The war in Afghanistan is already longer than the US involvement in Vietnam (at least if you count the beginning of US engagement in Vietnam as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which most people do).
The timing of this “news” is a bit odd, isn’t it? It makes a big front headline splash and becomes the most emailed story on the NYT today, but is there anything particularly “new” about it? As Marc Ambinder notes, the Soviets knew this possibly as far back as the mid 1980’s, the Bush administration concluded such a goldmine existed in 2007, and in 2009 the government was already soliciting bids for mining opportunities.
This really is one of those times you wonder if the administration was feeling a lot of heat, not just on Afghanistan (which was, as far as I can tell, widely not expected to meet Obama’s earlier stated goal of propping up the country so that we could leave within a couple years from now), but on the BP spill and everything else. As Ambinder writes,
“The way in which the story was presented — with on-the-record quotations from the Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, no less — and the weird promotion of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Undersecretary of Defense suggest a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war.”
That seems about right to me. And you also have to ask, because of the lack of recent progress in Afghanistan, combined with the fact that we are sitting on $1 trillion in natural resources there, the odds that we are pulling out by 2012 seem absurdly low, right? In which case, we might end up being there for a total of 15, 20, 25+ years. In which case, is it really fair to call it a war anymore? It probably much better fits the definition of colonization.