Tensions with Iran. The historic Trump-Kim border meeting. Turkey buying Russian anti-aircraft systems, threatening the NATO alliance.
There is, as usual, so much going on in the world of national security.
But there is one place on earth right now that Americans are most in harm’s way.
It is Afghanistan, the place of this nation’s longest war.
The recent deaths of three more service members and two more contractors serve as a painful reminder that while much of the nation might have forgotten, Afghanistan remains a deadly place for the men and women who serve there.
Since October 2001, when the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the attacks of 9/11, more than 2,400 U.S. troops have perished.
So far this year, 11 have paid the ultimate price, either through combat or non-combat incident under investigation.
To the Gold Star families who have lost a loved one, the cause does not matter, only the sacrifice.
And to the nation at large it should not matter, either.
Men and women are put into harm’s way, in the public’s name and on the public’s dime. It is a price born by too few and ignored by too many.
And it is a calculus the commander in chief, whoever sits in the White House, must take into account when deciding to continue to spend American blood and treasure.
Recently, President Donald Trump said while he wanted to pull the plug on America’s troop investment in Afghanistan, he was dissuaded by military leaders who convinced him otherwise.
“The problem is, it just seems to be a lab for terrorists,” he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, echoing a long-held belief by many, but not all in the military, that if we don’t fight the enemy in Afghanistan, we will fight them here.
There are still some 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority trying to help the Afghans help themselves.
But while Afghan troops have taken the lead on the fight, their nation remains the most dangerous place on earth for ours.
So as negotiations with the Taliban continue, let us not forget that.
And remember these names.
Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, died June due to injuries sustained by small arms fire in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province.
Sgt. 1st Class. Elliott J. Robbins, 31, from Ogden, Utah, died June 30, 2019, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident. U.S. Navy veteran Kevin Yali, 27, died June 19 in Afghanistan from a mortar shell. And retired Chief Warrant Officer Four Christian H. McCoy, 49, was killed June 24 in Afghanistan.
There are a lot of issues in the national security space competing for our attention.
Considering the human cost is the least we can do.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.