According to iCasualties.org, 2,315 Americans have died in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014, of 3,428 total coalition casualties. In 2012, according to The Long War Journal, 15 percent of coalition deaths were a result of green on blue attacks, when Afghanistan security forces attacked coalition forces. Though it’s a small number of dead from a war over a decade old to be sure, and though the rate of survival for American soldiers wounded in combat is higher than ever, the fact remains that there are far too many soldiers returning home either wounded or shrouded in a flag.
As the complicated situation in Afghanistan continues, the Department of Defense also prepares for major cutbacks. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has proposed to downsize the military to pre-World War II levels in an effort to lower costs. At the same time, the U.S. is moving in an attempted pivot toward the Pacific region and faces a growing sense of unease in Eastern European allies over a resurgent Russia.
Our War on Terror is far from over, as evidenced by the ever-growing intelligence apparatus that is nominally designed to protect the American population both at home and abroad. Yet the fact is that the war in Afghanistan has been costly in terms of blood and treasure, and we still have little to show for it. The conflict and those who have served in it are more often than not forgotten by most media reports, rarely showing up as more than a statement in the runner along the bottom of a major news channel show. As we pay more and more attention to domestic issues, widespread, allegedly unconstitutional government spying programs, and the issues in the Crimean peninsula, we must be sure to formulate a clear plan for the future of American involvement in Afghanistan. The cost of our involvement there has been high, and if the Afghan government wishes to take the burden of governance and security upon themselves, let them. As our military shrinks, we need to be free to address pressing concerns of national security as they arise, rather than being locked into a costly engagement overseas.