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Counting off the war in Afghanistan: Nine years and three days later
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff
Photo from Internet
Over 62,000 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan where casualty rates have increased since the 2001 invasion.

Wednesday marked the eighth year of occupation by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Once highly supported by the public and a rare example of bipartisan cooperation, the war on terror and Operation Enduring Freedom is, simply stated, nothing more than a war of attrition, and we are not on the winning side.

Currently 62,000 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan, a number that has doubled from last year. Casualty rates have also increased from just 12 in 2001 to 408 since January of 2009.

A CNN poll conducted in September shows 39 percent of Americans approve of the war, while 58 percent disapprove, and the number of dissenters grows by the day.

President Obama has called the fight in Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” Nine years and three days ago, that arguably was the case. However, something closer to the truth appears to be emerging, and many people regrettably can’t even recall why our troops are even there.

Recently, we asked 25 UNK students at random if they could answer the following question: What lead to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan? Sadly, less than 20 percent answered the question correctly.  

While this small sample of college students doesn’t provide a clear representation of the American public, the 80 percent who answered incorrectly should be ashamed because that means they apparently allowed the horrific events that unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001, to slip their minds as well.

At times, and I may be the only one who feels this way, the public is starting to treat 9/11 like an old elementary classmate no one ever really talked to or remembers. They can remember a face and what classes were shared, but for some reason, they just can’t recall a name.

Answer this. What happened to the level of national pride and patriotism that burned so bright immediately after that dreadful day? How can one allow the shocking images of that day to be reduced to ashes so quickly? Countless images and stories of those affected circulated for months, years even, yet seem easily set aside by so many.

Perhaps now, with new images circulating of injured and fallen American soldiers returning home, some for the last time, more citizens will begin to take notice. Images of fallen solders, by the way, were previously censored, forbidden by the previous administration.

It is no secret the Obama administration inherited this war. No one has ever purported this battle is about economic or political gain. At no time has the war in Afghanistan been considered an attempt to expand U.S. hegemony in an unstable region.

Some have labeled it the “good war,” a crusade to ensure regional, national and international security via the collapse of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. But for others, this war is simply an aimless endeavor void of any potential success. Assistant professor of political science Dr. Christopher Stevens said, “The objective is not aimless, but the war is.”

Like many experts and public critics, Stevens feels the current administration must reconstruct U.S. foreign policy regarding the war. “U.S. policy has been aimless. We need to focus more on nation building, deterring civil war, setting up credible political systems and creating a sound anti-terrorist campaign that successfully combats the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” Stevens said. “Reconstructing Afghanistan would require a complete violation of basic principles by all U.S. parties.”

The Taliban is localized to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Al-Qaeda is international. The hands of the Taliban stretch farther than most are willing to accept— perhaps even as close as Denver. With that said, even if the Taliban is completely and successfully destroyed, Al-Qaeda will always be there. And if not the Taliban, another radical group will no doubt take its place.

Is it possible to bring peace to a region of the world that has never tasted peace? In the long run, we are still dealing with a region of the world enveloped by war and religious extremism for centuries, a state replete of warriors willing to sacrifice themselves for that which they hold truest— their faith.

Former Congressman Charlie Wilson, and the recent inspiration behind the film “Charlie Wilson’s War” perhaps said it best in a recent interview, “They’re (Afghans) the world’s best foot soldiers, best warriors and they’re fearless. They’ve got nothing to lose, and they have a serious hatred for those who try to occupy their country…I’d rather take on a chainsaw.”

"A recent CNN poll conducted in September shows 39 percent of Americans approve of the war, while 58 percent disapprove, and the number of dissenters grows by the day."

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