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Afghanistan Absent from Midterm Campaigns

Upcoming congressional midterm elections are stirring Washington. All 435 seats in the House are up for grabs on November 2, and Republicans are widely expected to gain the House majority. The 37 contested seats in the Senate are also predicted to give Republicans significant gains. The midterm elections can determine the ease with which President Obama conducts his foreign policy agenda for the remainder of his term, which is especially important given that President Obama is set to review the Afghanistan policy in December. Interestingly, the war in Afghanistan has not been a widely discussed campaign issue.

The war in Afghanistan is estimated to have cost the United States over $30 billion in the past nine years. At a time where some Americans have made excessive federal spending the basis of their vote, it is surprising that Americans are not overly concerned with military spending in Afghanistan.

The New York Times recently offered an explanation for why both Democrats and Republicans are hesitant to criticize the war. Although some Democrats have been and continue to be opposed to the war, President Obama made the war in Afghanistan a key policy issue during his presidential campaign. Democrats recognize that voters seemed to support President Obama’s shift away Iraq to place a heavier focus on Afghanistan. Likewise, Republicans have been hesitant to criticize a war they adamantly supported during the Bush Administration. When then-Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele called Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing” this summer, saying that the war was “not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” he was forced to resign.

It remains to be seen whether the recent uptick in violence will put Afghanistan on U.S. voters’ radar in time for the Nov. 2 election. On October 22, four Taliban suicide bombers disguised themselves in burquas and police uniforms to attack a United Nations compound, and an IED killed the governor of the Nangarhar province. On October 4, militants in Pakistan destroyed 27 fuel tankers designated for NATO troops in Afghanistan. Total U.S. troops’ lives claimed by the war is estimated at 1,300, which does not account for contractors, NATO allies, or civilians. If the war does come to greatly concern voters before the election, time is running out for candidates to address these concerns.

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