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Afghanistan war, 11 years on: What more can and should the US military do?

Though the work of US troops has become increasingly deadly in the Afghanistan war, many analysts warn that it has not been increasingly effective.

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In this 2009 photo, U.S. Marine squad leader Sgt. Matthew Duquette, left, walks with Afghan National Army Lt. Hussein, during a joint patrol in Nawa district, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

Brennan Linsley/AP

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It is officially the longest-running war in American history, and its end is in sight: President Obama has promised to pull all US combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

That date, however, is two years away, and in the meantime, some analysts wonder what more the US military can and should do in the country.

Incidents of “green on blue” insider attacks, by Afghan security forces against the US and NATO soldiers training them, now account for more than 20 percent of those killed in action.

Indeed, the pace of deaths for US troops has accelerated since the surge of 33,000 forces that Mr. Obama ordered into Afghanistan began in 2010.

In particular, it took nine years of fighting in Afghanistan before 1,000 US troops were killed. But the second 1,000 US troop deaths have come in the past two years. Last month in the Afghanistan war, America reached the grim 2,000-US-troops-killed-in-action milestone. On Saturday, two more US troops were killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.

Though the work of US troops has become increasingly deadly, many analysts warn that it has not been increasingly effective.

Pentagon officials point to the 300,000-plus Afghan security forces that have been trained as a result of NATO efforts. But the attrition rates remain high, and these soldiers and police continue to struggle against the network of an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 insurgents – despite the fact that they outnumber them roughly 10 to 1.

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