In January of 2007, I stood up with many of my fellow Iraq veterans and Votevets.org to call on Bush to "Stop the Escalation." Many of us felt that the Bush administration lacked an overall strategy to provide the necessary tools needed to bring the fragile stability we see today in Iraq. Votevets hosted a group to be a part of a national ad campaign that showed during that year's Super Bowl.
Unfortunately Bush failed soldiers like us so many times that we lost faith and confidence in his ability to lead at a time when Iraq was on the brink of a civil war. His continued "stay the course message" was chilling for many of us who understood that he was forcing a military answer to problem where there was no military solution. We witnessed the lack of support for the political and diplomatic solutions needed to engage a frustrated civilian population or negotiate with Iraq's neighbors.
Even the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group published a plan that looked very different from what President Bush was promoting as "The Surge." Thankfully, General David Petraeus proved to be the leader that was needed in Iraq as he worked to implement a counter insurgency strategy that laid the foundation for a stable Iraq.
Today we face a much different situation in Afghanistan as President Obama has ordered an additional 17,000 U.S. troops "to stabilize a deteriorating situation." Karen De Young reported on this in the Washington Post . Now, many of those veterans who stood up to "Stop the Escalation" are now standing with President Obama to announce their support. This is the right war, and the right time.
When we took our eye off the ball to invade Iraq in 2003, many of the needed troops and resources were allocated to the wrong fight. As a result, the situation in Afghanistan continued to become more fragile as U.S. and NATO forces struggled to keep control and of regions where Taliban forces are reasserting their power. Now we face a challenge in which Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government is crumbling and allowing the same widespread lawlessness that gave birth to Al Qaeda.
The difference for our veterans of these recent wars in supporting President Obama, is that he has already announced his understanding for a change in strategy. He talks about the needed reforms that will allow our country to develop smart power and real national security. Unlike George Bush who buried his head in the sand until the 2006 elections slapped him awake, the Obama Administration is undergoing a massive review process to better understand and execute the fight. He talks of including diplomatic and political solutions to the military effort.
The addition of troops right now is not putting the cart before the horse, though. The addition will allow us to provide some security through the expected spring offensive from the enemy, so that there's an actual Afghanistan situation to review, and not a failed state completely overrun by the Taliban.
I believe President Obama will take counsel from experts like Nate Fick and John Nagel who recently published a must read article "Counterinsurgency Field Manual: Afghanistan Edition" in the current copy of Foreign Policy. They argue:
More U.S. troops are absolutely necessary to turn the tide in Afghanistan, but American troops are a short-term answer to a lasting set of problems. Supporting Afghan and Pakistani governments that can meet the needs of their own people--including security--must be the long-term solution. The paradoxes of counterinsurgency detailed here, counterintuitive though they may be, provide the best guideposts on the rocky trail toward success. It will not be the death or capture of every last enemy fighter that wins this war, but creating a position of strength from which to negotiate a lasting political solution to a cycle of conflict with no other end in sight.
We are not giving President Obama a free pass, but many of us have the faith and confidence that he will move us forward with a strategic vision that encompasses the change we need. I hope you will join me in supporting our President Obama and our troops who work to stabilize this "deteriorating situation."