Wednesday’s debate will dominate the headlines for the next few days. That is understandable. I hope, however, that in their zeal to cover politics, members of the media remember another important date.
On October 7, 2001, less than a month after our cities were attacked by a band of merciless terrorists, America struck back. The operation was named Operation Enduring Freedom.
All Americans old enough to remember 9/11 will be able to tell you where they were and what they were doing when they heard of the attacks. Those in the military will also remember the day we took the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan.
Much of the warfare was unconventional. One of the most iconic photos of the early days of OEF were of special forces on horseback, working with local tribes to fight the Taliban.
We learned new terms like Al Qaeda, Taliban, and Northern Alliance. Kabul, Khandahar, and Tora Bora, familiar names to us now, were nothing more than places on a map to us then. We heard the warnings that we could not fight in the cold and rugged terrain of Afghanistan, and winter was approaching fast. We would get bogged down.
That did not happen. Our forces displayed remarkable ingenuity and flexibilty in overcoming the elements and fighting on. Within sixty days the initial phase of the war was over. Kabul and Kandahar had fallen, and Hamid Karzai had taken control.
That was eleven years ago. Just recently we lost our 2000th American in Afghanistan, and although it is rarely mentioned in the papers, the war continues. It will take years to assess the impact of OEF, but one thing is clear.
The US military is the best in the world at adapting and succeeding in even the most hostile and constantly changing environments.
To all those men and women who have served in OEF, I salute you. You are our heroes of the week.
(For an excellent summary of OEF, click here.)