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The late Sgt. 1st Class Ben Wise, 1st Special Forces Group, and his son Luke.
“I found my son sitting having a moment with his daddy the other day. We lost him January 15 in Afghanistan.” (Twitter)

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Feature report

2,000 Gone in Afghanistan


Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Riley G. Stephens
(Photo: USASOC News Service)

By Bill Briggs

October 5, 2012

When No. 2,000 fell last weekend in Afghanistan, journalists were keeping count. But is the nation keeping up?

Sunday marks the 11-year anniversary of the first American missile strikes against terrorist and Taliban targets inside Afghanistan. The U.S. military death toll has ticked ever slowly upward from the war’s launch in October 2001 as a globally watched counterattack to 9/11 through the height of the Iraq War when service members in Afghanistan darkly dubbed their own battleground “Forgot-istan.”

Last Saturday, Sgt. 1st Class Riley G. Stephens, 39, was shot and killed by an Afghan National Army soldier at a highway checkpoint in Wardak Province. The Airborne Special Forces member had three children and a wife. …

According to The Associated Press, Stephens was the 2,000th U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan, the type of historic landmark that gets the media’s notice.

But if the simple cold arithmetic of his passing didn’t get your attention, you’ve got company. Although 68,000 U.S. troops remain in that war zone, the majority of Americans have mentally moved along, military experts say, to the point where such tragic notches rarely rate a mention at the supper table and barely raise more than a momentary blip in the Twitter-sphere. …

Full story

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Related report

‘No One Really Cares’: U.S. Deaths in Afghanistan Hit 2,000 in ‘Forgotten’ War


Paratroopers from Chosen Company of the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry rest towards the end of a helicopter assault mission to improve their biological database, near the town of Ahmad Khel in Afghanistan’s Paktiya Province on July 16, 2012. (Photo credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters, file)


August 22, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — It was once President Barack Obama’s “war of necessity.” Now, it’s America’s forgotten war.

The Afghan conflict generates barely a whisper on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. It’s not a hot topic at the office water cooler or in the halls of Congress — even though more than 80,000 American troops are still fighting here and dying at a rate of one a day.

Americans show more interest in the economy and taxes than the latest suicide bombings in a different, distant land. They’re more tuned in to the political ad war playing out on television than the deadly fight still raging against the Taliban. …

Public opinion remains largely negative toward the war, with 66 percent opposed to it and just 27 percent in favor in a May AP-GfK poll. More recently, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. should no longer be involved in Afghanistan. Just 31 percent said the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting there now.

Not since the Korean War of the early 1950s — a much shorter but more intense fight — has an armed conflict involving America’s sons and daughters captured so little public attention.

“We’re bored with it,” said Matthew Farwell, who served in the U.S. Army for five years including 16 months in eastern Afghanistan, where he sometimes received letters from grade school students addressed to the brave Marines in Iraq — the wrong war.

“We all laugh about how no one really cares,” he said. “All the ‘support the troops’ stuff is bumper sticker deep.” …

According to an analysis of U.S. forces killed in the war by The New York Times, three out of four who died were white, nine out of 10 were enlisted service members and the average age of those who died was 26. Half of the deaths were in Afghanistan’s Kandahar or Helmand provinces — in the country’s Taliban-dominated south, the Times reported.

The war drags on even though al-Qaida has been largely driven out of Afghanistan and its charismatic leader Osama bin Laden is dead — slain in a U.S. raid on his Pakistani hideout last year. …

Unlike Iraq, victory in Afghanistan seemed to come quickly. Kabul fell within weeks of the U.S. invasion in October 2001. The hardline Taliban regime was toppled with few U.S. casualties.

But the Bush administration’s shift toward war with Iraq left the Western powers without enough resources on the ground, so by 2006 the Taliban had regrouped into a serious military threat.

Candidate Obama promised to refocus America’s resources on Afghanistan. But by the time President Obama sent 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan in December 2009 in a policy known as the “surge”, years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan had drained Western resources and sapped resolve to build a viable Afghan state.

Army casualties during the surge were heaviest [link added] at Fort Campbell in Kentucky (home to the 101st Airborne Division) and Fort Drum in New York (home to the 10th Mountain division), according to the Times’ analysis of deaths. Units at both bases were frequently deployed to Afghanistan during the surge, the Times reported.

Over time, Obama’s administration has grown weary of trying to tackle Afghanistan’s seemingly intractable problems of poverty and corruption. The American people have grown weary too [links added]. …

Full story

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Related reports on this site

Image: An effigy of President Obama is burned during a protest in Afghanistan
Protesters chant anti-American slogans and burn an effigy of President Barack Obama in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Rahmat Gul / AP)

Setback for U.S. in Afghan War (Jan. 13, 2012)

No Way Forward in Afghanistan (June 27, 2011)

‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2010)

Afghanistan Worn-Out Welcome (Nov. 21, 2010)

‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)

Afghan Support for U.S. Plummets (Feb. 10, 2009)

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