US Reflects on End of Its ‘Forever War’

By Rob Garver | VOA News

VOA FILE – US Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team prepares to detonate unexploded ordnance, Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan

As the United States prepares to pull the last of its troops from Afghanistan, most recently abruptly turning over Bagram Airfield to Afghan authorities, the journey the U.S. has taken from the beginning of its longest war to what appears to be its end is one that many Americans would just as soon forget.

Since 2001, 2,448 Americans have died in the conflict. American researchers at Brown University estimate that 241,000 people have been killed in war zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan over that period, including 71,000 civilians.

The U.S. poured $2 trillion into trying to rebuild the country in the image of a Western democracy, but public opinion surveys now indicate a clear majority of Americans back President Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan. More than one in three say they believe the war there cannot be won.

“The [American] public has not really cared about this war that much for a long time,” Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told VOA. “Ever since roughly the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001, this war just hasn’t mattered to that many people that much of the time. And the only time that was talked about very much in presidential politics was probably the 2008 presidential election. But it was not even a point of disagreement.”

Success seemed possible

On October 8, it will be a full 20 years since Americans across the country awoke to newspaper headlines announcing, “U.S. Strikes Back,” and coverage of a massive overnight air assault on targets in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. It had been less than a month since teams of al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four American jetliners on 9/11, crashing two into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, one into the Pentagon and one into a Pennsylvania field, killing 2,996 people in total.

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