Back in May, I wrote an article for PolicyMic detailing why Afghanistan will be an important issue in this presidential election. As news cycles progressed over the summer, however, we seem to have forgotten about that unending conflict. The focus is now on abortion, ridiculous and misogynist comments about women, and naturally, the economy. But, we're still in a war.
Two thousand deaths and counting.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan was signed on May 1, 2012. According to the White House, "The Agreement provides for the possibility of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014, for the purposes of training Afghan Forces and targeting the remnants of Al-Qaeda, and commits the United States and Afghanistan to initiate negotiations on a Bilateral Security Agreement to supersede our current Status of Forces Agreement."
In May, I wrote there were four main reasons why the far reaches of the rugged terrain of this central Asian country would be a major player come November. Given the volatile situation in Syria, a new president in Egypt, America's health care crisis,and the still-slow pace of economic growth here and abroad, the war may not get that level of anticipated attention.
However, the New York Times has other ideas about that. In a move that reinvigorated my love of print media and it's role as a powerful partner to digital, the paper published a multi-page spread of the second set of one thousand American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in sand, dust, mountains, valleys, and fields of Afghanistan. The interactive chart and individual pictures online are moving, but the print version sets out the real, sobering visual.
As the Times points out, "Nearly nine years passed before American forces reached their first 1,000 dead in the war. The second 1,000 came just 27 months later."
This was due, at least in part, to the 2010 surge of over 30,000 troops which is set to end soon. Another reason is the latest threat from Afghan Security Forces themselves, as some have turned their guns onto NATO forces.
Though the Times feature highlights the sad and all-too-human impact of war, it belies the colder realities of the conflict here at home. The pictures don't show the congressional votes or the billions of dollars spent every day on the conflict. They don't show campaign fundraisers and stump speeches. In any case, it will make you remember the war that began eleven years ago and perhaps will prompt important questions during the presidential debates and on the campaign trail.