On Thursday, George Will referred to the Afghanistan War as “America’s longest war.” While the Afghanistan War will likely last at least a decade, if one uses October, 2001 as the start month, it is not yet nine years old. Looking at years, and American fatalities, the least fatal year was 2003, when 48 Americans died. In 2010, 192 Americans have already died. Therefore, there have been nine calendar years of 48 casualties or more in Afghanistan. The Philippine War of 1899-1913 also saw similar combat casualties to those of Afghanistan, and the American-Indian Wars could arguably be the longest war in American History.
If 48 fatalities per year is a sufficient condition for being at war, then Afghanistan is not yet the longest war. According to the National Archives, Americans suffered 52 fatalities in Vietnam in 1962, and suffered more fatalities each and every year until the war’s end in 1975. If one goes by the Paris-Peace Accords in 1973 to measure the war’s end, that would still indicate 12 calendar years of more than 48 fatalities. In seven of those calendar years, America lost more lives than it has in the entire Afghan War to date.