Little being said on US-led war in Afghanistan on campaign trail
Published: September 28, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As America's longest war in history marks its 11th anniversary Oct. 7, it remains a largely undiscussed issue in the presidential campaign. Both major candidates -- President Barack Obama, the Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney -- have kept Afghanistan on the back burner as they crisscross the country even though 68,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Sept. 21 that the last of the 33,000 troops that were part of the 2010 surge have left Afghanistan. Obama sent the surge in an effort to improve security and reduce instability in the face of a growing Taliban-backed insurgency. While the Obama administration has said the surge helped, the insurgency remains a potent force and threatens the security of troops and Afghan civilians. The growing number of so-called "green on blue" attacks on U.S. trainers by Afghan allies has raised new concerns that the long-sought stability is far from realization. Overall, war casualties stood at 3,190 dead, including 2,125 Americans, as of Sept. 26, according to statistics compiled by the website iCasualties.org. Thousands more have been wounded in a war marked largely by low-intensity conflicts in a country slightly smaller than Texas. Despite the contingent of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan, observers told Catholic News Service that Obama and Romney rarely mention the war as talk focuses on rebuilding the American economy. Afghanistan gets scant attention even on the candidates' websites. Obama's reference to Afghanistan is two lines long, promising to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of 2014. The site, however, credits Obama for the decision to raid Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and "eliminating" the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. Romney's website offers a longer narrative on the war. But his criticism of the president's surge and the 2014 deadline to withdraw forces is longer than his plan for addressing Afghan security. "Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders," the site concludes.
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