America’s Longest War Is Over
After nearly two decades, the U.S. war in Afghanistan is over. An American withdrawal more than a year in the making has been completed. “Every single U.S. servicemember is now out of Afghanistan,” General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. of U.S. Central Command announced yesterday. “I can say that with 100 percent certainty.”
The last member of the U.S. military to leave was Major General Chris Donahue, who had been helping to lead evacuation missions. “Since August the 14th, over an 18-day period, U.S. military aircraft have evacuated more than 79,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport,” including 6,000 Americans “and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians,” said McKenzie. “In total, U.S. and coalition aircraft combine to evacuate more than 123,000 civilians, which were all enabled by U.S. military service members who were securing and operating the airfield.”
Launched in October 2001, the war in Afghanistan has now spanned four presidential administrations.
In this time period, 2,461 American troops died in the conflict, in addition to 3,846 U.S. contractors, 66,000 members of the Afghan military and police forces, and more than 47,245 Afghan civilians. Seventy-two journalists, 444 aid workers, and 1,144 allied service members were also killed, as were 51,191 fighters for the Taliban and other opposition forces, reports the Associated Press.
Members of Congress never voted to declare war in Afghanistan.
The war has cost America $2 trillion, and the estimated interest costs may be up to $6.5 trillion.
Key committees rarely talked about the costs, notes A.P.:
Number of times lawmakers in same subcommittee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 5.
Number of times lawmakers on Senate Finance Committee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars since Sept. 11, 2001, through mid-summer 2021: 1.
“Tonight’s withdrawal signifies both the end of the military component of the evacuation but also the end of the nearly 20-year mission that began in Afghanistan shortly after September 11th, 2001,” McKenzie said yesterday.
But will we stay out? Or, perhaps a better question, will our “withdrawal” be meaningfully different?
On Sunday, America launched a drone strike on the suicide bombers from the Islamic State groups’ Afghanistan affiliate in retaliation for attacks that killed at least 170 people, including 13 American service members, last week. The specifics of the strike are murky, but there are reports that civilians—including seven children—were killed. It’s unclear if these deaths stemmed from an ISIS attack or if they’re a result of the U.S. drone strike.
“The United States has been killing civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Somalia for years, under the guise of the so-called ‘war on terror,’ with impunity,” pointed out Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement.
“It is unconscionable that the Biden administration continues airstrikes in this shroud of secrecy. This airstrike is a glimpse into the future U.S. involvement in Afghanistan if the Biden administration pushes ahead with an ‘over the horizon’ counter-terrorism program that does not prioritize civilian protection,” O’Brien said.
Asked if the U.S. would work with the Taliban to take on the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate, McKenzie said:
I can’t foresee the way future coordination between us would go. I would leave that for—for some future date. I will simply say that they wanted us out; we wanted to get out with our people and with our—and with our friends and partners. And so for that short period of time, our issues…our view of the world was congruent, it was the same.
Still, many in the U.S. media and policy world seem unwilling to let the war in Afghanistan go. (For President Joe Biden, “the end of the ‘forever war’ is more of an inflection point than an actual conclusion,” suggests Ashley Parker at The Washington Post.) Since withdrawal has begun, newspapers and cable TV have been filled with folks clamoring for us to stay.
Never mind that “in terms of actual staying power, all our nation-building efforts couldn’t even match what the Soviet Union managed in its dotage,” as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat puts it. “That knowledge has not prevented a revival of the spirit that led us to this sorry pass.”
“I don’t mean the straightforward criticisms of the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal,” continues Douthat, who seems to be the only pundit in America who has learned from previous errors of judgment on Afghanistan.
I mean the way that in both the media coverage and the political reaction, reasonable tactical critiques
Article from Latest – Reason.com