07 October 2011

Afghan War Ten Years Old

Ten years ago today, the U.S. started its war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history, although it has not been a high intensity war compared to most that the U.S. has fought. There are currently 98,000 U.S. troops as part of an international coalition in Afghanistan, although the administration plans to reduce the count to 65,000 by the end of 2012. The administration currently plans to stay there at least another three years in a lead role and longer in a supporting role, however, and that war in Afghanistan has cost the U.S. government something on the order of $550 billion.

Deaths for U.S. troops and Afghan civilians have surged since 2009, with two-thirds of the 1,700 or so deaths in Afganistan taking place since then, a time period in which U.S. troop levels have also surged. Still, combined allied and civilian casualties from the war in 2010 (the most so far) were still no greater than, for example, those of the current Mexican drug war, and neither the number of troops deployed nor the number of casualties is anywhere close to those of our second longest war, in Vietnam. The U.S. has not instituted a draft during any part of the war, although it has called upon reserve and national guard forces to serve there.

The standard of well being for Afghan citizens by measures from infant morality, to life expectency, to literacy, to per capita income in Afghanistan are worse than any other country in the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Decades of war interrupted by only brief periods of relative peace under often authoritarian regimes have taken their toll, and the only viable export industry in the nation, which accounts for much of the nations total GDP is illegal opium production - Afghanistan accounts for a large share of the total world opium supply.

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