On Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin was killed serving as a Special Forces communications sergeant with the U.S. Army’s 1st Special Forces Group in Afghanistan.
It has now been more than 6,500 consecutive days since the United States deployed troops in Afghanistan. If we consider this to have been a war, then it is the longest war in our nation’s history. For comparison, U.S. involvement in World War II from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day was 1,346 days.
In April 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech in Afghanistan declaring, “The war is over.”
In March 2008, presidential candidate Obama made promises about “finishing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban” in Afghanistan.
In August 2012, Donald Trump published a tweet which called troop deployment in Afghanistan a “complete waste” and stated it was “time to come home!”
In March 2013, Mr. Trump tweeted that “We should leave Afghanistan immediately.”
In 2012 and 2013, President Obama promised our involvement in Afghanistan would be over in 2014.
In December of 2017, Vice President Mike Pence insisted that “victory in Afghanistan is closer than ever before.”
Last month President Trump promised to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan, but he also asserted an intention to keep nearly 10,000 service members deployed there. Last week the president indicated an intention to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely after peace talks with the Taliban broke down.
Thus far the deployment in Afghanistan has cost us more than $1 trillion and 2,300-plus American lives. More than 20,000 soldiers have been physically wounded while deployed in Afghanistan. Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan have a statistically higher rate of mental illness after they return home than every other overseas deployment in the U.S. miltary in the last 20 years. Children of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan report increased levels of stress and anxiety.
So, at least every 6,500 days or so, we should probably ask ourselves why we continue to expend our money, health, well-being, and our very lives in this conflict? We invaded Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The leading Taliban government in Afghanistan knowingly and intentionally sheltered terrorist members of al Qaeda. Within a few years of our military invasion into Afghanistan, we decimated the leadership of al Qaeda and severely degraded the leadership within the Taliban. Osama bin Laden has been dead for years.
The significant majority of this war has been spent as an open-ended nation-building effort with few clear objectives and no clear path toward victory. There were reasons given for the invasion, but our objectives, such that they were, have long since been met.
Maybe U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for another 6,500 days. Perhaps this is a forever war. After all, U.S. troops have been in Korea for 68 years and Germany for 73 years. To me, this is a very disheartening thought. Polling indicates that 57 percent of Americans and 69 percent of American veterans favor withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Presumably, there are reasons for our troops to remain. Possibly, some of them may even be sound. Maybe it is also time to end America’s longest war.
John Judkins is a Greenfield attorney.