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The US took down the Taliban regime in a matter of a few months. It then spent decades fighting them, because it essentially became a guerilla war against an invisible enemy, a war costly in money and souls, and a war the US surely lost. Now the US is retreating, and Taleban is emerging again and easily taking back control.

While I don't blame the US for this last part (the blame lies entirely on the shockingly corrupt/incompetent/pathetic Afghan army), I do think it's a bit odd that the US spent 20 years willingly fighting a losing guerilla war.

Would it not have been much smarter to have retreated earlier on (say, when Osama was killed), then let Taliban take over, and then re-invade to take them out again, now that they're all out in the open, and not hiding in mountains?

I mean, why would you willingly fight a war where you are out in the open and your enemy is hiding, when all you need to do is take a step back, wait for your enemy to come out, and then strike?

It reminds me of fishing. You don't fish by jumping into the deep waters trying to catch the fish bare-handed, you just sit calmly on your boat, use some bait, and wait for them to come right to you.

With that in mean, could this be a possible strategic attempt by the US to lure out Taleban, let them take back control, and then invade again?

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    You're asking multiple different questions here. For example, the title asks whether the US can re-invade Afghanistan after they've retreated (which is an obvious "yes"), while the body of the question asks whether this is their intention all along (which is impossible to conclusively answer).
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 15 at 8:43
  • Aside comment about the Afghan army: my guess is that it's hard to be motivated by democracy when you've been schooled in a madrassa in your youth... In the few cases where the US has managed to motivate local forces in Islamic countries (Iraq, Syria)... it's been along ethnic lines. (And since the US seemingly abhors such allies, they've often cut off their alliances of that kind.)
    – Fizz
    Aug 15 at 11:20
  • @Fizz there's also the fact that in Iraq and Syria, US allies were fighting ISIS, who were so extremely brutal even Al Qaeda did not like them, while the Taliban have so far been rather tame in comparison. The average ANA soldier has little to fear from surrendering to the Taliban, while the average Iraqi soldier was fairly likely to end up in a LiveLeak video if he surrendered to ISIS.
    – Ryan_L
    Aug 15 at 19:09
  • @Ryan_L: from what I recall the Iraqi national army disintegrated in 2014 pretty much like the Afghan one did today, only regional/ethnic militias, including the Kurds and the Iran-sponsored Shia ones (not to be confused with the national army) stood their ground.
    – Fizz
    Aug 15 at 19:47
  • @Ryan_L: in the aftermath, there were lengthy analyses on the US side as to why the Iraqi army crumbled so fast against ISIS, but apparently not much of what was learned from that was applied in Afghanistan... if it was even feasible to correct those issues.
    – Fizz
    Aug 15 at 19:58
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That sounds dangerously complicated.

  • The US would have a hard time assembling allies for a second attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan. (UK: "no military solution" Germany: "we'd be talking about a war")
  • Any second attempt will find considerably fewer locals willing to associate with the Western forces.
  • In the meantime, the Taliban would get the weaponry of the government forces (while it lasts without contractor support).

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