(CNN) -- As a former U.S. brigade commander of several thousand coalition forces during surge operations in Iraq, it is difficult to watch this country fall apart.
When I came home in 2007 after 15 months in Diyala province, I answered questions about what we accomplished there by explaining that we sowed stability and the seeds of self-governance in an Arab country that holds significant strategic interest for the U.S.
Now, as the U.S. commits to targeted airstrikes on top of the troops we sent last month to shore up the weakened country, I question everything. Were the losses my command suffered in the volatile Diyala province in 2006-07 worth it? How is it possible that the Iraqi military, well-trained to take over security duties, has performed so poorly?
Seven years ago, I would have agreed with the decision to return to Iraq. Today, I feel different.
We fought long and hard, spending over $25 billion to train and equip Iraqi security forces. We helped them develop a working government based on democratic principles. And while it might be wholly appropriate for the U.S. to provide humanitarian aid to those under siege, it's the responsibility of the Iraqis to protect Iraq. As someone who helped train these forces, I know they have the capability to stand and fight. The training wheels have to come off.
While it is frustrating and painful to watch militants take over a third of the country, we must focus on the here and now. The responsibility is to our soldiers who spent 13 years at war accomplishing what they were asked to do, often at a great cost.