President Joe Biden isn’t just ending America’s war in Afghanistan. He’s moving the U.S. into a new phase, or perhaps a very old one, of its generation-long struggle against Salafi-jihadist terrorism.

Biden is arguing that Washington can keep a lid on the terrorist threat without a consistent, boots-on-the-ground military presence, implicitly rejecting the post-9/11 model of counterterrorism. This shift represents a big geopolitical bet — and a political gamble that may be riskier than the administration calculates.

The current U.S. counterterrorism model emerged as a response to the failures of the 1990s. Back then, officials knew that al-Qaeda, based in Afghanistan, posed a growing threat to U.S. lives and interests. But without any meaningful U.S. presence in that country, it proved devilishly difficult to obtain actionable intelligence or devise workable military options for disrupting…

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