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Afghanistan war slips in American consciousness

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The war in Afghanistan to rout out the Taliban has dragged on for 12 long years and has claimed 2,000 U.S. lives, but the conflict is faded or non-existent in the minds of the majority of Americans. Once called President Barack Obama's "war of necessity," the ongoing battle there has become largely forgotten.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There is little, if any talk of the Afghan war on the 2012 presidential campaign. More than 80,000 American troops are still fighting here, however and are dying at a rate of one a day.

The national interest is more focused on the economy and taxes than the latest suicide bombings in a different, distant land. As protesters at the Iowa State Fair chanted "Stop the war," the war was in reference to the one being waged against the U.S. middle class.

U.S. public opinion remains largely negative toward the war, with 66 percent opposed to it and just 27 percent in favor. Not since the Korean War of the early 1950s, a far shorter war has an armed conflict involving America's sons and daughters captured so little public attention.

"No one understands how to extricate ourselves from the mess we have made there," Matthew Farwell, who served in the U.S. Army for five years, including 16 months in eastern Afghanistan, says. "So from a purely political point of view, I wouldn't be talking about it if I were Barack Obama or Mitt Romney either."

Farwell notes that he sometimes received letters from grade school students addressed to the brave Marines in Iraq - the wrong war.

The defense department's latest tally, updated this month, 1,972 Americans have died in Afghanistan since President George W. Bush launched attacks there in October 2001 to rout al-Qaeda. If casualties in other countries are included, the number of Americans killed since the start of the war is 2,091.

In an analysis of U.S. forces killed in the Afghanistan 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 war drags in spite of the fact that al-Qaeda has been largely driven out of Afghanistan and its charismatic leader Osama bin Laden has long since been slain in a U.S. raid on his Pakistani hideout last year.

The war in Iraq, which Obama opposed as a "war of choice," Afghanistan has never seemed to warrant the same degree of public and media attention.

By the time 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.

The White House has grown increasingly weary of trying to tackle Afghanistan's seemingly intractable problems of poverty and corruption - to which the American people have grown weary too.

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