Is the U.S. Admitting Defeat in Afghanistan?

The law of diminishing returns — and rising costs — appears likely to bring Western troops home from Afghanistan even as the Taliban insurgency rages

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TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

U.S. Army troops are pictured near the Afghan town of Geranda, in Kandahar province, on Sept. 21, 2012

Don’t expect to hear about it in the presidential debates, but the U.S. will leave Afghanistan locked in an escalating civil war when it observes the 2014 deadline for withdrawing combat troops set by the Obama Administration — and supported by Governor Mitt Romney. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the U.S. military has had to give up on hopes of inflicting enough pain on the Taliban to set favorable terms for a political settlement. Instead, it will be left up to the Afghan combatants to find their own political solution once the U.S. and its allies take themselves out of the fight.

Washington has known for years that it had no hope of destroying the Taliban, and that it would have to settle for a compromise political solution with an indigenous insurgency that remains sufficiently popular to have survived the longest U.S. military campaign in history. Still, as late as 2009, the U.S. had hoped to set the terms of that compromise and force the Taliban to find a place for itself in the constitutional order created by the NATO invasion and accept a Karzai government it has long dismissed as “puppets.” This was the logic behind President Obama’s “surge,” which sent an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the Taliban’s heartland with the express purpose of bloodying the insurgents to the point that their leaders would sue for peace on Washington’s terms. But the surge ended last month with the Taliban less inclined than ever to accept U.S. terms as the 2014 departure date for U.S. forces looms.

(MORE: Afghanistan’s Insider War Against the U.S.: A Matter of No Trust)

Now, according to the Times, the best-case scenario has been reduced to one in which, as a result of NATO’s training and armaments, “the Taliban find the Afghan army a more formidable adversary than they expect and [will] be compelled, in the years after NATO withdraws, to come to terms with what they now dismiss as a ‘puppet’ government.” Some would see that as another in a long line of optimistic assessments. The Afghan security forces, or at least its ethnic-Tajik core, may well find the political will to fight the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and the means to prevent themselves from being overrun. But it’s a safe bet that the security forces will control considerably less Afghan territory than NATO forces currently do.

And once it is clear that even a raging Taliban insurgency is no longer considered an obstacle to the departure of U.S. and allied combat units, the rationale for staying even through 2014 becomes murky. Already there’s been talk of having little more than a residual force of trainers and special forces in place by the time the withdrawal deadline arrives — and that such a force would stay beyond the deadline anyway. NATO’s Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen conceded in an interview with the Guardian that the Alliance is considering an earlier withdrawal, its morale battered by ongoing “insider” attacks, which in this year alone have seen more than 50 alliance troops killed by members of the very Afghan forces they’re mentoring.

(PHOTOS: Afghanistan Now, Photographs by Yuri Kozyrev)

More-pessimistic analysts harbor doubt that either the current system of government or the security forces will long survive a U.S. departure. Despite Western donors and backers still issuing the same pleas for good governance and anticorruption efforts that have been made of President Hamid Karzai for the best part of a decade, there are serious doubts that an election scheduled for 2014 — in which Karzai, after two terms, is constitutionally barred from running — would be any more successful in creating a new national consensus than previous, crooked elections have been. Karzai, in fact, is believed to be preparing to run his older brother Abdul Qayum in his stead and keep power within his immediate circle.

His regime remains shot through with corruption, but the West has long struggled with the absence of a credible alternative. And a transition in which Afghans will be required to take charge of their own security against the Taliban is likely to exacerbate Karzai’s tendency to empower warlords whose backing he needs in a fight. And with NATO eyeing the exits, it’s an open question just how much pressure Karzai will face to ensure a credible election.

(MORE: U.S. Military Death Toll in Afghanistan Reaches 2,000)

British Conservative MP Rory Stewart, who served the coalition authority in Iraq and who, in 2002, famously walked the length of Afghanistan, alone, documenting his encounters with locals along the way, insists it’s time to face up to grim reality in Afghanistan. He recently wrote in the Financial Times:

If the U.S., Britain and their allies leave Afghanistan, there will be chaos and perhaps civil war. The economy will falter and the Afghan government will probably be unable to command the loyalty or support of its people. The Taliban could significantly strengthen their position in the south and east, and attack other areas. Powerful men, gorged on foreign money, extravagantly armed and connected to the deepest veins of corruption and gangsterism, will flex their muscles. For all these reasons departure will feel — rightly — like a betrayal of Afghans and of the soldiers who have died.

But a decade of war has proved that Western armies are no more capable than their Soviet counterparts were in the 1980s of eliminating an indigenous insurgency in Afghanistan. Stewart continues:

In the absence of “victory,” three alternative strategies have been proposed: training the Afghan security forces, political settlement with the Taliban and a regional solution. But training Afghan forces, which cost $12bn in 2010 alone, will not guarantee their future loyalty to a Kabul government. Two years and many regional conferences have passed since the formation of the Afghan Higher Peace council, and the clear NATO endorsement of reconciliation: but there is no sign that insurgents, the Kabul government or its neighbours will reach a deal, or feel much desire so to do. So there is no military solution, and no political solution either. Nor will there be before the troops leave. We will have to deal for decades with a troubled Afghanistan, which is not likely in my lifetime to be as wealthy as Libya, as effectively governed as Iraq, as educated as Syria, or as institutionally mature as Pakistan.

Western countries, he argues, have done as much as they are able; their only option now is to provide financial backing to sustain the Kabul government and the sort of military support — from nearby air bases — that would prevent the Taliban from mobilizing heavy weaponry to overrun its rivals. The rest will be up to the Afghans to sort out among themselves — a conversation that will be conducted with weapons until the limits of each side’s capacity to impose its will are apparent to their commanders and regional backers, and that new battlefield equilibrium sets the terms for new political arrangements. Chances are, it’s not going to look much like the Afghanistan the U.S. had hoped to leave behind.

PHOTOS: A Long and Distant War: Photos from Afghanistan, 1988–2009

100 comments
James O Brien
James O Brien like.author.displayName 1 Like

If the Soviets couldn't do it there was no way the US would be able to do it.

truth12345_1
truth12345_1

Our beloved Prophet (PBUH), the last messenger of God, was the best of the mankind sent as a blessing for this world and world hereafter. Hence what ever is there in the holy book of Quran are his manners, dispositions, ethics and morality.

If you turn the pages of history you shall find no equal The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was a candle of knowledge and wisdom. His every message was a message of peace. In his (PBUH) every say and instruction there was a philosophy of life and discipline. In nut shell in his message there was a gain for this life and life hereafter.

That great man who was even worried for his Ummah for the Day of Judgment asks mercy from Allah for his followers.

Is not this a matter of concern that the same Ummah has forgotten his message? His instructions and sayings are like a candle in the path of darkness. Today to follow his instructions apart, Muslims do not even consider it necessary to think over them for a while. Though his instructions and sayings are the golden rule which ensures a successful life in this world and life here after. If we adopt those rules we can become successful human beings. Alas, we have gone too far off from our Allah, religion and Prophet (PBUH), and same has caused our down fall. We are blindly running after the materialistic world and have involved ourselves into sins that people of other religion have started ridiculing the Muslims. We are considered as the wicked nation of the world and the Islam which is a religion of peace and tranquility is termed as the religion of terrorists and wicked.

The things have gone so far that Europeans are working and ridiculing our beloved Prophet (PBUH) and terming him as Prophet of miscreants. This is a stigma on the modesty of Muslim Ummah. If we do not reassess ourselves than a day is not far off when there will be no Muslim left.

The worldly gains have blindfolded us. We care nothing but only ourselves and this mortal life. The nations of world which feel proud by calling themselves the most civilized and educated resort, in the burning fire of Islamic enmity, to most uncivilized acts. To ridicule a Prophet or a virtuous man is considered the most disgusting by all religions of the world. This shows the low mentality and hostile attitude towards Muslims.

In addition, these so called civilized nations considered our beloved Prophet, messenger of God, an illiterate person who has not obtained knowledge from any proper academy. All human beings who believe in our God know that the origin of knowledge rests in God. The God has spread this knowledge through different resources in this world. Now think that the knowledge which reaches you after passing different sources can not be considered as pure, than the knowledge which you receive directly without hindrance. The God Almighty has given the knowledge and wisdom directly to our Prophet (PBUH) and He has enlightened our Prophet with out brining any source in-between. It was a direct blessing bestowed upon our Prophet. Think for a while how complete and comprehensive that knowledge would be which is received directly from Allah. There is wisdom for those who profoundly study the words of Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) himself said "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the gate of the city".

If you study observantly the life of Prophet (PBUH), you shall find him a role model for the entire humanity.

It is a food for thought that one needs 15 to16 years to gain worldly knowledge, but our Prophet (PBUH) received the divine injunctions and knowledge of wisdom for 23 years. Our Prophet (PBUH) got benefited from the knowledge which he received from Allah and in whose comprehensiveness there is no doubt. Our Prophet (PBUH) was not blessed with as many miracles as other messengers had yet he got superiority in knowledge and wisdom upon other messengers of God. The God Himself said about him "You Mohammad (PBUH) have been placed as the best of the virtuous". The life of Prophet (PBUH) is the proof of that virtue.

In all the Holy books of the world his name and Prophet hood is mentioned with glory. Is this not sufficient for those who posses the divine books, than why they still refuse to accept his superiority and virtue. If Muslims have left the righteous path like many nations in the past than it does not mean that the Muslims should ridicule the messenger of other religions. Europeans themselves have gone very far from the true teachings of their religion and have forgotten the basic teachings of their religion to the extent that they have brought amendments in their religious book. But the Quran has the miraculous superiority that no body would bring any change in its original divine text. Quran is available in its true and original shape.

Due to the disinterest in their religion the Europeans do not care for the religious emotions of Muslims. Nevertheless, they have no right to play with the sentiments of the people of other religions. To resort to such activities is a heinous crime according to the UN charter which is mostly framed by the Europeans.

For Europeans nothing is more sacred than the freedom of expression and for Islamic world nothing is more sacred than not to hurt the sentiments of human beings. Freedom of expression does not mean to humiliate other sacred place, Holy Books and noble personalities.

Living in so called civilized era we do not claim to be most civilized omens but the fact remains that we have always had a great respect for the feelings of other people and we have never thought of playing with the sentiments of other nations. The biggest of all the sin is to kill the innocent emotions of others.

As it is said that civilized nation are more peaceful, they never try to touch the sensitive issues related to the far most human emotion for the sake of peace.

Molina Edgar
Molina Edgar

The western powers spend lives and money and who stole the show was CHINA , they got the mineral business rights for ore and rare earths,, they come up with 400 millions us dollars bought out every tribe  then they will give 300 millions a year for the minerals ,, also they are building a pipeline , rail road link to china from iran, with links to india,,

Conrad Brean
Conrad Brean like.author.displayName 1 Like

The American acceptance of loss and withdrawal in Afghanistan after a decade only highlights the utter stupidity of this war in the first place. What started as a knee-jerk public relations attempt by the Bush admin after 9/11 has degenerated into the worse US military adventure since Vietnam (Iraq following in close second). There is no chance for any US presence in the country after withdrawal because the current government will fall within a matter of weeks. Only now is the US and other Western corporate media outlets conveying a TRUTH that was painfully obvious to anyone who was physically there six years ago. The American public has been lied to by Washington, deceit that was largely aided by corporate media outlets, TIME being an  obvious example. The Afghan people have suffered more under the US than either the Russians or the Taliban. Karzai is doomed to sleep with the fish.

Simon
Simon

I have to say History showed that Afghanistan is unstable for many years. i say lets bring the troops home and let them take each other out. After all everyone hates americans, and let see how well these people carry on.

Rk Recruit
Rk Recruit

no afghan war can be won until the terrorists hiding in pak are taken care of..unless US and NATO stop all aid to pak and declare them as terrorists no war can be won there...all terrorists are in pak they cross over to afghan unleash terror and run back to hide in pak..

NimrahGhazanfar
NimrahGhazanfar

@Rk Recruit Oh yes you are so right. Where do you get your facts from intelligent?

angry77
angry77

The Taliban was already defeated a long time ago when Special Operations was used to eliminate them. Then someone got the bright idea of using conventional forces (like the Soviet Union) and things started to fall apart. Big surprise.

 

And not for nothing, but we have handed everything to the Afghan people for them to be successful and be independent. However, maybe we wiped their butts for too long (like some of the people in this country) and now they just want to be lazy and look for handouts and can't live their lives without big brother there.. Man up!

markodavid
markodavid like.author.displayName 1 Like

This is not news.Any thinking person knew that the war was profit motivated and multi national corporation driven.Please do not believe the hogwash that NATO troops gave their lives to keep us safe.Their lives were wasted.I feel sorry for the families that had there children stolen from them by the 1% and the politicians that do their filthy bidding.May THEY rot in hell 

Ob1Sage
Ob1Sage

You cannot lose a war that was not winnable. There is no win for the US in Afghanistan. Russia found that out and now we know. Bush's concept of nation building in the East is a failure and any further attempts from our current or new administrations will also lead to the loss of American lives and fail. 

Let us spend our wealth shoring up our economy, our infrastructure and our man power.

warren tuttle
warren tuttle

Is the West admitting defeat in Afghanistan? Let's all hope so since as in the case of Vietnam the only way we got out is by losing that war.

warren tuttle
warren tuttle

Is the West admitting defeat in Afghanistan? Let's all hope so since as the case in Vietnam, the only way we're going to get out of there is through losng this obnoxious war! We have no right to be there in the first place!

arvay
arvay

Ironically, in a woulda coulda shoulda version of history -- Afghanistan might truly have fared far better under Soviet rule. The Soviets were winning until we stepped in and, with the help of a Pakistani Islamist dictator -- created the Taliban and delivered shoulder fired missiles that brought down the important Russin helicopters.

Backfired a bit, no?Soviet rule in central Asia has left a string of religiously moderate nations, and they were in the process of building a secular Afghan government that would have elevated women and obliterated the religious fanatics. The Russians used the same steamroller in Afghanistan they used in Chechnya -- and it was working. Of course, they weren't burdened with fancy COIN strategies or PowerPoint.

gullokhan
gullokhan

many years ago a Afghan gentle man quot about the Afghanistan ,,

 " You will come here with your will...but return with our will..."

It has happened to russia recently but u.s. has still long investing and loss plan...well I think if u.s.  would have invest on 'mars direct ' project instead of useless Afganistan surge than today there would have been human colony in mars.. instead to making colony in afgan mountains... 

snowdogg
snowdogg

We should be out by the end of the month after destroying any equipment we couldn't remove.

Mensa411
Mensa411

New US strategy for Afghanistan should be just three words:  Evacuate.  Irradiate.  Celebrate.

traveler128
traveler128

Should have asked the Russians how it went for them. They could have saved us a 13-year war and a $2 trillion tab. 

CarmelleSimone
CarmelleSimone

Doesn't matter. World War III will begin in the Middle East with an invasion of Israel by an Arab country after the election is over. Be prepared.

CarmelleSimone
CarmelleSimone

Doesn't matter. World War III will begin in the Middle East with an invasion of Israel by an Arab country after the election is over. Be prepared.

Chunk Light
Chunk Light

Well what was the objective in the first place???  I thought this started as a way to get Osama then it turned into a witch hunt for the Taliban that made no sense to sacrifice lives of the young because someone told you they wouldn't help you (or in a different way wouldn't do what you demanded in their own country)

Dominick Dudek
Dominick Dudek

Nobody wins in Afghanistan. US never learned from Russia.

MichiganAndy
MichiganAndy

I said it the day Bush went into Afghanistan half assed all the while with eyes on Iraq.  The moment we bombed Iraq, any and all moral high ground that was thrust under this nation's feet on 9/11 was lost.  This truly needed to be a global effort IF there were any chance to overcome a history spanning centuries that says no invader comes out victorious from Afghanistan.  But we never were able to get that commitment because that drunk frat boy of a President decided to go after Saddam unilaterally, used lies and deception to justify what to this day was technically an illegal war, what did America execpt to happen in Afghanistan?  That, and who cuts taxes during the longest and costliest war?  I mean anyone with an ounce of common sense and minimal understanding of history knows the last thing you do with a nation is run it's economy in a separate universe from that which war puts that country into.

Vincent Lovece
Vincent Lovece

We have lost nothing. Afghanistan is, ironically, more stable now than it has been in decades. That isn't saying much, given where this is, but the changes we have wrought there are irreversible. Millions of girls and women have gone to school, the Afghan government is strong enough to hold most of the country on its own, even if the hard-core Taliban areas might revert to chaos. The Taliban have no hope of claiming Kabul, Osama Bin Laden is dead, and the Taliban are now just one of many factions fighting over land in the Afghanistan/Western Pakistan area.

And for any ill-informed people who think this is another Vietnam, know that we lost over 55,000 people dead there and killed over 2 million Vietnamese (including those that died only because of the war that the US prolonged.) This is a cakewalk compared to that mess.

NimrahGhazanfar
NimrahGhazanfar

@Vincent Lovece  Are you aware that the only development that has taken place in Afghanistan is in Kabul? And that even there people are afraid to come out and claim their freedom? Are you aware that only a handful of girls are getting education? Afghan government is a puppet government please be very clear on this. The problem is that some people cannot get over the fact that this war was a stupid idea and would state unverified things to support it. 

Paul Martin
Paul Martin

It was Vietnam de javu before it started ! Bring the people home for xmas NOW before more lives are wasted !

Joseph Olson
Joseph Olson

The issue is this is a country who ran Genghis Khan out.  How did we ever expect to win?  Genghis Khan had a far heavier appetite for war than the U.S. ever did.  Wake up people they have never bowed to anyone in that country.  You need to realize that their tribe is their world.  Nothing else now or will ever matter.

Vincent Lovece
Vincent Lovece

 It did not run Genghis Khan out. You people need to learn your history. Many conquerors have tamed this land, from Alexander the Great to Tamerlane. Our goal is not to conquer it but to civilize it, which is far, far harder to do. Whether or not we will succeed in that endeavor is much less likely.

NimrahGhazanfar
NimrahGhazanfar

@Vincent Lovece The people who ruled Afghanistan for a while understood its ideology unlike U.S. Wanting a country to follow the western ideology without paying attention to theirs isn't exactly how you tame lands! And they aren't animals, they are human beings, several of whom died as collateral damage. 

f4xtrafn
f4xtrafn

What's wrong with simply continuing the war via drones (air and grounded) alone? Where ever the Taliban sets up a goverment whether a city hall or local or federal government building or even a licencing office or tent or cave - if it's manned by Taliban or supporters - elliminate it.  We can keep this up for decades at a pretty cheap price.

NimrahGhazanfar
NimrahGhazanfar

@f4xtrafn So you are saying that the war should go on?

snowdogg
snowdogg

 "if it's manned by Taliban or supporters"

And how would you determine who gets blown to bits and who doesn't?

Joshind
Joshind

Losing is in a war, is when your opponent knocks you out, and forces you to leave their country. We have not lost the war, we have lost hope, that we can change Afghanistan into a better place. Where people are treated like humans.

Joshind
Joshind

Losing is in a war, is when your opponent knocks you out, and forces you to leave their country. We have not lost the war, we have lost hope, that we can change Afghanistan into a better place. Where people are treated like humans.

Aescaepulus
Aescaepulus

We got the first part right (jumping in and killing lots of Taliban and Al Qaida), and then in spectacular American fashion, we screwed the pooch by trying to introduce "democracy" to a 4,000 year old culture that never heard of the word.

The only reason nation building and democracy worked in post WWII Japan and Germany was simple, we and our allies went in and bombed the daylights out of everyone, without exception, for years, then we sent in the troops to take on an enemy with a vastly reduced ability to fight. When we won, the survivors of Japan and Germany were so happy for change that they readily adapted and are now our greatest allies, so that even decades later they are the most neutral, restrained alllies we have.

We should have went in, put the hurt to them (like we did in 2001-02) and then left, with no nation building nonsense, no attempts to foist a stupid concept of democracy that they wouldn't understand, and wouldn't want if they did, just a warning, "screw up again, and we'll be back".

passivevoices
passivevoices

The Taliban is a phenomenon of

America’s own creation. They achieved their objective of evicting the Soviets

and turned their back on the region leaving Afghanistan in turmoil and

leadership crisis. Taliban thrived on this crisis and established their rule in

the length and breadth of the country. Americans not only forgot Afghanistan,

they also turned hostile to their facilitator, Pakistan, which holds key to

stability in Afghanistan. When they came back to fight Taliban, they engaged Pakistan

again with loud promises of a long-haul relationship and not repeating the past

blunders. Pakistanis have mercifully learned their lesson from history. It is

time that Americans also did the same. Read more at: http://passivevoices.wordpress...

Scotty_A
Scotty_A

The US involvement in Afghanistan should have ended a long time ago. Bush lost the war when he decided Iraq was more valuable. Sadly, he never had the brilliance to remove the troops after the initial fighting was done and the Taliban was routed. His father was a better military and political leader. The best solution is to find local proxies and to arm and aid them as was done in Libya. Let the locals take the credit and establish themselves as the new government. For the record, I think neoconservatives are a bunch of idiots for thinking they can Westernize countries by invading and occupying them with large numbers of troops.

Twi Mo
Twi Mo

United States is the newest addition to the graveyard of empires.

The U.S. will be buried right next to Britain and Russia.

Mike P
Mike P

since when did Britian or Russia die?  hyerbole at its worst

Mike P
Mike P

Defeat?...Only dopey flag-wavers really care. It wont bother most people that we "lost" in Afghanistan.Forget nation-building...the only reason we were there was to kill as many terrorists,including bin-laden, as possible.We put a bullet in his eye so its time to bail. But was it worth the blood and treasure trying to rebuild this rat-hole?..hell no

FLSteve
FLSteve

Time (as in the calendar and not the news service) is on the side of the Taliban.  There has never been a truly successful occupation of another country for an extended time.  We are not wanted there.  It is time to bring our people home.

tommariner
tommariner

US admitting defeat in Afghanistan? Nope, but the Commander in Chief has.

Mike P
Mike P

should we stay there for the next 300 years, just because you think it will give the US a negative on its war record?

goldenrulejoe
goldenrulejoe

if they take your Social Security to keep this war going what are you tough keyboard patriots going to do?

ArgenBarnfine
ArgenBarnfine

Winning wars means hearts and minds aren't won, but killed.

goldenrulejoe
goldenrulejoe

 people like ArgenBarnfire are the problem in the U.S. just so ignorant

tiktin
tiktin

Nobody's conquered Afghanistan in a long time. The British were only partially successful and suffered some serious reverses. Most successful were the Macedonians of Alexander the Great and the Mongols under Ghengis Kahn. That was a long time but the blood of these great warriors still runs in the Afghan people. They will kick out this latest bunch of invaders just as they kicked out their predecessors.

mugofgold
mugofgold

If you want to win the war, just bomb NWFP bordering AfPak. Though it might be bloody, you could smell the taste of success.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith

The war was lost the day in 2001 when the CIA foisted their unknown stooge Hamid Karzai on the Afghan people, their agent Zalmay Khalilzhad browbeat the beloved former King into abdicating his throne, and UN rammed an unworkable alien consitution down the Afghans' throats.

The US totally fogot the lesson of postwar Japan and the unifying power of a ceremonial monarch. Zahir Shah could have brought enough legitmacy and moderation to Karzai to create a workable government. Three fourths of the delegates to the emergency loya jirga voted to make Shah the interim head of state, but the CIA subverted it.

40 percent of the Afghan National Army deserts every 12 months. There are maybe 100,000 men actually present for duty, all of them illiterate, most of them drug addicts. No Afghan is willing to fight and die for Hamid Karzai. There will be helicopters on the roof of the US Embassy by 2015.

goldenrulejoe
goldenrulejoe

 thats too much intelligence for these sheeple Mike