Back in 2003, the George W. Bush administration was publicly expressing optimism about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That May 1, Bush memorably stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and proclaimed that the United States and its allies had vanquished Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The victory declaration was premature, to say the least. Inside both nations, deadly insurgencies were building. Five months after the “Mission Accomplished” speech, USA TODAY Pentagon reporter Dave Moniz got his hands on an internal memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to his top aides. “The coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another,” Rumsfeld wrote, “but it will be a long, hard slog.”
Indeed. The Iraq War turned into one of the biggest debacles in the history of American foreign policy, and U.S. troops remain bogged down in Afghanistan nearly two decades after the 9/11 attacks.