When it was becoming clear the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would drag on without a quick, clear resolution, we warned readers the proper comparison was not to Vietnam. The proper comparison was to the Korean War, which never really ended. Our troops are still there, decades later, guarding a shaky truce between North and South.
It's possible U.S. forces will never leave the Korean peninsula.
And, judging by President Obama's surprise announcement last week, it's possible U.S. forces will never leave Afghanistan, either.
The president had hoped to withdraw all but a small, embassy-based force by the end of next year. Instead, he said, the United States will maintain its current force — about 9,800 personnel — through most of 2016. Maybe longer.
A new president will take office in early 2017. Depending on how hawkish the commander in chief is, our troop presence in Afghanistan might actually increase.
This isn't just a pocketbook issue (price tag: $15 billion a year). Military bases enrich the the states. Military personnel are our friends, neighbors and co-workers.
So when we interviewed Afghanistan veterans after Obama's announcement, their reactions were enlightening but not encouraging.
Joseph Deslauriers said Afghanistan's own fighters aren't ready to take on terrorists. "I just don't think the Afghans are ready to go it alone just yet," he said. "Will they ever be ready? Who knows?"
T. Patterson Maney offered a bit of history: "We've had a cease-fire in Korea since the 1950s, and World War II ended in 1945. Yet we still have troops in South Korea and Germany and Japan. There may continue to be a need for (U.S.) troops in Afghanistan."
It's been a long slog, and two men who've been there say the end isn't in sight.
We hope it eventually will be ... so our neighbors can come home.
REPRINTED FROM THE NORTHWEST FLORIDA DAILY NEWS