The Afghanistan War today

This long war deserves reflection and remembrance for our fallen troops.

Two important milestones passed last week that deserve reflection: the 1,000th U.S. troop member died in Afghanistan and the nation celebrated its ninth Memorial Day while at war there. The numbers of the war in Afghanistan tell of a conflict that our policymakers have placed at about the same level as importance as a neglected backyard project. Nearly nine years and running, itâÄôs the longest war in U.S. history. And, during one of the worst recessions the country has experienced, taxpayers are footing a heavy bill. The cost of sending one U.S. troop to Afghanistan for one year is about $1 million, according to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report. And the total estimated $1 trillion cost of the war is enough to give every living person in the United States at least $3,200. The death toll has climbed like the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan âÄî a steady rise from central Afghanistan with a sharp spike in the east âÄî where the Taliban have taken refuge. It took more than seven years for the death toll for U.S. troops to reach 500. But during the last two years, it has nearly doubled. In total, furthermore, more than 5,700 U.S. service members have been wounded. Literally countless Afghan civilians have died or have been maimed. Sometimes, their deaths are at the direction of robotic Predator drones, controlled by a U.S. military official safely watching a screen in a military outpost in the United States. And if innocent Afghan deaths do not come at the hands of foreign soldiers, their own countrymen might deliver it, whether by a suicide bomb or just a cold execution. If winning this war indeed depends on winning over the faith of the Afghan population, then there is positive news. The percentage of Afghanis who support U.S. efforts in their county are about the same percentage of those who oppose it. An ABC News-BBC-ARD National Survey of Afghanistan showed a 30 point advance from last yearâÄôs poll âÄî 70 percent âÄî of Afghans who thought their country is going in the right direction. The same poll showed fewer Afghans âÄî 17 percent from 36 percent âÄî are placing blame on U.S. troops, NATO Troops and Afghan Security forces for the violence in the country than last year. And since last year, more Afghans, 42 percent from 27 percent, blame the Taliban on the violence. President Barack Obama has vowed to start bringing troops home by 2011. That appears to be a difficult task for an administration that just recently ramped up U.S. troop levels there. Last December, Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops, bringing the total to roughly 87,000. But those are just the numbers of war. In our industrial democracy, policymakers count them, like insurance actuators, for good or ill. They assess possible risks of a war with numbers and, from those assessments, decide whether to support it. The deaths of our servicemen and women, the civilian deaths, the cost of the conflict, the length of the conflict and the amount of troops all provide numerical evidence for those assessments. But the people fighting those wars âÄî and their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. âÄî cannot just see war on charts and graphs. In Qalat, the capital of the southern providence Zabul, a CV-22 Osprey crashed on a late Afghan night of April 8. The next day, military officials pronounced Air Force Maj. Randell D. Voas and three others flying with him dead. Vaos graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1989 with a biology degree, and he left behind a wife and two children. We honor his service along with the incalculable others who have died fighting for our country.