Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.

The United Nations said that an "unprecedented" number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September, calling the violence "totally unacceptable."

The UN said in a report on October 17 that the 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured amount to a 42 percent increase over the same time period last year.

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Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

This essay was first published in 2016 and is being reposted for the 18th anniversary of the start of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.

I remember reading George C. Herring's book America's Longest War when I was studying history as an undergrad and couldn't wrap my head around how the conflict in Vietnam could have gone on as long as it did. I naively assured myself that despite how horrific the toll of that war was, at least we had learned from our mistakes and would never let that happen again. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Today, Oct. 7, marks the anniversary of combat operations in Afghanistan, which is now our longest war to date, and other than a select few who bear the brunt of this burden, most people won't think twice about this somber and embarrassing anniversary.

Nothing could be more insulting to the troops currently serving.

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At the direction of President Donald Trump, the U.S. military has ramped up the number of air and ground attacks against the Taliban, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday.

“We did step up our attacks on the Taliban since the [peace] talks broke down," Esper told reporters while returning from visits to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky. “The president spoke about this publicly. We did pick up the pace considerably."

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Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah casts his vote at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan September 28, 2019. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the country's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, have both claimed victory in a weekend presidential election, a scene reminiscent of the last vote in 2014.

Though preliminary overall results aren't expected for another three weeks, Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul on September 30 that by his count, he won such a clear-cut victory in the balloting that a second-round runoff won't be needed.

That followed a claim by Ghani's running mate, Amrullah Saleh, that the incumbent had won a clear first-ballot victory.

"The information that we have received shows that 60 to 70 percent of people voted [for] us," Saleh was quoted by Voice of America as saying.

Neither side offered any evidence to back up their claims, raising concerns that the war-torn country is headed for a similar situation that arose from the 2014 election, where the same two candidates made competing claims of victory.

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(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

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In this May 28, 2019 file photo, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban group's top political leader, second left, arrives with other members of the Taliban delegation for talks in Moscow, Russia. (Associated Press/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States this month, officials from the insurgent group said.

The move, days after President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at his Camp David retreat, came as the movement looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.

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