Two years after end of Afghanistan war, Pentagon looks to lessons learnt

Republicans try to score political points against Biden administration before 2024 election

US Marines wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar, at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009. AFP
Powered by automated translation

The Pentagon continues to learn lessons from 20 years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, an official said on Thursday, the second anniversary of the official end to America's longest war.

The last US soldiers left Afghanistan on August 30, 2021, one day before the deadline to wrap up operations in the country, which had been recaptured by the Taliban.

“The Department has learnt not only from our experience in Afghanistan but from all of our operations, and we continue to apply those on a day-to-day basis,” Pentagon press secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder said.

“This is a learning organisation. And so, as a result, what you see is a US military that comes out of 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan that truly makes this the most combat-capable, most credible military the world has ever known".

The US spent more than $2 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, including on nation-building projects and veteran care, and more than 2,400 American soldiers were killed there.

After two decades of conflict, the Taliban regained power and moved to quickly undo many of the western reforms put in place over the years.

The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan saw thousands of desperate Afghans who had worked with western powers trying to flee Kabul over fears of Taliban reprisals.

Republican politicians have sought to score political points against President Joe Biden and his Democrat administration over what critics said was a bungled and ignominious end to US involvement in Afghanistan.

The issue will play an important role in the 2024 presidential elections, although the US withdrawal was initially orchestrated by then-president Donald Trump, who made a deal with the Taliban.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to highlight the evacuation operation's successes, even though 13 US troops were killed in a suicide attack outside Kabul airport days before the war ended.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Austin said the US and its allies evacuated more than 124,000 civilians from Afghanistan, “in the midst of the pandemic and in the teeth of danger".

Last week, Cory Mills, a far-right Republican congressman, introduced articles of impeachment against Mr Austin.

“High-level officials in this administration blatantly ignored intel that Americans and our allied partners in Kabul would be left behind in harm’s way unless the US corrected course in our withdrawal,” Mr Mills said in a statement.

“As a result, nearly 200 people, including 13 American service members, were murdered at Abbey Gate in Kabul, Afghanistan, two years ago.”

Brig Gen Ryder declined to comment on the matter.

The end of the Afghanistan War – in pictures

Updated: August 31, 2023, 10:31 PM