Oregonians mark 11 years of costly Afghan war

Protests planned as Guard unit preps to go

PORTLAND, Ore. - As of this weekend, the United States will have been involved for 11 years in a war in Afghanistan -- a war that more Americans are questioning, in terms of its cost.

According to the latest polls, 60 percent want to bring troops home as soon as possible. But as recently as last month, an Oregon National Guard unit was told by the U.S. Army to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan.

Michael McConnell, Great Lakes regional program director for the American Friends Service Committee, wants the war to end. He says it has cost more than $500 billion that he's convinced could be put to better use.

"The money we're spending on bombs and tanks and the military is money that we're not spending on infrastructure in the United States, or alternative energy," he said.

This weekend, the war's anniversary will be marked with a march and rally in Portland on Saturday, and on Sunday by workshops at the Portland Community College Cascade Campus.

McConnell uses the same analogy President Obama employed in Wednesday night's debate when he notes the challenge of trying to control the U.S. budget deficit when the nation is still at war.

"Both the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war have been credit-card wars," McConnell said. "Every year, Congress swipes its credit card, and the U.S. taxpayer is billions of dollars in debt."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the two wars have cost nearly $1.5 trillion - $127 billion this year alone.

Obama is promising to end the war in 2014. Some want to end it earlier, including some former war supporters from both major parties. Others argue that leaving now would cause more chaos in Afghanistan, and empower the Taliban.

More than 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including 26 Oregonians, and thousands of Afghan civilians.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this report.

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