October 6, 2010
By David Wood
Ten years on, the war in Afghanistan, which started as a violent, feel-good strike back for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has ballooned into a nasty and dirty conflict whose purpose is unclear and end point unknown.
But the growing price tag — in money and lives — can be roughly tracked: on average each month sees $5.7 billion in direct costs and 40 American battle dead and 79 wounded, not counting those struggling with traumatic brain injury as well as combat stress and other non-physical consequences of repeated combat tours.
And no end is in sight. Winning the war, Gen. David Petraeus says, “is going to be a long-term proposition, without question.”
American troops have been deployed in Afghanistan since the first Special Forces, Marines and Army Rangers began landing there Oct. 7, 2001. Within 10 weeks, with the help of spectacular air strikes, they had demolished the Taliban regime which had provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda operatives who had planned the 9/11 attacks at a mud-walled compound just outside Kandahar.
In the following eight years, U.S. strategy in Afghanistan shifted and drifted and military assets — Special Forces, intelligence-gathering drones, armored vehicles, ammunition, fresh troops — were diverted to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. Taliban fighters flowed back across the border from Pakistan, newly trained and equipped, funded by the opium trade and wealthy Gulf extremists. And the relatively few soldiers and Marines there to oppose them struggled and fought and died. In direct engagements, the Taliban proved no match for Americans and allied troops. But the U.S. troops, about 10,000 to 12,000 strong during 2003 and 2004, simply were out-manned.
Administration officials argue that the war didn’t really begin in earnest until President Obama took office and almost immediately sent 21,000 troops into the fight and ordered a strategy review to figure out how to win, or end, the war. Rejecting an earlier Pentagon demand that the U.S. “defeat” the Taliban, Obama declared a new, narrowed goal: to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven, to “reverse” the Taliban’s momentum and prevent it from coming to power, and to strengthen Afghanistan’s own army and police.
The last of those Obama “surge” troops arrived in Afghanistan only a few weeks ago, enabling officials to ask for more patience.
In a meeting with reporters last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, ” it’s really only been, I would say, since the beginning of 2009, with the president’s first decision to add another 21,000 troops, and then his decision in December to add another 30,000, and the increase in civilians, that we have actually begun — and I would say a tripling of the foreign — of our partners’ troops — that we have actually got the resources in Afghanistan to partner with the Afghans and have some prospect of dealing with a resurgent Taliban.”
Gates and other senior officials are fond of saying that at last the U.S. has got the “inputs” right in Afghanistan — the right strategy, enough troops and other resources — and now it’s time to let those inputs work. And they have to work before next July, when the president has promised to begin withdrawing U.S. troops, on the assumption that Afghan security forces will be good enough, and the Taliban battered enough, that fewer Americans will be needed.
Skepticism on that score is deep and widespread. Traveling through Afghanistan this summer, I spoke to many ground combat commanders, all of whom felt excited and optimistic about the strategy. But all of them said it would take years to take effect.
Full Article Here – http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/10/06/afghan-war-in-10th-year-no-end-in-sight/