WASHINGTON — A decade of war will pass quietly at the White House this week.
President Barack Obama plans no public events today to mark a moment the nation never really expected: 10 years of war in Afghanistan. The war is the most prolonged conflict this country has been engaged in since Vietnam. Obama has gone so far as to declare it "the longest war in American history."
The lack of attention to the 10-year milestone is driven in part by White House thinking that Obama has already helped lead a national reflection on a decade of costly sacrifice and battle on the recent anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the day when many people feel the war began.
Yet Obama's handling of the war milestone also underscores his interest in sticking to an economic message focused on jobs without distraction.
Analysts say a 10-year anniversary holds little significance compared with other markers like the 2014 deadline Obama has set for withdrawal of most U.S. forces.
It was on Oct. 7, 2001, that the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan, seeking to end the rule of the radical Islamic Taliban and its ability to provide haven to the al-Qaida terrorists who launched the terrorist assault on Sept. 11.
At the time, President George W. Bush said to the country, "In the months ahead, our patience will be one of our strengths."
Since then, nearly 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, where the war began in 2003, and about 1,700 in Afghanistan. Tens of thousands more have been wounded.
Lack of understanding: The U.S. military had a "frighteningly simplistic" understanding of Afghanistan when it invaded, and that helps explain why the war has lasted 10 years, retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday. The U.S. and its NATO allies are only a little more than 50 percent of the way to reaching their war goals, he said.