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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.
The FBI is treating the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a terrorist attack, several media outlets reported on Sunday.
"We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," USA Today quoted FBI Agent Rachel Rojas as saying at a news conference.
WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."
"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.
"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.
The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.
Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.
The Pentagon’s troop deployment denials means nothing when the White House screams ‘fake news’ all the time
The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.
We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."
"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"