In Kandahar yesterday, Lieutenant-General Austin Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was meeting with General Abdul Raziq, one of the most important and reliable pro-American figures in the south of the country, when the Taliban attacked, reportedly with cooperation from one or more of the provincial governor’s guards. Miller escaped unscathed, but Raziq was killed along with other Afghan officials, and three American soldiers were wounded. To Thomas Joscelyn, the attack marks Washington’s defeat in its war on the Taliban:
When President Trump announced his strategy for the war in August 2017, he emphasized that the U.S. approach would be based on conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables. Trump argued correctly that President Obama had mistakenly declared from the outset that a short-lived surge in troops would end by a definitive date. . . . Theoretically Trump’s strategy was going to be more realistic—driven by the progress of the fighting. But the situation on the ground has not improved.
And while President Trump preached patience, it was always in short supply. . . . The president’s behavior only reinforces this perception. Trump hasn’t visited Afghanistan once since becoming commander-in-chief, not even after he announced his commitment to “win” the war last year. . . . Indeed, Trump says little to nothing about the war these days. There are no major speeches, press conferences, or op-eds explaining to the American people why the United States must prevail. In fact, America’s military leaders are arguing just the opposite.
During his farewell speech in early September, General John W. Nicholson, Jr., who first oversaw the war effort for Trump, announced: “It is time for this war in Afghanistan to end.” But wars are not “ended”—they are won or lost. And the Taliban certainly hasn’t been defeated. In many ways, the organization is stronger than at any time since late 2001. Acting as if America can simply “end” the war is the same approach pursued by Barack Obama, who claimed to have brought the Iraq war to a “responsible end” in 2011. Of course, that didn’t happen, either. The vacuum left by America’s withdrawal, in combination with the war in Syria, created an opportunity for jihadists that mushroomed into a self-declared Islamic State caliphate. . . .
The Defense and State Departments say a “political settlement” with the Taliban is necessary. But that is not realistic. [The truth is that the] United States is no longer trying to defeat the Taliban. Instead, the Trump administration, like the Obama administration before it, wants out. The Taliban knows this and is more than happy to dictate the terms of America’s withdrawal. That’s what is now being negotiated. The jihadists also know that wars end in either victory or defeat—and their victory is at hand.