When the US invaded Afghanistan after al-Qaeda’s September 11 2001 attacks, it was roundly condemned. President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops by the 20th anniversary of those attacks has not been endorsed with as much enthusiasm. Is this a case of damned if the US does, damned if it doesn’t?

Interventions in places ranging from Vietnam and Eastern Europe to many parts of South America and the Middle East have always been contentious, regardless of who is involved. But as the Taliban gains more ground in Afghanistan each day, many Afghans are rightly concerned for the future of the country’s fragile democratic institutions and the advances women have made since 2001...

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