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Afghanistan: America's Longest War? Afghanistan: America's Longest War?

Afghanistan: America's Longest War?

by Patrick James

November 13, 2010


As of today, we have been at war in Afghanistan for nine years, one month, and four days. This is the 10th Veterans Day that we've celebrated since the beginning of Afghan combat operations. 

Does that make it America's longest war? That depends on whom you ask. Earlier this year, some people in the media awarded the war in Afghanistan that dubious honor. However, as the Obama Administration's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told NPR's Robert Seigel, Vietnam should be considered the nation's longest war. 

The discrepancy arises from using 1964's Gulf of Tonkin resolution as the official start date for the Vietnam War, which ended in 1973. But as Holbrooke points out, "American casualties [in Vietnam] began no later than 1961," and he believes that in order to honor the memories of those servicemen, it's incumbent on us to recognize them as part of the war effort. 

For reference, American's formal involvement in World War I began on April 6, 1917; armistice with Germany was reached on November 11, 1918, though the Treaty of Versailles wasn't signed until June 28, 1919 (that's a total of two years and 66 days). American involvement in World War II lasted from December 8, 1941, to September  2, 1945 (three years and 266 days). That means we've been at war in Afghanistan longer than we were involved World War I and II, combined. 

It's worth noting that the Soviet war with Afghanistan—which ultimately resulted in a stalemate, the withdrawal of Soviet forces, an Afghan civil war, and (some would argue) the crippling of the Soviet economy—lasted from December 27, 1979, to February 15, 1989. That's nine years and 50 days. To reiterate, we've been there for nine years and 34 days. 

To step back a bit, we've been engaged in some form of military conflict for most of our nation's history. Today, let's keep that in mind by taking time to honor the generations of men and women who've seen that conflict first hand.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user The U.S. Army

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