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U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began 12 years ago Monday

Oct. 7, 2013 at 9:57 AM   |   Comments

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KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, began 12 years ago Monday.

There are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100, Stars and Stripes reported.

The U.S. military is reducing its number of troops to approximately 34,000 by February.

Discussion and media interest about Afghanistan have faded since President Obama ordered a troop surge three years ago, but a White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion, Stars and Stripes said.

A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University, said this isn't the first time a president has tried to avoid news out of Afghanistan, the report said.

"[George W.] Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq," Thrall said. "Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war [when] Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what's going on there."

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, the former top military commander in Iraq, said lack of public awareness concerned him because international engagement is vital to maintain gains made in Afghanistan.

"If we continue on this [military] path, I think Afghanistan can become a success story, and I worry that's not being talked about at all," he said.

Troops still in Afghanistan told Stars and Stripes they have mixed feelings about the lack of attention.

"It's kind of sad, because I think some people are a little more occupied with the latest TV show," said Lt. Uriel Macias, a Navy reservist assigned to a stability operations team in Kabul. "But what is often forgotten is that we are still losing people all the time."

Army Staff Sgt. Mike Toole, a member of III Corps based in Kabul, said he understands why interest is waning.

"After 12 years, people are going to get tired of it," he said. "I mean, we're tired of it, so it makes sense to me."

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