Afghanistan: Lost the battle. Lost the War.

There is a great section in the book Catch-22 involving a US soldier talking to an old Italian man in Rome. The US soldier is both congratulating himself and commiserating the Italian man on the recent events. The soldier retells how Italy lost but now liberated. The Italian’s reply that Italy never lost confuses the American so the old man explains; ‘this is Italy. Before you were here it was Italy. During the war it was Italy and when you leave this will be Italy.’

The US military just announced the Taliban who shot down the Chinook helicopter containing 38 US and Afghani personnel were killed by a missile attack. The helicopter was carrying US Special Forces returning from a mission. But that is fairly irrelevant for not only did the Taliban win that battle, they have also won the war.

However its important for the US military to get that news out for morale reasons. Men killed have to be avenged. Its a good story to sell at home and may be help bereaved relatives. But its a small victory and this isn’t a personal war against the Taliban. Afghanistan was about one man; Osama Bin Laden. Now that he is dead, the war against the Taliban will be lost.

The main reason is domestic support and the momentum domestic support generates. For the only avenging requested was the death (not even capture) of Osama Bin Laden. Support was waning before his death but as soon as Bin Laden was eliminated as some symbol of resistance, Afghanistan was going to be left to fend for itself.

Karzai must be quaking in his boots. Not only will foreign investment tail off rapidly, he knows the Afghani army and police are no match for the battle-ready Taliban. And more importantly the Taliban know it too. The terrain and people of Afghanistan have defeated the British, the Soviets and now the Americans. They have won through courage and determination but mostly because they know what they are fighting for. I don’t like their methods and abhor their politics but their knowledge and resolve will win most political endgames.


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