Operation Enduring Freedom, which began on October 7, 2001, is now the longest war in American history.
The question, of course, is how much more "freedom" we can endure.
According to a July study by Brown University, at least 225,000 lives—foreign and Afghan troops, civilians, insurgents and others—have already been lost over the past decade because of the conflict.
The total cost? Up to $4 trillion in the United States alone.
Despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans express gratititude for our volunteer soldiers, only half the troops believe that the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting, according to CNN. And last month, Congressman Ron Paul was booed loudly during a GOP debate for expressing the possibility that 9/11 was the indirect cause of decades of poor foreign policy.
"These wars, this time period has been unique in our history," said Paul Taylor, one of the authors of the CNN study. "This has been the longest period of sustained conflict in our history and the fight has been carried by the smallest share."
With all this ambivalence, it's no wonder that the media is treating the anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom without their usual fanfare. But to make some sense of our nation's longest military conflict, TakePart has picked out a few of informed voices speaking out on the conflict.
Michael Hirsch, former senior editor at Newsweek, reflects on a decade of misguided war efforts in Afghanistan in the National Journal and warns that it could take much longer to get out than we think.
"[Operation Enduring Freedom] was the beginning of a decade of policy failure in Afghanistan—one that could yet culminate in a return to full-blown civil war after U.S. troops pull out in 2014, almost as if the past decade had never happened."
"Mission Accomplished" [Daily Beast]
Leslie Gelb of the Daily Beast explains why Obama's not-too-hot, not-too-cold attitude toward troop withdrawal may actually be the best course of action.
"To Democrats who think the [troop] withdrawal number is too small and that the world will end, I tell them to see a psychiatrist. To neoconservatives who think it's too large and the world will end, I also recommend psychiatric care."
Madeleine Bunting of The Guardian takes a surprising stance on how the war is— and isn't—saving Afghan women's rights.
"The common pattern is that conflict polarises gender roles: masculinity becomes more aggressive and women are idealised as 'the bearers of a cultural identity'. . . Their bodies become part of the battle field."
The Associated Foreign Press highlights some of the faces from the field, including Pfc. Kyle McClintock, an Illinois native who grew up hating his parents' military lifestyle only to join in the fight in Afghanistan.
"I don't know why my life is the same as theirs, but I like it now," McClintock says. "Now I understand."
Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat and member of the House Armed Services Committee, writes in to the Sacramento Bee on Thursday.
"The human costs of this war are immeasurable when we consider the circles of grief that surround each of the more than 10,000 Americans who have been killed or wounded. Our forces are overstretched, and ouris overdrawn; we need a definitive end date for our nation's longest war."
WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
No matter where you fall on the issue, here are some ways to TakePart:
1. Occupy LA (Friday)
Feeding off the energy of Occupy Wall Street, anti-war protestors will be gathering this Friday, October 7, 2011, at 4:30pm at the Westwood Federal Building on 11000 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
2. Stop the War Coalition (Saturday)
Across the pond? U.K.-based activists will be holding an anti-war protest in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday at noon.
3. Afghanistan Peace Day (Sunday)
Where is the largest Afghan community in the United States? That would be in Fremont, California. Appropriately, this Sunday there will be a walk, gathering and prayer for locals and American allies in honor of the inaugural Afghanistan Peace Day.
4. The Care Package Project
Sponsored by generous donors and volunteers across the country, this group ships 1,200 care packages four times a year to Marines stationed in Afghanistan. To date they've sent nearly 28,000 packages to 20,000 Marines who might not be receiving mail or packages from home.