The White House is expected to announce it will withdraw 4,000 American troops in Afghanistan. It follows the discovery of government documents that reveal top-level US officials across three administrations thought the war was unwinnable.
After a three-year legal battle, The Washington Post won the right to release the documents. The bottom line: pentagon and military officials who saw the Afghanistan war as a lost cause were while giving Americans false hope.
After 18 years, 2,500 and costs in the trillions of dollars, comes word that 4,000 US troops will withdraw from the war-torn country.
"Every time we debate a few thousand troops, we turn it into some huge national security decision and it really doesn't rank that high in importance in my opinion," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, specializing in defense and foreign policy issues. "The important debates are between a substantial presence or nothing at all."
It is a sentiment underscored by Defense Secretary Mark Esper to the House Armed Services Committee.
"We have an important counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan that means we have to make sure Afghanistan never becomes a safe have for terrorists to strike the United States," Esper said. "Our commanders, I've spoken to them. Gen Milley has, feel that we could reduce our force presence there and still be able to conduct that mission."
The decision comes after a surprise revelation contained in government documents showing the lack of confidence military leaders shared in the possibility of success in Afghanistan.
CBN News asked O'Hanlon whether he thought that might have influenced the decision to reduce troops.
"I think not at all to be honest," he replied. "The Washington Post did some good things with its journalism. I think it made some mistakes in suggesting there was a pattern of duplicity by American leaders. I think that does a public disservice to our public debate, but irrespective of that we know that President Trump has been trying to gradually reduce our exposure in Afghanistan the entire three years he's been in office.
Although the US will begin to pull out of Afghanistan without having hit many of its goals, O'Hanlon says American lives weren't lost in vain.
"The country has not been attacked again from Afghanistan by anybody like ISIS or Al Qaeda since 9-11 and the Afghan government is still holding on to much of the country. So by those measures, I think we are sort of struggling by with a bare minimum success," he noted.
O'Hanlon says the chances of a complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan anytime soon is slim because it could ignite a resurgence of ISIS or Al Qaeda, a national security threat the US can't afford.