All Posts By:

Ayona Roychowdhury

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Politics

    We’re at War

    In the America we live in, we don’t taste war daily. We don’t breathe in the aftermath of destruction or taste the wake of death. It’s easy to forget that American troops are officially fighting wars in seven different countries. Under the authority given by the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to fight al-Qaeda related conflicts, we have operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. We have been fighting in Afghanistan for the past 18 years.

    In my lifetime, there has never been a time where the United States hasn’t been at war. I’ve grown up with the understanding that there is always a need for people to enlist in the army, and that there’s no foreseeable end. Why are we still in Afghanistan? It began with the attacks on 9/11, and with Bush’s response.

    •  On September 18, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the joint resolution to authorize the military to use force against those responsible.
    • By December 9, 2001, the Taliban regime collapses with the surrender of Kandahar. 

    In March of 2002, things begin to get a little mixed. Operation Anaconda, with 2000 American troops and 1000 Afghani troops, launches against 800 al-Qaeda members. However, the Pentagon begins to shift our resources away from Afghanistan and towards Iraq, listing Saddam Hussein’s regime a chief threat.

    YearAfghanistanIraq
    2002The US military starts to establish a reconstruction model.Bush claims that disarming Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction” is a new priority
    2003Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield declares an end to “major combat”.NATO gets heavily involved.In March, Bush gives Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq and then attacked when he failed to respond.  After fully taking all the major strongholds of the regime, Bush declared “mission accomplished”.On December 13, 2003, Saddam Hussein is captured.
    2004Osama Bin Laden releases video showing him taking responsibility on behalf of al-Qaeda for 9/11.In June of 2004, Saddam Hussein is turned over to Iraqi authorities to stand trial.
    2005U.S forces are given access to Afghani military facilities.On October 19, Saddam Hussein goes on trial for killing 148 people in 1992.
    2006NATO leaders agree to remove restrictions on the logistics of how force can be used.On November 8, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield resigns as a result of his leadership failures that allowed for the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. On December 30, Saddam Hussein is executed.
    2007A Taliban commander is killed by combined US, Afghani, and NATO forces.American commanders arm Sunni Arab groups that promise fight militants related to al-Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.
    2008General Stanley A. McChrystal orders an overhaul of US airstrikes.The Iraqi Parliament and the US ratify a pact that calls for American troops to pull out of major cities by 2009 and be fully gone by 2011.
    2009On March 27, President Barack Obama commits 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama announces a new strategy involving increased aid to Pakistan.US Marines launch major offensive in southern Afghanistan. On December 1, Obama announces a major escalation of the mission, committing another 30,000 troops to the 68,000 already on the ground.The Iraqi people celebrate the withdrawal of American troops with parades and a national holiday.
    2010General McChrystal is relieved of his position as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.NATO member countries sign an agreement to hand over full responsibility of Afghanistan to the Afghani forces by 2014.Obama declares an end to the seven-year combat mission in Iraq. Wikileaks makes information about civilian deaths, detainee abuse, and Iranian involvement available to the public.
    2011On May 1, Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan. President Obama wants to begin the withdrawal of American troops from the area. Obama announces plans to remove 33,000 troops by the summer of 2012. October 7 marks the tenth anniversary of the war.Defense Secretary Leon E Panetta supports a plan that keeps 3,000-4000 American troops in Iraq a year after the deadline for their withdrawal. The United States formally ends its operations in Iraq on December 15.
    2012The Taliban agree to move towards peace talks, but then rescind their statements after accusing Washington of going back on the prisoner swap.U.S. Secretary Leon Peretta announces a plan to end combat missions by mid-2013. American soldiers come under fire for disrespectful behavior and violence against civilians. Afghani President Hamid Karzai demands that foreign troops be confined to military bases.Iraqi Kurds halt oil exports.
    2013US forces shift focus to military training and special ops-driven counterterrorism.The final report of the Special Inspector-General for Reconstruction in Iraq is released, showing that $10 billion was wasted.
    2014President Obama announces plans to withdraw most US troops by 2016.Baghdad asks the US government for help. US forces return. The Iraq War has cost the US over $2 trillion. American-led intervention in the Iraqi civil war begins on June 15.
    2015Three American contractors are killed at Hamid Karzai International Airport. President Obama announces that the number of troops will remain at 9800. Later, he announces that the number will remain 9800 throughout 2016.The US coordinates airstrikes with the Kurdish fighters and begins to plan to retake Mosul. American-led coalition launches first airstrikes on ISIL targets in the city.
    2016On December 31, American troops withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving 8,400 troops in four garrisons.The US begins targeting Islamic State chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special forces raids. President Obama authorizes the sending of 600 more troops to Iraq.
    2017The US drops its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on suspected militants. President Donald Trump presses ahead with an open-ended military commitment to fighting the “vacuum for terrorists”. He promises to lighten restrictions on combat. The Mosul massacre has the single largest death toll inflicted by a coalition airstrike since 2003. On December 9, it is reported that ISIL has lost all strategic territory in Iraq.
    2018Trump deploys troops across rural Afghanistan. The Trump administration cuts off financial assistance for Pakistan.The US announces that it will reduce the number of its troops in Iraq. On October 4, an operation against ISIL is started by the Iraqi military with the aid of French and American forces.
    2019In February, Taliban forces propose a plan where they stop international terrorist groups from operating in Afghanistan in return for the complete withdrawal of American troops. In September, President Trump breaks off peace talks.There is very little information. This picture was taken sometime in July. French and American soldiers are shown to support the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.

    The timeline breaks off suddenly, as close to the present day as it can get. There’s so much more that has happened, so many more lives that have been lost, so much more destruction. This is the price of war. Maybe this article hasn’t clarified anything for the reader at all. It’s entirely possible that you’re more confused now than you were before. After writing it, I personally have to admit that I still don’t fully understand why we’ve been at war for the past nineteen years. 

    It’s entirely possible that that’s the point. 

    Works Cited

    “A Timeline of the U.S. War in Afghanistan.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-war-afghanistan.

    Cox, Matthew. “Army to Deploy 1,700 Paratroopers to Iraq.” Military.com, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/11/03/army-to-deploy-1700-paratroopers-to-iraq.html.

    Cox, Matthew. “Army to Deploy 1,700 Paratroopers to Iraq.” Military.com, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/11/03/army-to-deploy-1700-paratroopers-to-iraq.html.

    Taylor, Adam. “Do U.S. Troops Have a Future in Iraq?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Feb. 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/02/07/do-us-troops-have-future-iraq/.

    ThinkProgress. “A TIMELINE OF THE IRAQ WAR.” ThinkProgress, 17 Mar. 2006, https://thinkprogress.org/a-timeline-of-the-iraq-war-6622633720be/#2012.

    “Timeline of Major Events in the Iraq War.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Aug. 2010, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/08/31/world/middleeast/20100831-Iraq-Timeline.html#/#time111_3296.

    Watson, Ben, and Bradley Peniston. “US at War in 7 Countries – Including Niger; US Army Rebuilds Afghan Firebases; F-35s to India?; and Just a Bit More…” Defense One, 15 Mar. 2018, https://www.defenseone.com/news/2018/03/the-d-brief-march-15-2018/146688/.

  • Health, School

    Sleep and Your Body

    girl sleeping

    Everyone likes to joke about and compare how little they sleep. To some, it’s a matter of pride. 

    I sleep 3-4 hours a night just so I can manage my workload. ”

    However, what people don’t realize is that preventing your body from getting the rest it needs has severe long-term effects and hampers your performance on a day-to-day basis. Not sleeping enough can result in memory loss, lack of alertness, and mood swings, affecting your work and personal relationships.

    Teenagers require 8-10 hours of sleep. Speaking from personal experience, I’m lucky if I even get half that amount. On average, we tend to get 7-8 hours of sleep. This is due to a multitude of reasons. After puberty begins, your biological clock shifts about two hours. For example, an individual who would go to sleep at 9:00 PM will now have trouble sleeping until 11:00. Though this is true and does affect younger teenagers in middle school, growing academic pressures involving grades, extracurriculars, obligations, and relationships also take a chunk out of your rest.

    What many teenagers and adults don’t realize is that the less they sleep, the more their sleep debt grows. Your body can very much feel that it’s not getting enough sleep. Your body summons sleep in two ways: by sending more adenosine (a neurotransmitter) around your body, and by sending signals from your circadian clock.

     Adenosine  can be considered a cellular  by-product and is produced and released into the bloodstream when [cells] use energy. It’s taken up to the receptors that govern wakefulness in the basal forebrain, acting as a slow buffer, minimizing your ability to be attentive and remember things. When there’s a lot of adenosine, you start to feel drowsy. (The way caffeine works is by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain, essentially numbing you to its effects.) 

    The circadian clock regulates all of your bodily functions. When it comes to sleep, it causes the human body to feel very sleepy between 12:00-6:00 AM, and a little extra sleepy between 2:00-4:00 PM.

    A study at the University of Chicago found that after having volunteers sleep four hours a night for six nights, volunteers developed higher blood pressure and larger amounts of the hormone cortisol. They also produced less antibodies and signs of insulin resistance, a precursor to type-2 diabetes. After sleeping the amount they needed to, they reversed all of these effects. Another study from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Medical School found that after having volunteers sleep for either 8, 6, or 4 hours a night for two weeks, and a fourth group of volunteers who didn’t sleep for three days, the groups that had slept 4-6 hours a night didn’t perform much better than the one that hadn’t slept for 72 hours. 

    The hours add up. Speaking from personal experience, during the spring semester, I averaged 2-5 hours of sleep. Every night. The moment summer began, I began sleeping inordinate amounts. Before this year, my circadian clock wouldn’t let me sleep past 7:30. Now, if I don’t use an alarm to wake up, my body won’t let me wake up until 10:00-11:00. The first week of summer? I slept 8-14 hours a night. I physically can’t sleep the way I used to. My body needs its sleep. Likewise, your body will react to you not sleeping well and you’ll have more difficulty performing daily tasks. Guard your sleep. 

  • GirlSpring.com, School

    Plan A Perfect Semester With This Course Checklist

    Course Checklist

    Choosing Courses That Work For You!

    Plan A Perfect Semester

    It’s that time of year again. Everyone is fretting about which courses to choose for the upcoming semester. Many rely on the opinions of others to make this choice, but this only hinders self-growth. That being said, I am here to tell you a few things about choosing courses for yourself and the effect this will have.

    During my Sophomore year, I registered for Advanced Placement Chemistry.

    However, as finals week approaches, I am second guessing my decision. I also registered for Advanced Placement United States History during this time. Additionally, I refused to give up any extracurricular activities.

    Therefore, my Sophomore year began with a sense of unbridled arrogance.

    Very soon, it blew up in my face. I was getting very little sleep, my grades were slipping and my positions in the band, SGA, and robotics became difficult to maintain. Now, my social life has vanished and stubbornness is how I manage.

    However, I’m not suffering and I’m not upset about it.

    Last year, I made sure to sign up for one class in which I could study. I know what I want to do after high school, and I understand the full extent of what I will have to do to get it. If you commit to yourself, it will be easier to succeed. As I have been planning for next year, I’ve made a list of questions to ask myself and other students interested in my input.

    1. Is this class/extra-curricular relevant to your future career path? If you are working towards a leadership position, it is important to take courses that give you experience or communication skills. If the course does not provide useful skills, replace it with one that furthers your educational journey.
    2. How many time demanding things are you involved in? Don’t take seven AP classes. Seriously, do not. Unless the majority of them are relevant to your future major, don’t put yourself through that. You won’t have time to develop yourself in other important areas colleges look at like community service and extracurricular activities. If you have a job, take even less. To enjoy the fruits of your labor, you’ve got to be a functional human being.
    3. Are you taking classes that are too easy? If you constantly receive 95 percent averages with no effort, it’s time for a challenge. Take a chance at a higher GPA.
    4. Weigh all sides. If a certain standard level class is known to be difficult, take the Honors or Advanced Placement course. In standard level courses, there is a 10 point margin between each letter grade. However, in AP courses, a C grade is equivalent to a 3.0 GPA. Consider this when you choose between classes.