PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla., January 14, 2014 — In January 2003 I was the Commander of the 2d Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment (Multiple Launch Rocket System) in the 4th Infantry Division. We had already received our deployment orders and were preparing our equipment and load plans for what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Our mission was to receive equipment in ports of entry in Turkey, move to our respective tactical assembly areas, and then conduct offensive operations into northern Iraq.
As with all plans, the enemy has a vote, but at that time it was a perceived ally casting its vote. Turkey rescinded permission and our ships had to shift, transit through the Suez Canal and then marry up in Kuwait in late February or early March, 2003.
Our Division, under then-Major General Ray Odierno, conducted follow and support operations after the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) and the 3d Infantry Division. Thus began a lengthy combat operation for the United States.
On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and gave an address under a banner that said “Mission Accomplished.”
We were of course very far from having a mission accomplished in Iraq, but thanks to operational adjustments and tactical perseverance, we surged and turned the tide against the Islamic terrorist enemy, al-Qaeda.
You can argue with the intention, but never disrespect the men and women who gave their all — particularly those who gave their lives.
At the time, the liberal progressive media did everything in their power to defeat America at home, but it’s funny how you hardly hear anything about Afghanistan today.
As President Bush departed office, he showed a resolve to live up to that banner and accomplish the mission. As President Obama entered office, he was committed to doing everything possible to unravel what had been accomplished when we had deployed into the heart of the Middle East, taken on jihadists and beaten them back.
For President Obama, campaign promises and politics were more important than strategic decision-making. Then-Commander in Iraq, US Army General Lloyd J Austin III, who was an Infantry Regiment Commander in the 82d Airborne when I was a Major at Ft. Bragg, recommended a residual force, but that request was denied.
In August 2011, when I was part of a Congressional delegation visiting Israel, we met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu who gave us a very direct message: “Do not zero out your troop presence in Iraq, lest you create a vacuum to be filled.”
Netanyahu’s words have come to fruition as we witness al-Qaeda’s efforts to re-take the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in the Anbar Province.
How did that happen?
In 2012, President Barack Obama had his own “mission accomplished” moment when he repeatedly stated, “al-Qaeda is decimated and on the run.” However, unlike the nefarious scrutiny cast upon the Bush Administration by the media, the fawning propagandists hailed this as a great strategic success. History will recount this as one of the greatest strategic blunders.
President Obama’s mission accomplished moment has resulted in the degradation of American credibility in the Middle East. The void left by our precipitous departure means not just al-Qaida returning to the western Iraqi province, they are establishing themselves in Syria, the Maghreb, the Arabian Peninsula, and reestablishing bonds with the Muslim Brotherhood and providing support to them in Egypt – another Obama foreign policy failure.
If President Obama had listened to generals on the ground, rather than Valerie Jarrett, we would have maintained a residual force. My recommended mission for that force would have been to establish an external cordon in Iraq along the Syria-Iraq and Iran-Iraq borders, and establish military-to-military security relations with the Kurds in northern Iraq and their Peshmerga force.
The lack of effort to create a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) by the Obama administration with Iraq is rather telling. It is of great concern as we draw down forces in Afghanistan as well. Let me be clear, there are only two ways to end a combat operation: win or lose. Packing up and saying you are leaving only serves to embolden the enemy, regardless of how you try to spin it as “mission accomplished” or a political talking point.
Imagine how painful it must be for those of us who served in Iraq, were wounded, and lost brothers and sisters there to see how those hard-won accomplishments are being lost. The missions we accomplished and the relationships we built are being decimated, unlike al-Qaida.
Apparently President Obama doesn’t see the harm and why should he as long as he has “journalists” like David Kirkpatrick who will promulgate any lie for this administration?
Consider this fact: 70 percent of all casualties in Afghanistan have occurred under President Obama, but we do not hear about that count like we did with President Bush and Iraq.
President Bush’s mission accomplished banner was premature, but at least he demonstrated the resiliency to seek victory. President Obama’s mission accomplished moment was self-serving, purely political, and will have long lasting ramifications for America, the Middle East, and those men and women who will be called once again to accomplish the mission of defeating Islamic totalitarianism.
And don’t tell me it can’t be done. After all, America once took on the greatest military power at the time in order to establish the independence of this Constitutional Republic. All it takes is leadership, a 21st Century George Washington, and a strategic vision to win.