How the Taliban Won America's Nineteen-Year War

Arwin Rahi

As a supporter of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, I hoped that we Afghans—in addition to ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban menace—would utilize this opportunity to revive our economy, build an infrastructure, raise our standards of living, and bring an end to warlordism and the culture of impunity.

Despite some important—albeit fragile—achievements, Afghanistan as a whole hasn’t benefitted the way it should have from U.S. presence, owing to the collective incompetence and irresponsibility of the international community and the Afghans alike. Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been squandered through contracts and subcontracts by the international community, and through corruption by Afghan officials, which in turn became a contributing factor in helping fuel the Taliban insurgency.

Having reorganized themselves, the Taliban by 2006 had launched a full-fledged insurgency against the United States. As the insurgency raged on, two worrying trends developed hand-in-hand: first, the United States continuously increased its troop numbers through 2010, without managing to uproot the Taliban resistance; second, the Taliban attacks became more lethal. With neither side winning, the term “stalemate” was reintroduced into the Afghan war lexicon after two decades—reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s unsuccessful efforts to defeat the Mujahedin guerrillas in the 1980s. It certainly didn’t bode well for the United States and its Afghan allies.

As the so-called “stalemate” on the battlefield continues, a critical issue continues to miss much-needed attention: the status of the Taliban insurgency in the broader context of Afghanistan’s history. As rulers, the Taliban were ambassadors of agony. But as insurgents, they seem to be on the verge of a major achievement. It is only a matter of time before the U.S.-Taliban talks resume. There seems to be no alternative to it, as the United States has come short of defeating the Taliban on the battlefield. As such, for the following four reasons, after the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban insurgency will be embraced as an Afghanistan-wide effort by the Afghan nation.

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