Taliban Tried to Surrender and the U.S. Rebuffed
Them. Now Here We Are
22, 2017 "Information
- Did you know that shortly after the U.S.
invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban tried to
centuries in Afghanistan, when a rival force had
come to power, the defeated one would put down
their weapons and be integrated into the new
power structure — obviously with much less
power, or none at all. That’s how you do with
neighbors you have to continue to live with.
This isn’t a football game, where the teams go
to different cities when it’s over. That may be
hard for us to remember, because the U.S. hasn’t
fought a protracted war on its own soil since
the Civil War.
So when the Taliban came to surrender, the U.S.
turned them down repeatedly, in a series of
arrogant blunders spelled out in Anand Gopal’s
investigative treatment of the Afghanistan war,
Men Among the Living.”
full annihilation was enough for the Bush
administration. They wanted more terrorists in
body bags. The problem was that the Taliban had
stopped fighting, having either fled to Pakistan
or melted back into civilian life. Al Qaeda, for
its part, was down to a handful of members.
do you kill terrorists if there aren’t any?
Afghans that the U.S. worked with understood the
predicament their military sponsors were in, so
they fabricated bad guys. Demand has a way of
creating supply, and the U.S. was paying for
information that led to the death or capture of
Taliban fighters. Suddenly there were Taliban
everywhere. Score-settling ran amok; all you had
to do to get your neighbor killed or sent to
Guantánamo was tell the U.S. they were members
of the Taliban.
would be kicked in, no questions asked. The men
left standing became warlords, built massive
fortunes, and shipped their wealth abroad. “We
are not nation-building again,” President Donald
Trump declared Monday night.
Well, we never were, unless building high-rises
with looted cash in Dubai counts.
few years of this charade, after their surrender
efforts were repeatedly rebuffed, the old
Taliban started picking up guns again. When they
were driven from power, the population was happy
to see them go. The U.S. managed to make them
Liberals then spent the 2008 presidential
campaign complaining that the U.S. had “ignored”
Afghanistan — when, in reality, the parts of the
country without troop presence were the only
parts at peace, facing no insurgency against the
Afghan government, such as it was. Then
President Barack Obama came in and launched a
surge in troop levels while simultaneously
announcing a withdrawal — coupled with a
heightened focus on night raids, relying on the
same system of unreliable intelligence that had
netted so many uninvolved people already.
Trump says he has a new and better strategy. He
says the U.S. needs to get Pakistan more
involved — except, of course, Pakistan’s
intelligence service has been propping up the
Taliban for decades.
Gopal’s book is the definitive account of how
the war went off the rails. It reads like a
novel, but is an all-too-real portrait of three
Afghans as they lived through the war — a pro-U.S.
warlord, a Taliban commander, and a housewife.
I’d suggest Trump read it — the book provides a
dire warning against the sort of war effort the
president is about to double down on — but it’s
longer than a page, which his advisers say is
the max he’ll digest. And besides, the only
thing he seems interested in is the fact that
Afghanistan has a bunch of minerals
he thinks the U.S. is owed.
Trump spends the windfall he hopes to reap from
mining Afghanistan, he should consider one
starting reality: We are now losing a war to an
enemy that already surrendered. That’s not easy
(This piece is
rant-ier than what I normally write because it
first appeared as an email.
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