United States President Joe Biden has announced that the US military operation in Afghanistan will cease on Aug 31, ending two decades of military intervention - the longest in America's history - in a land that has traditionally, for foreign powers, proved to be unconquerable. The new withdrawal date comes after the predecessor Trump administration negotiated a deal with the Taleban to end the military mission by May 1. On taking office, Mr Biden had said that US troops would be out by the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks plotted by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was sheltered at the time by the Afghan Taleban and later killed by US Special Forces inside his hideout in Pakistan.
The war has been costly for the US, not just in terms of money - an estimated US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) - but also in lives lost. However, both human and material costs had come down substantially, which raised questions about the wisdom of Mr Biden's decision. By some estimates, the US was spending no more than US$10 billion a year lately for the troops it maintained in Afghanistan. Given that this presence was invaluable in stabilising the nation, and helping prevent further attacks on the US mainland, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies were reportedly against the President's decision. Mr Biden says the US did not go into Afghanistan to "nation-build" and that Afghans need to decide their future themselves.