Ten years in Afghanistan

A decade at war has made Americans question our mission.

Editorial board

Tomorrow will mark 10 years since the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The day marks a time when it seems pertinent to reflect on the implications of the war and to understand a little more intimately the costs and the benefits of the war to the U.S. and to the world.

The war has cost more than $460 billion over the past decade. 1,801 U.S. soldiers and 952 coalition fighters have been killed. These deaths are in addition to the 8,587 Afghan troops, 8,813 Afghan civilians, 298 contractors and 19 journalists killed. More than 48,000 others have been seriously injured.

And the war has only escalated in recent years. A Congressional Research Service report detailed that average monthly spending in Afghanistan grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month between 2009 and 2010, a 50 percent increase. The number of troops ballooned from 44,000 to 102,000.

President Barack ObamaâÄôs call to begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan will remove 30,000 troops from harmâÄôs way by the end of 2012, but this will still leave the number of troops in the country at 2009 levels.

The war in Afghanistan has been costly in financial and human terms, has been getting costlier in recent years, and, 10 years in, does not seem like it will be ending any time soon.

As a nation, we have a duty to educate ourselves about the war and ask whether the cost is worth what the war is accomplishing. We must decide whether we should risk the lives of our bravest men and women for an elusive and ill-defined goal that never seems to get closer. If we donâÄôt, weâÄôll just keep updating the body count and marking off the anniversaries of the longest war in American history.