Pashtun Paradise: How Years of a U.S.-Led War in Afghanistan Helped Its Adversary Succeed

Paul R. Pillar

It appears that the U.S. military expedition in Afghanistan, begun in the autumn of 2001, may finally be coming to an end. Significant hurdles still have to be overcome, involving among other things the Taliban having to meet a vague standard of reducing, though not ceasing, their military operations. But a conclusion to direct American involvement in the Afghan war does seem closer than at any previous time in the more than eighteen years of that involvement.

Expect many commentaries in the weeks ahead about what went well and what went poorly—especially poorly—in the Afghanistan war. There will be hindsight-laden appraisals of tactics and strategy and of such things as troop surges said to have started too late or ended too soon. Most of the commentary probably will miss the most fundamental aspects of America’s experience in Afghanistan—what most deserves to go into the history books and what is most relevant to avoiding more ultra-long wars in the future. Those fundamentals have less to do with tactics and strategy and more to do with broader perceptual and political patterns in the United States, including the following ones.

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