When facing ideas on how to fight the war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, it would be prudent to learn from the successes and failures of Afghanistan.
The war began in 2001 with the withdrawal of most troops by 2014, we have about 6300 still there. While the list of allied nations fighting numbers 58, most offered support that was necessary but rather superficial; logistal support, access to airspace, refueling hub, overflight permission, etc… The number who actually got their feet wet and their boots dirty was much fewer. At its height, the number of US ground troops in Afghanistan reached 100,000. The biggest support came from the UK with over 5000, then France, Italy and Poland. So, while we had help, it was actually quite minimal.
The US military claims that over 2300 soldiers died and another 20,000 were wounded. Two thirds of these occurred under President Obama. Over 1.2 million civilians died. And now we are sending more ground troops to Iraq and Syria. While the US claims no troops are in Iraq or Syria presently, Iraq, for one would beg to disagree. In addition, despite Ash Carter claiming we are sending troops into Iraq with full cooperation, the Iraqi government says, ‘NO WAY’. We do NOT have their permission, and without it, our troops are violating international law. The Iraqi military says they will fight US soldiers in Iraq.
But Ash Carter says the Iraqi government wants the troops. Apparently, he is not telling the truth. That is akin to a suicide mission in which our special ops are subject to assassination not just by ISIS but by the Iraqi military. So why would Carter lie?
And while Obama announced in December that he would deploy 30-50 special ops ground troops to Syria, according to the Kurds they’ve been there since October. It is unclear exactly how many troops are in Syria or Iraq at this point given they are routinely demoted to ‘advisor’ status per the media.
A number of members of Congress have demanded that the US send troops into Iraq and Syria. Interestingly, only 20% of Congress has members that have actively served in the military, 38% of the House and 57% of the Senate have law degrees and 22 members have a high school degree.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is demanding 100,000 US troops on the ground in Syria. He has no military background whatsoever. Others, such as McCain, are known war hawks and have called for troops in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and anywhere in-between.
But what did Afghanistan teach us?
First, the rules of engagement in the Middle East are not the same. Second, the rules of engagement in the Middle East…are not the same. And third….the rules of engagement don’t exist. We did not win the Afghan war and some believe it led to the rise of ISIS. We underestimated the ethic of our Middle East allies and were continually sold out by the highest bidder. Right now we are seeing a repeat of this with Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
IN Afghanistan, the Saudis funded the Sunni Taliban while the Pakistani’s gave them arms and supplies. Bill Clinton’s policies were considered useless and without direction. Not unlike the accusations made against Obama today in fighting the Sunni aligned ISIS. Training forces, Special ops, guerilla warfare, these tactics were all part of the insurgency against the Taliban. Twenty years later, gains were made and lost. We still have 10,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside the government, despite the fact that in 2010 we lifted the sanctions against the Taliban and declared they were not terrorists… What?
What did we learn? That if the bad guys are Sunni, we need to back off because we are sending our own forces on suicide missions given the Sunni countries will be backing them militarily, including; Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Albania, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Algeria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Ukbekistan, Niger, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Kuwait, UAE, Djibouti – etc…
The bad guys? ISIS = Sunni, al-Qaeda = Sunni, al-Nusra = Sunni, Taliban = Sunni, Boko-Haram = Sunni, Al-Shabab = Sunni, Hezbollah, Al-Badar, Harakat, etc… – Sunni. What the heck do we think we are doing cause it sure as heck isn’t fighting the bad guys, it wasn’t during the Clinton administration and it sure as heck isn’t now?