A partial list of things newer or shorter than our never-ending war in Afghanistan
At the request and recommendation of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Donald Trump has authorized a “mini-surge” in Afghanistan, sending an additional 5,000 U.S. troops to join the fight.
Now almost halfway through its sixteenth year, the war in Afghanistan is described even by the Pentagon as a “stalemate.” The Taliban and other Islamist insurgents control an estimated half of the country. The weak and anemic internationally-recognized government in Kabul, continues to survive almost entirely on foreign aid and U.S. military backing.
There are good reasons to doubt sending an additional 5,000 soldiers will make much difference in a war that has already cost 2,271 American lives. But perhaps nothing demonstrates that absurdity better than the simply noting the length of this apparently never-ending war.
The September 11th attacks were almost sixteen years ago. America invaded Afghanistan within a month. An American baby born on that fateful day would now be eligible to drive in most states. We’ll soon pass the grim milestone of sending soldiers to Afghanistan who had not even been born yet in 2001. The start of this war was closer in time to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 than it is to today.
The Vietnam War, as officially defined by the U.S. government from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to the fall of Saigon, lasted 10 years and 9 months. United States involvement in World War II, from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, lasted 3 years and 8 months. The War in Afghanistan now exceeds both of them combined, with almost enough time to fit the Korean War in there too. It has lasted almost twice as long as the American Revolutionary War of 8 years, 5 months, and all the way from Lexington and Concord to the Treaty of Paris.
To put it in a more contemporary cultural perspective, when we invaded Afghanistan: YouTube (now twelve years old) was still four and half years in the future; the launch of the first-generation iPhone (now nine years ago), was still six years away; Facebook had not been invented yet; Twitter (the preferred medium of President Trump) was five years away from launch in its earliest incarnation, and well over a decade from becoming the popular universal icon it is today.
Since invading Afghanistan, the United States has held four quadrennial presidential elections, and elected eight numbered meetings of Congress. The war continued through almost all of one two-term Presidency, the entirety of another two-term Presidency, and is now being waged by its third Commander-in-Chief.
With Osama bin Laden long-dead and al-Qaeda dispersed and scattered and supplanted by other terrorist rivals, the connection between the War in Afghanistan and the 9/11 attacks is more tenuous than ever. When can we finally declare victory and go home?
(Photo of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Alonzo Gonzales with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, walks through an alley looking for signs of sickness or disease during an operation to capture suspected Anti-Coalition Forces in the vicinity of Methar Lam, Afghanistan recently. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James L. Yarboro used with permission.)