Monday marks 12 years since the US invaded Afghanistan, and for a conflict that™s been seemingly forgotten by most Americans who™ve grown weary of war, it seems fitting that the anniversary should be overshadowed by a domestic story: the federal government shutdown.
More than a decade since the US launched Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, there are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan. That is more, by far, than at any time during the first seven years of the war, yet these days, they garner scant news coverage. Most recently, Syria™s civil war and the use of chemical weapons as well as the federal government shutdown have buried Afghanistan news, even as Americans continue to die – four were killed within a week in so-called insider attacks just at the end of September.
œThere is a bloody war happening, and no one is talking about it,” said Ahmad Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent adviser to the US Army.
The US role is diminishing and casualties among members of the US-led international coalition are down as the Afghan security forces take over more of the fighting. But Americans are still fighting – and dying.
With nearly three months left in 2013, at least 106 US troops had died in Afghanistan as of Oct. 1, according to independent website iCasualties.org – more than during any of the first six years of the war. The military is whittling forces down to approximately 34,000 by February and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100 now. But combat troops will be there for another 15 months, so we are likely still a long way from the last US casualty in Afghanistan.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the US sent in a small force heavily reliant on special forces able to quickly knock out the Taliban, who had sheltered the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks. But Osama Bin Laden escaped, along with many other al-Qaeda leaders, and it would be nearly 10 years before the U.S. tracked him down, hiding in a safe house in neighboring Pakistan.
After several years of relative calm following then-President George W. Bush™s declaration of victory in Afghanistan in 2004 – a time when international troops were supporting nation-building efforts, and US and world attention was focused on the continuing war in Iraq – the Taliban regrouped. They mounted a violent and effective guerrilla campaign that eventually pushed President Barack Obama to increase troop levels, sending a œsurge” of 30,000 additional troops to the country in 2009.
Despite the surge, though, the Taliban remain entrenched, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces – who have largely taken over security responsibilities from coalition forces – with little more than a year to go before all international troops are scheduled to leave.
Afghanistan is a topic seldom mentioned by the White House, and with public support for the military mission there having crumbled in the past few years, it™s easy to see why.
œPresident Obama talks about Afghanistan strategy maybe only once in a year,” Majidyar said. œWhen he does talk about it, he talks about the end of the war and talks only of positive things.”
A White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion of Afghanistan, instead issuing a statement about negotiations over a bilateral security agreement to keep American troops in Afghanistan past the end of 2014.
Media interest in the war has been waning for years, driven by Obama™s silence on the issue since the end of his troop surge, said A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University and the author of War in the Media Age, which explores the intersection of the military, media and public opinion in conflicts since the Vietnam War. Thrall said it isn™t the first time a president has tried to bury news about Afghanistan.
œBush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” he said. œAfghanistan was truly a forgotten war (when) Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over.” The result is the public really has no idea what™s going on there…. Stars and Stripes
Copyright: Press TV