Since day one, America’s disastrous and costly two-decade misadventure in Afghanistan was driven by domestic electoral politics. Now that the Taliban has driven out the Usa, the calculus has changed for American politicians. Da Project Syndicate.
Now that so many sad truths about Afghanistan are being spoken aloud, even in the major media – let me add one more: The war, from start to finish, was about politics, not in Afghanistan but in the United States.
Afghanistan was always a sideshow. According to the official account, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were launched from US soil, by people who trained in Florida. Most of the named perpetrators were Saudis. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had made his base in Afghanistan after leaving Sudan; soon he went on to Pakistan, where he stayed for the rest of his life. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers were not accused of having been involved in the 9/11 attacks.
But the 2001 invasion was fast and apparently decisive. And so it rescued George W. Bush’s tainted presidency, which was teetering just then from a defection (by James Jeffords of Vermont) that had cost Republican control of the Senate. Bush’s approval shot up to 90% and then steadily declined, though two additional boosts – following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the capture of Saddam Hussein in December – got him, barely, through the 2004 election.