No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal

On October 7, 2001, the United States of America went to war in Afghanistan. Weeks earlier, al-Qaeda had killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the most devastating terrorist attack in history. Those kamikaze raids had been planned on Afghan soil, one in a series of plots specifically designed to kill Americans around the world. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations tried to avoid war. On more than 30 occasions between 1996 and the summer months of 2001, the U.S. government asked the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden. The Taliban didn’t budge. After Taliban founder Mullah Omar defied the U.S. one more time in late September 2001—saying bin Laden’s safe haven in Afghanistan was a matter of “Islam’s prestige”—the U.S. was left with no choice. The Americans retaliated against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets, overthrowing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan—the same authoritarian regime that had harbored Osama bin Laden all along. 

On February 29, 2020, the United States of America capitulated to the Taliban. President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad now want Americans to believe that the Taliban is our counterterrorism partner. Secretary Pompeo insists that after nearly 25 years of fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda, the Taliban is finally going to betray its jihadi brethren. The Taliban is even going to “work alongside of us to destroy” al-Qaeda, Pompeo claims. 

There is no good reason to believe this is true. 

To be sure, many Americans are tired of talking about and spending their tax dollars on the war. Some soldiers have been asked to deploy to the country multiple times, shouldering a burden the rest of us do not share. It is understandable that many just want out. The world has changed greatly since 2001, but the U.S. military is still there—a seemingly improbable outcome given the perceived successes of the initial U.S.-led invasion. 

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