Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) asked the question that many Americans likely harbor: why are we still in Afghanistan more than 14 years after the initial invasion in response to the Taliban regime’s decision to shelter al Qaeda? It is an especially pertinent question since even the U.S. military concedes that there is no longer a significant al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. We are now (and have been for several years) almost exclusively at war with the Taliban, whose agenda (while socially repulsive) is focused on that country and does not pose a credible threat to the American homeland. Senator Paul is absolutely correct that it is well past time for anti‐Taliban Afghans to step up and defend their own country without relying on the United States.
Unfortunately, what happened in Kunduz is all too typical of the fruits of U.S. foreign policy over the past half century. U.S. administrations seem to have a knack for picking corrupt, unmotivated foreign clients who are spectacularly unable to prevail against domestic adversaries. The Obama administration’s fiasco of trying to train a cadre of “moderate” Syrian rebels to counter both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and ISIS is only the most recent example. Despite spending more than $400 million, the number of graduates from the program that are still fighting is in the single digits. That training effort may well set a new record for an expensive, ineffectual government boondoggle.