No one is saying it but the major reason why the US could not subdue the Taliban over the past 20 years is exactly the same reason why the USSR could not subdue the Mujaheedeen in the 1980s.
The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in order to keep Afghan Communists in power. Over the next 10 years, the Soviets could not fully control the country. Why? America and its allies ensured that Afghanistan became the latest ground for its proxy wars with the Soviets. They funded the Mujaheedeens [precursors of today’s Taliban]. They armed them. Gave them lots of logistics support. The CIA was very active in all of these. A standstill ensued and remained so until the Soviet Union, facing its own internal combustion, left the country in 1989. As soon as it left, the Islamists [Taliban] took over the country.
Clearly the Russians [successors of the Soviets] have not forgotten. So when America invaded Afghanistan following 9/11, they bided their time and connected with the Taliban. Through all manner of ways, they helped provide the small arms arsenal and logistics support that kept the Taliban alive. Hence, for 20 years, despite the huge amount of human and material resources sunk into the country, America could not eliminate the Taliban for good.
Today, as American troops are completely withdrawn, the Taliban is taking over [in exactly the same way they did when the Soviets pulled out in 1989]. 20 years of attritional warfare and we are very close to being back to where we were pre-October 2011.
As it is, Afghanistan has retained its reputation as “the graveyard of empires”. Unlikely that another major power will ever think of going into that country to wage war again. For, ultimately, it is not worth it.
Lessons in Great Power Play
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