Doubts as US exits Afghanistan war

By Dan De Luce ,AFP

WASHINGTON — After 13 years, the United States is winding down its war in Afghanistan, plagued by doubts about what was accomplished at such a high cost. Instead of a sense of triumph at the close of the longest conflict in America’s history, there is mostly regret and fatigue over a war that claimed the lives of more than 2,300 American troops and cost more than a trillion dollars. U.S. commanders insist the Afghan security forces will hold the line in a stalemate with the Taliban. But some officials fear a repeat of Iraq, in which an American-trained army virtually collapsed in the face of a jihadist onslaught. A large majority of Americans now say the war was not worth it, and only 23 percent of U.S. soldiers believe the mission has been a success, according to recent polls. But when it began, the war enjoyed overwhelming support and victory seemed within reach. Less than a month after al-Qaida’s attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, president George W. Bush captured the nation’s sense of righteous anger as he announced military action in Afghanistan in a televised address in October. The goal was to ��disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations,�� Bush said, and to attack the Taliban regime that had hosted al-Qaida and refused to hand over its leaders.

Toppling the Taliban U.S. objectives were met with stunning speed. Al-Qaida training camps were wiped out and Northern Alliance fighters �X backed by U.S.-led air strikes and a small number of American special forces �X toppled the Taliban regime within a month. For the United States, the war seemed all but over. But the Taliban eventually regrouped from safe havens in neighboring Pakistan, even as Washington’s attention shifted to a new war in Iraq. The Taliban grew into a virulent insurgency that exploited resentment of a corrupt, ineffective government in Kabul. The United States formed the backbone of an international force that found itself in a protracted fight with insurgents.