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Retired general: All Americans should appreciate preparation, sacrifice of troops in Middle East

Posted January 7, 2020 5:55 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2020 7:49 p.m. EST

— Tense relations between Iran and the United States are nothing new to four-star Gen. Dan McNeill.

He retired after 40 years, having commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg's XVIII Airborne Corps. He has taken his troops into combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and he recognizes the current threat that faces those deployed in the region and those who will soon join them.

According to a report on Tuesday by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans to avenge the death of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The report quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that even the weakest among them would be a “historic nightmare” for the U.S.

“If the U.S. troops do not leave our region voluntarily and upright, we will do something to carry their bodies horizontally out," Shamkhani said.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said there are no plans for American troops to leave Iraq, despite a vote in that country's parliament to expel them.

Iran's parliament, meanwhile, has passed an urgent bill declaring the U.S. military's command at the Pentagon and those acting on its behalf in Soleimani's killing as “terrorists," subject to Iranian sanctions.

McNeill said that, while the potential for another war in the Middle East is on the back burner for most Americans, in Fayetteville, on Fort Bragg and in the surrounding communities, it is center stage and hits very close to home.

McNeill is known for his compassion for the troops he commanded and their families. He says all Americans should be supportive of our troops as they are once again sent into harm's way.

"For those families who are left behind because their loved one is deployed, this community stands by them and will support them," he said.

He had nothing but praise for the soldiers who had to deploy quickly after the holidays to respond to the latest threat.

"The soldiers that we have that are forward ... are well-led, well-trained, well-equipped and dedicated to doing their assigned tasks," he said.

McNeill led the international force in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on America. During that time, he said, Soleimani was never in the crosshairs of any of his troops. But he says his removal from power is good for America.

"From my knowledge of this individual, it's not a sad time for me," he said.

But that doesn't lessen the threat to soldiers who are deployed to the area or to U.S. allies.

"I understand that there are people who are very angry and who have vowed to take some sort of vengeance against the United States of America or its security," he said. "It comes with the turf."

He hesitated to predict what will happen next, but he said he believes things will calm down. As in the past, America will always be on guard for the potential of terrorist attacks, he said.

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