Feb. 10, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Washington Repeating Iraq Mistakes in Afghanistan

Last week, as Congress moved to pass nearly $100 billion in war funding through a supplemental bill, 10 other veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq joined me in Washington, D.C., to visit Members of Congress and staff to encourage them to vote against the funding. I do not know which was harder, seeing the impossibility of success in Afghanistan or seeing the impossibility within Congress to voice dissent from the administration. As a corporal in the U.S. Marines — who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who remains willing to give my life for this country — let me say from experience that our current strategy will not bring security to Afghanistan or to America.What pained me in Afghanistan was witnessing too many civilian casualties, too many children without food and women without husbands, too many innocent Afghans who became anti-American because of our actions. But what pains me now: witnessing too many Members of Congress, too many administration officials and too many think-tank experts support this military approach. As I pounded the Hill’s pavement, I heard numerous reasons why Congress needed to support the president’s agenda, and not one was convincing. I heard everything from “we want to give the administration a chance” to “this is leftover spending from the Bush administration” to “this will be the last supplemental like this,” and the one I was most appalled by, as thousands of lives remain in question, “Don’t want to oppose the administration during its honeymoon stage.”I would respond with, “But how will we measure success?” After eight years of combat operations you’d think someone in Congress would be able to answer this question, but no one could. The only thing they seemed able to do, even the military veterans turned Congressional staffers — after fully recognizing the merit in everything I had to say and positively affirming my policy recommendations — was to close the meeting with a reluctant shrug in support of the administration’s agenda.This all sounds too familiar. We have seen it before in Iraq. Now, we are seeing it again in Afghanistan. Had it worked in Iraq in building a sustainable peace and a secure environment for Iraqis, then it might have made sense to try for a repeat performance in Afghanistan. But it failed in Iraq and it will not work in Afghanistan.Iraq, in fact, is still reeling from U.S. missteps on strategy. Shias and Sunnis are still at odds thanks to our bolstering of Baghdad’s Shia leadership while simultaneously funneling monies and munitions to Sunnis in Anbar Province. The “Awakening Councils” strategy is now backfiring dangerously as Shias unsurprisingly refuse to continue the scheme and Sunnis, in response, have protested violently at the cessation of their illicit incomes. Furthermore, the walls we built in Baghdad to separate, within enclaves, Shias and Sunnis, continue to impede any integrated political environment.That just skims the surface of the problems.

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