The war in Afghanistan is neither this, nor that By Neil W. McCabe

President Barack Obama may have been sincere when he said: “For more than 13 years, ever since nearly 3,000 innocent lives were taken from us on 9/11, our nation has been at war in Afghanistan. Now, thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Despite the Dec. 28 ceremony in Kabul marking the end of combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom at the headquarters of NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force–the war in Afghanistan is neither America’s longest, nor over.

Of course, as a practical matter, the only reason our soldiers were in “combat” was because organized and unorganized murderers were about.

Our military operations were geared to support the Afghanistan civil government, protect the Afghanistan people and way down at the bottom of the list: protect our own personnel.

The previous regime had good relations with the United States, but insisted on providing safe harbor to Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

That crowd had to go.

Those of us old enough to remember will tell you that until 2006, the war in Afghanistan was a low-level affair. Things were moving along towards a functioning democracy and the insurgency was trapped in a three-sided box with the fourth side being our military delivering the mail.

Things started to go wrong in 2006 after Western liberals and their Iranian allies decided it was a good idea to destabilize Pakistan and install a Harvard-educated gangstress: Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto was beloved in the West apparently because she killed her brother and her husband looted the Pakistan treasury the last time she was in power.

Someone not from Cambridge, Massachusetts killed Bhutto Dec. 27, 2007, but by then the damage was done. With Pakistan spinning out of control, the three-sided box was broken and the insurgency recovered the initiative.

What Afghanistan needed was a Surge, like the one Gen. David H. Petraeus was at the same time lining up for Iraq. But, that was not in the cards for Afghanistan.

By the time Petraeus arrived in Afghanistan in 2010, Obama was done touting it as a good war—and that was that.

It may turn out that the war really is over. But, it was started to deprive safe harbor to American enemies, and there is no one today who will attest that our goal is achieved. #whatever

As for our thing in Afghanistan being our longest, let’s look at the list.

o The Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1877, if you include the 20-plus years of counterinsurgency and nation-building called “Reconstruction.” Reconstruction was roughly what has been going on in Afghanistan after the Taliban were overthrown.

o The US fought the Seminole Indians off-on from 1818 to 1858, including 11 years of serious combat, 1818, 1835 to 1842 and 1855 to 1858. I am not sure if you can counting quiet years in Afghanistan as wartime. Certainly, the war was over until the West decided to destabilize Pakistan, which took away the third side of the three-sided box insurgents were trapped in.

o American forces were engaged in sustained combat in the Philippines from 1898 to 1913. This began with overthrowing the Spanish and followed with putting down Filipino nationalists.

There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a formal declaration of war, so by any standard you choose; the war in Afghanistan is not America’s longest.

Of course, there is no meaning to a war’s duration. Unless it is your view that there needs to be a fixed time regardless of objectives, I suggest a good war with good objectives should be fought to conclusion.

That would be the difference between baseball and soccer.

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