Veterans on campus discuss Obama’s Afghanistan policy change

Veterans on campus discuss Obama’s Afghanistan policy change

October 29
02:36 2015

Ben Peyton | Staff Writer

@Benjamin_Peyton

When the War on Terror began, students in the UNT class of 2019 were sounding out the alphabet, learning to share and scared of the dark and the monsters that lived under their beds.

But a war that many thought by now would be in the past will continue into the lives of more incoming UNT students who likely won’t even remember where they were on September 11, 2001.

President Obama announced earlier this month that the war in Afghanistan will live on as the government plans to keep 5,500 troops stationed at bases across the Middle Eastern country beyond 2016, when the next president is elected.

Many assert the move is a political shift, convenient to Obama’s lame-duck presidency. Social work sophomore Andrew Champion has experience policy shifts firsthand.

In 2011, when the U.S. declared that the war in Iraq was over, Champion, a Marine stationed in Iraq, remained overseas in security role in case Iraq backslid into conflict.

After serving three tours, Champion, 36, would have to wait until July 2012 to be reunited with his family. He said this delay mislead and “discredited the entire nation” and that his mother, who was tired of the lies, has hated the military ever since.

“When Obama said that all the troops would be home in December (2011), my mother was excited about it, my wife was excited about it, but I didn’t come home in December,” he said.

The troop levels in Afghanistan peaked in 2011 at about 100,000 troops, according the White House website.

According to the Obama administration, the combat mission in Afghanistan has ended, but the ultimate goal of a limited presence for embassy operations in Kabul, Afghanistan, will be left in the hands of the winner of the 2016 presidential race.

“The important thing I want to emphasize though, is that the nature of the mission has not changed,” Obama said in a speech. “And the cessation of our combat role has not changed.”

International studies sophomore Kayla Raye Fritts was a contractor stationed in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013. Although she avoids discussing the war that caused her to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, she said the troop withdrawal has to be handled properly.

“If it is not handled properly and the country reverts, I feel like it has gone against every person who has died while occupying or trying to assist the government of Afghanistan,” she said.

A website keeping tally of the war’s casualties, casualties.org, reports that 2,165 U.S. personnel have been killed in Afghanistan and 4,494 in Iraq since the respective wars began.

One issue raised by applied arts and sciences senior Aaron Lawrence, who is also a veteran, is the unknown consequences for a nation with so many years without peacetime.

The longest war in U.S. history stands at 14 years and counting, and has been constant in student’s lives like Hope Giles, environmental ecology freshman, who was four when the wars began.

Champion expressed that he was not always right but speaking on behalf of veterans, he said, “We know what we’ve done, we’ve been there, and we’ve experienced it. Do you have questions? Come up, feel free to talk to us we’ll explain what we can.”

“But don’t thank me.”

Featured Image: Obama recently announced government plans to keep 5,500 troops stationed at bases across Afghanistan beyond 2016. Courtesy | Wikimedia Commons 

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