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The war within: How Afghanistan veterans find a path to peace




FORT CARSON, CO - NOVEMBER 4: Gavin Shaw, 5, flashes a smile as he hugs his father, Master Sergeant Adam Shaw, during a Welcome Home Ceremony for approximately 230 4th Brigade Combat Team soldiers, November 4, 2012 in Fort Carson, Colorado. The soldiers had been deployed for nine months in various regions of Afghanistan. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
FORT CARSON, CO - NOVEMBER 4: Gavin Shaw, 5, flashes a smile as he hugs his father, Master Sergeant Adam Shaw, during a Welcome Home Ceremony for approximately 230 4th Brigade Combat Team soldiers, November 4, 2012 in Fort Carson, Colorado. The soldiers had been deployed for nine months in various regions of Afghanistan. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

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When President Trump announced a troop expansion in Afghanistan on Monday, he outlined how a path to victory might look:

"Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win," Trump said. "From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."

But after nearly 16 years of operations, victory remains elusive. And that's particularly troubling for some who have served in Afghanistan. One of them is retired Army Col. Arnold Strong, who was a chief operations officer in charge of training the Afghan military in Kabul. 

"I think that soldiers, service members, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, sailors, we all fight to win. And I think we've always been fighting to win," he told Take Two's Libby Denkmann. 

Strong would be sent to Afghanistan a total of three times, and he ultimately returned home carrying an unresolved conflict of his own.

Once home, new struggles loomed. Strong was one of many who had to come to terms with his war experiences. During that time, he says he was involved in the memorial services for 32 service members. He's had to deliver the news himself three times. 

"I've seen the responses of families when you say, 'On behalf of a grateful nation,'" Strong says. "It gets ingrained in you, that experience. The experience of having a mother have a nervous breakdown in front of you, or having a sister start hitting you and tearing your ribbons off your chest." 

Strong says eventually, he had to find a resolution to the war for himself. He developed a new philosophy.

"[The] more good there is, the more good there is," Strong says. "I used to slight myself in my career: Was I good enough? Did I do enough? Getting to a point of acceptance, I think, is the best way that that war ends, especially in a state of perpetual conflict like we're dealing with right now."

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity. Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview.