By removing all troops from Afghanistan shortly before the 9/11 attacks’ 20th anniversary, President Joe Biden sent a none-too-subtle message: He wanted America, and the world, to see that he was turning the page — that the war on terror era was well and truly over. In a speech last week justifying his decision, he stated the rationale explicitly: “It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
It’s easy to be skeptical of Biden’s seriousness. US forces remain engaged in counterterrorism operations across the globe. After an ISIS suicide bombing at Kabul airport during the withdrawal killed an estimated 170 people, including 13 American service members, the US launched drone strikes against ISIS targets in Afghanistan — killing at least 10 Afghan civilians. And some of the attacks on Biden’s policy from the Washington foreign policy establishment suggest its appetite for war is hardly sated.
Yet the Afghan withdrawal shows a significant break with the post-9/11 order — at least among liberals.