It is understandable, given the chaos surrounding the U.S. exit from Afghanistan—especially the murder of the 13 U.S. troops—that our attention has been focused on the ending of America’s longest war.
The statistics are sobering. Length of the war: 20 years. Total number of U.S. fatalities: 2,461. U.S. wounded: more than 20,000. Afghan fatalities: more than 70,000. Cost of the war: $2.3 trillion.
Major goal achieved: The Taliban were removed in late 2001 as the head of the Afghan government, denying a base of operations to al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since 9/11, there have been no similar attacks by Islamist radicals in the United States that were planned or executed from Afghanistan.
Goal not achieved: The conversion of Afghanistan from a congeries of independent tribes into a nation-state able to manage its own internal and external security without interference by outside powers. After 20 years of fighting, the Taliban returned to Kabul and control for the time being of this divided country.
Despite the remarkable airlift of an estimated 130,000 Americans, allies and Afghan friends, there are between 200 and 1,000 U.S. citizens remaining in the country who want to get out and cannot.
There are critical lessons to be learned from the Afghan War.
This piece originally appeared in ArcaMax