Some Americans, thinking the worst of the war in Afghanistan had been over for weeks, were jolted back to reality Monday on hearing that a fierce new U.S.-led coalition offensive was underway in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia mountains, where hundreds of al-Qaida and Taliban forces are dug in.
This offensive is different from past assaults such as at Tora Bora. Instead of having anti-Taliban Afghanistan forces lead the charge, it's being led by U.S. and allied special forces units and includes, for the first time, U.S. ground troops. American combat casualties - as many as nine killed and 40 wounded as of yesterday - are the highest of the 6-month war.
U.S. commanders don't want to make the same mistake they did in Tora Bora when the Afghan troops let thousands of al-Qaida and Taliban troops escape, possibly including Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. This time, we hope, escape routes are being sealed, forcing terrorists to surrender or die.
Our hearts go out to the courageous American troops who were killed, but, as President Bush has reminded the nation repeatedly, the war against terrorism will be long and casualties are inevitable.
We just hope Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who's been whining that he wants to know the exit strategy, got the message. Most Americans certainly have.