The longest war in American history is going unnoticed

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The longest war in American history is going unnoticed

By Gabriel Costello

Foreign policy has been a key topic of debate in the 2016 presidential election, yet often absent from this discussion is the United States’ continued presence in Afghanistan.

This stands as a stark contrast to the 2008 election, in which America’s presence in Iraq and Afghanistan often took center stage.

One of President Barack Obama’s main campaign promises was to end the two wars. A lot has changed since then. Today, there are still 9,800 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan.ss

This continued conflict is by far the longest in American history, and still there is no end in sight. Obama recently postponed a plan that would have called for the number of American troops to be halved by the end of the year, effectively passing the issue onto the next administration.ss

Afghanistan, however, has been largely absent from the dialogue during the 2016 electoral cycle. While how to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria is frequently debated, Afghanistan is rarely mentioned by candidates from either side. This is a mistake. Whoever takes office in January 2017 will need to have a strategy prepared for Afghanistan going forward.

The American people deserve to know where their next commander in chief stands on the issue. Given the frequent delays in bringing troops home, the American presence in Afghanistan seems likely to exist for decades to come. Certainly this plan exists far outside of the goals that were set forth in 2001: to kill Osama Bin Laden and deprive his terrorist network of a base of operations.

Today, the reality presented seems unwinnable. There is still a significant Al-Qaeda presence in the country, the Taliban controls wide swaths of territory and ISIS is laying claim to its own foothold.

The Afghan National Army time and again has proven incapable of sustaining gains made by U.S. and NATO troops earlier in the decade. This perhaps speaks to the nature of Afghanistan. It is by nature a tribal and fractured countryss. The sheer geography of the sprawling mountain ranges makes it incredibly difficult to control, not to mention the fact that the country has been in a state of almost constant conflict since the 1970s.ss

The options are bleak. Either the U.S. makes a commitment to keep troops embroiled in Afghanistan for years to come, hoping that in time the central government and its military will be able assert their authority, or the Americans leave the country, ending the longest war in the history of our nation. This, of course, opens the door to an almost certain collapse of the central government and a power struggle between the competing Islamist groups.

Presidential candidates should be pressed on this issue and it should be included in our national dialogue. The United States populace should not accept unending war as reality. It is perhaps the widespread acceptance of this reality that has allowed the war to go on for so long, often unnoticed by the populace.

Gone too are the days of the college protests of war, like those staged during the conflict in Vietnam.

The last time the United States was at peace, many college-aged students were beginning elementary school. The war in Afghanistan has been a constant for the current generation of American college students, which is perhaps why apathy now reigns on college campuses in regards to Afghanistan.

Gone are the days of World War II or Vietnam, where the entire country had some stake in the war. With only a tiny fraction of the populace serving overseas, it is easy to see how the war has slipped out of sight.

This needs to change. Students and citizens at large need to think critically about their positions on the war. If they want it to end and our troops to come home, then they need to demand as much.

Gabriel is a sophomore in LAS.

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