MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Today in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber attacked a military convoy. Three civilians were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility. It's the latest in a string of suicide attacks in Kandahar in the last couple of months. And this year 62 US troops have been killed in Afghanistan, more American deaths than in any other year since the invasion in 2001. Those are reminders that Afghanistan remains unstable and that US troops are still in danger in Afghanistan. Commentator Kate Ingold needs no reminder. This past February her husband, Ronald Falsite(ph), left for Afghanistan. He's a National Guard soldier, part of what they call an embedded training team, working with Afghan army soldiers on the border with Pakistan.
`Thank God he's not going to Iraq,' my friend Rebecca said the day my husband was called up. `Yeah, I know,' I told her. `I don't know what I'd do if he was sent to Iraq.' I was relieved that day a year ago, even if I was devastated. I was angry and upset that my husband would be leaving me for a year, but I was relieved that he wasn't going to our out-of-control war in the cradle of civilization. `Afghanistan was safe,' I told myself. We'd invaded four years ago, and clearly we had already conquered it. If it were dangerous, I would have heard about it on the news. I told myself that Afghanistan was a nation-building exercise, a peacekeeping mission, like Bosnia.
`Thank God he's not in Iraq,' the woman at the check-in counter at LAX said to me. It is the stock response when I tell anyone where he is. It is never, `I'm sorry to hear that,' or, `How are you holding up?'--or even, `What's he doing over there?' It is always, `Thank God he's not in Iraq,' the implication, of course, that Iraq is so much more dangerous and volatile than Afghanistan and that I should be thankful he is where he is.
But I know that though Afghanistan is not Iraq, it is no less dangerous, at least not for my husband. This year has been the deadliest year for American soldiers since we invaded in 2001. My husband is out on missions in the Asadabad area, getting into firefights, enduring rocket attacks and roaming through the Hindu Kush Mountains for weeks on end, with no way to contact me at all. When I read about a soldier killed along the Pakistan border, I scour the Internet for maps and information. I want to know it isn't my husband who was killed. Usually I find nothing. The war is forgotten; the place is forgotten. It's as if it doesn't even exist.
`Well, it could be worse. He could be in Iraq,' my mother's neighbor said to me. We'd just reached the grim milestone of 2,000 soldiers killed in Iraq. It is rare that anyone says anything at all to me about the wars, but when they do, it is inevitably to say how lucky I am that my husband isn't in Iraq. Would people say this to me if they knew how dangerous it really is? I don't think so. I think most people would realize that there's little to be thankful for when your husband is at war, a war with IEDs and mortars and countless land mines and many, many people who are hostile towards Americans and, therefore, hostile towards him.
My husband has been gone for nine months now. I saw a former co-worker last week for the first time in years. And when I told her that my husband was in Afghanistan, with predictable precision, she said, `At least he's not in Iraq.' I just nodded yes, gave her a `What can you do?' sort of look. She was right; my husband's not in Iraq. He's fighting in that other war.
NORRIS: Kate Ingold is a poet and teacher. She lives in Chicago.
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