Who will be the last soldier to die in Afghanistan?
If the question has Iraq or even Vietnam echoes, it takes on rueful pertinence following President Barack Obama’s announcement that a modest withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan begins this summer. That leaves most of our forces deployed for three more years.
This is not workable or acceptable. Neither is it something for which the United States can continue to spend breathtaking sums of money and something far more valuable: the lives of our young fighters.
We’re simply on the wrong track. Our military is superb at finding and punishing terrorists. But it is ordered to pursue a vague occupy-and-hold strategy, exceeding its reach while roadside bombs and suicidalists wreak mortal damage, and silver coffins are sent home to Oregon, Washington and the rest of the country.
By pressing on in this manner for three more years, we will spend billions of dollars a month on a war that has already cost us nearly $500 billion and build an American military death count already reaching about 1,500, with more than 12,000 wounded.
But the American people sense something awry, something that has nothing to do with a modern fight against terrorism they suggest politics have wormed their way into a deadly situation.
We need a real end, not a light, in sight. And it must come sooner than 2014.
The Oregonian, Portland (June 30)