The US has an army of 90,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and is spending $100 billion a year, but has still been unable to defeat 20,000-25,000 Taliban who receive no pay at all.
A little over 10 years ago, I was standing on a small hill by a ruined textile factory 40 miles north of Kabul watching the plumes of fire erupt on the skyline as US bombs and missiles exploded in the Taliban front line. In the next few weeks the Taliban government imploded and I was able to drive nervously but safely to Kabul and, soon after, to Kandahar.
It is an extraordinary turn-around that a decade later the Americans are departing and the Taliban are back in business.
The piece is largely about what a failure the war in Afghanistan has been, especially now that the Taliban is as robust a force in the country as ever. Much of the discussion is within the context of things like the recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate which concluded that the war was a stalemate and a recently leaked U.S. military report that found the Taliban are set to retake power, with Pakistan’s help, after NATO forces withdraw.
Arif Rafiq at Foreign Policy also explores what the domestic outlook will be like after the war draws to a close in a piece entitled “The Coming Civil War in Afghanistan.”
What should be kept in mind, however, is that this talk about an end to the combat mission and a withdrawal of troops in the next couple years is almost certainly not going to happen. Even as Panetta gaffed with an implication that the war would begin to end sooner than previously articulated, he made sure to clarify that the war and a sizable occupation of Afghanistan will go on: “That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be combat ready. We will be because we always have to be in order to defend ourselves.”
Either way, what have the propagandists to point to as worth the sacrifice of those in the U.S. military? The war effort is a bloody failure, outright crimes have been committed by many individual troops as well as the higher ups, the government we’ve propped up is one of the most repressive and corrupt in the world, and the Taliban are set to take power again whenever they get that window. Bravo, America.