The Afghanistan war, this nation’s second longest, is still going on less than a month before the 12-year mark since it was launched by President George W. Bush on Oct. 7, 2001 to root out the Taliban and hunt down Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida henchmen who masterminded the slaughter of almost 3,000 innocent people.
The war as of yesterday had claimed the lives of at least 2,136 American soldiers and other military service members, according to the Defense Department. Total coalition military deaths stood at 3,372 in the latest update on icasualties.org. The killing goes on with seven Afghan civilians murdered and 17 wounded yesterday when a roadside bomb wrecked a bus full of people. In terms of monetary costs, by the end of August, $662.4 billion had been allocated for the war in Afghanistan since 2001, per nationalpriorities.org.
Remember the overwhelming support for the war when it began on the heels of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That support has evaporated, not surprisingly in view of the costs and the failure to achieve victory. A recent poll showed 67 percent of Americans said the war was not worth fighting in terms of costs versus benefits to our country. However, the ABC News/Washington Post poll also found that 53 percent said some troops should be kept in place to train Afghan soldiers and to provide counterinsurgency assistance as military commanders want.
The idea of a political solution surfaced last year when the Taliban and the U.S. actually announced they would hold formal talks. The Taliban opened what was called a political office in the Gulf nation of Qatar and quickly dashed hopes of serious peace talks. A spokesman said: “The jihad continues to end the occupation and establish an Islamic emirate.” The sign on the office: “The Political Bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Doha.” The main outcome was that Qatar and other countries reportedly gave $100 million to support the Taliban office — or more likely its war effort.
As for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Taliban has rejected any contact with the Karzai government, dismissing it as a puppet of the United States.
There’s still no agreement with Karzai to extend U.S. troop presence past December 2014 when the NATO mandate expires — and there’s been little progress recently in negotiations. If no agreement is reached, the U.S. will have to withdraw all troops by the deadline, leaving the country’s security forces on their own in trying to stave off the Taliban. Even though these forces take the lead in almost 90 percent of military operations, they will need U.S. assistance for years to come, according to Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the coalition commander. He told the New York Times: “Our presence post-2014 is necessary for the gains we have made to date to be sustainable.”
And America’s long war goes on.