Despite having relatively small populations and economies that include abject poverty, two countries in the world get a lot of attention from America.

OK, there are more than just “two,” but the two I’m talking about have had a big impact on our nation, the U.S. Army and American households from coast to coast.

North Korea (population 24 million) and Afghanistan (population 29 million) are not great world powers with the influence to harm America anytime they feel like it. But they are filled with some people who do want to harm America and our way of life, and therein lies the rub.

American soldiers have fought and died in both nations, and the future of both countries is still a tossup.

Since the Korean War ended some six decades ago, American troops have been getting stationed to Korea, standing guard with South Korean soldiers to see if the demilitarized zone gets hairy with an invasion from the north.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, our military — including thousands of Fort Hood troops — is still wrapping up things in the Taliban’s former stronghold, but no one seems to know what the future may hold after next year. Countless terrorists are dead, Osama bin Laden is dead, the Taliban is no longer in power, but there are still ingredients in that country that could be made into trouble for the U.S. later.

Korean and Afghanistan are vastly different countries, but left unchecked, both could do vast damage to the U.S.

The 9/11 plan was hatched in Afghanistan, and earlier this year, North Korea unveiled a plan to bomb several American cities, including Austin.

Both countries are in the news, sometimes for reasons that are almost funny.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman announced last week that he is planning a return trip to North Korea soon, and will bring a team of former NBA players to go against a squad of North Korea players.

Rodman had better watch out. Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his own uncle and former mentor last week. We don’t need the execution of former NBA players creating some international incident.

As far as Afghanistan goes, I think we’ll see a permanent base set up there, not much different than Camp Humphreys in South Korea or Army forts in Germany and elsewhere.

Like Korea, soldiers will be assigned to Afghanistan for decades to come. Their mission will be keeping the peace and making sure another Osama bin Laden doesn’t pop up.

I’d like to think that we won’t have a base in Afghanistan for decades, but I only need to look at Korea and Europe to know we will.

Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at or (254) 501-7468.

Contact Jacob Brooks at​ or (254) 501-7468

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