The Taliban are back in power, two decades after an American-led military venture ousted them.
In that time, the Taliban remained a potent insurgency, causing constant troubles for multiple Afghan leaders, not to mention for four U.S. presidents. They played an even longer long game than the U.S.
On Sunday, they won.
Facing no resistance in recent days, the Taliban captured one major city after another before waltzing into Kabul, the capital city, on Sunday and taking over the government. The country’s president fled a few hours before, recognizing that he had no chance to retain control.
The sad fact is what the world witnessed today was inevitable; the Taliban were always guaranteed to again lead Afghanistan. When was the only question.
During the roughly two-decade period in which the Taliban plotted a return to power, the U.S. spent perhaps a trillion dollars, if not more, in an effort to build democratic institutions, strengthen civil society and create a legitimate military force that could defend the nation. The cries that the U.S. failed will echo loudly, but those shortsighted reactions will miss an important point: The U.S. never was going to win.
Remember, in mere days, the country’s president demonstrated the political apparatus lacked legitimacy; the absence of a meaningful response by the people to the Taliban made clear that civil society remained frayed; and the cut-and-run tactics shown by the military proved they had no interest in defending the nation.
George Bush and Barack Obama refused to admit the truth, and it took Donald Trump almost his entire term to finally say what a U.S. president had to say: The people of Afghanistan didn’t want the Americans in their country. And that meant the U.S. needed to get out.
Trump made a deal — albeit a bad one — with the Taliban that set May 1 as the date U.S. forces would exit Afghanistan. The 20-year debacle would be over. The Afghan military and the Taliban could shed more blood or they could sit down a reach a political compromise. The U.S. would watch from the place the Afghan people wanted it to be: the sidelines.
Joe Biden accepted what he was handed, but it certainly looks like he did precious little to ensure that the departure of the military would also include a sound plan to evacuate America’s diplomatic personnel and the thousands of Afghan citizens who assisted the U.S. over the past 20 years. The videos and photos from Kabul throughout the day led to only one conclusion: There’s evident panic among the people who need, or want, to get out and who believe they have mere hours to do so. It didn’t need to be that way.
The Taliban insist they won’t prevent the mass evacuation of diplomats from multiple nations or of others seeking to exit the country. I’ll leave it to you to determine if you believe that.
The political elite throughout the U.S. will point fingers of blame — Republicans will say Biden was clueless to reality (it appears he was) while Democrats will scream that it was Trump who brokered the bad deal Biden had to accept, or else he had to send even more troops in (and that’s true). The media will relish the “who lost Afghanistan” arguments, all the while refusing to tell the American people what they should hear: A sizable percentage of them wanted their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters out of Afghanistan. Whether Americans knew or cared about what leaving would mean is now unimportant.
Put it together and the people of one nation never wanted U.S. military personnel where they were and the people of another no longer wanted them to stay.
No one lost Afghanistan. Rather, the country is now in control of the only group that had the conviction to fight and fight and fight as they waited for reality to become evident in the U.S.
The fighting is now over in Afghanistan, but the war of words is just beginning in the U.S. Oh, jolly.