U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan 12 years ago Monday in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, initiating a conflict some experts worry has been forgotten.
Stars and Stripes reports that the war has largely faded from view as casualties continue to mount. At least 102 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan this year as of Oct. 1, more than during any of the first six years of the war, according to the Associated Press.
After Osama Bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders eluded capture during the initial U.S. offensive, attentions shifted to the war in Iraq. That allowed the Taliban to regroup and prompted President Barack Obama to order a “surge” of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009:
Despite the surge, though, the Taliban remain entrenched, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces — who have largely taken over security responsibilities from coalition forces — with little more than a year to go before all international troops are scheduled to leave.
Afghanistan is a topic seldom mentioned by the White House, and with public support for the military mission there having crumbled in the past few years, it’s easy to see why.
“President Obama talks about Afghanistan strategy maybe only once in a year,” Majidyar said. “When he does talk about it, he talks about the end of the war and talks only of positive things.”
A White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion of Afghanistan, instead issuing a statement about negotiations over a bilateral security agreement to keep American troops in Afghanistan past the end of 2014.
Those negotiations have reached an impasse, the New York Times reports.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the remaining U.S. forces to cross the border and conduct operations in Pakistan if necessary to protect Afghan sovereignty, a prospect U.S. officials would prefer to avoid. Karzai has also thus far been unwilling to permit U.S. forces to continue searching for al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan.
The stalled negotiations increase the likelihood that all U.S. forces might withdraw from Afghanistan after the end of next year, similar to the complete pullout from Iraq two years ago.
Top military officials have said they hope to avoid such an outcome in Afghanistan in light of al Qaeda’s resurgence in Iraq.