By Idrees Ali, Jonathan Landay, and Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) – America’s longest war is nearing its end, with a loss to the enemy it defeated in Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago, shock that the government and military it supported collapsed so quickly and chaotic eleventh-hour evacuation operations.
And now, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington will be marked with the Taliban back in power.
“This hasn’t been a 20-year war. It’s been one-year wars fought 20 times,” said a U.S. military official to convey the frustration with short-term thinking, multiple missteps, and a lack of consistency over four administrations.
Interviews with nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials and experts highlighted the failures that crippled U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan that saw Washington spend more than $1 trillion and more than 2,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Afghans die, many of them civilians.
Two Republican and two Democratic administrations struggled to fight corruption and human rights abuses even while acquiescing too much of them as they sought to nurture democracy and rule of law, build a strong Afghan military and keep war-weary Americans engaged.
They promoted a powerful central government in a country where for centuries the tribes enjoyed local autonomy. Their drug eradication programs further antagonized people in the Taliban’s rural strongholds who rely on opium poppy cultivation to survive.
Intelligence shortcomings also weighed, including last week when U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration anticipated it would take a few months for the Taliban to enter Kabul. They took just a few days… Read More