In other words, while Obama may have last night “charted a path toward ending large-scale U.S. combat operations in Central Asia,” as the Los Angeles Times put it, America will likely be engaged in “hostilities”—to borrow a phrase—in the region for the indefinite future.
Beyond reporting that fact plainly, what does that mean for the press? There’s clearly a role for journalists to examine the soundness of the strategy, as Ackerman does when he asks how Obama expects to combine peace talks with the Taliban and a “forever war” based out of Afghanistan.
More fundamentally, it means simply continuing to cover the story, even after the president declares “mission accomplished.” The American public is clearly ready to be done with the war in Afghanistan. As our regular troops retreat from harm’s way, and the fighting is done more and more by “drones and commandos,” it will be easy to let it drop into semi-obscurity, like our not-quite-covert war in Yemen, especially if there is no resistance from Congress.
But as long as the “forever war” is being waged, we need the press not to forget—and not to let us forget—what our government is doing in our name around the world.