Mission Unaccomplished: Why 20-Year Long Afghan Campaign Was the US’ Most Unfortunate Operation

The US mission launched in 2001 with the aim of eradicating the Taliban* and al-Qaeda* in Afghanistan ended up with the Taliban’s sweeping victory and takeover of Kabul. Could the Afghanistan War have been avoided and what lesson did Washington’s policy-makers learn from the failed mission?

On 30 August, the US wrapped up its 20-year old Afghanistan campaign with the Pentagon posting a photo of the last soldier to leave the Central Asian country: “Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps, boards a C-17 on August 30th, 2021, ending the US mission in Kabul.”

Botched Withdrawal

According to The Washington Post, former President Ashraf Ghani’s abrupt departure accelerated the chaotic pull-out and prompted the US military leadership to hastily arrange an in-person meeting with Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Taliban’s* political wing. “We have two options to deal with it,” said Baradar. “You [the United States military] take responsibility for securing Kabul or you have to allow us to do it.” General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, told Baradar that the US mission was only to complete evacuations, adding that all they needed was the airport. According to some estimates, 122,000 people have been taken out of Afghanistan as of Monday, including 5,400 Americans.

Meanwhile, huge stockpiles of US-made weapons have been left behind due to the hurried retreat of the Afghan National Army. By some…

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