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Looking at the lasting impacts of the Afghan war

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CHIPPEWA VALLEY (WQOW) - On Monday, American troops officially departed from Afghanistan marking the end to the longest war in U.S. history, but now that it's over, local experts are saying the impacts from the Afghanistan conflict will endure in history.

"The world just doesn't stop because we don't just pay attention to it. What happened in those 20 years is still going to impact how we interact with the rest of the world," said Dr. Kim Zagorski, a political and social science professor at UW-Stout.

According to Dr. Zagorski, the decision to pull troops will decide how we interact with the Taliban for the future.

"We have to deal with the government that's there and the question is, how do you do that if you're [President] Joe Biden? How do you do that in a way that doesn't diminish the U.S. or frame our departure in a very negative context?"

Zagorski said the focus right now is on removal of civilians and troops, but our presence in Afghanistan has always been deeply political.

Drawing a comparison to conflicts in Iraq, Zagorksi said one of the lessons the public can learn from wars waged in the Middle East is that you can't force democracy through military action.

"What we saw in Iraq was that you can't impose democracy from the top down," Zagorski said. "You can't rely on the military to create a political situation, and the military can create pockets of safety, can create pockets of normalcy, but the work has to be done by non-military forces"

According to Brown University's Cost of War project, the estimated cost of the conflict is at more than $2 trillion, but a local economics professor says, the lasting financial impact goes way beyond a check.

"What we should be thinking of is the so called real thing we gave up, the real costs or all the lives lost," said Dr. Thomas Kemp, department chair of economics at UW-Eau Claire, "What would they have done if they had been here in the U.S.? What contributions would they have made? Similarly for the equipment, the machinery, the weaponry what could those resources have been put towards here in the United States through these conflicts? This is what we gave up."

Regardless, experts say that the lasting impact of war is not over, but the conversation is still ongoing.

"For many Americans, even though it's crossed off, policy and things never stop, so we still will be dealing with this in the future," Zagorski said.

Zagorski said she expects to be teaching about this moment in history for years to come.