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We're featuring a variety of stories in today’s news including: a new strategy for Afghanistan; an increase in hate groups is not just an issue in the South; and high blood pressure becoming a more common problem among children and teens.

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Afghanistan War Turns Eleven: Is It Still Worth the Cost?

PHOTO: Painting of Afghanistan Mountain and Child from "Windows and Mirrors" exhibit, organized by the American Friends Service Committee. Courtesy of: AFSC
PHOTO: Painting of Afghanistan Mountain and Child from "Windows and Mirrors" exhibit, organized by the American Friends Service Committee. Courtesy of: AFSC
October 3, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As the Afghanistan war's 11th anniversary approaches, more people in West Virginia and around the nation are questioning the cost. According to the latest polls, 60 percent of Americans want to bring the troops home as soon as possible.

Michael McConnell, regional program director for the American Friends Service Committee, says studies have found that military spending creates far fewer jobs than do investments in education and other programs.

"The money we're spending on bombs and tanks and the military is money that we're not spending on infrastructure in the United States, or alternative energy."

McConnell says the war in Afghanistan has cost more than $500 billion and the lives of more than 2,000 American troops and thousands of Afghan civilian lives.

Alejandro Villatoro, a Chicago veteran, was sent to Afghanistan as part of the president's "surge" of additional troops. He says he was told they were there to win the hearts and minds of the people, but feels it didn't work out that way. He's particularly concerned about the attacks by allies that Americans are supposed to be training, as well as the accidental killings of civilians.

"We're causing more damage than doing good. It's just a huge loss on both sides. So, it is time to withdraw and really start taking care of our troops."

Villatoro says he lost a friend in Iraq and has many others who were injured in the conflict in Afghanistan. He says he considers himself patriotic, but is opposed to the war in Afghanistan.

West Virginia's population includes a high proportion of soldiers and veterans. The Rev. Jim Lewis of Charleston, a retired Episcopal priest and a member of Patriots for Peace, says the war has been hard on veterans trying to return to civilian life in the state.

"The suicide rate is high. They're coming back here having undertaken a job that was well supported to begin with and now has very little support. That's a tough thing, to come back as a veteran."

President Obama is promising to end the war in 2014. Some want to end it earlier, including former supporters of the war from both parties. Others argue that leaving now would empower the Taliban.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV