A couple of years into the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, I asked who the hell was making the strategic decisions, a couple of farmers who had never been out of Iowa? It wasn't for a while that I realized that no strategic decisions were being made... it was too politically fraught and the situation was just allowed to float along, since the media wasn't paying any attention and no one gave a damn... at least not in this country. Two months shy of 2 decades of occupation, the war was an utter failure with absolutely no longterm accomplishments whatsoever-- nothing. Instead, the U.S. lost 2,448 service members and 3,846 mercenaries, as well as 1,144 service members from NATO members, 444 aid workers and 72 journalists. Also killed: 66,000 Afghan military and police, 47,245 Afghan civilians and 51,191 Taliban fighters. (None of the Afghan figures are reliable.)
As for money, it's almost impossible to make a reliable estimate of what the war cost the U.S. The Pentagon claims we spent $816 billion, not counting $143 billion in aid-- almost all of it completely wasted through mismanagement. Corruption alone cost U.S. tax payers at least $60 billion. But with no politicians willing to raise taxes to pay for the war, interest payments alone on the money borrowed to pay for it will cost $6.5 trillion by 2050-- and that doesn't count the health care, disability and burial costs for veterans, perhaps another trillion.
That was a tangent. What I wanted to say is that I nearly busted a gut when the U.S. intelligence services fretted that if the U.S. withdraws, the Taliban could overrun the country in as little as 6 months. What a laugh! As I've said many times, it would be closer to 6 weeks than 6 months. We're not withdrawn yet and I'd say it will be more like 6 days or even 6 hours after we're out of there.
The U.S. is starting to wake up to reality-- gee, and it only took 20 years-- and ordered all American civilians out of the country immediately, the U.S. embassy offering to "provide repatriation loans for citizens who can't afford to buy tickets." Yeah, that bad. Kabul is pretty much surrounded and will fall to the Taliban long before our intelligence services estimated, although now they're saying 3 months, when it's likely to be a couple of weeks. The Taliban already controls most of the country-- officially 65% but in all likelihood, closer to 80%, including a growing number of provincial capitals, like Kunduz, Farah, Faizabad, Poli-Khumri, Sheberghan, Taloqan, Aybak, Zaranj, Lashkar Gar and Ghazni, where Peace Corp friends mine once lived and where I spent some time. The U.S.-"trained" Afghan military is largely leaving their uniforms and weapons behind and trying to melt into the general population. Laughably, President Ghani replaced Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai with Gen. Hibatullah Alizai as the Afghan army chief of staff. And the U.S. warned that it will refuse to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan if they take over by force.
My guess is that by the end of next week, the government will still be in control of 4 completely surrounded cities-- Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif (controlled by Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, not really the government) and Kandahar (which is more loyal to the Taliban than to the government). The cities are filled with terrified refugees. There used to be a nice paved highway that circumnavigated the country and connected those 4 cities; I drove it. It no longer exists.
Florida Senate candidate-- and former Orlando congressman-- Alan Grayson noted this morning that "The collapse is being caused by a new form of 'asymmetrical warfare.'The US military normally kills people from a distance. That’s not the way that the Taliban do it; they’re up close and personal. You can’t reasonably expect that paying people $156 a month (what Afghanistan soldiers are paid, when they are paid at all) is going to motivate them to take a chance on getting shot in the face, at close range. It’s much safer to deliver water from an oil barrel pulled by a donkey-- and more lucrative, too."