I have yet to process the entirety of President Trump’s Monday night speech, in which he announced his plan — contra his own campaign statements — to escalate the war in Afghanistan and keep it going indefinitely. But one part that jumped out at me immediately was Trump’s suggestion that ending America’s longest war at the 16-year mark would be a “hasty withdrawal.”
The absurdity here is so glaring it is difficult to know how to respond.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11. The resultant war has lasted longer than any other active conflict in American history, surpassing the Vietnam War all the way back in June of 2010. It has lasted for the majority of many Americans’ lives, including the entirety of Millennials’ political consciousness.
The war in Afghanistan has lasted so long we are about two years away from the first death of an American soldier who wasn’t yet born when the war in which he or she will die began:
Soon there will be soldiers dying in Afghanistan who weren't born when 9/11 happened. https://t.co/VTLKpbQlQX
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) July 6, 2017
— The Nib ✒️ (@thenib) August 22, 2017
i'm sure this time it'll work pic.twitter.com/0CfaxzAASB
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) August 21, 2017
In fact, it has lasted long enough that reading former President Obama’s Twitter archives on the subject has become a surreal and depressing exercise in political déjà vu. Take a look at these gems from half a decade ago:
This July, we will begin to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. #SOTU
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2011
FACT: President Obama has a plan to end the war in Afghanistan in 2014—Mitt Romney does not.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 22, 2012
"The war in Afghanistan is ending. Al Qaeda is on the run. And Osama bin Laden is dead." —President Obama
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 6, 2012
President Obama: "By the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over."
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 13, 2013
The war in Afghanistan has lasted so long it is difficult to believe it will ever end. One this is certain: There is no victory in Afghanistan for the United States. As I’ve argued at The Washington Examiner, the “difficult but plain truth is that no amount of U.S. military intervention can impose an exterior stability on Afghanistan, however much Washington denies this fact,” and it “is futile and dangerous to continue to try.”
Ending America’s longest war at the 16-year mark would not be a “hasty withdrawal.” It would be a much-overdue recognition of reality.