We assembled the most incredible, technologically advanced alliance the world has ever seen, … and we are being defeated by an insurgency” Matthew Parris in The Times today.
Yes, and what is worse, it happened before. President Biden was uncomfortable with the Vietnam parallels but they are precise. You do not beat determined but unconventional forces with a conventional army or with B52s. They disappear into the hills, regroup and come back to hit you when they choose to.
You also do not win when your own public turns against you. The cumulative effect of body bags and military funerals is understandable revulsion. The war for the hearts and minds of parents and spouses of the fallen, and of the public at large, was lost as the futility of the enterprise became daily more obvious.
It was not the Taliban that perpetrated 9/11 and the terrorists were not Afghanis . The Taliban did not do a Pearl Harbour. The justification for attacking them was weak. The same had applied decades earlier to the Vietcong. We never learn.
John Kennedy’s inaugural speech cast America in the role of moral policeman: “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”. It was stirring stuff but it was wrong. Korea was fresh in the memory as a fiasco, Vietnam rumbling to become another one. Might may be Right sometimes. But not if you have no post conflict plan – that was Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Harold Wilson kept Britain from being dragged into Vietnam on America’s coat tails. Sadly Tony Blair failed to do the same. So Afghanistan became our tragedy too. They died in vain
Addendum: I have just discovered this interview that William Dalrymple gave about Afghanistan ten years ago ! Essential viewing.