May 2021

After years of delay, the United States is in the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, thus ending the longest military engagement in U.S. history. Was it worth it? What should have been done differently? What lessons have we learned from the conflict? Is leaving a good idea or a bad one? Will we be back?

Foreign policy experts hold a range of views, and we have gathered several of them here to discuss the conflict and its long-awaited conclusion. Emma Ashford of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security writes the lead essay this month; she will be joined by Laurel Miller of the International Crisis Group, Barnett Rubin of the New York University Center on International Cooperation, and Hal Brands, the Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Comments are open through the end of the month, and readers are invited to join the discussion.

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Lead Essay

  • Emma Ashford reviews the costs of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and hails the impending withdrawal as long overdue. She suggests that not only is Afghanistan “the poster child for mission creep,” it may have soured the foreign policy community on nation-building as a core element of U.S. foreign policy. Attention may be returning to the great power competition that was formerly, and may soon be again, the center of U.S. foreign policy.

Response Essays

Coming Up

Conversation through the month.