The initial goal of invading Afghanistan in the immediate weeks after 9/11 could not have been more clear: Get Osama bin Laden and oust the Taliban regime that gave his fanatical pack of beards safe haven to plan and practice the deadly attacks.
It was the first and so far only time NATO allies invoked the Article 5 mutual defense pact. That familiar mission creep, however, seeped in and with the best of naive intentions, the foreigners stuck around to attempt nation-building to protect the power vacuum they created.
It’s had some good days (a new Constitution now gives equal rights to men and women and millions of young girls are now in school). And it’s had many bloody days.
Now 6,533 days later, the Taliban is back. Al Qaeda too and ISIS cells are blowing up weddings to create fear. A massive multi-year drought has swept the land, drastically curbing food supplies.
And polls in both Afghanistan and the U.S. are questioning the outcome and entire value of the effort that’s cost the US alone $2.4 trillion.
Gallup is just out with a new survey that found no Afghans said they were living comfortably. Ninety percent say it is difficult or very difficult to get by on household income, worst of any country surveyed. Over half the country is living below the poverty level.
The Trump administration has been negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban to engineer a pullout of most of the remaining 13,000 troops or at least a cover story for the pullout.
After the sharia brutality of the Taliban’s 1990s rule, many doubt their word, even if its fervent believers could also control al Qaeda and ISIS. Yet to come are negotiations between the Taliban and central government. Regional warlords are reported preparing for a likely civil war.
Oh, and national elections are set for Sept. 28.