Who Lost America's Longest War?
In April, President Joe Biden told the nation he would have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever on the continental United States.
Given the turn of events of the past week, that 20th anniversary may be celebrated by a triumphant Taliban, now on the cusp of victory over the Americans and their Afghan allies, with gruesome public executions of their surrendered and captured enemies.
Sept. 11, 2021, could see U.S. Marines and diplomats fleeing Kabul to escape the retribution of the Taliban whom we ousted in 2001.
Consider. From Friday, a week ago, to today, the Taliban have overrun 10 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals.
Mazar-e-Sharif in the north is now surrounded. Kandahar and Herat, second and third largest cities, are under siege. The Kandahar-Kabul road has been cut. The defense minister escaped assassination in the capital. The government's media director did not. The Taliban now control half of the 400 regions of Afghanistan and two-thirds of its territory.
Some Afghan soldiers have fought bravely. Others have retreated into their bases, surrendered, or fled into neighboring countries such as Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. An entire Afghan army corps with its U.S. weapons, equipment and vehicles was surrendered in Kunduz city.
U.S. military say the fall of Kabul could come within 90 days, with some saying privately the regime could fall to the Taliban within a month.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut has summarized the situation:
"The complete, utter failure of the Afghan national army, absent our hand-holding, to defend their country is a blistering indictment of a failed 20-year strategy predicated on the belief that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars could create an effective democratic central government in a nation that has never had one."
The reality of that grim assessment raises many questions.