was "mission accomplished" even in Afghanistan?

in Afghanistan the Taliban remain an enduring threat, freedom only clings to life, especially for women, and more Americans are dying than ever before

Sixty-nine American service members have been killed in Afghanistan this year, the NYTimes reported today in an article discussing Pentagon and military officials' plans to start pulling out of the country which was the site of "Operation Enduring Freedom" in 2001.

The first paragraph of the article tells us that the contemplated reduction, as much of 20 percent of our current troop level of 20,000, would be "the largest withdrawal since the Taliban were ousted [my italics] in late 2001." Check that verb. Not untypically the paper is being a bit disingenuous, since the article continues for four long columns packed with the disconnect of these phrases I've pulled out from the text. They describe the current very real insurgency and why our allies don't want any part of a combat role:

"handle the counterinsurgency mission"
"where much of the fighting is occurring"
"the American combat operation"
"contribute troops to counterinsurgency"
"small special forces involved in combat"
"where American troops have clashed with Taliban"
"anticipated spike in insurgent attacks"
"attacks against American forces"
"stepped-up American offensives in areas sympathetic to the Taliban"
"commander of daily tactical operations in Afghanistan"
"soldiers to fight throughout the winter"
"keep the pressure on Taliban fighters"
"effort to impress villagers in the Taliban heartland"
The total count of U.S. military fatalities since the beginning of the war which "ousted the Taliban" almost four years ago is 231. According to at least one site* which breaks down the statistics by year, the numbers have been going up each year since 2001:
2001: 12
2002: 43
2003: 47
2004: 52
2005: 77

The caption for the photo above as it appears on the Times site reads:
A patrol vehicle from Company A, 508th Infantry, casts shadows in a town in Paktika Province, [southeast] Afghanistan.

whose statistics were compiled from Department of Defense and Central Command press releases [the discrepancy in its 2005 total and that in the Times may be due to different ways of measuring the years used in the calculations]

[image by Scott Eels for the Times]