The war in Afghanistan is both different and the same as Iraq. The Afghanistan theatre is seen as a righteous war. Iraq is not. The Iraqis have shown more progress than the Afghans. Empire after empire entered Afghanistan and went home empty-handed. Maybe because there’s nothing to do there. Except our Afghan war has much to do there. We’re eliminating terrorists in Pakistan and leaning on the right side of Iran. Both are important strategically.

Our airstrikes peaked in 2010 with 117 strikes in Pakistan. This year, there have been three. The airstrikes over the years have been concentrated in two regions: North and South Waziristan. These are areas of Pakistan where the central government has limited influence and control.

Obviously, Pakistan is an area of concern for several reasons. Osama Bin Laden was sheltered in Pakistan. While it looked like a prison, his presence seems conspicuous. They also possess nuclear weapons and are in an unstable region of the world. The Pakistani Northwest province is riddled with extremists. Pakistan is also the most destabilizing factor to Afghanistan.

But, Pakistan proper and its ruling class is an ally of sorts. They cooperate with us and seek to remove terrorists. They just can’t control their countrymen. They have deep domestic troubles and are waging a cold war with India. Their economic woes are beyond troublesome, and they’ve become increasingly reliant on foreign aid. That foreign aid has encouraged their impressive level of corruption. It also distracts Pakistan from enacting real and lasting economic policy to dig themselves out of the hole.

Back to the strikes: Are we preparing to leave Afghanistan? We’re shrinking our presence. Special Forces are in more danger due to limited in-theatre resources. The number of strikes in Pakistan has had a dramatic decrease. But there’s more than just strikes going into that country. We’re apparently listening and watching. What else is driving the strikes?

We’ve become partially reliant on the NSA and signals intelligence to prosecute targets. Additionally, our ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capability is paramount theatre-wide. These things are housed and placed at strategic spots in the country. There’s probably a ton of them. We can’t just leave these things when we know the Iranians are capable of backward engineering. They’ve also got deep pockets to pay for someone’s find.

But our number of strikes are on a severe decline. It could be that the American public doesn’t have the stomach to hear about these attacks, anymore. It could be a forward thinking approach to see if the strikes are necessary. We’re also in a waiting to period to see what the next administration is going to do. Plus, Afghanistan time and time again is a forgotten war.

See the Pakistan strikes chart here.