SPEAKING to the nation shortly after he took office, President Obama said all combat troops would leave Iraq by 2010 and Afghanistan by 2011. For Iraq, that promise is being fulfilled.

For Afghanistan, the president has changed his mind.

After nine bitter, nonproductive years, are we going to allow the can't-win military establishment another three years of deadly experimentation with our troops?

The killing will go on, the caskets will arrive at Dover Air Force Base daily. The wounded will go elsewhere. In three years, another 2,500 to 3,000 will die - three times that figure will suffer horrible wounds and the generals working with the intelligence community will continue conning the president.

Never in some 90 years of living, 80 of which have been spent watching and writing about national and international events, have I ever witnessed such a deplorable situation as this one, but the American public, stepped in naivete, imbued with the blasé nonacceptance of the truth, continue on their merry flight from reality.

No matter how it is viewed, Afghanistan is a monstrous defeat, compounding our economic and social problems, and is the predecessor for a very bleak future for this country.

Ephraim Levin, Philadelphia

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Health advice for vets

While strolling through the obituary columns, I've noticed quite a few Vietnam vets dying of all kinds of cancers at an early age, their 50s.

All Vietnam vets should sign up in the Veterans Administration hospitals or clinics for physicals. Agent Orange was rampant over there, used to kill the foliage that the Cong were using to hide in.

But our troops were there, too. It was sprayed outside the tents where they slept. (It is also causing diabetes.) The VA will take care of these vets.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is another affliction among the Vietnam vets that can be treated.

If help is needed, contact the VA closest to where you live.

George J. Walton

Upper Darby