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I read Representative Tyler Lindholm’s Op-Ed with interest last week, where he argued for bringing our troops home from “Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere”. I respect Representative Lindholm as a colleague and a friend. In my estimation, he is the most naturally talented member of the Wyoming Legislature and his service to this country in the US Navy is a testament to his character. But in this instance, he is missing some basic lessons of recent history when arguing for a premature withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan.

To be clear, there are several good points in the article. As a veteran myself, I know the Department of Defense could be more responsible with taxpayer dollars, especially in its acquisitions processes. The abdication of congressional power to the executive and judicial branches is a problem throughout the federal government, not just in national security policy. More to the point, the longest war in the history of our country has led to legitimate questions of how we will ensure friendly, stable governments exist in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

When considering the consequences of various policy options, it is wise to consider the views of members of Congress who also have combat experience in the Global War on Terror. Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is a former Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a December 21st Op-Ed to the Washington Post he explained the need to keep pressure on groups such as ISIS. Specifically, he noted a premature withdrawal from Syria would allow ISIS the chance to regroup and plan attacks in western countries, give Iran more influence in the region and increase the chances of an all-out war between Turkey and our Kurdish allies in the region.

All we need to do is look at the recent history of the region to understand premature withdrawal will have disastrous consequences. Before President Obama ordered the retreat of the US military from Iraq in 2011, the situation was stable. By withdrawing based on arbitrary political timelines instead of conditions on the ground, the previous administration gave ISIS a foothold. By 2015 these terrorists were able to orchestrate attacks such as the one in Paris which killed 130 civilians. The “successes” of this terrorist organization even inspired home grown terrorists to carry out attacks in San Bernardino, CA and Orlando, FL, killing dozens of Americans. While there are no absolute guarantees of security against such an enemy, the fact that these sorts of attacks subsided as ISIS started losing ground in Iraq and Syria is no coincidence.

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Additionally, such a lack of political resolve only emboldens other adversaries with far more serious capabilities to threaten our security. The power vacuum in Syria has allowed for increased Russian interference in the region. While the rise of ISIS was not the only factor which led to this development, it does beg the question of who fills the power vacuums created by an arbitrary withdrawal of US forces. In almost every instance, it isn’t a country or organization that shares our values or security objectives. As a former nuclear missile launch officer, I know the serious threats posed to this country by peer level advisories, such as Russia, and rogue states seeking their own nuclear capabilities, such as Iran. An inconsistent US military presence heightens the likelihood of miscalculation in dangerous areas of the world where these adversaries are now operating.

Moving forward, we must not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration. Our own Congresswoman Liz Cheney has sponsored a bill which would prevent an unsafe power vacuum from developing in Afghanistan. The Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act would prevent a premature withdrawal of our forces before certain criteria are met, such as the Taliban recognizing the legitimacy of the Afghan government and breaking ties with terrorist organizations. Such a policy ensures we leave Afghanistan in a responsible manner which will not force us to return later.

I share the hope that one day we can bring all our military home. But making decisions based on politics instead of reality will only serve to extend the Global War on Terror.

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Brian Boner is a sixth generation Wyoming rancher, husband and father. He represents Platte and Converse Counties in the Wyoming Senate where he serves as the chairman of the Agriculture Committee. He served 6 years in the US Air Force as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile crew commander where he conducted 146 combat ready nuclear alerts.

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