As a veteran of the Iraq war — and proponent of the counterinsurgency strategy that provided a chance for the country to stabilize — watching that country’s recent unraveling has been disheartening but not surprising.
My unit arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, as the Sunni population began to support in earnest an insurgency against the U.S. occupation of the country. Young soldiers were killed by snipers and roadside bombs as their officers struggled to understand the political climate in which the fighting was taking place. We left after a hard year that cost the lives of 22 fine young men but accomplished little on the ground. A captain made coffee mugs that proclaimed sourly, “We were winning when I left.”
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