October will mark the 16th year since President George W. Bush announced the first strikes against Afghanistan. In June 2010 we surpassed Vietnam as the longest conflict in U.S. history.
President Obama ended the combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. But the U.S. and Afghanistan governments reached an agreement to keep some American troops in the country even after the combat mission ended. Coalition troops remain in the country as well.
Three presidents now have their hands tied to Afghanistan. President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the White House to announce the first airstrikes in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. Obama made major prime-time addresses to announce both troop build-ups and withdrawals, and President Donald Trump used his first prime-time address from the White House to speak about the war.
The number of troops serving in Afghanistan has been approximately 8,400. We are going to extend that number past 12,000.
We have lost 2,403 soldiers in Afghanistan. 2010 was the deadliest year losing 499 U.S. soldiers and 711 total coalition forces killed. By comparison 4,523 U.S. troops have been killed since the Iraq war began in 2003.
The citizens of Afghanistan have paid a heavy price. Tens of thousands are thought to have died since 2001. The United Nations recently reported that 3,498 Afghan civilians were killed in 2016 alone and 7,920 were injured, making it the deadliest year for civilian casualties since he U.N. began counting in 2009. At the half year mark of 2017 in July 1,662 there had been 1,662 deaths and 3,581 injured.
Brown University has a Cost of War Project. The group estimates the total cost of the war to be $783 billion through fiscal year 2016. That number swells to $1.8 trillion when factoring in long-term spending like veterans' care interest on debt, researchers found. One Congressional Research Service Report estimated the operational cost of the war in Afghanistan was $686 billion through 2014.
When will it end? President Trump said he does not want to nation-build but only stay long enough to eliminate the terrorists. If this is the plan, then I don't think we will ever leave Afghanistan. There are always new terrorists being raised up. ISIS and the Taliban are teaching Children to hate America as well as Christian nations and countries where women and people are treated equally. We may kill more and have more control in the nation of Afghanistan but there seems to be a root of evil that will never be eliminated.
Sadly, people in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern nations have fought among themselves for centuries. While we don't want Afghanistan to be wide open for terror cells to once again topple and control towns, just how long will we stay to fight this enemy? While I like President Trump's vision to eliminate all the bad guys and then get out of the country, I personally don't see it happening. Because, as soon as we leave, the terrorists who have been hiding somewhere else will return and we will back in Afghanistan again. This means for the rest of our lives we will work in America to pay taxes to maintain military bases in Afghanistan so we can keep several thousand troops present and ship more soldiers there quickly as the tide of violence returns.
By the way, just a medium-size military base costs about $1.553 billion to operate a year. A small base costs about $828 million, more or less, to operate each year. One spokesman for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force says there are nearly 400 U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan including camps, forward operating bases, and combat outposts. In addition, there are at least 300 Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police bases, most of them built, maintained or supported by the United States. So do the math and you can see why somebody in America has to work just to keep these mega money drainers operating.
Now you know why you can't have your full Social Security retirement check at 65. Your money is going elsewhere and will be for a long time - probably forever.
Will our war in Afghanistan ever end? The end is not in sight.
Glenn Mollette is an American syndicated columnist and author.
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