The current hue and cry surrounding the collapse of the Afghan regime and the fall of Kabul — the debate about who is to blame and whether President Biden erred in ending military support for the Afghan government — should not distract from two important truths. The Afghan war — at least one in which American troops on the ground were central to the outcome — was over long ago. And America’s ever-expanding global war on terrorism is continuing, in principle and practice.
In choosing to withdraw U.S. forces from the country by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Biden merely completed the job initiated by President George W. Bush and his successors: converting the war on terrorism from a conventional military venture to a global operation conducted by such methods as drone strikes, special-operations raids and standoff missiles.
True, Bush allowed troop deployments to rise in Afghanistan across his two terms even as he turned to a yet more misbegotten war in Iraq: A force of some 2,500 in December 2001 had risen to 25,000 by December 2007. Still, Iraq remained the Bush administration’s priority, and Bush began experimenting with drones to prosecute the Afghanistan conflict and in borderlands just beyond.
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