We chose to conduct a covert war against the Russians in a remote, later to be radicalized country before. It ended with a devastating attack; an attack that changed everything for us. We’re on the cusp of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the deep pain we still feel as a people. We should remind ourselves of a few things. We have boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria for lack of a better term. Also, and of equal importance, we have had and will continue to have boots on the ground, overtly, in Afghanistan.

Why is Afghanistan the bastard war no one cares about? Is it too far away? It’s still relevant. It’s next to Iran, strategic alarm bell going off, and the Taliban might retake some control. We have people dying and receiving Medals of Honor out of the theatre. But you don’t hear anyone discussing this war theatre. As an SF guy, it’s close to ideal and still the wild West in some ways. It always will be. That fact alone makes it too late to pull back – because the next could spawn out of Afghanistan, again. It’s not a matter of the Taliban learning their lesson. The Taliban has changed and the same original fighters do not comprise the bulk of the force. This is a question of what do they have to lose? Do they want revenge? Also, they’ve set an example alongside Assad and ISIL that you can poke the bear and survive the tell the tale.

We were sucker punched and drawn into a kind of global version of “Road House.

But – more pressing and immediate – is Syria, specifically areas such as Raqqa and swaths of desolate land in Northeast Syria. ISIL is the ideologically unyielding organization capable of anything in the name of their belief. But, they have to fund their enterprise. They have an organized and strategic vision. Other groups and cells may have a different theory about the world but are might be equally useful in facilitating global instability to their benefit.

If someone wants to pay rent and plan a massive attack in the West why wouldn’t ISIL take that deal? This lends credence to the idea we do need to wipe out the Islamic State. The longer it exists, the more legitimate it becomes. The harder it becomes to undo whatever they’ve set in place. Children and young people are growing up in the Islamic State. This has been going on for some time.

ISIL first moves into villages and creates an infrastructure that works; something the communities were devoid of before their arrival. They win hearts and minds, or used to, initially. But their have cruel punishment escalates over time. They manage their immediate areas. They would feel confident and safe allowing an opposing group, an unknown, or a group that has not pledged allegiance into their protection to concentrate on planning, share intelligence, exchange expertise, and whatever else might be useful in their war.

End in sight? Trump ponders troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2020

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If nothing else we’ve learned that standing idly by and doing nothing can be the greatest evil. We’re working on it. We might not have a choice but to being more lenient on our boots on the ground rhetoric shortly. We don’t know what we don’t know. A lack of imagination was determined as a reason 9/11 was able to occur. We’re still vulnerable.

Featured image courtesy of www.nationalgeographic.com.