Twenty years after the Sept. 11  terrorist attack, the American military mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end.

U.S. forces first went to that distant country to topple the ruling Taliban, an Islamic extremist group that had given safe haven to the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror, and to track down Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the horrific plot. It took years to finally locate and eliminate bin Laden in his hideaway inside Pakistan. Meanwhile, under three different presidential administrations, the U.S. continued to fight the resurgent Taliban and attempt to establish a stable and strong central government in Kabul.

It may have been a mission impossible. Taliban forces were always able to find safe haven across the border in Pakistan while corruption, incompetence and disunity plagued the weak Aghani government. Now, a new American president is saying no more. Two decades is enough.

Critics are calling Joe Biden’s decision a surrender that will condemn the people of Afghanistan to a dark fate if, as seems quite possible, the Taliban extremists regain control of the country. Women, in particular, will suffer. Under American hegemony, they made significant strides toward a more equal role in Afghani society, a bit of light that will surely be snuffed out if Islamic zealots win the day.

Nevertheless, Biden will not pay a political price for his choice. There is no constituency for endless wars. The United States expended much blood and treasure in the effort to lift Afghanistan into the modern world, but the cold reality is that Americans cannot fix every injustice and save every group of downtrodden people.

This is not a defeat; it is simply facing up to reality.

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