Tag Archives: Afghan War

Ex-POW begins long journey home

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is coming home.

After five years in captivity at the hands of Taliban terrorists, Bergdahl is coming home to Hailey, Idaho. He’ll get there in due course, probably soon.

However, based on what the world heard today, his journey back to what he used to know as “home” will require much patience and as much perseverance as the soldier and his family demonstrated in trying to get him released.


In a brief ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, with President Obama standing with them, Bowe’s parents — Bob and Jani Bergdahl — asked for the media to give them some privacy and distance.

Their son, it is believed, might have trouble relearning the English language, as he had been held captive by Taliban fighters who spoke only their own tribal dialect. Indeed, Bob Bergdahl today uttered a few sentences to his son in some dialect, hoping his son would hear him.

The release is part of an exchange with five Taliban guerrillas being held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. The Taliban prisoners are being turned over to officials in Qatar, who helped broker the deal. They’re supposed to be under some sort of travel restriction, along with other security measures being taken to keep them on a short leash. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those restrictions will hold up. The men going back to the Middle East are known to be highly dangerous murderers.

As for Sgt. Bergdahl, a grateful nation will welcome him home as the only American POW from the Afghan War that is now winding down.

He need not be smothered, though, with our collective affection. As his parents indicated today, the young man has been through hell that no one else even can imagine. He needs a lot of space.

Time to end the Afghan War

President Barack Obama said it succinctly today: It is harder to end a war than to start one.

With that, the nation’s longest war now appears to be drawing to a close.

I’m glad about that.


The president’s critics were quick — as they have been all along — to blast him for setting a well-chronicled timetable for withdrawal. The United States, Obama said, will leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in an “advisory” capacity by the end of this year; we’ll draw down to that level from the current level of 30,000-plus.

Our combat role will end. Afghans will be responsible for their own country’s security. Our war effort will be over.

The critics say the timetable gives the Taliban time to plan, strategize and hit back hard at the Afghan government that seeks to cement its control.

That’s an interesting view, to which I have a single-word response: Vietnam.

President Nixon did not set a timetable for the “Vietnamization” effort he began shortly after taking office in 1969. But by the time he left office in August 1974, our combat role had diminished to near zero. Fewer than nine months later, in April 1975, the North Vietnamese communists had mustered enough firepower to overrun South Vietnam.

My point is this: With our without a timetable, the other side is going to keep fighting. The task, then, is to prepare our allies in power to defend themselves adequately against an enemy that’s been degraded significantly over the course of the past dozen years.

As the president noted, al-Qaida isn’t extinct. Its leadership has been decimated, Osama bin Laden has been eliminated, its organization has been scattered. Is it still operational? To a large degree, yes. Our forces, though, continue to hunt down and kill bad guys when and where we find them. That effort will — and should — continue.

It’s time to end this war.

Could this memoir have waited?

John McCain isn’t exactly a friend of Barack Obama. I’ve had this nagging notion that McCain hasn’t gotten over getting drubbed by the then-young senator from Illinois in their 2008 campaign for the presidency.

The Arizona U.S. senator, though, posits an interesting thought about a memoir that is critical of his former campaign adversary. He said today the author of “Duty,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, should have waited until the end of the Afghanistan War to release this tell-all tale.


It is puzzling, some have argued, that a former defense chief — who was asked to stay on when the new commander in chief took charge in 2009 — would be so harshly critical of his former boss at this time in history.

These kinds of memoirs do reverberate around the world. The United States is seeking to wind down its longest-running war, seeking to hand combat operations over to the Afghans who have everything to gain and lose in this struggle.

Does this memoir undercut that effort? Does it place men and women in harm’s way in additional peril at some undefined level?

I’m not sure when it’s ever right to publish a memoir that criticizes the commander in chief while military operations are still on-going.

I do respect John McCain’s view on these matters, given his own extensive and distinguished military career.

Now that the book is out and the full-throated chatter on it has commenced, time will tell if it does any damage in the field.

What’s so new about Gates’s memoir?

Robert Gates is a great American patriot.

He served two presidents with honor and distinction as defense secretary. He’s an expert in national security issues. I honor his service and thank him for it.

His new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” has the political class all a flutter in Washington.


My question is this: Why is this such a huge deal?

Yes, he criticizes President Obama’s alleged lack of commitment to the Afghanistan War; he says Vice President Biden has been wrong on every decision the White House faced; he says the West Wing’s grasp on national security power is tighter than since the Nixon years.

Gates’s book is no different than many memoirs written after key government officials leave office. They have this habit of spilling the beans on their bosses once they’re clear of the place. Presidents of both political parties have fallen victim to this kind of remembrance.

Gates is no different.

What’s been interesting has been the emphasis certain media have placed on the book.

Conservative media, for instance, have devoted many hours and column inches to Gates’s criticism of President Obama and Vice President Biden. Other media outlets take note that Gates saved arguably his harshest criticism for Congress, half of which is controlled by Republicans, the other half by Democrats.

Gates has been pretty thorough in his trashing of the political establishment in Washington, now that he’s gone.

I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read the book. I plan to read it once I get through the other books I received as Christmas gifts.

I’m betting I won’t see anything I haven’t read before.

Major Hasan gets well-deserved shave

Nidal Hasan got a close shave this week, courtesy of the U.S. Army.

This wasn’t your ordinary grooming. Hasan is now getting set to serve a prison term while awaiting a death sentence for killing 13 people in that horrific massacre Nov. 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan also was a psychiatrist and was a commissioned officer in the Army.

Then he decided he didn’t want to report for duty in Afghanistan. Why? Because he opposed our military activities in that nation. Hasan, a devout Muslim, took matters into his own hands and committed a horrendous capital crime. He was court-martialed, convicted and sentenced to die.

But along the way, Major Hasan had refused the Army’s orders to shave his beard. He claimed he was entitled to grow the facial hair in observance of his religion.

That, of course, is an absolute pile of crap. He was entitled to nothing of the kind.

Hasan took an oath when he enlisted in the Army to obey lawful orders. One of them was that he couldn’t have facial hair. He defied the government he was serving by growing the beard.

Back in the old days, such as when I served in the very same Army as Nidal Hasan, such insubordination would result in what we used to call “dry shaving,” meaning that our sergeants could hold us down and shave our faces without shaving cream or even water.

Well, the major is now locked up. He’ll never be free again. The Army took matters into his own hands by shaving his face clean of the facial hair.

Religious freedom? Forget about it. He’s still in the Army and was ordered to shave his face. As he’s known all along, the U.S. Army isn’t a democratic institution. That’s why they call those directives “orders.”