Headlines for 2010: Part I

The first year of the “tweens” promises radical change—and resolutions to some of the unfinished business of the decade before.

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2. The Cost of War in Afghanistan Trumps that of War in Iraq

Despite being the “good” war, post-9/11, the American invasion of Afghanistan spent years as the stepchild to the hubristic Iraq debacle. But as Iraqi obligations wane in 2010, the stakes in Afghanistan—soon to be the longest war the United States has ever fought—have ratcheted up. As Obama announced in December, troop levels in Afghanistan will increase to nearly 100,000 Americans by the middle of 2010—while insurgent forces, hostile terrain and poor intelligence make the military task even more difficult.

War watchers will take Iraq’s political pulse during January parliamentary elections (an open scramble between secular and religious groups, independents and major-party candidates), which could affect the pace of troop withdrawal, set to begin in summer 2010. The real problem? According to Pentagon documents released in 2009, Obama’s plans for the Afghan war, which will necessitate another $30 billion, will be more expensive than Iraq. This doesn’t make Operation Iraqi Freedom cheap, either. The total cost of both conflicts since 2001? $1 trillion.

3. The World Cup Rules the Summer

The ultimate, wave-the-flag, get-to-the-pub global sporting event makes a historic landfall on the African continent in 2010. That’s right—the World Cup is heading for nine cities in South Africa this June and July. The usual favorites, from Brazil to France, Italy and Argentina, will be in attendance—but a number of underdog teams, from Mexico to Ivory Coast to North Korea, will keep the tournament interesting.

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