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On Aug. 16, 2021, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report: “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.” The report was overtaken by the news, as only the day before the Afghan government had collapsed and the Taliban rapidly seized power. But one year later, it is a document — based on 13 years of work, mountains of data and more than 760 interviews — worth studying carefully.

Fareed Zakaria Washington Post
Fareed Zakaria Washington Post

“The U.S. government has now spent 20 years and $145 billion trying to rebuild Afghanistan,” it begins. It added up all the other costs, including $837 billion on warfighting, 3,587 U.S. and allied troops dead, no fewer than 66,000 Afghan troops dead. But, the report notes, “if the goal was to rebuild and leave behind a country that can sustain itself and pose little threat to U.S. national security interests, the overall picture is bleak.”

Read the full opinion at