The duration of the U.S. and allied intervention in Afghanistan now exceeds that of the Soviet intervention of 1979-1989.
Sunday, 28 November 2010 marks the 3340th day since U.S. and allied forces entered Afghanistan in order to topple the Taliban government and capture Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and it is now clear that the coalition will be staying in Afghanistan until at least 2014 — and possibly much longer. The Soviet Union’s intervention lasted a total of 3339 days (27 December 1979 – 15 February 1989).
The Soviets conducted a much more brutal war during their stay. Estimates of the number of Afghan civilians killed during the Soviet intervention range from 1 to 2 million. By contrast, the number of civilians who have died during the coalition intervention is probably in the 14 to 34 thousand range.
The recent U.S. decision to place stricter conditions on the use of air strikes by the coalition seems to have had some success in reducing the number of innocent Afghans killed per strike. But an increase in the actual number of strikes in recent months has caused the number of civilians killed to once again climb (Noah Shachtman, “Bombs Away: Afghan Air War Peaks With 1,000 Strikes in October,” Danger Room blog, 10 November 2010).