Battleland

Happy Birthday, War

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It was nine years ago today that the U.S. launched its war on Afghanistan in retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. Here’s a graf from a file I wrote on the eve of the conflict:

As Pentagon planners chart their next moves into Afghanistan, U.S. special forces have a big decision to make. If they are lucky enough to apprehend Osama bin Laden in his mountain lair, will they opt for a “snatch-and-grab” mission, tossing him, alive, into a helicopter, to face justice? Or will they simply “blow-and-go,” killing him on the spot or, preferably, turning him over to Afghans for the coup de grace? “Our guys are going to be in the killing business in Afghanistan,” says an Army special forces veteran. “When you’re fighting people who desire to die for their cause, you accommodate them as quickly as possible.”

Well, as they say, no war plan survives contact with the enemy. The war enters its 10th year today. Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-one allied troops — including 1,321 Americans — have perished, as have untold numbers of Afghans. U.S. taxpayers have spent $350 billion on the  war to date, and continue to spend about $6 billion a month there — nearly $10 million an hour. Debate over the wisdom of the conflict — and how to fight it — persist. Remember: the war’s initial goal was to topple the Taliban, which the U.S. and its allies achieved by the end of 2001. The early sense of quagmire was replaced by victory, only to be followed by another quagmire, in which we are currently about chest-high.

George Soros’ liberal Open Source Foundations are releasing a poll today that they claim shows the Afghan people’s trust in the war effort is eroding. “Failure to understand and respond to Afghan anger over the conduct of international forces and broader international community policies has led to ill-informed policy-making that has not been as effective as possible, or worse, has exacerbated existing problems,” the group says. “Many Afghans interviewed not only regarded the international community with suspicion, many accused internationals, and the international military in particular, of directly or indirectly supporting insurgents in order to justify their continued presence in Afghanistan.” While Afghan doubts may be growing, it’s also true that there have been many polls  showing most Afghans despise the Taliban.

Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to the Pentagon yesterday wondering if President Obama will consider sending more U.S. troops into the fight. The perception that Obama has imposed a troop ceiling — and that we have reached it — “may have hampered the ability of commanders to deploy needed capabilities,” Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., wrote to Michelle Flournoy, the Pentagon’s No. 3 official. He asks for clarification.

You may now blow out the candles.

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