On 1 May 2011, President Obama announced that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in mission involving Navy SEALs that took place at the terrorist leader’s compound 40 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan.
As a Navy Veteran who served for six years from 2002-08, I understand the sacrifices that they made in order for the events of last week to take place, and I am proud of our service members. Our nation invested a great deal of human and financial resources to cripple Al Qaeda’s capability to launch an attack against our country and neutralize Osama Bin Laden.
The mission was accomplished.
It is time for our service members from that region of the world to come home.
There are concerns about the future of Afghanistan once we leave. Our withdrawal policy must ensure that it is responsible so that the country does not return to where the Taliban regains control of the government, enact their barbaric principles on the populace, and becomes a safe haven for terrorist organizations.
If there is hope for Afghanistan’s future, it lies in what has taken place in North Africa and the Middle East over the spring. In places such as Morocco, Egypt, Syria, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, the people have organized and called on their respective governments to enact pro-democracy reforms. Many of these protests have resulted in the resignations of government officials and even the abdication of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. These protests are secular in nature and represent a rejection of the radical religious ideology that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda promoted.
As a country we are going to ask how we are going to expedite the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but in addition to that question, I ask what we are going to do to ensure those returning from military service have something to come home to.
We have a duty to ensure that our veterans are cared for when they return home. We need to ensure that their education and health care benefits are fully funded and ensure that there are job programs in place so that veterans can make the difficult transition from the military to the civilian spectrum as easy as possible. Supporting these programs not only benefits the veteran, but also their family members as well.
President Abraham Lincoln recognized that the country still had a long way to go even with the Civil War in its final month. In his second inaugural address on 4 March 1865, President Lincoln concluded his address with this:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
That last paragraph in his second inaugural address gives our country a goal for the future. In order to achieve that goal, there has to be a first step: the responsible withdrawal of our service members from Afghanistan.