As the United States turns the page on the 16th year of the war in Afghanistan, many U.S. citizens and leaders are questioning the cost and sacrifice required to sustain this protracted and seemingly unwinnable war. Just days after the 9-11 anniversary, the Pentagon announced that hundreds more U.S. troops were deploying to Afghanistan. They reportedly will be joined by at least 1,000 more U.S. service men and women this year. In short, U.S. investment and involvement in Afghanistan is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
When do wars end? Prussian war theorist Carl von Clausewitz postulated: “Once the expenditure of effort exceeds the value of the political object, the object must be renounced.” What he should have added is “This is easier said than done.”
The early hope that Afghanistan would become a stable democracy has all but been abandoned. The current objectives were described by President Donald Trump on 21 August as threefold:1
• Deliver “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices [sic] of lives”