US Troops, Veterans Tired of Washington’s Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan
(January 3, 2019) — Most American troops and veterans believe that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been going on for too long, a new poll has revealed.
The survey by Smithsonian, released Wednesday, found that more than 80 percent of current and former US service members were fatigued by the two conflicts, years after former President George W. Bush started them.
This is significant because 83 percent of the participants in the poll said they still supported Washington’s so-called war on terror, which began after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, an allegation later proven wrong.
Former US President Barack Obama announced in 2013 that he was pulling out all US troops from the Arab country. However, the US troops returned to Iraq a year later under the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist group.
“It’s no secret that many Americans are fatigued by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it’s clear for the first time that the troops are, too, according to a new poll conducted by Smithsonian with two partners.”
— LyceumWellnessCenter (@LyceumWC) January 2, 2019
It has been a more or less similar story with the US military campaign in Afghanistan, which has turned into the longest ever war in America’s history.
The US invaded the country in 2001 to allegedly eradicate the Taliban and other terror groups. After 17 years of deadly clashes, however, the Taliban remain in control of over half of Afghanistan while the Daesh (ISIL) terror group has also gained a foothold in the country.
President Donald Trump pledged during his election campaign to end US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has changed his mind since entering office and prolonged the US military presence in both countries.
Two-thirds of US Military Women Sexually Harassed
The wide-ranging poll also found that two-thirds of women in the US military had been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Around 66 percent of women partaking in the poll said they had experienced sexual harassment or assault while 68 percent said they had been subjected to gender discrimination in the military.
This is far higher than what had been revealed in previous polls.
For example, a Pentagon study in 2015 found that only around 27 percent of women had experienced sexual assault or harassment while doing military service.
The Pentagon said in a recent report that it had received over 5,000 reports of sexual harassment or assault in fiscal year 2017—around 10 percent more than the year before.
US military officials viewed the increase as a good sign, calling it “an indicator that Service members continue to gain confidence in the department’s sexual assault response system.”
In one of the worst sexual scandal cases within the US military, investigative reporters discovered a secret Facebook group in 2017 that was used by members of the US Marine Corps to share photos of nude servicewomen.
H.R. McMaster Says the Public Is Fed a ‘War-weariness’ Narrative that Hurts US Strategy
WASHINGTON (May 8, 2019) — War in Afghanistan can be sustained, but the narrative of a war-weary American public is hurting that effort, former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said Wednesday.
Long wars are manageable when waged alongside allies, utilizing burden sharing, said McMaster, who now serves as chairman of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“There’s this defeatist narrative that’s inaccurate, and doesn’t reflect what’s at stake and doesn’t reflect the actual situation,” McMaster said at a think-tank forum in Washington, D.C.
The American public is not properly weighing costs when debating the military’s role in the Middle East, according to McMaster, who pointed to a recent town hall debate he watched.
“A young student stood up and said ‘All I’ve known my whole life is war,’” McMaster said. “Now, he’s never been to war, but he’s been subjected, I think, to this narrative of war-weariness.”
“The United States today has a smaller percentage of its military deployed overseas than it has had since 1950,” he added.
Americans should view the war in Afghanistan as essentially an “insurance policy” against what could happen in the country, McMaster said, adding that the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government would forfeit a region known as Khorasan to jihadi groups.
“They’re trying to establish these emirates,” he said. “And then stitch these emirates together into a caliphate in which they force people to live under their brutal regime and then export terror to attack their near enemies, Arab states, Israel, and the far enemies, Europe and the United States.”
Some critics push back against that narrative, arguing instead that the Taliban are more nationalistic than many assume, and would not allow al-Qaida operatives back in the country should the US pull out.
US diplomats are currently negotiating a potential peace deal with Taliban leaders that could involve a troop withdrawal in exchange for the Taliban’s commitment to never again cooperate with terror groups like al-Qaida. Some analysts deem any promises the Taliban leaders make as fundamentally unreliable.
Regardless, McMaster said the cost of the war has dropped considerably.
During the Afghan war’s surge years, there were more than 100,000 troops deployed to the country. Today, there is roughly a tenth of that commitment — about 15,000 troops.
Between 2010 and 2012, the war in Afghanistan cost roughly $100 billion per year. With the smaller footprint, the war cost about $45 billion in 2018, Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, told the Senate early last year.
“That’s still a lot,” McMaster conceded, but the US can lean on alliances to offer more troops and funding rather than pull out wholesale.
There were 13 hostile deaths of US troops last year, but the impact on Afghan civilians is much higher. As of August 2016, more than 31,000 civilians are estimated to have died violent deaths as a result of the war, according to the Watson Institute’s Cost of War project at Brown University.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan continues to document high levels of civilian casualties as a result of both pro-government and insurgent fighting.
“If you think about the importance of the mission in Afghanistan, to protect what is fundamentally a transformed society, from the enemies that we’re facing — the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies — it is a cost that is sustainable,” McMaster said.
While there is an important shift to focus on conventional military force in an era of great power competition, McMaster added that China and Russia shouldn’t be used as excuses to shirk tough challenges in the Middle East.
“I think what’s happening now is almost an exclusive focus in some places on the return of great power competition,” he said. “It has become almost an emotional cathartic to get beyond the wars of unanticipated length and difficulty in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Too dramatic a shift could leave the US unprepared for future fights, which was an issue that military leaders faced after the Vietnam War, when they all but vowed to never again fight a protracted insurgency.
“We wrote it out of our doctrine,” McMaster said of the shift after Vietnam. “There’s always been a need for our land forces to establish governance and consolidate our gains.”
McMaster also said that the term “nation-building” has created an unrealistic expectation of what the US can do to shape another country, especially one like Afghanistan. But progress has been made there, he added, pointing to the arena of women’s rights and democratic voting.
“Afghanistan is not going to become Switzerland. It’s just not,” he said. “It can be Afghanistan, and it can be an Afghanistan like it was in the ’70s or like it was during this really short but brutal period of rule under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001.”
Kyle Rempfer is a staff reporter for Military Times. He trained and served as an Air Force special tactics operator from 2010 to 2015. Kyle’s reporting focuses on the unified combatant commands.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Frank Lockwood: The world, including citizens of the United States, is of course weary of war. Why should that come as any surprise after some 40-50 years of almost continuous war, with little or nothing to show for it except mutilated, mentally ill and homeless veterans. millions of enemies (that formerly were admirers of the USA), and Trillions of Dollars dumped down the black hole of wars, covertwars, and wars of choice? It amazes me that it would amaze anyone that people are tired of wars, especially wars-for-profit.