How the War in Afghanistan Showed the Limits of US Military Power

Washington (AP) — US invaders took only two months to defeat the Taliban Afghanistan A seemingly decent success against the government that gave the 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden a shelter in 2001. 20years later, U.S. withdrawal — The vision of victory has long disappeared, and the Ascendant Taliban were undoubtedly within the reach of regaining their control.

Afghanistan has proven to be a lesson in the limits of US military power.

It has seemingly paradoxically that you can win the battle and still lose the war. Or, at least, a technically superior unit can kill more efficiently than an enemy, but it cannot achieve a victory-like end result.

In the 21st century, turning a dilute government overthrow like the Taliban into a lasting success required more than a conquering army, showing that it was as armed as the American army. .. It showed that at least an understanding of local politics, history, and culture that Americans were slow to learn was needed.

The United States underestimated how its presence as an occupier stimulated the motivation for the Taliban’s battle and limited the Kabul government’s ability to unite. Bin Laden was eventually killed and his al-Qaeda network slowed down as an international threat, but Afghans remain involved in a cycle of violence and injustice, with no end.

In his book “American War in Afghanistan, History,” Carter Malkasian, a former adviser to senior U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan and Washington, said Islam is one of the reasons why American efforts are worthless. It is said that it was the influence of the United States and resistance to foreigners. Profession. He says they were factors that were not well understood by Americans.

“The very existence of Americans in Afghanistan has trampled on what it means to be Afghanistan,” he wrote. “It urged men and women to protect their honor, their religion, and their homes. It dared young men to fight. Animated the Taliban. It was of Afghan soldiers and police. I took away my will. “

The US military may have missed the opportunity to stabilize Afghanistan early after expelling the Taliban, which has been operating the country as an international paria since 1996. But the bigger question is whether the military took the initiative after its first success. The role of transporting Afghanistan from turmoil to stability.

The US military does not fight war on completely its own terms. It is operated by private sector instructions. Private leaders may be accused of overshooting the vision of building Afghanistan into a democracy that can protect itself, but the military eventually accepted that goal. Critics wondered if the army was in a circle, as senior officers’ allegations of “turning the corner” for success in Afghanistan were repeated so regularly.

Karl Aikenbury, a former Army lieutenant general with a rare combination of high-level military and diplomatic experience in Afghanistan, said the U.S. military was initially a nation-building poor country traumatized by decades of civil war. He said he barked at an unlimited mission.

“But it warmed up on a mission,” he said, and the United States is not informed by a realistic policy debate in Washington about what outcomes are achievable at what cost. Because I pursued, it became more intertwined.

The numbers alone cost a lot of money. Tens of thousands of Afghan government forces and civilians were killed. The United States has lost more than 2,440 troops, and its allies have lost more than 1,100. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars, and even after the withdrawal, the Biden administration will urge Congress to spend another billions of dollars to support Afghan soldiers.

The war, devised in the traumatic aftermath of a hijacked plane attack that killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11, began in 2005 with a rebellion of nearly a decade, starting from the moment of victory when the Taliban was expelled from Kabul. Has evolved into a resurrection. Bin’s murder The 2011 terrorist attacks seemed like an opportunity to end the war, but it was prolonged.

Experts disagree on the main reasons the U.S. could not stop the Taliban’s resurrection after its first defeat, a factor that led to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Was that. Afghanistan has been officially relegated to a secondary priority.

“Making it a sideshow was a deadly choice,” Eikenberry said.

Ten years after bin Laden’s death, President Joe Biden decided that it was pointless to continue the war. He announced in April that he would end it, arguing that waiting for the ideal moment to leave was a formula for never leaving, and the Trump administration’s withdrawal against the Taliban in 2020. Quoted the promise of. The last army will depart by August. .. 31.

Biden argues that the central goal of starting the war, crushing al-Qaeda and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a hotbed of attacks on the United States again, has been achieved, and why it puts the U.S. military at even greater risk. I didn’t leave it. The remaining risks are the collapse of the Afghan government and the resurgence of militant threats, but Biden has promised to maintain US diplomatic presence in Kabul and promote a peace agreement.

On October 7, 2001, the day the U.S. military began the war, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed that it be unlimited, but no one expected it to be the longest war in U.S. history. did not.

“Our raids today focus on the Taliban and foreign terrorists in Afghanistan, but our purpose remains much broader,” he told reporters. “Our purpose is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who contain or support terrorism.” He said that this was not only a battle in Afghanistan, but a global war against terrorism. Revealed.

But even if the war on terrorism faded, the war in Afghanistan continued long after the victory was out of reach.

“In the end, we prosecuted a war in Afghanistan because we were able to do it,” Aikenbury said. “With no other competitors, volunteer power, and deficit spending, we enjoyed the strategic and political luxury of fighting an eternal war.”


Editor’s Note — AP National Security Writer Robert Burns has covered the war from Washington and Afghanistan since it began in 2001.

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