Afghanistan. Mitt Romney never mentions it. President Obama rarely mentions it. It is not a part of the Presidential campaign and neither the voters nor the media seem to care. Polls show the war in Afghanistan is far down the list of the issues Americans care about.
It is our forgotten war.
Despite the fact that President Obama promised the war would end last summer, there are still 91,000 troops in Afghanistan. When the President was sworn into office, there were 33,000.
Twenty-three thousand more troops will be home over the next few days, leaving 68,000. The rest are supposed to come home by the end of 2014, but no one really believes it.
We are approaching the 11th anniversary of our nation’s longest war: 2,121 men and women have died. The vast majority of them, 1,481, since January of 2009. Four American soldiers were killed this week by Afghan police , whom we train and arm. So far this year, 51 Americans have been killed by Afghan police or soldiers.
Our mission in Afghanistan is no longer clear. When the bombing started on October 7, 2001, it was clear—kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, remove the Taliban from governmental authority and disrupt al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is dead, the Taliban has be dethroned and there are not enough al-Qaeda members in country to fill an NFL roster. Mission completed! And still we stay.
The new mission is to stabilize the country. That has not happened.
And so the question lingers, why not bring everyone home now? The generals will argue, threaten really, if we pull out right now, there will be mayhem. That’s true. But there is no reason to believe that anything will be different when we pull out in 2014.
The answer is easy. Politics. The Taliban and al-Qaeda is just waiting us out. They will fill the vacuum when we leave and declare victory. There will be violence and beheadings. The president doesn’t want those images 24/7 on cable news. It makes for a messy campaign.
He is only able to push every thing past the election because of the lack of any real opposition. Republicans support the war effort and the anti-war protestors have proven to be frauds, more pro-Democratic party than anti-war.
And so we continue to pay the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai for the right to stay. We pay the drug lords not to attack our supply lines. We pay Pakistan to not make waves, as they secretly support our enemies. And, of course, we pay for schools, roads, bridges, and new power grids of there when we need an upgrade in all of the above over here.
In a time of budget-cutting and a stumbling U.S. economy, the US treasury spends $65 billion a month on the war. On an annual basis, that’s enough to buy the weekly groceries for every American family for more than a year and a half.
Most importantly, one American soldier will die, on average, every day we stay. It is too high a cost to pay.
There should be outrage. There is not. Of all the things that make no sense about the war, that is what makes the lease sense. For nothing will change, unless we care. We are complicit by our apathy.