In an interview published today, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared that the American public is “pretty tired” of the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, and said he believed that forces had to turn the situation around in a year.
If, or most likely when, that doesn’t happen, Gates says that the US could lose public support for the war, and the public might conclude that the conflict has become “unwinnable,” adding “after the Iraq experience, nobody is prepared to have a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway.”
The US launched its invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, and President Obama made escalation of the war a top issue of his 2008 election campaign and the centerpiece of his early administration. The dramatic increase in US troops committed to the war is seen as open-ended, and last week Gates suggested that the US might send even more than previously acknowledged.
Yet far from “a long slog where it is not apparent we are making headway,” the war could more accurately be described as a long slog where the insurgency seems to be making considerable headway in recent years. Violence is forever breaking new records, and America’s European allies are increasingly discontented with the rising death tolls.
Despite years of war and no real (positive) progress, popular opposition for what has been called “the forgotten war” has so far failed to materialize in the US. But with President Obama putting the focus on the war with his endless escalations and promises of new strategies, it seems like the public may finally form an opinion.
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