The Taliban's Dramatic Military Victory
Now that President Joe Biden has pulled the U.S. military out of Afghanistan, it's clear that we have little to show for more than $2 trillion and thousands of soldiers killed over two decades of occupation. We will soon be back where we were on Sept. 10, 2001, when the Taliban governed Afghanistan.
Afghan government troops have neither the will nor the training to protect their corrupt leaders in Kabul. The defeat of an Afghan government sinking in passivity and denial will occur within weeks or months.
Soldiers of the regime installed by the administration of President George W. Bush that were propped up by his successors are deserting and fleeing across the border to Tajikistan. Taliban troops have surrounded and briefly taken over both Kunduz, a city whose wobbly back-and-forth allegiances make it an Alsace-like wartime bellwether, and Herat, long considered unconquerable because it was controlled by Ismail Khan, a former Northern Alliance warlord long considered the nation's fiercest and most competent opponent of the Taliban. The Taliban can and will return for good.
They recently captured key border crossings with Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The Iran border post alone generates about $20 million per week in customs duties -- revenue that now belongs to the Taliban.
Kabulis await the inevitable triumph of the Taliban, resigned to whatever fate awaits them.
Even the tongue-shaped Badakhshan province on the remote northeastern border of China is "on the verge of falling completely" to the Taliban. Badakhshan was the Northern Alliance's last redoubt, the only section of the country that successfully resisted the Taliban when the militants ruled between 1996 and 2001.
Media coverage about the coming transition will focus on the plight of women, the role of ISIS, reprisals and the return and style of Sharia. What will be lost but deserves to be noted as well is that the Taliban have just achieved a stunning military victory.
Never in recent history, not even in Vietnam or in Afghanistan against the British in the 19th century, has a rural guerilla army achieved such a dramatic defeat against a colossus that held every military, political and economic advantage.
With the most sophisticated fighter jets in the world, hundreds of cruise missiles and a huge fleet of assassination drones, the U.S. enjoyed complete dominance of the skies throughout the war. The Taliban didn't have a single plane. Whereas the Viet Cong were enthusiastically armed and trained by China and fought alongside the nation-state of North Vietnam, poorly sourced reports allege that the Taliban may have received -- at best -- sporadic, extremely limited support from Iran and Russia. They were forced to live underground, constantly hiding from American forces.
Not only did the Taliban win a protracted war against the world's biggest superpower, but that superpower is leaving them a brand-new nation built from the ground up. Twenty years ago, Afghanistan was a failed state with 14th-century infrastructure. Roads, all unpaved, didn't even have names. There was no electricity, phones, sewage or running water. There wasn't even a banking system.