The Talibs are after the kingpins who've been bleeding the people of southern Afghanistan. Our commanders refer to them as "malign actors." Yet, for all their excesses and predations of the Afghan civilians supposedly under our protection, ISAF and US forces threw in with them. These gangsters became our partners in our war against the Taliban.
AWK's [Ahmed Karzai] power, according to the Financial Times, "lay in a mafia-style network of oligarchs and loyal elders, funded, according to U.S. media reports, by heroin trafficking." He was also on the CIA's payroll. No truck moved through the south without paying him a tax. No United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) projects could be built without his okay. In case someone didn't get the message, his Kandahar Strike Force Militia explained it to them. Next to AWK, Al Capone was a small-time pickpocket.
And he was our guy.
So was Jan Mohammed Khan, assassinated July 17, a key ally and advisor to the Afghan president, and a man so corrupt that the Dutch expeditionary forces forced his removal as the governor of Uruzgan Province in 2006.
The entire U.S. endeavor in Afghanistan—from the initial 2001 invasion to the current withdrawal plan—has relied on a narrow group of criminal entrepreneurs, the very people whose unchecked greed set off the 1992-96 Afghan civil war and led to the victory of the Taliban.
AWK was a member of the Popalzai tribe, which along with the Alikozai and Barakzai tribes, has run the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand since the early 1990s, systematically excluding other tribes. According to the Guardian's Stephen Gray, "The formation of the Taliban was, in great measure, a revolt of the excluded."
Just what did our military and political wizards expect to accomplish by falling in with the same gang engaging in the same corrupt and brutal practices that furnished the impetus for the Talibs to take over in the first place? We allowed ourselves to become dependent on a malignancy that virtually ensures whatever good works and progress we have accomplished will be swept aside in the wake of our departure. At the end of the day it's plain - the Taliban didn't defeat us, they didn't have to because we did that all on our own.