Although Barack Obama only devoted 2 of the 280 sentences in his late February Address before a Joint Session of Congress on the War in Afghanistan, the U.S. attempt to bring greater stability to a historically unstable region of the world is starting to once again take center stage in American foreign policy.
On February 17, just one week prior to his Address, Obama approved sending approximately 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan – beefing up American forces in the country by 57 percent, from 30,000 to just shy of 50,000.
Operation Enduring Freedom is proving to be the war that will not end – U.S. military fatalities are now on record pace in 2009, in the 9th year of the military campaign. If the current pace is maintained, 2009 will mark the third consecutive year of increasing levels of U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan.
According to iCasualties.org, 98 U.S. troops died in 2006, followed by 117 in 2007, and 155 in 2008.
Thirty-six American military personnel have died in 2009 thus far – which puts the war in Afghanistan on a record-setting pace of 175 U.S. troop fatalities for the year, or an increase of 13 percent from 2008. Four U.S. soldiers died on Sunday in a roadside explosion in the eastern part of the country.
While American citizens and members of Congress were nearly in universal support of the initial military operations in Afghanistan to take out the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist training camps, support has since waned, particularly among Democrats and liberals who support the return of U.S. troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many Democratic officeholders, however, including liberal U.S. Representative Betty McCollum from Minnesota’s 4th District, have been calling for more aid and resources to Afghanistan for years.
Still, polls conducted by USA Today/Gallup and ABC News/Washington Post in late February after Obama’s deployment decision now show one-third of the nation in opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan. Nearly half of those surveyed in the ABC News polls (47 percent) now believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting.
While the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, has lobbied for even more U.S. troops on the ground than those being deployed under Obama’s directive, Obama appears to be making good on his campaign pledge to focus on Afghanistan (and its mountainous border region with Pakistan) in the fight against terrorism and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.