July Deadliest Month For U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
According to the Associated Press, NATO has just announced the deaths of six U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, bringing this month’s death toll to 66. This surpasses last month’s death toll of 60 and makes July the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the war began nearly nine years ago.
But perhaps even more ominous is the increase in the rate of American soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan since President Obama took over as Commander-in-Chief. According to iCasualties, a website that has been tracking U.S. casualties in the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, a total of 1215 U.S. soldiers have died within the Afghanistan theater of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those 1215, 451 U.S. soldiers have died in just the last 12 months alone.
That means that more U.S. soldiers have died in the last year than during the first six years of the war combined.
Given this sharp increase in American soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan, it is nearly impossible to argue that conditions in Afghanistan are improving. Month after month, the death toll in Afghanistan continues to inch upwards, as does its enormous pricetag. According to the National Priorities Project, which has been tracking the cost of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the War in Afghanistan has now cost the American taxpayer $286.6 billion dollars. And just this week, the U.S. House of Representative voted (by a vote of 308 to 144) to give an additional $37 billion dollars to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is in addition to the $130 billion that Congress already approved for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq earlier this year. 148 Democrats and 160 Republicans voted in favor of the war-funding bill, while 102 Democrats and only 12 Republicans voted against it (see roll call).
The War in Afghanistan now stands as the second longest war in American history*, and what do we as a nation have to show for this nearly nine year long military adventure? Osama Bin Laden remains unfound. The Taliban remains in control of portions of Afghanistan. And there are reports that the war has now spilled over into Pakistan.
But perhaps the most disgusting part of the War in Afghanistan is the sheer hypocrisy being manifested by the politicians, pundits, and partisans within this country. After spending years criticizing President Bush for his handling of the war in Afghanistan and initiation of the War in Iraq, liberals and Democrats have been mysteriously silent in their criticism of President Obama despite the fact that Obama has significantly escalated U.S. involvement in Afghanistan during his presidency. Meanwhile, conservatives and Republicans continue to argue that there isn’t enough money pay for government services in this country even as they continue to support nation-building in Afghanistan.
It’s long past time for our politicians to decide once and for all what their principles truly are and what the ultimate purpose is of fighting this war in Afghanistan. Is there endpoint to this war, or our troops’ presence in Afghanistan simply an open-ended commitment? Is there an exit plan to this war, or can we expect our troops to be there another nine years?
*This assertion depends on whether one considers the official start of the American portion of the Vietnam War to have the issuing of military advisors during the Eisenhower administration, the initiation of joint American-Vietnamese operations during the Kennedy administration, or the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and subsequent escalation during the Johnson administration. For the purposes of this article, the Vietnam War is assumed to have been well underway during the Kennedy administration, making it the longest war in American history.
UPDATE: In the two hours since I posted this article, iCasualties has updated their data to include an additional three American soldier deaths that was not accounted for in the previous tally, bringing the total number of U.S. soldiers lost in War in Afghanistan to 1215. I have updated my article to reflect this new information.