Taliban Retaking Afghanistan

The Taliban shadow government is expanding to just outside Kabul and its commanders essentially run a growing number of provinces, AP reports. In those areas, we’re seeing the re-imposition of the most brutal forms of Sharia law, the takeover of schools by religious extremists, impressment into the military, and the confiscation of wealth.

Eleven months ago today, the Atlantic Council warned, “Make no mistake, the international community is not winning in Afghanistan. Unless this reality is understood and action is taken promptly, the future of Afghanistan is bleak, with regional and global impact.”  We’re closer to that future now than we were then.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    Oh well, we sure have done a good job there then if the Taliban are taking control!!!
    This is another waste of lives and time fighting this war in Afghanistan, we’ve been there for years already and what have we achieved really???
    If the Russian’s couldn’t “win” when they were fighting in Afghanistan and they were there for years also…what makes us so sure we can do any better??
    This just seems to be a no win situation…those people are not going anywhere, it’s their domain and will not let anybody take control of it….even the good old USA!!!
    Pointless, pointless waste of time and not one more life is worth it.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    The key problem is that the Kabul government isn’t particularly interested in doing the things that would make it into a national government while the Taliban is.

  3. odograph says:

    You know, the Afghanistan and Iraq cycle has made me think a bit about “self-determination.” I think it is my fundamental belief in politics, that every people should have the chance to chart their own future and shape their own government. (Self-determination is a bigger tent than just democracy.)

    We’ve had some demonstrations here that self-determination can’t be given. Oh, you can give people a chance. You can clear out the Nazis or the Emperor or the Supreme Leader, but after that a nation has to want it, as their own goal. Self-determination can’t be a right without being a responsibility. That’s basic enough that we teach it in grade school civics classes.

    I think the thing to ask is why the Taliban is coming back … and if it is the culture’s choice, how long we want to fight it.

    We might want to back off (stand off), and treat them as enemies if they want to be.

  4. Leisureguy says:

    I wonder… Maybe invading Iraq instead of finishing up in Afghanistan was a bad decision… Could it be? Not according to Bush, of course, but still.

  5. Can anyone answer why we didn’t embark on a Marshall Plan-style rebuilding effort of Afghanistan in 2003-04?

  6. James Joyner says:

    Can anyone answer why we didn’t embark on a Marshall Plan-style rebuilding effort of Afghanistan in 2003-04?

    There wasn’t a terrorist insurgency trying to undermine the rebuilding of Western Europe in 1946. Further, “re-build” was an accurate description of the task then, whereas in Afghanistan the task was to leapfrog ahead several centuries, modernizing a country that had never been modern.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Afghanistan is overwhelmingly rural with a population about the size of France’s at the end of WWII. No Marshall Plan would touch most of its population. In some of Afghanistan’s provinces most of the province can’t be reached by road from the provincial capital.

    Our alternatives in Afghanistan are few: either we can commit to an essentially permanent engagement there that’s at the very least partially military or we can bomb the living daylights out of it every so often to eliminate the terrorists who’ll have re-established their bases or we isolate it even further than it is already.

  8. tom p says:

    Our alternatives in Afghanistan are few: either we can commit to an essentially permanent engagement there that’s at the very least partially military or we can bomb the living daylights out of it every so often to eliminate the terrorists who’ll have re-established their bases or we isolate it even further than it is already.

    So, basically, we’re screwed? I guess this is what happens when you do war on the cheap.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    Cheap, expensive, whatever. There were never any great options on Afghanistan.

  10. tom p says:

    Cheap, expensive, whatever. There were never any great options on Afghanistan.

    Agreed Dave, as I argued back in 2001 (and caught no end of hell for) and have reiterated here since (I was never in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan. Divide and conquer was my motto). But if you are gonna go, go whole hog. If we had, maybe at least we would have had Bin Laden at Tora Bora. As is…

    Well, there is the old saying: “You can rent an Afghan, but you can’t buy one.”

  11. caj says:

    The key problem is that the Kabul government isn’t particularly interested in doing the things that would make it into a national government while the Taliban is.

    Posted by Dave Schuler | December 28, 2008

    So we are supposed to stay and fight there in that God awful place while these two factions decide what they are going to do….sounds like a good plan to me….NOT!!!!!

  12. charles johnson says:

    The more things change….

    The key problem is that the Kabul government isn’t particularly interested in doing the things that would make it into a national government while the Taliban is.

    Posted by Dave Schuler | December 28, 2008

    Anybody here old enough to remember Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980’s complaining that their puppet government, in Kabul, was insufficiently interested in unifying the country?

    “They’ve [the US have] already repeated all of our mistakes.” -Zamir Kaboluv

    Frankly we were all (including me) made irrational by 9’11 and we didn’t realize that, Duh, an outside superpower trying to occupy and then unify Afghanistan is dumb as hell. Even the homegrowns, the fanatical Taliban, couldn’t do it. The years they supposedly ‘ruled’ the country were really an ongoing civil war between them and other alliances.

  13. […] the comments to my “Taliban Retaking Afghanistan” post, commenter King Politics asked, “Can anyone answer why we didn’t embark on […]

  14. Barry says:

    Posted by Dave Schuler: “The key problem is that the Kabul government isn’t particularly interested in doing the things that would make it into a national government while the Taliban is.”

    As James pointed out, a ‘national government’ in Afghanistan usually means about the same level of ‘government’ as the UN has as a world government, except that the ‘national government’ of Afghanistan usually controls Kabul. So the interests of whichever faction controls Kabul doesn’t matter as much for the rest of Afghanistan.

    Which means that the obvious US option by early 2002 was to treat it as a punitive expedition, and to refrain from backing any faction there except as it helped our punitive expedition.

    Instead, the Bush administration chose to strive for the worst of all worlds, by pretending that we were liberating Afghanistan, leaving in ~30-40K troops + ~40K NATO troops, but diverting most forces (including Green Berets) to Iraq. This meant that we couldn’t do jack sh*t in Afghanistan except to take casualties.