The U.S. Military and the Legacy of Afghanistan

The U.S. Military and the Legacy of Afghanistan
A U.S. Army carry team transports the remains of a Special Forces soldier who died in Afghanistan, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Dec. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision last week to fully withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he justified it in part by pointing to an agreement signed by the Trump administration committing the U.S. to withdrawing by May 1. But he spent more time highlighting the disconnect between the original reasons the U.S. deployed its military to Afghanistan and the reasons now being used to justify its continued presence. “War in Afghanistan,” he said, “was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.”

And yet, as Biden acknowledged in his speech, that is just what the “Forever War” has become, with U.S. soldiers now serving in Afghanistan who had not been born at the time of the attacks of 9/11. What impact has this long and in many ways forgotten war had on the U.S. military? And what has it meant for the role of the military in American society?

In today’s Trend Lines interview, Andrew Exum joins WPR’s editor-in-chief Judah Grunstein to discuss those questions and more. Exum is a partner at Hakluyt & Company, a global advisory firm. From 2015 to 2017, he served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. He began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army, leading platoons of both light infantry and Army Rangers in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2009, he returned to Afghanistan to serve as a civilian adviser. He was also a long-time WPR contributor and weekly columnist. Click here to read a partial transcript of the interview.

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Relevant Articles on WPR:
The ‘Forever War’ Is Over. Let the Reckoning Begin
The U.S. Must Prepare for the Worst in Afghanistan
Biden Must Make Hard Choices Quickly on Afghanistan
Can the Taliban Be Part of a Lasting Peace in Afghanistan?

Trend Lines is edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him and World Politics Review on Twitter at @peterdoerrie and @wpreview.

To send feedback or questions, email us at podcast@worldpoliticsreview.com.