The last two days have been a very bad spell in Afghanistan, with bombings that killed seven U.S. troops along with Afghan soldiers, police and civilians. But then, are there ever good days in Afghanistan?
Dexter Filkins' piece in the July 9 & 16 New Yorker presents a bleak picture: "After 11 years, nearly 2,000 Americans killed, 16,000 Americans wounded, nearly $400 billion spent, and more than 12,000 Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war in Afghanistan has come to this: The United States is leaving, mission unaccomplished."
Heaven knows we have tried, and we continue to try. American troops are working hard educating, training and equipping Afghan security personnel, at a cost of $11 billion a year. But there is really no evidence that our allies will be ready to take over as planned in 2014. Without the Americans, one Afghan commander told Filkins, "we cannot hold off the Taliban."
Why not? The thing that often gets overlooked in Afghanistan is that the Taliban manage to muster such a capable and durable fighting force with equally raw human material and without a superpower's help. Americans in Afghanistan fear the Afghan forces will desert en masse once we leave for fear of losing. But the insurgents don't seem to get discouraged quite so easily. They've hung on for 11 years and they show no sign of going away.
What all this suggests is that the other side simply has far greater motivation than our allies do. I'm not sure why that's so, but I suspect it's very important and beyond our capacity to change. We can't win the war for the Afghans, and we can't give them what they need to win it for themselves.