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The annual summer fighting season is now well underway in Afghanistan, with nearly daily suicide bombings, assassinations, and other high-profile attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups. But one thing appears decidedly different this time around to Lieutenant General Mark A. Milley, a native of Winchester who is now on his third tour and commands the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command: the Afghans are fighting back, mostly on their own.
It was exactly 40 years ago, on March 29, 1973, that Operation Barrel Roll -- the secret US bombing of Laos during the Vietnam War -- ended after nine years, more than a half a million bombing runs, and more than two million tons of ordnance dropped. But it is still claiming victims like Thoummy Silamphan, who is preparing to begin a nationwide tour next week organized by the nonprofit group Legacies of War to raise awareness -- and money -- to help remove the thousands of unexploded cluster bombs that still litter an estimated 30 percent of the Southeast Asian nation and have maimed or killed an estimated 20,000 civilians since the bombing ended.
Blistering charges of misplaced power and a morally bankrupt culture in the nation’s “military-industrial complex” are rarely leveled by one of the defense establishment’s own. But that is exactly what an instructor of the military’s rising stars lobbed on Tuesday when he very purposely engaged in friendly fire at a defense budget conference co-hosted by the Cambridge-based Project on Defense Alternatives.