A national security reset is in serious order

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Hope and Change: These words were chanted over and over again during the 2008 Obama campaign. I should know, as I was a surrogate for the campaign on the veterans and defense policy teams.

Hope and Change, however, meant different things to different people. As a national security expert, I understood Hope and Change as killing Osama bin Laden and withdrawing forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the Bush administration, we Democrats rightfully admonished the president’s national security decisions and use of force; yet, when President Obama took office and implemented what many of us refer to as Bush 2.0, most of my Democratic colleagues began singing a different tune. President Obama was in a perfect position to do a full on national security reset—but instead his administration pressed forward with “old” policy in the Middle East and made matters worse in the region through our actions in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen.

{mosads}Our current state of affairs in the Middle East and Afghanistan are much worse than they were in 2009. Libya is a wreck. Syria and Yemen are battlefields. Russia is aggressively acting militarily. Saudi Arabia is dictating our actions in Yemen and Syria. Turkey is poised to invade Kurdistan. Kurdistan is threatening to secede from Iraq. The Taliban is poised to reclaim government control of Afghanistan.

Amid all the chaos, it is apparent that at the senior leader level where civilian leadership of the military lies, after action reviews (AARs) have not occurred. AARs are a method leaders use to assess a unit’s proficiency after an operation and determine how to craft future operations, if needed. Given that military operations in the Middle East have yet to meet any of the original objectives, it is evident that either AARs have not occurred at the senior leader level or said leaders have chosen not to action the AAR results. The joke amongst honest combat vets and policy wonks about Afghanistan is that everyone knows that the Taliban is going to reclaim control of the government. It is simply a matter of when; U.S. military presence is merely delaying the inevitable.

A thorough review of U.S. military posture and goals is desperately needed. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton understood this need very well: In June 2016, I spoke alongside her on a national security panel, where she said, “We’ve got to be very honest about how challenging it is to do this. But, I think you’re right. It’s time for us to take a strategic look at where we were and how we responded in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and now with what’s happening with some of the anti-terrorism operations.” Once we have assessed our military operations, we then must establish clear steps necessary to withdraw all U.S. conventional forces from ground operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We have been in 16 years of perpetual war with no end in sight. Our absence will create additional chaos, but that is the nature of war. When only 1 percent of our nation serves in uniform and only 13 percent of our service members serve in combat, it is clear that our country’s elected leaders are not truly supportive—for if they were, every resource would be applied to win … however winning is defined.

The United States withdrawing from the Middle East is a strategic move that can have long-term positive effects. Essentially, the United States currently stands in the way of Middle Eastern countries determining their own path forward. We are standing in the way of the Middle East undoing the unforeseen chaos that was spawned with the passing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement just after WWI.

To properly reset our national security agenda, the United States needs to: cease all direct and indirect military action in Syria and Yemen; permit military advisors only at the Iraqi army division level in Iraq; and withdraw all forces from Kuwait and shutdown our installations. Iraq is an ally country, so it is imperative that we not abandon them, especially since our invasion in 2003 sparked the flame that we are fighting today; therefore, we will maintain our naval presence and installation in Qatar. The United States must also pull all conventional forces out of Afghanistan and return the mission to SOCOM, so they can continue the al Qaeda disruption mission. Yes, the Taliban will probably regain control of the government, but we never entered Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime. We only fought the Taliban because they would not turn Osama bin Laden over to us in 2003; if they had done so, the Taliban would still run Afghanistan.

An overall national security reset is in serious order, especially in the regions where we are losing American lives. The Founders wrote the Constitution to make it difficult for the United States to go to war. President Washington set the precedent of keeping the U.S. out of foreign entanglements. We need to be more like President Washington, not Woodrow Wilson, and return to our roots as a country and ask ourselves if our military actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan make us a stronger and better nation.

Terron Sims, II is a vice chair of the DNC’s Veterans and Military Families Council and a former U.S. Army captain who served in Iraq from 2003-2004. He is a Security Fellow with Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own. 

Tags Afghanistan Hillary Clinton Libya Middle East Syria Yemen
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