The United States signed a deal with the Taliban on Saturday that sets the stage to end America’s longest war — the nearly two-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan that began after the Sept. 11 attacks, killed tens of thousands of people, vexed three White House administrations and left mistrust and uncertainty on all sides.
The agreement lays out a timetable for the final withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, the impoverished Central Asian country once unfamiliar to many Americans that now symbolizes endless conflict, foreign entanglements and a potential incubator of terrorist plots.
The war in Afghanistan in some ways echoes the American experience in Vietnam. In both, a superpower bet heavily on brute strength and the lives of its young, then walked away with seemingly little to show.
I’m grateful to President Trump for making this deal, ending the Forever War — the war that our leaders knew from virtually the very beginning that we could not win (read the Washington Post‘s stunning “Afghanistan Papers” series to learn about that). It was past time to go. It’s a hell of a thing, though. The Taliban whipped the USSR and the United States — not one, but two superpowers, who were, and in our case, are, symbols of advanced modern civilization. These ragtag warriors’ greatest weapons were their fanatical faith, their cruelty, and their willingness to absorb suffering. Allied with the Saudis and the Pakistanis, the US helped create them to vex the Russians — and now they have been our downfall in Afghanistan as well. If I’m a Russian, I say that’s poetic justice.
Of course the prize of victory is that they get to rule an immiserated country. To the victor go the spoils. Them’s some spoils. Good luck with that.
The Taliban are evil, no question. But they whipped us. God help the poor people of Afghanistan, especially the women. We simply could not prevail. The richest and most powerful nation in the world could not beat these SOBs. There is a lesson there, if we are humble enough to learn it. Which we probably aren’t, or we wouldn’t have gotten ourselves mired in that blood-soaked mud in the first place.
UPDATE: I made a mistake. It wasn’t the Taliban that defeated the Soviets. Still, my general point stands: Islamic hill people fought two superpowers to a draw, and saw them withdraw from their unconquered country. That is something.
UPDATE.2: Will Ruger is right:
Read this and tell me we need to have a single soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine stay another single day in Afghanistan where we have no credible theory of getting something better than we got today from @US4AfghanPeace : https://t.co/uv3vCStVtH
— William Ruger (@WillRuger) February 29, 2020