Afghanistan Reaches New Milestone: Now The Longest Military Action In US History
Three months after 9/11, every major Taliban city in Afghanistan had fallen — first Mazar-i-Sharif, then Kabul, finally Kandahar. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were on the run. It looked as if the war was over, and the Americans and their Afghan allies had won.
Butch Ivie, then a school administrator in Winfield, Ala., remembers, “We thought we’d soon have it tied up in a neat little bag.”
But bin Laden and Omar eluded capture. The Taliban regrouped. Today, Kandahar again is up for grabs. And soon, Afghanistan will pass Vietnam as America’s longest war.
The Vietnam War’s length can be measured in many ways. The formal beginning of U.S. involvement often is dated to Aug. 7, 1964, when Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving the president a virtual carte blanche to wage war. By the time the last U.S. ground combat troops were withdrawn in March 1973, the war had lasted 103 months.
U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. On June 7, the war will complete its 104th month. President Obama on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to the war, saying “it is absolutely critical that we dismantle that network of extremists that are willing to attack us.”
This longest war is far from America’s bloodiest. It has drifted in and out of focus and, for much of its life, been obscured by another war, in Iraq.
I guess we should be grateful for small favors in that relative to other battles, there’s been less loss of life, although I’d say it’s still 1,800 lives too many.
Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke on This Week last week to say that even with the troop increase in Afghanistan, “victory” (however you define that) ultimately was in the hands of the Afghans.
If that’s the case, one has to ask why the hell we need to be there for anyway.
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