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Opinion: The good war: More soldiers dying in forgotten battles
Remember Afghanistan? There is one more Utah family today that will never forget it.
Lt. Scott Lundell, an Army National Guard soldier from West Valley City, died Saturday in a firefight with an enemy that our government told us was defeated five years ago.
He is the third Utahn to die in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion of that nation in 2001. A total of 186 coalition troops have died there just this year.
The Taliban, routed from power in the wake of 9/11 because they sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, is growing in strength, adopting tactics hewn in the Iraqi insurgency and at least matching the United States in the battle for Afghan hearts and minds.
Even the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, British Gen. David Richards, told The New York Times recently that up to 70 percent of the Afghan population would support a restoration of the Taliban if Western forces aren't able to bring peace and prosperity to the nation very soon.
The Bush administration, which shunned European offers of peacekeeping forces after the fall of the Taliban, is now pleading with NATO members to send more troops, with more aggressive missions, to Afghanistan.
President Bush received some promises of help at this week's NATO summit. But it is clear that U.S. forces, with the support of the British and Canadians, will continue to carry the bulk of the deadly load.
It is possible that the situation in Afghanistan would be no better even if the administration hadn't turned its back on it after the Taliban's initial defeat. Centuries of poverty, war and humiliation are a fertile ground for violence. Even a serious effort at nation-building might have failed, and even more American soldiers might have fallen there in the attempt.
But no sustained effort was made. Development aid never came through. Military assets were rapidly transferred from the necessary and globally accepted war in Afghanistan to the optional and widely unpopular war in Iraq. That was a shift that diverted more than manpower and money. It cost us much-needed allies from all corners of the world.
Afghanistan was a war worth fighting. It is just tragic that, until now, it seems that no one in the administration thought it was worth the effort it would take to really win.