“Celebratory gunfire resounded across the Afghan capital on the 31 August as the Taliban took control of the airport following the withdrawal of the last US troops, marking the end of a 20-year war,” reported an English daily. After the departure of the last flight, the Taliban spokesman called it a “historic day and a historic moment.” “We are proud of these moments, that we liberated our country from a great power,” he added. This was, indeed, a rejoicing day for Afghans. After 18 long years of bloodletting and prevarication, the American leaders have finally come round to recognise the improbability of finding any other resolution of the Afghanistan war than sitting across the table with the Taliban. The talks culminated in the Peace Agreement of February 2020 that paved the way for the evacuation of foreign forces from the country and the return of the Taliban to power. The war had brought a disaster not only to Afghanistan’s doorstep but also inflicted a heavy price on Pakistan in terms of both human and economic losses. Brown University’s 2018 report “Costs of War Project,” has made painful revelations for the world. Even the American public that had largely remained indifferent to the loss of American lives in wars waged in far-off regions of South-west Asia and the Middle East must have been jolted awake. The report said that the number of war-related killings in Pakistan was as high as 65,000 in all these years. This included civilians and security personnel. ‘The report added, “as of October 2018, the fatalities in Afghanistan stood over 147,000 people, encompassing Afghan security forces, civilians and opposition fighters. Some 6334 American soldiers and contractors, as well as more than 1100 allied troops also lost their lives between 2001 and 2018.” The true number of the Americans injured, disabled or inflicted with psychological diseases was kept a guarded secret lest it may provoke public unrest; reviving the bitter reminiscences of the American public outrage over the Vietnam casualties. All the hawing and humming and naked threats did not veer Pakistan from its avowed policy on an “Afghan-designed and Afghan-owned” solution. The US remained involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and many other countries; extending coalition support funds to its allies in anti-terrorist wars, including Pakistan, in the past 17 years. However, this financial assistance to Pakistan was stopped in 2017 because of differences between the two countries on the Afghanistan conundrum. The Brown University report suggested that the US had spent over $5.6 trillion on its war on terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The American funding of reconstruction programs in Iraq and Afghanistan ranged between $170 and 180 billion. Most of these funds had gone towards arming security forces in both countries, while the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society was lost to corruption, fraud, waste and abuse by the leaders installed in power by the US. There was no accountability system in place to ensure transparency in spending the funds. They escaped scot-free with their loot. Pakistan had been consistently counselling the American leadership to recognise the ground reality and start direct talks with the Taliban to bring an end to the festering Afghan war. The Trump administration tried hard its policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” on Pakistan. There was no dearth of rabid voices in the American Congress and Senate; calling Pakistan one of the top “frenemies” in the American foreign policy. This was due to its alleged tolerance of Taliban sanctuaries on its soil even if it cooperated with the US in Afghanistan in other ways. They felt no qualms in cutting aid to Pakistan in maintaining over 70,000 troops along the Durand line to stop the Taliban from using its soil as the springboard for attacks in Afghanistan. They even stopped the disbursement of the coalition support funds to it. They also threatened to designate Pakistani individuals and organisations, and sanction them, or strike Taliban targets within Pakistan without any restraint. All this hawing and humming and naked threats did not veer Pakistan from its avowed policy on an “Afghan-designed and Afghan-owned” solution to the war. In Pakistan’s view, no durable peace would be possible in Afghanistan without the participation of the Taliban. The US leadership, however, took this long to understand the ground realities. The quest for peace in Afghanistan received an impetus by the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as the Special Envoy to Afghanistan with the mandate of starting the process of direct dialogue with the Taliban. The emerging consensus for a regional initiative called “Moscow Format” spearheaded by Russia with the support of China, Pakistan and other countries for a durable negotiated solution to the Afghan war, was a significant move to mount pressure on the US leadership. Notwithstanding formidable divergences, the Peace Agreement was finally signed between the US and Taliban on February 29, 2020, with a deadline for the withdrawal of the US and NATO troops. However, the collapse of the Afghan National Army; the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s puppet regime and the chaotic withdrawal of US and NATO troops were all consequences of the mishandling of the situation by the American political and military leadership. Sadly, the abrupt flight was reminiscent of the Saigon debacle. What did the US achieve out of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria after killing over 507,000 people? Apparently, the main American objectives were to establish democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights, and extermination of terrorists. Did the US achieve these objectives after incurring such huge losses of human lives and the American treasury? Afghanistan is still mired in political instability and swarms with militant outfits. Iraq is in the grip of majority Shias under the Iranian influence. Syria is trying to maintain a semblance of a viable and sovereign state, with Russia, Iran and Turkey deeply involved to keep the opposition groups-trained and armed to the teeth by the US’s Arab allies-at bay. Libya has almost disintegrated into three warring power centres. Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon are teetering under the persistent adverse consequences of the wars in the Middle East. Would the US leadership, with their short memory, learn a lesson to desist from military excursions outside their borders? Not a chance! The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.