What began in 2001 as a focused effort to topple the Taliban and rout al Qaeda has become an endless, costly, and unrealistic effort with no clearly discernible endpoint... It has become our forgotten war, and the chief aim of those in charge of the operation seems to be keeping it off the front pages... And make no mistake, it is a war. Afghan civilian casualties hit a new high in 2016, and government security forces suffered more than 15,000 casualties and more than 5,000 killed.

Saudi Arabia is critical because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides. A longtime ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban. Over the years, wealthy Saudi sheikhs and rich philanthropists have also stoked the war by privately financing the insurgents ... the Saudis — through private or covert channels — have tacitly supported the Taliban in ways that make the kingdom an indispensable power broker.

Trumps... strong stance on fighting Isis and “Islamic terrorism” means he is unlikely to hand control of a country... to a scarcely less hardline group. The Baltic states are nervous about whether a Trump administration would defend them in the event of a Russian attack. Trump’s win certainly makes a president Le Pen more plausible. Trump has promised to reverse decades of US policy by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American embassy there.

social media has empowered isis recruiting, helping the group draw at least 30,000 foreign fighters, from some 100 countries, to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq. It has aided the seeding of new franchises in places ranging from Libya and Afghanistan to Nigeria and Bangladesh. It was the vehicle isis used to declare war on the United States ... So intertwined are the Islamic State’s online propaganda and real-life operations that one can hardly be separated from the other

while corruption in Afghanistan pre-dates 2001, it has become far more serious and widespread since then ... after 2001, internal drivers of corruption — including insecurity, weak systems of accountability, and the drug trade — combined with new drivers: a huge influx of foreign assistance, poor oversight of that assistance, and a willingness to partner with abusive and corrupt power brokers ... The result for Afghanistan was systemic corruption — pervasive and entrenched

The end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan and the departure of most foreign troops at the end of 2014 saw the passing of most security responsibilities to local forces. But they have struggled to contain a resurgent Taliban, which has continued to regain Afghan territory even as it has faced internal upheavals... territorial expansion has been accompanied by a deteriorating security situation... more than 5,100 civilians had been either killed or maimed in the first six months of this year

by the time the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were winding down, about 1 in 6 combat troops and a total of more than 300,000 service members had sustained some sort of concussion or traumatic brain injury, often from a blast wave ... The military medical system still didn't see it that way, though. It had been working under the assumption that most concussions weren't causing physical damage to the brain...troops who'd been near a blast but had no obvious injury were routinely returning to combat

After 14 years of war, the number of veterans with multiple tours of combat duty is the largest in modern American history — more than 90,000 soldiers and Marines, many of them elite fighters who deployed four or more times ... these soldiers’ risk of committing suicide actually drops when they are deployed and soars after they return home. For the 85 percent of soldiers who make up the rest of the service and were deployed, the reverse is true.

From 1988, when the world reported more than 350,000 new polio cases, the number dropped to just 74 last year: 54 in Pakistan, the rest in Afghanistan. Those are the only countries where the virus hangs on, finding sanctuary in the remote, mountainous border region and...in Karachi, a melting pot of 22 million-plus inhabitants. India was declared polio-free in 2014, five years after it accounted for half the cases in the world. Nigeria...hasn’t reported a new case in nearly two years.

Congress has appropriated almost eight hundred billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan; a hundred and thirteen billion has gone to reconstruction, more than was spent on the Marshall Plan, in postwar Europe ... Unlike the Iraq war, in which international companies brought in supplies, in Afghanistan the military outsourced its overland-logistics chain to local contractors ... an ad-hoc system grew into a countrywide network that handled billions of dollars in freight.