Opinion: Assessing the Afghan war: Guess what? We aren’t winning


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So, America, remember the Vietnam War? Because the war in Afghanistan just gave me a bad case of deja vu.

On Wednesday, The Times’ Ken Dilanian and David S. Cloud reported:


The U.S. intelligence community says in a secret new assessment that the war in Afghanistan is mired in stalemate, and warns that security gains from an increase in American troops have been undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan, according to U.S. officials.

Could someone please tell me how in the world we’ve let this happen? Why is it that the best and the brightest keep getting Americans killed for nothing?

The British got run out of Afghanistan in the 19th century. The Soviets got run out of Afghanistan in the 20th century.

Yet we’ve allowed ourselves to get stuck there?

And according to the classified National Intelligence Estimate completed last month and cited by The Times’ reporters, things aren’t likely to improve:

In a section looking at future scenarios, the NIE also asserts that the Afghan government in Kabul may not be able to survive as the U.S. steadily pulls out its troops and reduces military and civilian assistance.

The costs? Cover your eyes:

Some in Congress and the Obama administration are concerned that the bleak assessment suggests little progress was made in the last year. During that time, the U.S. has suffered more than 400 military fatalities and spent more than $100 billion. As of Wednesday, 1,873 Americans had been killed in Afghanistan since U.S. forces invaded in late 2001, according to the website

In 2001 and 2002, when the George W. Bush administration launched the war in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks, 51 U.S. soldiers died.


Imagine if we’d had the good sense to declare victory then and get out?

Instead, we’ve doubled down on a bad bet. The result? Steadily rising casualties, with 499 killed in 2010 and 418 last year.

Now you might say that’s not so bad, really, compared with the Vietnam War, in which more than 58,000 Americans were killed.

Sure. Try telling that to the families of the dead.

Tell that to the family of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan. The San Clemente native and Tesoro High School graduate is to be awarded the Navy Cross next week. What did he do? In August 2009, while on patrol in Helmand province, he spotted an explosive device and hurled himself into the body of a fellow Marine to protect him and others from the blast.

This California hero died saving others. I’m sure his family is proud. I’m also sure they’d rather have him home, safe.

Some will say that if we leave now, the sacrifices of Hogan and others will have been in vain.

But I say we can’t afford any more such tragic sacrifices for a lost cause.

We can’t do much about Afghanistan now. President Obama says we’ll be out by 2014. Good. Hopefully he sticks to that plan. And hopefully a Republican hawk doesn’t become president.

But we need to make sure there aren’t any more Afghanistans. And to do that, everyone in this country needs to have some skin in this game.

We need a military draft. We need to make sure that all of America’s sons and daughters are subject to combat duty.

That way, the next time war fever hits, we’ll be sure that everyone has caught cold before we go into battle.

It’s time to put a stop to politicians doing the deciding while only a few do the dying.


Ted Rall in Afghanistan

Staying the course in Afghanistan

McManus: A long goodbye to Afghanistan

-- Paul Whitefield