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Seamans: How Long?

07/08/10 7:55AM By Bill Seamans
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(HOST) Over the Fourth of July weekend, commentator Bill Seamans found himself once again contemplating war, public perception and military sacrifice.

(SEAMANS)  During the Fourth of July celebrations it's regrettable or perhaps even tragic that the long war in Afghanistan remained virtually unnoticed by the public and the news media - except by the relatives of those carrying the burden - like the family of National Guard Specialist Ryan Grady, 25, of West Burke, VT, whom we lost last weekend.  I ask just how long can the American public escape the reality that our precious youth are dying daily and billions of tax dollars that could fix so many things here at home are being spent with no end in sight and the Taliban enemy appears to be growing stronger.

I've noticed an alarming trend in our daily Afghan casualty lists during the past week or so.  While one or two of our troops have been reported killed every few days with intervals of no casualties at all the toll suddenly has jumped to five or six a day.  Significantly most of these troops have been members of the elite 82nd Airborne Division and the famed Band of Brothers 101st Airborne along with the top 1st Marines.

Thus, if the public were paying attention, we could see that the best infantry troops in the world are being cut down by Taliban fighters in preliminary skirmishes before our announced plan to dislodge the Taliban from its stronghold city of Kandahar.  This, to even the nonmilitary eye indicates that the coming clash for the control of Kandahar will raise our casualty toll to a level that I hope will force we the people to finally start paying serious attention to the Afghan war.

Gen. David Petraeus, who has put his camos back on and taken direct command of the Afghan war said this week that he is there to win a "victory" - although that victory has not yet been defined.  He said it will be a "tough mission" that "will take some time" but could not say how long.   And he frankly said that we can expect a rise in the casualty toll, but could not say how many more.

In the meantime, Gen. Petraeus will be fighting a Taliban that has proved itself capable of shooting it out with our elite troops and surely will become even more deadly defending their symbolic home.  John McCain, speaking as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the key to that victory promised by Gen. Petraeus is the capture and control of Kandahar.

To support his campaign, Petraeus is getting 30 billion more dollars and an expected new surge of troops that will bring our force in Afghanistan up to at least 150,000.  Whether he will be able to begin the scheduled withdrawal of our troops at the end of next summer depends, Petraeus has said, on the military and political conditions at that time.   We hope that Gen. Petraeus will be able to lead our troops out of from what appears to critics to be another huge sucking quagmire.
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