Taliban Victories Explain Wisdom of Withdrawal

As I write this column, the Taliban are on a roll. They’ve taken 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in a single week, including the country’s second and third largest cities (Kandahar and Herat), and Ghazni, which sits astride the main highway connecting Kandahar to the national capital of Kabul.
The U.S. occupation’s puppet president, Ashraf Ghani, blames his government’s debacle in progress on the “abrupt” withdrawal of US forces. Apparently 20 years of the US doing his heavy lifting – contributing not just troops but money, training, and support for his own army – followed by 15 months’ notice of withdrawal, then a three-month extension of the withdrawal deadline, just didn’t give him time to prepare.
American hawks aren’t complaining about the “abruptness” of the withdrawal timeline. They’re appalled that the U.S. would ever, under any circumstances, consider withdrawing at all.
The fiction they’d have us subscribe to is that until and unless Afghanistan becomes a western-style “liberal democracy,” withdrawing means that the 2,500 Americans killed there will have “died for nothing.”
Not true. Those men and women did die for something – something the hawks would rather not talk about. They died to keep the hawks’ campaign coffers (and, via insider stock trading and revolving-door job opportunities, personal bank accounts) full of money from U.S. “defense” contractors.
They did, however, “die for nothing” if the goal was to turn Kandahar into Kokomo. That was never going to happen. And the current situation explains why.
The Taliban’s march down the road toward Kabul didn’t come out of nowhere. The Taliban didn’t wake up one morning, realize U.S. forces were withdrawing, and start planning to take over. They’ve been fighting to re-establish their rule of Afghanistan for two decades now, and for most of that time they’ve been winning.
Even at the heights of the U.S. occupation and its “surges,” Taliban forces have controlled significant portions of the country and enjoyed the support of significant portions of the population.
The Taliban’s impending victory isn’t a function of “abrupt” U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. was always going to leave sooner or later, and the Taliban were always going to be in good position for a final offensive when it did.
The only question is, and always has been, just how much more blood and treasure the U.S. is willing to waste before acknowledging that fact of reality. And the answer to that question should have always been “no more.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.