One presidential candidate completely ignored Afghanistan in his nomination acceptance speech. The other has given sunny, salutary statements about the US mission there ending in 2014. But while Romney and Obama campaign on jobs jobs jobs, more than 80,000 American service members remain in Afghanistan, risking their lives for a foreign policy that could charitably be described as "adrift."
What does that war look like to its practitioners? Like this:
That's video from the helmet-mounted camera of an American soldier who took four bullets from enemy fighters in this brief hillside firefight in Kunar Province. Fortunately, he sustained only minor injuries, even though he was hit in the helmet and his eye protection was shot off.
The soldier, who has not been identified, told his story last week to a combat documentarian known online as Funker350. The soldier's unit was conducting reconnaissance of a local village when they came under fire on the hillside. "[T]he rest of the squad was pinned down by machine gun fire. I didn't start the video until a few mins into the firefight for obvious reasons," the soldier said. "I came out into the open to draw fire so my squad could get to safety."
The attackers seemed to have hit everything but the soldier's flesh. "A round struck the tube by my hand of the 203 grenade launcher which knocked it out of my hands," he said. (The launcher is visible attached to the underside of his rifle barrel.) "When I picked the rifle back up it was still functional but the grenade launcher tube had a nice sized 7.62 cal bullet hole in it and was rendered useless."
All's well that ends well. But it's worth every politican—and voter—asking whether the end goal in Afghanistan, whatever that is now, is worth the risk to Americans like this one.
(h/t Alex Horton)