The ‘Forever War’ Is Over. Let the Reckoning Begin

The ‘Forever War’ Is Over. Let the Reckoning Begin
President Joe Biden visits Arlington National Cemetery after announcing the withdrawal of the remainder of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, in Arlington, Va., April 14, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

After two decades of a war that started out with what he called clear objectives and a just cause, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he would withdraw the last remaining American troops from Afghanistan. In a 15-minute speech from the White House Treaty Room, where then-President George W. Bush informed the nation in October 2001 of the first U.S. airstrikes against al-Qaida training camps, Biden declared, “I’m now the fourth United States President to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”

How he inherited the burden of pulling U.S. troops from the country, and why he determined he would not leave it to his successor, is what makes the war in Afghanistan so tragic. As vice president, Biden and his presidential predecessor and former boss Barack Obama began to debate the possibility of a substantial drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan in 2014. By then, the phrase “fragile but reversible” had already become a tired refrain of Pentagon briefings and Congressional hearings. Year after year, military officials, diplomats and humanitarian aid experts had trooped up to the podium to tell an anxious American public that any U.S. withdrawal must be “conditions-based” to avoid undoing whatever gains had supposedly been made. The implicit subtext each time was that the year ahead would not only be different, but would make the difference between a responsible and irresponsible American exit from Afghanistan.

Now, with a date fixed for a full U.S. withdrawal by the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Biden has wisely chosen to jettison the policy canard that Washington will ever arrive at a consensus about what stability looks like in a seemingly terminally unstable Afghanistan.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review