Today is our 2,162nd day in Iraq.
We'll start this morning as we always do, with the latest casualty figures from Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of Antiwar.com:
Since war began (3/19/03): 4245
Since "Mission Accomplished" (5/1/03): 4106
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03): 3784
Since Handover (6/29/04): 3387
Since Election (1/31/05): 2807
Other Coalition Troops - Iraq: 318
US Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 651
Other Military Deaths - Afghanistan: 426
Contractor Deaths - Iraq: 446
We find this morning's cost of war
nearing $600 billion dollars
:$597, 665, 900, 000.00
So....here at Ask a Vet, you know we focus almost exclusively on the war in Iraq...ocassionally looking at Afghanistan, and once in a long while, veering away from these conflicts entirely. Today, we'll be thinking far outside the box.
This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat in Afghanistan. (February 15, 1989). Most of us know the very-high-level history of the conflict. In December of 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, allegedly at the "request" of the puppet government they installed. The world protested, and our own President Carter initiated the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in response.
Over much of the 1980s, we continually supplied the Mujahadeen, including a young Saudi ex-pat named Osama bin Laden, and eventually the war of attrition dragged on far enough that the Soviets finally gave up and went home.
For much of these past 20 years, Afghanistan has been a center of anarchy; numerous governments have risen and fallen, and religious extremists have been able to set up a base with complete impunity. Indirectly, at least, the turmoil in Afghanistan led to September 11, and even today this area of the world still looms large on the global stage.
There's news this morning that President Obama has kept another campaign pledge; there's a "surge" of troops underway to Afghanistan, and they've begun combat operations.
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Close to 3,000 American soldiers who recently arrived in Afghanistan to secure two violent provinces near Kabul have begun operations in the field and already are seeing combat, the unit's spokesman said Monday.
The new troops are the first wave of an expected surge of reinforcements this year. The process began to take shape under President George Bush but has been given impetus by President Barack Obama's call for an increased focus on Afghanistan.
U.S. commanders have been contemplating sending up to 30,000 more soldiers to bolster the 33,000 already here, but the new administration is expected to initially approve only a portion of that amount. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday the president would decide soon.
The new unit — the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division — moved into Logar and Wardak provinces last month, and the soldiers from Fort Drum, N.Y., are now stationed in combat outposts throughout the provinces.
Militants have attacked several patrols with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, including one ambush by 30 insurgents, Lt. Col. Steve Osterhozer, the brigade spokesman, said.
Several roadside bombs also have exploded next to the unit's MRAPs — mine-resistance patrol vehicles — but caused no casualties, he said.
"In every case our vehicles returned with overwhelming fire," Ostehozer said. "We have not suffered anything more than a few bruises, while several insurgents have been killed."
Commanders are in the planning stages of larger scale operations expected to be launched in the coming weeks.
I was just pondering the irony of that....here on this blog at least, we've spent the better part of the last four years railing against the war in Iraq, and constantly calling for the troops to come home, so it's with mixed emotions that I applaud this move...after all, this is the war we should have fought after 9/11, but I digress.
So, in a roundabout way, we've come to the story that caught my eye over the weekend. Afghanistan may be directly responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union; maybe not. In any case, there are thousands of Russain soldiers out there that fought and died in the mountains of Afghanistan, in most cases no less bravely or honorably than our own soldiers today. 20 years after their humiliation, they have a sobering message for President Obama
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Soviet veterans marking 20 years since their defeat in Afghanistan warned the United States it would never truly control the country, citing bitter memories of a fiercely proud people and unforgiving landscape.
The withdrawal of the last Soviet troops from Afghanistan on February 15, 1989 ended a decade of fighting that killed an estimated 15,000 Soviet troops and convinced a generation of soldiers they had been sent to fight a war they could not win.
The United States, preparing to pour more troops into Afghanistan to fight a growing Taliban-led insurgency, is reliving their nightmare, they said.
"It's like fighting sand. No force in the world can get the better of the Afghans," said Oleg Kubanov, a stocky 47-year-old former officer with the Order of the Red Star pinned to his chest at an anniversary concert in Moscow.
"It's their holy land, it doesn't matter to them if you're Russian, American. We're all soldiers to them."
Thousands of veterans, some in dress suits, some in combats, gathered Friday for a lavish concert organized by Moscow City Hall. As they embraced and posed for pictures before the show, many cited America's troubles as proof their campaign in Afghanistan had been hopeless from the start.
Reports that U.S. President Barack Obama plans to boost U.S. forces there to 60,000 revived bitter memories for members of the Soviet deployment that steadily climbed to a peak of more than 100,000 troops as the insurgency deepened in the mid-1980s.
There are 36,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today, split between the 55,000-strong NATO force and separate U.S. missions, both charged with protecting a transitional government from Taliban forces.
"Numbers don't solve anything," said Shamil Tyukteyev, 59, who lead a regiment in Afghanistan from 1986-88. "You can't put a soldier outside every house or a base on every mountain. We saw it ourselves, the more troops, the more resistance."
So....it is with some hope that this administration is not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past; even if we learn from someone else's mistakes, then we would be wise to review that history.