JULIA GILLARD AFGHANISTAN
Then prime minister Julia Gillard talks to Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in 2011 (Image: AAP/Department of Defence)

The advocates of forever wars will never admit it, but the Biden administration's decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11 -- and the consequent decision by other nations like Australia to do the same -- will bring to an end a war that made the West less safe against terrorism and corroded Western military forces for an extraordinary cost that will continue to be paid for decades to come.

Along with Iraq, Afghanistan stands as one of the greatest policy failures of recent decades, with a horrific human and economic toll. This is all a result of the hysterical abandonment of reason in the wake of 9/11 by Western leaders like George W. Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair -- and what they believed were the political benefits of embracing militarism.

First, the cost: 41 Australian soldiers killed and 261 Australia Defence Force personnel injured. A total financial cost of, by one estimate, $10 billion. The cost for the United States is 2218 deaths within Afghanistan and nearly 20,100 casualties. The financial cost has been just under US$1 trillion. A 2016 estimate suggested that there had been 173,000 people killed and more than 183,000 seriously wounded in Afghanistan and Pakistan.