So the withdrawal from Afghanistan looked messy. How could it not when the Afghan government vanished at the site of the Taliban coming to Kabul? No one expected the quick demise of the government and the capitulation of most of the army.

But in fact the way the war ended was so much less violent and destructive than it would have been if the US and the government had decided to fight for every provincial capital and Kabul. 20 years must have made it clear that the Afghan government could never win and no matter when and how the US withdrew the Taliban was going to come to power.

Why was the Afghan army hated and more feared than the Taliban in most of Afghanistan? Here is part of why that was. During a visit to Helmand by Anand Gopal who wrote about this in the New Yorker Blackhawks under the command of the British trained Sami Sadat were committing massacres almost daily: twelve Afghans were killed while scavenging scrap metal at a former base outside Sangin; forty were killed in an almost identical incident at the Army’s abandoned Camp Walid; twenty people, most of them women and children, were killed by air strikes on the Gereshk bazaar; Afghan soldiers who were being held prisoner by the Taliban at a power station were targeted and killed by their own comrades in an air strike.

Then there is the way the US captured and treated Afghans who were sent to Guantanamo. The supposed worst of the worst. Mohammed Nasim, was arrested by U.S. forces and sent to Guantánamo because, according to a classified assessment, his name was similar to that of a Taliban commander.

A Karzai government official named Ehsanullah visited an American base to inform on two Taliban members; no translator was present, and, in the confusion, he was arrested himself and shipped to Guantánamo. Nasrullah, a government tax collector, was sent to Guantánamo after being randomly pulled off a bus following a skirmish between U.S. Special Forces and local tribesmen.

Others were sent there so that Afghans could collect a bounty placed on any Taliban commander that was captured. It didn’t seem too important to US forces to verify if they were in fact Taliban commanders.

Writers like Gopal who got out into the provinces to see the brutality of this war lets his readers know that ending the war is of itself a huge blessing for most Afghans. How many times do we need to experience these military defeats to realize that war perpetrated by us as an outside invader can’t successfully remake a country into a clone of ourselves.

DAVID STEVENS

Cambridge

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