It was five years ago that we learned Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy SEALs in an overnight raid to his compound in Pakistan.
Before the year was out President Barack Obama withdrew all U.S. military forces from Iraq without a Status of Forces agreement that would have secured the peace in that tortured country.
A few years later, in 2013, Obama unilaterally declared “The Global War on Terror is over,” after announcing an end to U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.
Now, just weeks after the death of a United States Marine in a fire base in Afghanistan, Obama has announced 250 more troops to Iraq and Syria. The fire base by the way was not part of the official count of troops in Iraq. The administration hadn’t said anything about the fire base or the Marine artillery units set up there to support a mainly Iraqi assault on nearby Islamic State held territory.
Days later, during the assault, and before engaging the enemy, Iraqi forces withdrew in a panic, leaving U.S. advisors with no one to advise there.
Meanwhile, things in Syria are getting worse. What to do?
Send in 250 more troops. What kind? No one is saying beyond that some of them are Special Forces.
Those of us with military backgrounds know that for every combat troop it takes from 5-7 support troops to keep that soldier at the tip of the spear fed, clothed, paid, accounted for, lead and supplied with ammo, INTEL, COMMO, security and transportation. In other words, there are not 250 more Boy Scouts camping in the desert.
What is our objective in Iraq and Syria? What end state is desired?
I’m not big on numbers or time, so I’m not asking how many troops or when we’ll be out. I’m results driven. I want to know the end game.
Military folks like to plan from the end. Where do you want me to be and when do you want me to be there? The rest is nuts and bolts, but commanders are supposed to communicate their intent to their subordinates, who carry out the mission.
Soldiers don’t like it when you don’t tell them details about the mission. The American Army has frustrated opponents since the Revolutionary War. We don’t play by conventional rules. We are creative on the battlefield. We fight, we win.
However, when your boss says it’s day when it’s night, it’s hard to trust whatever else follows.
The announced death of Osama bin Laden was an emotional thing for me to hear. Staying up late, unable to sleep when after 10 p.m. on May 1, 2011, I saw on social media announcements that the President had scheduled a hasty news conference.
I listened and watched, rapt and in shock.
Strange feelings of sadness and relief crept over me. It’s as if I didn’t know how to react.
After a few minutes the news began to sink in, bin Laden was dead.
I became euphoric after a while, remembering all the things in my life that had changed since 9/11/2001. I lost my job, I was deployed for about 2 ½ years over five years, and my relationship with family members, friends and colleagues had all changed as well, and none for the better.
I was angry at bin Laden for all of this, and for putting me in harm’s way at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for six months, and then in Iraq for nearly a year. It was all his fault, and I was very happy that he was dead.
Or was he?
Why didn’t they show us official pictures of the dead body they say belonged to the evil terrorist?
Thrown overboard? In the sea? Why?
Were they hiding him? Did he actually survive?
Did they tranquilize him and then spirit him away to an undisclosed location to see how much information they could get from him? Why martyr him?
I still carry some of those thoughts.
After Saddam Hussein’s sons were killed we saw gruesome photos of them. We saw photos of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Saddam Hussein after they were captured. Why nothing on bin Laden.
It bothers me there is no closure, visually, to this person who caused so much death, destruction and heartache.
Five years gone, but still alive in a soldier’s memory. All of it. From the bloody devastation of 9/11, to the deployments, to the raid, to today. Nothing has changed for the better. In fact things are worse now and not getting better.