The misguided Afghan withdrawal deal struck by Washington and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on February 29 reflects the failure of Washington to explain to the American public the case for maintaining a military footprint in Afghanistan. The resulting misguided pressure that voters have brought to bear upon both Republicans and Democrats in recent years has resulted in a unilateral declaration of the war’s end in to keep political promises, posing unacceptable risks to American security in the process.After 18 years of difficult fighting against a well-funded, unconventional enemy with safe harbor in Pakistan, Americans are understandably war-weary and have tired of overseas interventions. Yet, despite the Taliban’s assurances and promises to the contrary, we cannot wish away the fact that an Afghanistan absent US troops will over time result in the Taliban re-establishing by force an Islamic emirate under Sharia law, providing a safe haven to al-Qaeda and possibly other terrorist organizations. The Taliban knows the Trump administration’s desire for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of the few things that unites today’s polarized American electorate, and they will help facilitate this wish of the American people and will be on their best behavior until the last foreign forces have left Afghan soil. Afterward, the Taliban will assuredly abandon commitments to both lay down their arms and engage in power-sharing with the government in Kabul.Given that the different parties in Afghanistan have been fighting for decades, there is sufficient reason to distrust the Taliban’s stated political vision for the future and their expectation of the signed agreement.Sadly, it appears that history is about to repeat itself. The February 29 deal with the Taliban is reminiscent of when the US pulled out of South Vietnam after promises from Hanoi to honor the regime in then-Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Some 24 months later, a North Vietnamese invasion toppled South Vietnam.American leaders of both parties in successive administrations – both Obama and Trump – have failed to make the case to the American people on why a US presence is necessary in Afghanistan. This has resulted in voters not having a full understanding of the associated stakes, and pressuring Washington for this misguided and dangerous policy change.The president and Congress owe some straight talk to the American people. The problem of terrorism is going to be with us for the foreseeable future and the US will need to expend resources and lives to meet this ongoing threat in the coming decades. No amount of wishful thinking will make it go away.PUT SIMPLY, US national security will require continued involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East until the behavior of terrorist groups and rogue regimes change. Those determined to attack the US and its interests – al-Qaeda, ISIS, Iran, etc. – each having their own objectives, theological bents and rationales. They are rooted in civilizations older than the American people and they are patient and determined. They will continue to decide the times, locations, venues and methods of attacks as well as the duration of their campaigns.What is required is for the United States to approach the challenge of terrorism in the way fire departments and police departments handle the recurring problems of fire and crime. While it is impossible to stamp out fire and crime altogether, there are ways in which we can mitigate these problems, lower their incidences, lessen their effects, and in some cases prevent them altogether. This needs to be pursued through maintaining robust defense and intelligence capabilities, working with allies and engaging in a sustained educational campaign that counters and provides an alternative vision to the hate-filled ideologies that justify killing in the name of religion.This approach will require the sustained commitment of multiple administrations, much like that which took place during the Cold War, although the efforts against terrorism will likely last longer – possibly over the course of generations.While the long war in Afghanistan has had setbacks, its primary objectives of denying al-Qaeda territory in which to train, and preventing attacks in the US, have been largely successful. These important accomplishments – as well as the casualties tragically incurred – must not be squandered.It bears saying that a large American footprint in Afghanistan is not necessary in order to protect US security interests. A variety of residual US force structures that combine both special operations and air-strike capabilities are sufficient to manage the lingering challenge posed by the Taliban. Accompanied with continued economic assistance for the Afghan government in Kabul, these forward-deployed capabilities are sufficient and necessary for preventing Afghanistan from again becoming a breeding ground for global terrorism.As American voters seldom pay attention to the details of foreign and security policy, future presidents and Congresses will need to recommit to educating Americans on the importance of these vital security issues in order to avoid repeating the present withdrawal mistake in Afghanistan.While ever-shifting news cycles covering the latest controversies, as well as legitimate policy issues, make it difficult to secure the attention of an increasingly fractured citizenry, the avoidance of an honest discussion about the needed commitment to fight terrorism does a disservice to both service members and the broader public. If there is a silver lining in this flawed Afghanistan withdrawal deal, perhaps it is that this mistake will over the long-term help educate the American people about the continued threat of terrorism and provide greater clarity on needed policies for addressing this ongoing challenge.The author writes on foreign policy and is the director of the Tribal Administration Program at Claremont Graduate University.