The Afghan war was won within first three months, but now, ten years later, U.S. is all but defeated. Unable to "kill or capture the Taliban" a mantra often parroted by Bush & Obama, U.S. wants an exit, but doesn't quite know how to.
Three month from start of war, Al-Qaeda was on the run, having taken refuge in world's most inhospitable mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Taliban too had thrown down arms and returned to their agricultural fields.
So, what turned the victory into defeat? Here is the answer. At the time of invasion, U.S. needed support of Afghans disenfranchised by the cruel and crude Taliban rule and these were the minority ethnic groups, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. Their military group the 'Northern Alliance' happily supported and participated in the invasion. But, they only represented the minority, not the majority, which were the Pashtuns. U.S. should have immediately launched a reconciliation process and brought Pashtuns into the Governance process along with minority groups. Instead, it imposed minority rule over majority, with the eventual backlash.
For all his faults, Newt Gingrich gets it, when he asks the question, where is the network of paved highways in Afghanistan, where is the development and and why is not every Afghan carrying a cell phone after all these years?
Once Taliban were defeated, there was no excuse to continue the war, bankrupting United States itself. Rather than spending $1 trillion on defeat, a fraction of that amount could have transformed Afghan society from 15th to 21st century. What was needed was a massive infrastructure development program that would have created employment and won the hearts and minds of all Afghans.
Today, Afghanistan is nothing but a picture of death and destruction, a fine legacy to leave behind after spending $1 trillion. U.S. taxpayers have every right to question their Generals and their Government about the wasteful spending of their tax dollars.
Additionally, U.S. Government's flawed attempts to leave behind a strong Central Government and Afghan Armed Forces comprising mainly of minority ethnic groups, is doomed to failure.Afghanistan has never had a strong Federal system. Its 30+ plus provinces have always had self rule. The provinces accepted King Zahir Shah as a figurehead while they governed themselves and that is the only system that will succeed in Afghanistan.
If U.S. is serious about ending the war and wants to see Afghanistan modernize and prosper, the best way is to pull all its troops out COMPLETELY, and allocate development funds on a provincial basis. A $30 billion development aid over five years, administered by the World Bank can accomplish a great deal more than another $100 billion on war over next two years.