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Afghanistan is by far America's longest war

Sunday marked 17 years of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan — with no end in sight. Just last week, a 23-year-old American serviceman was killed by an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province.

Note: Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn lasted March 2003 to December 2011. Operations against the Islamic State in Iraq officially resumed in 2014 under Operation Inherent Resolve; Data: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress and the National Archives; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The big picture: No one believed the war would last this long when Operation Enduring Freedom began on October 7, 2001. Now, 17 years later, almost half of Americans believe the U.S. has "mostly failed."

The timeline

Afghanistan:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom: October 7, 2001, — December 28, 2014.
  • Operation Freedom's Sentinel: January 1, 2015 — current.

Iraq:

  • Operation Iraqi Freedom: March 19, 2003 — August 31, 2010.
  • Operation New Dawn: September 1, 2010 — December 15, 2011.
  • Operation Inherent Resolve: October 15, 2014 — current.

What they've said

  • President Obama said in 2014 that he planned to pull the last of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
  • President Trump admitted in 2017 that while his "original instinct was to pull out...[a] hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists — including ISIS and al Qaeda — would instantly fill."

The bottom line: No one seems to want to stay in Afghanistan, but no one seems to know how to leave, either.

Editor's note: The graph was corrected to show the specific dates of the beginning and end of each conflict (the initial graph relied on Congressional Research Service material defining broader periods of war that determined eligibility of veterans' benefits).

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