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The eleventh hour of the eleventh month of the eleventh year

A moment of silence was observed around the country this morning. During these precious minutes, families, neighbors, and friends remembered those who are serving and have served our nation. This tradition began after World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. It didn't. For the past thirteen years, U.S military personnel fought insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of Americans died, and billions of U.S. tax-payer dollars were spent on bloody battles. The Afghani government has requested millions more for reconstruction but don't ask where the money is going, that information is now classified.

I, like many of you, served in the military. For four years, I proudly wore the U.S. Coast Guard uniform. I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. This oath is sacred and it's the reason why I'm appalled at the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) recent decision to classify information concerning the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) capabilities. This is the force that is supposed to govern Afghanistan when U.S. troops finally pull out but the ISAF doesn't want the American public to know how the money will be spent to train them.

In his October 30, 2014 report to Congress, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) states that he is “deeply troubled” by the decision to classify the information. According to Mr. Sopko, his office has used this information “as the primary metric to show Congress and the public the effectiveness of the $61.5 billion U.S. investment to build, train, equip, and sustain” the ANSF. The information was public before so why classify it now?

The ISAF is an international military force overseen by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The commander of this force is U.S. Army General John F. Campbell. General Campbell is a U.S. soldier and his boss is U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel. If he wanted to, General Campbell could order that the ANSF capability information be declassified for public review. Sadly, that order has not been forthcoming.

When war begins, like it did on that sunny day in 2001, there is an expectation that the military will be called up to fight. That's our job. We swore to defend the Constitution and we will fulfill this mission. The war-fighting mission, however, isn't supposed to last forever. At some point, wars must end and military personnel return to their families. Secretary of Defense Hagel and General Campbell are both soldiers and they should understand this expectation.

By not releasing the ANSF capability data, ISAF, NATO, and the U.S. government are giving the U.S. military members and others the impression that the ANSF will never be ready to govern. That's the wrong impression to give U.S. military members. They have served numerous deployments and their families have suffered. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, Coast Guard members, and the National Guard have not been home to celebrates birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths in the family. They put our country first and we owe them an answer to when the last deployment will be scheduled.

Congress returns to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, November 12th. One of the major pieces of legislation that must be passed is the 2015 fiscal year budget. The current budget expires on December 11th and the new one will include funding for the ANSF. Congress shouldn't approve funding for the ANSF as long as the ISAF insists on keeping ANSF capability information classified. The U.S. military and their families deserve to know when the ANSF troops will be able to operate without U.S. support. After thirteen years, these men and women should be allowed to tuck their children into bed without worrying about the next deployment.

Photo: President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts.

 

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