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Afghanistan: why the Taliban can't be defeated | The Economist

Afghanistan is the longest war in

American history

after the terrorist attacks on September

11 2001 America in its allies invaded

the country the Taliban the hardline

Islamist group that ruled over

Afghanistan had sheltered al Qaeda and

its leader Osama bin Laden nearly 20

years later the conflict has achieved

very little it's a country in ruin the

Taliban still controls much of it and

the war is showing no signs of slowing

down

so levels of violence are enormous in

2018 25,000 people died in Afghanistan

so what has made America's war in

Afghanistan unwinnable Afghanistan has

been mired in conflict for over 40 years

in 1979 the Soviet Union invaded the

country to support the Afghan communist

regime in response America funded

Mujahideen rebels to fight the Soviet

forces as part of an American proxy war

in 1989 Soviet forces withdrew from

Afghanistan which sparked years of

infighting among tribal warlords

the chaos created fertile ground for the

Taliban to grab power and in 1996 they

took control of Kabul Afghanistan's

capital and established themselves as

the government in much of the country

three years after the American invasion

in 2001 democratic elections were held

in the country but neither military

reinforcements nor peace talks have

ended the fighting so every president in

their own way has tried to win the war

in Afghanistan they've put troops in

they've taken troops out none of them

have really managed to fundamentally

change the course of the war itself my

fellow citizens events in Iraq have now

reached the final days of decision

President George W Bush pulled resources

away from Afghanistan to focus on his

war in Iraq and one of the most

difficult decisions that I've made as

president I ordered an additional 30,000

American troops in Afghanistan President

Barack Obama put huge amounts of troops

into Afghanistan to try and knock the

Taliban into a deal to try and win the

war there and the American presence

hasn't been all bad for all the good

they've done allowing girls to go back

to school creating a democratic

government there's no real sense in

which much of that can survive beyond

the period in which the Americans leave

and the farms dry up that's because the

Taliban are now in control of more of

Afghanistan since 2001 today

almost 18 percent of all Afghan

districts are under Taliban control and

48% are contested

how have they been able to extend their

power

the Taliban don't have military might

they don't have warplanes or tanks or

advanced equipment what they do have is

local legitimacy they have persuaded

many people that their version of Swift

Islamic justice is more legitimate than

the corrupt Afghan government and

they've been propped up by neighboring

Pakistan some people will say Pakistan

which helped form the Taliban in the

early 1990s was too committed to helping

their Islamist allies survive they

sheltered the Taliban leadership in

Pakistan they gave arms and weapons to

the Taliban to help them gain support in

Afghanistan there is also drug money 90%

of the world's heroin comes from

Afghanistan and this is a strong source

of funding for the Taliban opium has

been a big part of the war it's been a

part of the conflict economy the profits

help fund them making the Taliban one of

the wealthiest armed non-state groups in

the world efforts to destroy the opium

crop effectively destroyed the

livelihoods of farmers and in some cases

made them more sympathetic to the

Taliban and more hostile to the

government the Americans installed after

2001 people will say that the West

created an overly centralized

domineering state in Afghanistan run by

an overly powerful president who didn't

pay attention to the ethnic tribal

social heterogeneity of the country I

think all of these were reasons but I

think it's also the case that no big

counterinsurgency campaign with lots of

troops has ever really worked in a

society like Afghanistan in recent years

is it time for America to leave

president Donald Trump has been trying

to strike a deal with the Taliban to

reduce the amount of American troops in

Afghanistan Donald Trump kicked off the

most serious negotiations between

America and the Taliban that have ever

occurred only two have decided to walk

away at the last minute as both parties

were about to meet in September 2019 a

Taliban attack killed an American

soldier Donald Trump doesn't want to go

into his election with 14,000 troops in

Afghanistan if America is seen to be in

a rush the Taliban will simply count

down the clock until everyone leaves and

they can take over Afghanistan if and

when the Trump administration and the

Taliban strike a deal the worry is that

mr. Trump will quickly reduce troops in

Afghanistan without securing lasting

peace absolutely important is that the

Americans and the international

community of patient and they encourage

a power-sharing agreement in Afghanistan

between the Afghans between the Taliban

that isn't cobbled together at a few

months but does the Trump administration

have the will to do it

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