who is a Democratic political operative in her state. She flew 190 combat sorties mostly over Afghanistan helping refuel Air Force jets from tankers.

    “The people in Afghanistan don’t know why we’re there, and most Americans don’t know why we’re there,” says Mosley, whose little brother was 9 months old during 9/11 and now is entering college. “We’re going to have a hard time recruiting for more forever wars. We need to get out of there. We should be focusing our resources here on America and our crumbling infrastructure.”

    Mission not accomplished in Afghanistan

    Vets caution that the Afghan conflict defies facile pronouncements and easy conclusions. The very nature of both the country’s topography and its history virtually guaranteed that U.S. forces would be facing a difficult mission.

    “It’s a difficult region to govern, due to the landscape, with lots of rural townships, so it’s a complicated case,” says Richard Brookshire, 31, of New York City, who is a strategist with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He served in Afghanistan in 2011 as a combat medic who trained other medics.

    “As a Vet thinking about the potential end of the conflict, it’s just complex,” he says. “The ideologies propelling what’s on the ground won’t disappear because we leave. So, for me and my comrades, it doesn’t feel like we’ve accomplished a mission because it was such a complicated mission.”

    Haass, the management consultant from Chicago, felt a patriotic call to action shortly after the Twin Towers fell. He was injured shortly after he was deployed when a mission involving clearing out a basement put a bullet in his hand and knee. He says he has no regrets.

    “I seriously don’t think we had a choice, something had to be done after 9/11,” he says. “We made an honest effort at doing the right thing.”

    James, the infantryman turned would-be politician, also is proud of his service but daily mourns those lost. "For me, Forever 21 isn't the name of a store in a mall, it's friends who ceased to exist after that birthday, brothers I'll never get back," he says.

    James hopes there will be more national dialog over what happens next in Afghanistan.

    "At this point, we're not going to bomb or shoot our way out of Afghanistan,” he says. “We can only talk our way out.”


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  • Impact of the Afghanistan Papers on Veterans

    Afghanistan Papers


    Last week, many Americans were shocked and appalled at the contents of the Afghanistan Papers, a series of shocking assessments on our continued involvement in a long, costly war collected by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR).

    The documents were mostly comprised of a series of interviews with top officials that many never thought would go public and were obtained by the Washington Post after a lengthy court battle that ultimately found the documents subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

    Although less discussed than the overall lack of honesty regarding our ongoing war in Afghanistan is the impact of involvement in this type of conflict on the Veterans who served there.

    According to Jason Dempsey, a retired Army officer who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, “overall, it's largely been a failure. And that applies to almost every dimension of our effort in Afghanistan.”

    He elaborated: “realizing that we were essentially on a treadmill, that very little progress [was] being made and that every single rotation was repeating the efforts of the rotation before that . . . without considering whether or not what they did added up to anything that was sustainable or contributed to a meaningful long-term goal for the sustainability of Afghanistan.”

    Unfortunately for our nation, this sentiment is not new. Still, it deserves more considerable attention in that it can inform our treatment of the Veterans who served there, particularly those who struggle with mental health conditions and thoughts of suicide. Both Congress and the VA have declared suicide prevention to be a top national priority, yet thus far, both have been unable to make significant progress.

    To this end, a brief history of our nation’s collective response to the Vietnam War and the impact this collective response had on the Veterans who served there, proves instructive.

    In July 1978, Jeffrey A. Jay, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Family Research at George Washington University, wrote an article for Harper’s Magazine entitled “After Vietnam: In Pursuit of Scapegoats.”

    In discussing some of the challenges he faced in treating Vietnam Veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Jay observed:

    “My talks with Veterans convince me that their problems are not so simple, nor so easily addressed. The Veteran's conflicts are not his alone but are bound to the trauma and guilt of the nation. And our failure to deal with our guilt renders the Veteran the symptom-carrier for society and increases his moral and emotional burden. This burden isolates the Veteran and will freeze him in an attitude of perpetual combat until the issues of the war are confronted in the national conscience.”

    Many historians and academics who have studied the Vietnam War, including Jerry Lembcke, a Vietnam Veteran, sociologist and author of "The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam" (and who this author had the honor of learning from while a student at the College of the Holy Cross), agree that, collectively, society did an abysmal job dealing with the guilt and emotional burdens associated with the Vietnam War, the longest and costliest war the United States was involved in before Afghanistan.

    To paraphrase Lembcke, as the Vietnam War became increasingly hopeless, the service members and Veterans put through the revolving door of deployments required to maintain our presence there came to represent something that many American civilians did not want to accept: defeat.

    The acceptance of defeat has been hard for our current national conscience to accept in Afghanistan as well. If this were not the case, then indeed, the senior Department of Defense officials interviewed in the Afghanistan Papers would not have had any incentive to lie to the American people about the status of our progress there. Emphasis was repeatedly placed on winning rather than transparency.

    Nowhere are the detrimental effects of this dishonesty more apparent than in the Veterans' suicide epidemic that continues to sweep the nation. Just as those returning from Vietnam struggled with feelings of social isolation concerning their inability to justify their war experiences in society, those returning from Afghanistan are suffering the same fate.

    Lawmakers have made some progress toward addressing this issue. They recently approved the use of the three-digit number 988 as a suicide prevention number to assist those in crisis. They also introduced legislation to study the link between Veteran suicide deaths and other factors such as prescription drugs and traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example, they are missing the more significant issue of dealing with the collective impact of the Afghan War.

    In other words, healing the nation may go a long way toward improving our Veterans.

    The first step for government leaders is to accept and acknowledge that our efforts in Afghanistan have failed and that America is no longer brave in military conflicts abroad. As the Alcoholics Anonymous adage goes — admitting that there is a problem is the first step to recovery, and “only be admitting defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength.”

    As Jay concluded in 1978, “it may well be that isolation, the burden of conflicted feelings, and not being heard makes people crazy” — not just the horrors of war. We must all do our part to deal with the unease of defeat in the Afghanistan conflict, most notably by listening more to the Veterans who served there, and acknowledging that they are not individually responsible for two decades of failed foreign policy. Doing so may very well save numerous lives and prevent entanglement in unwinnable future conflicts as well.


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  • Lying by Bush and Obama over Afghanistan is this era’s Pentagon Papers

    Bush and Obama


    On Monday, The Washington Post published a bombshell six-part series exposing the Bush and Obama administrations for knowingly and repeatedly lying to the American public about the war in Afghanistan.

    This is nothing short of this generation’s Pentagon Papers, which exposed the terrible lie of Vietnam. But chances are you haven’t heard of the Afghanistan Papers, because impeachment is sucking the oxygen out of every newsroom, network and political website in America.

    Have we lost our ability to be outraged over anything or anyone aside from Trump and his reality-show administration?

    Here we now have 2,000 pages of previously secret documents containing interviews with more than 600 people, from decorated generals to intelligence officers to senior White House officials to ambassadors to aid workers to NATO allies to 20 Afghan officials, all telling the same story.

    This war, 18 years old, the longest in American history, no end in sight, is unwinnable. It always will be. But the people who send our young men and women to die there, to suffer grave physical injuries, to return with PTSD that can’t be successfully treated or to commit suicide — at a record rate of twenty Veterans per day — have known it all along. And they have lied and manipulated numbers and have kept using our troops as cannon fodder to be seen as tough on the War on Terror and win second terms in office.

    As Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the Afghan war czar under Bush and Obama, said in this report: “If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this was in vain?”

    Every single person, apparently, with knowledge of how this war was conceived and is still — clumsily, defiantly, pointlessly — being prosecuted, is willing to say it’s been in vain.

    As long as their testimony remained a secret.

    The report, titled “Lessons Learned” — a tone-deaf reference to Vietnam — is the result of another investigation by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR. These “lessons” cost, unbelievably, $11 million, and ironically grew from the original task of investigating fraud and financial abuse by the Afghans.

    The candor here is staggering, born of a belief by participants that what they had to say — the truth — would never be made public.

    Nearly one month after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. The objective was to dismantle al Qaeda, the terrorist group founded by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban government protecting it. Within months, leaders of both groups were either dead, captured or on the run.

    Yet rather than withdrawing from the Graveyard of Empires, President George W. Bush decided to stay in Afghanistan — the beginning of mission creep — and pivot to invading Iraq. The SIGAR report is augmented by memos issued by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was shocked by Bush’s lack of attention to Afghanistan.

    According to a Rumsfeld memo dated Oct. 21, 2002, the Defense Secretary asked Bush if he wanted to meet with Army Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill. Bush had no idea who that was.

    Rumsfeld: “He is the general in charge of Afghanistan.”

    Bush: “Well, I don’t need to meet with him.”

    McNeill later told SIGAR “there was no campaign plan for Afghanistan,” yet Rumsfeld, no hero here, “would get excited if there was any increase in the number of boots on the ground.”

    On May 1, 2003, President Bush announced, in a highly staged scene on an aircraft carrier, “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. That same day, in a press conference in Kabul, Rumsfeld said “major combat activity in Afghanistan” was over.

    Yet four months later, at a meeting at the Pentagon regarding Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said, “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”

    Neither did our troops, just as in Vietnam.

    What’s missing from this report — which The Washington Post says is the “sanitized” version of this national scandal, 90 percent of the names redacted — is the real motive for continuing the war in Afghanistan.

    Presidential politics is one thing, but when seemingly every single person who talked to SIGAR says they don’t understand the mission or the plan of action or that there is no plan of action or that the numbers show the United States is losing, badly, and the longer we’re there the worse we’re making the problem — post-US invasion, Afghanistan now produces 82 percent of the world’s opium supply — what was the reason?

    What is the reason? After $1 trillion spent and thousands of lives lost, why?

    The Afghanistan papers read apolitically; extreme frustration and anger are expressed at Bush and Obama, both of whom led administrations that insisted on lying to the American public, on spinning numbers or making them up, on insisting military commanders tell the press that we were winning as we were losing.

    McNeill said when he became NATO commander in 2007, “There was no NATO campaign plan . . . I tried to get someone to define what winning meant, even before I went over, and nobody could.”

    Yet in 2008, Bush increased US troops by 10,000, to a total of 31,000. That same year, Barack Obama ran on getting all US troops out of Afghanistan; in his first year as president, Obama increased troop levels by 30,000. When asked why, Obama’s go-to reply was always to “disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda.”

    But as the SIGAR report makes clear, al Qaeda was long gone, and the Taliban had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

    Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL who served as a White House staffer under Bush and Obama, told SIGAR that “no one asked” why this was.

    By 2010, the US and NATO casualty rate hit another high. Yet every US military and administration official was told to hit one message hard: Progress, progress, progress.

    Army Lt. General David Rodriguez, at a press conference in Kabul that year: “We are steadily making deliberate progress.”

    Army Gen. David Petraeus, testifying before Congress in 2011: “Important but hard-fought progress.”

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on the ground in 2012: “Significant progress.” He had just avoided death by suicide bomb.

    An official from the National Security Council told SIGAR that there was tremendous pressure from the Obama administration and the Pentagon to produce data that proved the US was succeeding, even though “it was impossible to create good metrics.”

    So, the official said, here’s how they spun, absurdly, bad news into good: A rise in successful suicide attacks? That meant the Taliban was too afraid of US forces to fight fair.

    A rise in US troop deaths was framed, in loathsome and cynical terms, as “proof” we were fighting with the enemy.

    As if that is not the definition of armed combat.

    Meanwhile, American special forces attempting to train Afghan police and security, according to the report, “hated” them, with one US soldier calling them “awful — the bottom of the barrel in the country that is already at the bottom of the barrel.” Another said that one-third of the recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.”

    In 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US spent over $64 billion on Afghan forces, but at least 30,000 of those were “ghost soldiers” — they did not exist. One contractor told SIGAR he was ordered to spend $3 million per day on one tiny province and asked a congressman on a fact-finding mission if he’d ever be able to do that in the US.

    The answer: “Hell, no.”

    The response: “Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend, and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.”

    Another source reports that the level of graft and corruption is “fatal” to our chances. Everyone in a power position there is on the take, from judges to police to government workers. The result? Afghans look at what the US is doing and think, If this is democracy, bring us back the Taliban.

    Bob Crowley, retired Army colonel, counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan from 2013-2014:

    “Truth was rarely welcome . . . There was more room to share bad news if it was small — we’re running over kids with our [armored vehicles] . . .”

    This, by the way, is how easily warped perspective becomes, that the accidental deaths of innocent children by US forces is insignificant.

    “But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns,” Crowley continued, “about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

    This time last year, President Trump announced the withdrawal of nearly half our 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan. In October, The New York Times reported the drawdown was closer to 2,000.

    Clearly, no end is in sight.

    The Afghanistan papers should become a lead talking point on cable news and the Sunday shows. Every candidate on the presidential debate stage should be asked if they’ve read them, what should happen to those who lied to the American people, and what their plan is for leaving, their premise is for staying? Has Trump read them, or been briefed? Has this changed his plans for engaging?

    And Congress, once the high theater of impeachment is over, should open an investigation worthy of the grievousness we know about and root out what we don’t — though that may be too much to hope, fatigued as they no doubt will be by scandal and outrage.

    So much for learning our lesson.


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  • US Army Green Beret killed in Afghanistan gun battle identified: 'He was a warrior'

    Green Beret Killed


    The Pentagon has identified the U.S. Army Green Beret who was killed in a gun battle outside the Afghan capital Monday in Wardack Province, a known Taliban hotbed.

    Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Griffin from Greenbrier, Tennessee, a Special Forces soldier, was 41 and making his fourth combat deployment, three to Afghanistan since 2009, according to Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman.

    "The loss of Sgt. 1st Class Griffin is felt across the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Family and the entire Special Forces community," said his commander, Col. Owen G. Ray, in a statement. "He was a warrior - an accomplished, respected and loved Special Forces Soldier that will never be forgotten. We ask that you keep his Family and teammates in your thoughts and prayers."

    Griffin first deployed to war with the 82nd Airborne to Iraq in 2006 before joining Special Forces in 2014. He was born in Cristobal, Panama on December 7, 1978.

    Sgt. 1st Class Griffin was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

    Griffin is the 17th American killed this year in combat in Afghanistan. It’s the highest total in the past five years. At the height of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, nearly 500 U.S. troops were killed with over 100,000 deployed there.

    Today, there are roughly 14,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

    Earlier this month, President Trump announced he had canceled secret peace talks with top Afghan and Taliban officials at Camp David.

    Since then, the Taliban have continued their onslaught against Afghan security forces with thousands of innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire.

    Earlier Tuesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide attacks killing at least 48 and wounding dozens of others, including women and children.

    A suicide bomber targeted a campaign rally for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and arrived on an explosives-laden motorcycle, according to reports.

    Hours later, another suicide attack rocked Kabul, killing dozens more outside an Afghan army base in the capital, not far from the U.S. Embassy.

    It was the deadliest day in Afghanistan since President Trump abruptly ended the U.S.-led peace talks with the Taliban earlier this month.

    Speaking at the Pentagon on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Trump said: “We have hit our enemy harder than they've ever been hit before and that will continue.”

    The number of U.S. bombs and other munitions dropped on the Taliban and an ISIS-affiliate in Afghanistan increased 28% in August compared to the previous month, according to the U.S. Air Force.


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