Nearly 20 years after the first American forces landed in Afghanistan, the last of those forces has finally left the country for good.
The last plane carrying American service members departed Afghanistan yesterday evening ahead of a looming deadline for withdrawal that was agreed to with the Taliban.
From NBC News:
“I’m here to announce the completion of our mission in Afghanistan,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters in a virtual briefing. The last C-17 took off at 3:29 pm ET, and "every single U.S. service member is now out of Afghanistan," McKenzie said. [...]
In a statement Monday evening, Biden thanked the service members who aided in the evacuation and said he would make further remarks Tuesday.
"The past 17 days have seen our troops execute the largest airlift in US history, evacuating over 120,000 US citizens, citizens of our allies, and Afghan allies of the United States," Biden said. "They have done it with unmatched courage, professionalism, and resolve. Now, our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended."
The military has left Afghanistan and I expect the media's coverage of the country will go with them.
Political news coverage over the past couple weeks has been dominated by highly critical headlines and hand-wringing from some of the same voices who've kept us mired in the mess for so long. And I'm not going to say our exit from Afghanistan was handled perfectly, but I will say the political news media has not covered itself in as much glory as they think judging by their takes on social media.
The Republican party and some corners of the political media would like to see our dramatic exit from Afghanistan stick to President Biden, but it's not going to. The media's coverage of Afghanistan will end as quickly as it began when they no longer had anything else to cover. No one will even be thinking about it a month from now except the service members who will never stop thinking about it.
My closest friend is a combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan and although it's been a decade since he came home from there, he still struggles with extreme survivor's guilt. He has even told me he wishes he had died in Afghanistan. Another friend of mine was wounded and lost several friends in Afghanistan in 2005 and still struggles with the anniversary of that every November. And those are just two personal examples out of the million men and women who rotated in and out of Afghanistan over the last 20 years.
There's no sensational media coverage for them. No one is considering them when arguing that we should have stayed longer and put even more of their lives at risk.
That's why I'm not impressed by attempts to hang the whole thing on Biden's shoulders. It was George W. Bush who sent my friends there and almost two decades before I even met them.
I haven't asked my friends how they feel about our exit because I know they don't need any additional reasons to think about it, but I can tell you they generally feel like no one cares about them. And you know what? I can't honestly say they're wrong, but I can show them that I care.
"Support the troops" has always been a cheap slogan for people who've taken service members for granted and I hope it dies with the war.