. . .Our service members’ sacrifice is an abstraction when the average citizen has little idea where we are fighting and why. Our military’s broader missions don’t get much public attention, and our elected leaders struggle to describe them in easily digestible soundbites. Indeed, our complex war against transnational jihadists defies tidy abbreviation. The days of a discrete “war in Iraq” are gone. Our “war in Afghanistan” rages on, but is vastly reduced. The “war on terror” as a catch-all term is uselessly ill-defined. . .
Around 10,000 U.S. troops support the Afghan government against the Taliban and ISIS while peace negotiations proceed intermittently. A decade ago, 100,000 troops served on the ground. Now, only a few hundred participate in front-line combat missions alongside Afghan commandos, mainly against ISIS.
Most troops provide training, logistics, and air support to the Afghans. Without our help, the fragile Afghan government risks being overwhelmed by Islamists. The resulting anarchy might permit jihadist groups to carve out a sphere of influence and export terrorism, forcing us to return later. Since last year, 15 service members, all U.S. Army soldiers, have fallen to hostile action in Afghanistan. An additional six from the Air Force and Army died in non-hostile incidents. . .
About 6,000 service members partner with Iraqi forces and hunt the remaining ISIS cells. The Iraqi military, though far from perfect, is more capable now than in 2014, when it collapsed in the face of an ISIS blitzkrieg.
Our troops now train the Iraqis to prevent ISIS from making a resurgence. We also present a latent challenge to Iran’s expansionist designs on the region. It’s a risky situation, as seen when Iran-backed militias targeted our forces in December, precipitating our killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January. Leaving would open the door for Iraq to become an Iranian satellite and trigger the reemergence of the ISIS. Last year, we lost five service members to hostile action: three Marines, a soldier, and an Air National Guardsman. A U.S. interpreter was also killed. Three others died in non-hostile incidents. (Read more from “Honor Our Fallen by Understanding Their Missions” HERE)