Despite Iraq Withdrawal, the War Still Goes On Elsewhere
With the withdrawal of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Iraq on Thursday, military operations in the Middle East seemingly entered an entirely new chapter, one that is a far cry from when the Marines set foot in the country on March 20, 2003. Despite the withdrawal, however, many are saying that war in that region is far from over, and to be honest, they're absolutely right.
While Thursday's exodus meant the removal of the U.S. military's last major combat unit in Iraq, the fact remains that roughly 50,000 non-combat personnel will remain for the purposes of "training, advising and assisting their Iraqi peers." Even with their non-combat status, this does not necessarily mean they will not see some action. In addition, special operations forces will continue to pursue known terrorists in the region, a practice otherwise known as "kicking ass and taking names." It's a technical term; I looked it up.
So what happens now?
Presumably, the focus will move farther east to Afghanistan. The problem for the Obama administration when it comes to this is the fact that nearly six out of every 10 Americans oppose current war operations in Afghanistan according to a recent Associated Press poll. To be precise, poll results showed that only 38 percent of those who were asked said they favor the president's strategy for and handling of the conflict. Those numbers should not be surprising especially after the deaths of 66 U.S. troops in July, more than any other month since hostilities commenced there soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
Regardless of how Americans feel about the president, or the fact that our troops have been in that part of the world longer than the duration of U.S. involvement in World War II, I just hope to God that Americans don't lose sight of the simple notion that men and women in uniform are still going through hell over there. I'll admit that I haven't really thought too much about our actions in Afghanistan for a while, but I got good kick in the teeth on Saturday courtesy of the new documentary Restrepo, which tells the story of days in the life of Battle Company of the Army's 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley and their establishment of Outpost Restrepo, so named in honor of PFC Juan "Doc" Restrepo, a medic and fallen comrade.
Simply from my own perspective, this film, which was the winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary category, is one of the most raw and brutally honest glimpses into the lives of men deployed to one of the most dangerous areas on the planet. Directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington have presented a story in which they provided no commentary. Literally everything shown to the audience is told from the point of view of the soldiers (with no commentary from the filmmakers) who lived the fight, some of which seemingly are still haunted by their experiences in the Korengal Valley that was their temporary home. For those of you that thought films such as The Hurt Locker are good representations of what American soldiers do in Iraq or Afghanistan, they're chump change compared to Restrepo.Continued on the next page