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With an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, was America’s time in Afghanistan worth it?

Culled from an article by Knickmeyer, who covered the 2001 Afghan Northern Alliance and U.S. air campaign that routed the Taliban, and the first weeks of the U.S. military presence at Kandahar in 2002, and as reported by the Associated Press.

President Joseph Biden and ex-president Barack Obama

As President Joe Biden ends the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan this month, Americans and Afghans are questioning whether the was worth the cost: more than 3,000 American and other NATO lives lost, tens of thousands of Afghans dead, trillions of dollars of U.S. debt that generations of Americans will pay for, and an Afghanistan that drifting back under Taliban rule, just as it was 20 years, and perhaps, worse.

There were the first years of the war, when Americans broke up Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida in Afghanistan and routed the Taliban government that had hosted the terrorist network. That succeeded.

But after that came the grinding second phase of the war. U.S. fears of a Taliban rebound whenever Americans eventually pulled out meant that service members getting sent back in, racking up more close calls, injuries and dead comrades.

The U.S. war left the Taliban undefeated and failed to secure a political settlement.  The pull out of the U.S. threatens to clamp the country under the Taliban’s strict interpretation of religious law, erasing much of the gains.

“There’s no ‘mission accomplished,’” Biden snapped last month, batting down a question from a reporter.

The strain of fighting two post-9/11 wars at once with an all-volunteer military meant that more than half of the 2.8 million American servicemen and women who deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq served two or more times, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University.

The repeated deployments contributed to disability rates in those veterans that are more than double that of Vietnam veterans, says Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.

Bilmes calculates the U.S. will spend more than $2 trillion just caring for and supporting Afghanistan and Iraq veterans as they age, with costs peaking 30 years to 40 years from now.

That’s on top of $1 trillion in Pentagon and State Department costs in Afghanistan since 2001. Because the U.S. borrowed rather than raised taxes to pay for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, interest payments are estimated to cost succeeding generations of Americans trillions of dollars more still.

In all, 2,448 American troops, 1,144 service members from NATO and other allied countries, more than 47,000 Afghan civilians and at least 66,000 Afghan military and police died, according to the Pentagon and to the Costs of War project.

President Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan after Taliban fighters entered the capital Kabul  earlier on Sunday, capping their return to power two decades after being forced out by U.S.-led forces.

Was it worth it?

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