Afghanistan Under the Taliban: It Won’t Be Like Last Time

We’ve been in Afghanistan 20 years, Joe Biden’s generals told him. All we need is a little more time. The president overruled them, ordering a complete withdrawal of American troops by September 11th.

Madiha Afzal and Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution articulate the opposition to Biden’s decision to call it quits. Remove the US occupation forces that have maintained stability, they worry, and civil war will soon follow, culminating in the overthrow of the US-backed government in Kabul and the return of the Taliban*. They think it will be the late 1990s all over again: women back under burqas, stonings, 14th century Islam providing a safe haven for anti-Western terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

I think they’re wrong.

I’m not clairvoyant. Yet I did foresee that the US would follow the British and Soviet armies and meet defeat in the Hindu Kush: “We’ve lost this war, not because they’re good or we’re not, but because of who we are,” I wrote from Afghanistan in December 2001, where I worked as an unembedded reporter for The Village Voice. “The American Empire can’t spend the bodies or the time or the cash to fix this crazyass place, because in the final analysis, election-year W. was right—we’re not nation builders.

Unlike the Brookings authors I’m more optimistic about Afghanistan without US occupation forces than with them. First, whatever stability the U.S. and its allies have brought to Afghanistan is as artificial as the…

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