Foreign Policy Adrift
A Humiliating Setback in Afghanistan

After a summer-long effort, Taliban forces stormed the northern city of Kunduz in Afghanistan yesterday, driving government forces to the city’s airport in its outskirts. Kabul had dismissed warnings of the city’s vulnerability all summer amid pleas by local militia for reinforcements and armaments. Now, in response, the United States has launched airstrikes in support of a government push to drive the Taliban out, but the New York Times reports that success is far from guaranteed:

While the Afghan government has vowed to retake Kunduz soon, many analysts and officials predict a difficult fight ahead. The Taliban have penetrated residential areas, which make it costly to carry out airstrikes and operations involving heavy weaponry.

Additionally, because the insurgents have long controlled most of the districts surrounding the city and have been able to threaten highways in the neighboring provinces, it could be difficult for the Afghan government to resupply and reinforce its troops.

Didn’t President Obama proclaim back in 2008 that he had a plan to win this just and necessary war? Didn’t he attack George Bush for forgetting that the Afghan war was the one we needed to win? And didn’t he claim that he, Obama, knew how to do just that?

This story underscores an ongoing pattern: another day, another sign of military and strategic bankruptcy in American policy in the Greater Middle East. From Pakistan to Libya it is increasingly difficult to see any sign of a constructive strategic vision for American policy. Dodge, vacillate, and retreat seem to be the order of the day, and nowhere does this look like it’s bringing us any success.

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