Thoughts on Afghanistan from a Marine Wife
Less than three weeks ago, I watched as my husband, Nathan, became the commanding officer of a U.S. Marine Corps infantry company. About 160 men, most of them barely adults, stood at attention in their camouflage and combat boots and waited as he became their leader. Moments earlier, some of the troops had curbed their cursing and offered startled greetings—"Afternoon, Ma'am"—when they saw me standing there in my dress and heels. It was a Friday.
The following Tuesday, I watched via televised address as my President announced a plan to dramatically decrease the number of troops in Afghanistan. The network-worthy news that evening was that we will be reducing our forces from the current 100,000 to about 67,000 by next summer. That's a quick decrease of nearly a third—"a drawdown," President Obama called it, which in many ways sounded altogether promising.
War-weary like everybody is, as a military wife I have perhaps more reasons to be overjoyed at prospects: Another war over! We're getting out of there, finally! But my response to the announcement was instead lit by the light of the week before, by my husband and 160 other living, breathing men lined up in a dusty military gym. By how much he means to me and by my fears of what could happen to any one of them. In many respects, the concerns I have are not unfounded; in fact, I justify them by the fact that they are bona fide news stories.
For instance, it was reported only months ago that the number of troops killed by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices—roadside bombs) in Afghanistan rose by 60 percent last year, while the number of troops wounded by them tripled. Ask any 19-year-old deploying to Afghanistan, and he's not worried about the Taliban so much as he's worried about some guy who took a lucrative job rigging trip wire and fertilizer, blowing up U.S. convoys.
And recent military operations in Afghanistan seem to suggest that the presence of troops brings stability to a region. Last year, Marines settled into the Sangin province of Afghanistan and began patroling aggressively to root out drug lords and Taliban militants. At first, the fighting was so fierce that Sangin became known as the "Fallujah of Afghanistan," but in time and at great expense, the Marines battled until the majority of insurgents had left. The region began to experience something like peace and even had a visit from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who noted the "dramatic turnaround" brought by the Marines' presence.
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