Next week's 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks likely will be the last on which American combat troops fight what has become not only the longest war in U.S. history, but the most unpopular.
No American war, not Vietnam, Korea or Iraq, has ever fallen as far in public esteem.
In the months after the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, about nine in 10 Americans expressed support for the war. Today, about three in 10 do, a plunge of 60 percentage points. Never has our support for a war started so high and sunk so low.
As the nation debates a military strike in Syria, it's natural to wonder how Afghanistan — which began as a righteous fight Americans said they were ready to wage for as long as it took — came to this.
John Mueller, an Ohio State University expert on war and public opinion, says it was really two wars, interrupted by another in Iraq.
The first Afghanistan War — the "good" one, 2001-02 — routed Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and their Taliban hosts. The second, which intensified around 2006 after the Taliban regrouped, has become the long war. It's a story of shifting goals, unreliable allies, elusive enemies, lost lives, depleted funds.
Through it all, the annual 9/11 remembrances have reminded Americans of why — for better or worse — we fight.
James Lindsay, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution, once said that if Americans waver as casualties mount, all they would have to do is watch the video of men and women jumping from the 100th floor of the World Trade Center.
But by this time next year, the U.S. will be only a few months away from the scheduled withdrawal of its last combat troops. Here is a look at the war's trajectory through the prism of America's new memorial day.
Sept. 11, 2002: Victorious
U.S. dead: 36
U.S. cost: $20 billion
U.S. troops: 7,000
In Kabul, apart from a brief flag-lowering ceremony and a moment of silence, the U.S. military is all business.