To his credit, President Joe Biden decided to pull American troops out of Afghanistan by September. However, they aren't out yet. And President Donald Trump's struggle against his own staff and the military brass demonstrates the power of Washington, D.C.'s war lobby. If there is conflict anywhere in the world, the latter wants America in it.
Indeed, Trump's presidency highlighted the breadth and depth of what is commonly called the deep state. He stood almost alone within the Beltway in seeking to end what he knew was a foolish military enterprise. And not just in Afghanistan.
However, he proved unable to halt even one "endless war." When he conducted a Pentagon purge in his administration's waning days, outsiders feared a coup attempt. But Trump was merely attempting to fulfill his long-held objective of bringing American troops home. According to Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu of Axios, "For all the feverish media speculation about the president's secret agenda at the Pentagon, the ultimate goal was simple: Steamroll the generals and extract America from its foreign engagements, leaving behind a done deal that could not be easily reversed by the next administration."
Shortly after the November election Trump's head of personnel, John McEntee, gave marching orders to Douglas Macgregor, recently added as a special advisor to the Pentagon: Get the U.S. out of Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Africa and complete the partial withdrawal from Germany. [editors' note: Douglas Macgregor is a senior fellow with The American Conservative.] Unfortunately, this was an impossible ask. But it illustrated Trump's frustration. Especially with the first country on the list, Afghanistan. Trump was no ivory tower theoretician. Instead, in his gut he understood, along with most Americans, that spending almost two decades attempting to build democracy in Central Asia made no sense.