WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Afghanistan on Sunday to meet with the nation’s leader, as Washington considers a potential end to America’s longest war.
The trip, which makes Austin the first Biden Cabinet-level official to visit the war-torn country, comes 40 days ahead of a U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.
In February 2020, the United States brokered a deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduced further the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July last year.
By May 2021, all foreign forces would leave Afghanistan, according to the deal. There are about 2,500 U.S. troops currently in the country.
The Biden administration has yet to announce its next steps forward in Afghanistan.
The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report.
The current U.S. military operations, designated Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, and Operation Noble Eagle for homeland security missions in the U.S. and Canada, have accounted for $265.7 billion of that sum.
Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, which began in October 2001 and formally ended in December 2014, cost taxpayers $578.7 billion.
Of the three current operations, Freedom’s Sentinel takes the lion’s share of costs at $197.3 billion, followed by Inherent Resolve at $40.5 billion and Noble Eagle at $27.9 billion.