Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
As an Iraq War veteran, watching the events unfolding in Iraq over the last few weeks has been interesting to say the least. There is the sense of total frustration that all of our sacrifices are being undone, that everything was for naught. There is the disgust at the fact that we had, in fact, accomplished our mission by 2008. The Sunni Triangle had been pacified. An elected government was in place. Iraq had a future. And then, through political malfeasance, sectarian tensions and general incompetence, we and the Iraqis have let that slip away.
As a former advisor to the Iraqi army, I can speak with some first-person knowledge on the performance of that military in the face of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria threat now engulfing the nation. I was a member of a ten-man team assigned to train and fight with over five hundred Iraqis back in 2004-2005. We were one of the first iterations of our, then, new plan to train the Iraqis so that they could take over and fight the enemy. What I saw and experienced troubled me to the point that I felt I had to share the story, and published a book called “God Willing: My Wild Ride with The New Iraqi Army.” Unfortunately, I was and am but one voice among the cacophony of media and information that generated out of this conflict. In the end, no one read the book. Perhaps they should have.
The Iraqi army was inept, corrupt, and plagued by cultural challenges. The Shiites, in power for the first time with Saddam Hussein gone, wanted to push the Sunni soldiers out of the way. The officers bribed their way into positions of power. The regular soldiers had no loyalty to their country and merely signed up because it was the only job in town.
I came to some disconcerting conclusions. One, the Iraqis were in no way prepared to defend themselves effectively. Some of them were eager to learn, and in time, developed some sound operational skills. But it would take many years for the Iraqi army to become a truly professional fighting force.
This led to another, broader conclusion: The Iraqis as a people were not ready to govern themselves. They would have to be guided down that path to true self rule. The nation-building mission that we had been given could be done, but it could only be done if we put in the time. This was a long-term, generational goal. It could not and would not happen over a short span of a few years.
The bottom line: Regardless of whether you thought we should have invaded in the first place, once we were there, we should have stayed until the job of building a free and prosperous ally was done.
We did not do that and the current situation seems to be a direct result of a rush to wash our hands of the entire region. I cannot help but think that if the American public were more engaged, we would not be in this predicament. Americans seem to lack the will to do what needs to be done. We are more concerned with the latest American Idol or celebrity gossip than we are about the raging fires that are spreading throughout the world in Syria, Ukraine, Nigeria, Libya, and Iraq. We want to pull inward. It is safer to close our eyes. It is easier to forget than to confront the world’s challenges.
This is a mistake.
I watch the news alongside my fellow veterans, and we all are ready to go back, to fight again, to sacrifice one more time for our nation and our fellow Americans. But, we also know it didn’t have to be this way.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Eric Navarro is a combat veteran, having served two tours in Iraq. Now a Major in the USMC Reserves, he is also the author of “God Willing: My Wild Ride with the New Iraqi Army.” Follow Eric on Twitter @ericnavarro.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Trump: $6.1 billion in DoD money going to border wall wasn’t for anything that seemed ‘too important to me’
President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."
Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."
D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.
"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."