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The roll call of the dead, the somber silences, the painful memories and bottomless grief. In many ways, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 reflected the annual rituals that have helped a stricken nation endure incomprehensible loss.
But this year is different. For the first time since the United States suffered the deadliest attack on its homeland, no American soldiers are in Afghanistan. Not one.
In other circumstances, that could be a glorious fact worth celebrating. Had the nation-building process been successful, we might have left behind an Afghanistan that would not again be a haven for terrorists to attack us.
In hindsight, that was never in the cards. No matter how big a coalition we had, how much we spent and sacrificed, it would never be enough to turn a collection of warring tribes into a modern nation state. For good reason it’s known as the graveyard of empires.
There was another option, however, one that, while not ideal, was good enough to keep the Taliban from taking back power and setting up a jihadist Disneyland. All we had to do