Did the U.S. win the war in Afghanistan?

President Obama yesterday announced that the U.S. will leave about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan by 2016, ending the war in Afghanistan.

Is it too soon to ask who won the war?

Writing on Vox, Max Fisher says it was the Taliban.

The Obama administration is announcing its withdrawal schedule without having struck a peace deal with the Taliban, the Afghanistan-based insurgent group that briefly ruled the country, sheltered al-Qaeda during the 2001 attacks, and has been the chief military antagonist in the war. The US made a big push to strike a peace deal with the Taliban first, in the hopes that the uncertain withdrawal timetable would give the US leverage for a deal.

But the talks fell apart and the US is withdrawing anyway. So the Taliban will keep fighting, 15 years and 2000 American lives after the US invaded to push them out. In a press call previewing the announcement, a senior White House official said that the US was focused on the threat from al-Qaeda and that the Taliban was for the Afghan government to deal with. That was not always US policy, which for some time asserted that the Taliban gave al-Qaeda safe haven (true) and thus that defeating the Taliban was necessary to curb the al-Qaeda threat (debatable).

The Obama administration hoped it could separate out the Taliban from al-Qaeda, the latter of which it has gotten pretty good at fighting, by getting the Taliban to renounce the group and promise not to shelter it. The US never got that pledge — the Taliban seems to have decided, rightly, that it could wait us out — so it is making the decision to separate them out on its own.

Today, President Obama will speak to the U.S. Military Academy and outline what’s next after Afghanistan.

UpdateHere are the presidents remarks.

  • TheMagicRat

    The fact that we still ask questions about winning wars shows that we never learn anything.

  • davidz

    I think that’s one of those questions where if you have to stop and ask, then you know the answer already and it isn’t the one you want.

  • You fools! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”…

  • John Peschken

    The problem with the question is that calling these involvements a war creates the expectation of a surrender on the deck of a battleship. These things are more like what the police do. They never win the war on drugs. They never get the burglars or the murderers to surrender as a group and end the “war”. The best you can hope for is to reduce the power of the enemy to the point where the locals can keep it under some semblance of control.

    • davidz

      I don’t look for a final ceremony, but for a sense of accomplishment and finality. The First Iraq War had that (for me, at least). We went in, we did something, and we left. We didn’t hang around for years on end, involved (or not so involved) with the local skirmishes, becoming part of the mundane life of the region (if you can define a life with bombings, drone strikes, and 3 A.M. counter-terrorism strikes as mundane).

      Iraq II and Afghanistan have devolved into what appears to be petty arguments with the U.S. installed tinpot dictators about whether or when we are going to take away the power that supports them in the first place. No accomplishment in sight there, and it takes away from what has been achieved in the past.

  • MrE85

    When the last troops come home, that’s close enough for a “win” for me.

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    I’ve never looked at Iraq or Afghanistan as decisions we can judge until many decades have passed.

    • Dave

      Coincidentally, that’s precisely what the war criminals of the previous administration are thinking too. We’d better wait many decades before deciding whether the fruitless deaths of 5000+ Americans was worth it. Definitely need to take a critical look at these decisions, but not now. Let’s wait a while. Only then can we begin to whitewash the horrific strategic blunders of the worst president of our history.

  • Dave

    From the article: “So while this may be good news for Americans … do not mistake it as therefore good news for Afghans.”

    When has there ever been good news for Afghans? The country has been at war with itself or others for 40 or 4000 years depending who you believe.

  • Joe

    If the goal was to increase the world’s heroin and greenback supply, we definitely won. High fives all around!