Going by international media reports on recent developments in Afghanistan, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is all about the United States. Sure, the spectacular collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the US-nurtured republican regime over the past few days certainly demonstrates the failure of Washington’s two-decade-long policy to build a modern state in the country. The ignominious exit of the last of its officials and troops shames the Joe Biden administration. The popular view is that a declining superpower has taken a beating. The truth is that it is nothing of that sort.
The United States pulled out because there is bipartisan political consensus in Washington that further presence does not serve its interests. Osama bin Laden is long dead and Pakistan dare not conspire in international terrorist plots. Washington has sophisticated air power to destroy militant infrastructure anywhere in Afghanistan and Pakistan should it be necessary. Failure of its expensive state-building side-project in Afghanistan apart, the United States has acted to avoid the sunk cost fallacy.
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