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US Veterans Groups Speak Out On Afghanistan


US Veterans Groups Speak Out On Afghanistan
US Veterans Groups Speak Out On Afghanistan

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As President Barack Obama considers sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, veterans' groups are speaking out, though not always with one voice.

At Arlington National Cemetery just outside the nation's capital, Marine Lance Corporal David Baker is laid to rest.

Baker was killed in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan. He was 22.

President Obama paid tribute on Veteran's Day to all those who have sacrificed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We honor your service. We are forever grateful. And just as you have not forgotten your missing comrades, neither, ever, will we," Mr. Obama said.

With U.S. casualties in Afghanistan on the increase, the president is considering requests from his military commanders for more troops.

Veterans from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are weighing in on the strategy decision.

Army Reserve Captain Pete Hegseth heads a group called Vets For Freedom.

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"I think it is incumbent upon us that we give him all the resources that he needs to be successful. Anything less than that is trying to fight a war of necessity on the cheap," Hegseth said.

Hegseth says troops in the field are eagerly awaiting the president's decision.

"And when you are moving out on patrol, you don't want to be moving out on patrol wondering, well, are they going to send the troops home or not send me what I need? If so, why am I risking my life for this mission if we are not there to win it?" Hegseth asked.

But more troops alone will not secure Afghanistan, says retired Staff Sergeant Brian McGough.

"So, we have the troops that we can send. We just have to do it smart, and we just can't send troops and troops and troops and troops. And eventually we are going to have to try to figure out what the end goal is. What is the goal in Afghanistan and how do we get there?" he asked.

McGough was wounded in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2003 and is now with a group called

Another veteran made headlines recently when he resigned from the State Department in protest of the war in Afghanistan.

Matthew Hoh was a former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq before he worked for the State Department in Afghanistan.

"Our presence in Afghanistan only fuels the insurgency there, and it is an insurgency that is based now upon the fact that people are occupied, as opposed to having any ideological ties with the Taliban or with al-Qaida or any hatred of the West," Hoh said.

The veterans' groups are being heard in Congress, says Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California.

"They have actually been there, they have done it, they have lived on the ground with those people in Afghanistan. They know how to win over there," Hunter said.

The differences in opinion among veterans over what to do in Afghanistan reflect a broader uncertainty among the American public, says pollster Peter Brown.

"Well, what we found is a lot of ambivalence. A bare majority of Americans, about 52 percent, think that the U.S. military effort there is a good idea and should be there. But there is real reluctance about the depth and breadth and the length of the commitment," Brown said.

The country is looking for leadership from President Obama, says Army veteran Brian McGough.

"And it's a tough mission, but I think it is an attainable mission as long as we take the time to make sure that the mission is out there and laid out pretty well. But, I mean it is a tough place. It will be hard, but worth it," McGough said.

President Obama is expected to announce his decision on more troops for Afghanistan in the coming weeks.