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In a startling new paper from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, retired colonel Mark Cancian writes about the Afghanistan War. The United States and the Taliban stand on the brink of a framework that would lead to a peace process charting the path for the American troops to come home.
Cancian asks a simple question. The war in Afghanistan was already won by the end of March 2001. The Taliban was decimated, al-Qaeda scuttled, and a government manned by various warlords in place. Why did the United States not leave immediately?
Cancian - Answer - Anyone - Days - Fault
Cancian’s answer wouldn’t surprise anyone who opposed nation-building even in the early days of 2003. The fault was a lack of study of history—not just modern history, but any history. He writes that U.S. foreign policy mavens and defense planners thought there was a difference between Soviets’ war in Afghanistan and the Western war in Afghanistan.
The common understanding was that the Soviets were occupiers, and the Anglo-Americans were liberators; the Soviets tried to preach communism, while liberal democracy is a natural universal value waiting for everyone to adopt; and the Russians were violent, while the Westerners made sure that civilians were protected even during the war.
Course - Russians - Americans - Points - None
These are of course true, and the Russians were far more brutal than the Americans ever were. But Cancian points out that none of that matters to the average Afghan. In its Afghanistan War Americans learned, according to the report, what the Soviets learned the hard way.
The lessons of the war were these. Afghans are mostly illiterate, with no concept of a nation-state. To them, the sense of national duty means nothing compared to their duty to their immediate tribes. Even in the glory days of the 1960s, often parroted in the media accompanied by images of short skirt-wearing female students at Kabul University,...
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