Afghanistan Pullout: US Gains Little, Afghans Lose Lots

When the United States expelled the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan from the country 20 years ago, it was regarded as a major step in bringing global Islamist terror to heel by robbing al-Qaeda of its home base.

Khalid Agha, 30, flanked by his bodyguards. He sees the Doha accord as a major victory on the path to further war

Taliban at ease.

Fast forward two decades, the Taliban are on a comeback trail and in all likelihood will rule all or most of Afghanistan again. As the United States and its allies leave, Taliban forces are, day-by-day, wresting control from President Ashraf Ghani’s beleaguered Afghan government.

The Afghans could barely hold their own when they had the help of quick-strike air power and US intelligence support. They are faring far worse without it. Does this mean that when the Taliban return, al-Qaeda will too?

They are already there in latent form, US CIA director Williams Burns said in April, so that’s a given. He told the US Congress that al-Qaeda was operating in Afghanistan and its militants “remain intent on recovering the ability to attack US targets.”

In American official thinking, however, al-Qaeda and its offshoots have evolved in ways that make Afghanistan a less important potential terrorist center.

Daniel Williams

Published by Daniel Williams

I am a former correspondent who, for more than 30 years, did time in China, Southeast Asia, Central America, Mexico, the Middle East, Europe and Africa and covered wars that went from episodic to non-stop. My book, "Forsaken," about Christian persecution in the Middle East came out January, 2016. NextWarNotes is a news and analysis blog designed to fill gaps, provide background and think about what’s next. The name of the site comes from a 1935 article by Ernest Hemingway in Esquire Magazine called “Notes on the Next War,” in which he predicted the coming conflagration in Europe, told why it would happen and warned Americans to stay out.

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