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As an Afghanistan combat veteran I know that the United States must have leaders in Washington who will put national security ahead of politics. Unfortunately, my opponent, medical debt collector Tom Reed, still doesn't get it.

Here's what Tom Reed had to say today:

"As the nature of our mission in Iraq changes, I urge President Obama to stand firm in the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every day of young democracy in Iraq is a long-term blow to Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremists. And every day that the Taliban is held in check in Afghanistan is a safer day here at home."

- Messenger Post Newspapers Online, 9/1/2010

Enough is enough! We need leaders who don't romanticize war or use our military as a political football. We need leaders who know what it means to send our sons and daughters into harms way. I've led our nation's soldiers - our most prized possessions - in combat. I know what sending someone off to war entails in a way that only one who's been there can ever understand.

More after the jump.

For far too long, our government of the people, by the people, has failed the people - and it is because we continue to send people like my opponent to represent us during our nation's most critical decisions. We've seen what happens when a rubber stamp Congress all too enthusiastically approves a preemptive war of choice - a time to which my opponent desperately wants to return.

It's easy for a politician like Tom Reed to say he wants to 'stand firm in the War on Terror,' but that's a political talking point, not a strategy for national security. As a soldier who fought the Taliban and terrorists in Afghanistan, I know we need leaders in Washington who understand what war really means for our troops, veterans and national security.

With combat troops leaving Iraq, the United States needs to learn the lessons of the Iraq War in order to strengthen national security in the future. In short, we need to end the doctrine of preemptive war, and hold our leaders accountable when they fail to adequately plan for the aftermath of conflict and the reconstruction efforts as seen recently in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision to send our troops into harm's way must never be made lightly, and we must always have a clear, national security reason for engaging in war. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we saw the consequences of failing to plan for security and reconstruction in the aftermath of the initial fighting, and we have paid a heavy price for that failure of leadership.

My opponent seems to think indefinite fighting without any goals or strategy to guide the conflict should continue to be our national security policy. Through his recent statements he's proven himself unable to grasp the conflicts, willing to put partisan rhetoric above national security, and thus totally unqualified for holding this honored office. If he had any inkling of an understanding on how to conduct a counterinsurgency strategy he would have listened to the recent comments of General David Petraeus before blindly regurgitating his Republican Party talking points.

In an interview on Meet the Press earlier this month, General David Petraeus stated that prior to the past eighteen months, there was a lack of a coherent strategy to conduct counterinsurgency in Afghanistan or to hand over security responsibility to the Afghan government.

For seven years, the Bush Administration and their allies repeated talking points like 'stand firm,' 'cut and run, and 'War on Terror,' while ignoring the growing resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Under President Obama, we now have a plan guided by our national security, our commanders, and the conditions on the ground, and the last thing we need is a politician like Tom Reed calling for a return to the same misguided policies we had before.

I signed up for the Army after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 and served in combat in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009 with the New York Army National Guard. I am currently a Captain in the Army Reserve. When my country called - I answered. Now my country is calling again and I am humbled to respond.

I am honored to have the endorsements of the Veterans Alliance for Security and Democracy and Veterans and Military Families for Progress – but to win this election in November, I'm going to need your support too. If you agree, and you want to ensure that we have leaders in Washington who understand what it means to send our troops to war, please click here to visit my website or click here to make a contribution on ActBlue.

There are difficult decisions ahead in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and we as a nation need leaders who will be honest with us about the challenges we face. Establishing stability in Afghanistan will not be easy, but we cannot have a meaningful national discussion about our priorities if one side is continuing to repeat empty talking points.

Originally posted to MattZellerNY29 on Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 01:09 PM PDT.

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