“The Taliban regime is coming to an end,” announced President George W. Bush at the National Museum of Women in the Arts on December 12, 2001 — almost twenty years ago today. Five months later, Bush vowed: “In the United States of America, the terrorists have chosen a foe unlike they have faced before. . . . We will stay until the mission is done.” Four years after that, in August of 2006, Bush announced: “Al Qaeda and the Taliban lost a coveted base in Afghanistan and they know they will never reclaim it when democracy succeeds. . . . The days of the Taliban are over. The future of Afghanistan belongs to the people of Afghanistan.”
For two decades, the message Americans heard from their political and military leaders about the country’s longest war was the same. America is winning. The Taliban is on the verge of permanent obliteration. The U.S. is fortifying the Afghan security forces, which are close to being able to stand on their own and defend the government and the country.
Just five weeks ago, on July 8, President Biden stood in the East Room of the White House and insisted that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not inevitable because, while their willingness to do so might be in doubt, “the Afghan government and leadership . . . clearly have the capacity to sustain the government in place.” Biden then vehemently denied the accuracy of a reporter’s assertion that “your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.” Biden snapped: “That is not true. They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion.”