The President of the United States has ordered the U.S. military out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31 of this year. This withdrawal of troops is called a “retrograde” operation.

It is the most difficult and risky of all tasks you can ask soldiers to do in combat.

Retrograde operations are never pretty. They are prone to turning into another form of operational maneuver called a “pursuit” (the enemy chasing you as you try to leave.) No President wants that on the evening news, which is why the press isn’t being allowed anywhere near this one.

My legislative aide and I have a combined total of nearly 14 years of service in Afghanistan. We have skin in this game. We have mourned the death of a lot of friends there. My heart is heavy as I write this.

A retrograde operation is not an American victory celebration. One is forced to ask, how is the United States of America better off that 2,452 of her citizens were killed in this tortured little country?

As can be said for a lot of things the United States does, it was a good idea at the time. On 9/11 the government of Afghanistan was “The Taliban.” They practice the same primitive and brutal form of Islam as their guest, Osama Bin Laden. They refused to hand him over.

Our subsequent invasion of Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban government was the right thing to do. Our mission was crystal clear, and it was noble. We accomplished it with astounding speed and bravery.  

Then we decided to stay after that mission was complete. No President wants to be the one who “loses” a war. What’s more, the U.S. military industrial complex was making a breathtaking amount of money in Afghanistan. We have spent more than $2 trillion dollars of borrowed money in Afghanistan. We tried to build a functioning representative democracy where none had ever existed before. Unfortunately, we were missing the single most important ally: Pakistan.

We were also missing the single most important partner: Congress.

The government of Pakistan is supposed to be a U.S. ally, but they are riding a tiger. If they fall off, they will be eaten. They clandestinely support the Taliban out of their own domestic self-interest. So long as the Pakistan government provides shelter and arms for the Taliban in Pakistan to conduct terrorist operations in Afghanistan, the Taliban do not attack them. Pervez Musharraf, a former President of Pakistan once said, “Afghanistan must be made to boil at the right temperature.”

I believe in the ancient truth that total, unconditional victory is the one and only reason that justifies spending American blood and treasure in some faraway land. When the framers of the constitution gave the power to declare war only to congress, they did so using this same ancient wisdom.

If Afghanistan teaches us anything, we need to amend the “War Powers Act” which allows Congress to shirk much of this responsibility to the President.

Before the first shot is fired, every member of congress should have a recorded vote next to their name. I don’t think it’s asking too much for them to have political skin in the game if they are sending people with actual skin in the game.

I pray this mission can be finished without any more casualties.

Tom Brewer represents dist. 43 — most of the Sandhills — in the state legislature. Contact his office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1423, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call (402) 471-2628.

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