The most potent weapon in America’s longest war is lies. “Victory is just around the corner”… a corner that retreats with each passing year and every slippage in articulating an objective. The war in Afghanistan is the beginning and emblematic case of a “Global War on Terror” that has no clear or consistent objectives, no time or financial limits, meager oversight, and which feeds a gluttonously militarized and securitized approach to international relations.

In December 2019, a few months ago, while Democrats in the U.S. Congress attempted to reclaim the legislative branch’s Constitutional responsibilities to perform oversight on the Executive branch, The Washington Post published a suite of articles by Craig Whitlock documenting years and three successive administrations’ worth of dissembling about the ‘progress’ of the war. Whitlock wrote that a “confidential trove of documents” he gained access to made clear that:

“…senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”

As The Atlantic noted, the most shocking revelation was that everyone already knows:

Polls have long shown majorities or pluralities of Americans saying that they don’t think the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting and that it is failingFewer than half now believe fighting the war was the right decision in the first place—a finding that comes as a jolt to anyone who remembers the national mood after September 11, 2001. Most think that the war doesn’t have a clear objective. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these views are often even stronger among veterans—the people who have been sent to fight the war and have seen how little progress the American effort is making, and at what cost.

The Pentagon script of imminent victory outlasted two Presidents, making Afghanistan the U.S.’s longest-ever war. Americans born on the day that the bombing began are now eligible to serve in the U.S. forces in the country. They might be forgiven for wondering if anyone can remember why they are supposed to be there.

While we find very little to applaud in President Trump’s time in office, the decision to try to end the war in Afghanistan by negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban was the right one. As The Intercept’s, Mehdi Hasan wrote:

“Bravo, Donald Trump. I never imagined I would ever write these three words. It pains me, in fact, to see them on the page.

But credit where credit is due. Over the weekend, at the Sheraton hotel in Doha, Qatar, the Trump administration was able to achieve in its first term what the Bush and Obama administrations were either unable or unwilling to do over two terms each: Sign a peace deal with the Taliban.

The “peace deal” may be, as Adam Wunische argued in The Nation, more of “pretext” for withdrawal, a formalization of defeat that occurred some time ago. It is an admission of a reality everyone familiar with the greater Middle East recognized from the outset: the end of the “war on terror” has to be achieved politically not militarily. Pride is not a reason for continuing an unwinnable war. The “truce” may not hold; violence will not magically be eliminated, but nonetheless a formal, public agreement between the U.S. Government and the Taliban must be viewed as step forward.

It is way past time for the Pentagon and its innumerable supporters in Congress, the political party establishments, the media, and the think tanks, to tear up the old script.

Photo: “The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense, taken September” 2018 by Touch Of Light. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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