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A Secret History of the War. In the predawn hours of July 1 they departed, the few remaining U. Left behind at the base were some 3. The plan was for the material to be inherited by the Afghan military; most of it was, but not before looters made off with a substantial haul. It will be up to historians Discreet dating in Mohammad `omar the future, writing with broad access to official documents and with the kind of detachment that only time brings, to fully explain the remarkable early-morning scene at Bagram and all that led up to it.

The two volumes constitute a powerful one-two punch, covering as they do the key developments in the war and reaching broadly similar conclusions, but with differing emphases. Both authors paint a picture of an American war effort that, after breathtaking early success, lost its way, never to recover.

My recommendation is to read the Malkasian first. A former civilian adviser in Afghanistan who also served as a senior aide to the chairman of the t Chiefs of Staff, Malkasian speaks Pashto and has a doctorate in history. In this, his third and most comprehensive book on Afghanistan, he provides a broad-reaching and quietly authoritative overview of U.

He is good on military operations, including the Battle of Marjah in No less important, he enlightens us on the Afghan part of the story — on the tribal system and its variations; on the forbidding geography, so vital in the fighting; on the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and his decision-making; on the complex and ever-shifting relationships between the government of Hamid Karzai and the warlords in the provinces. Malkasian also makes copious use of these materials. The result was a rout. Within 60 days, the Taliban was driven from power, with the loss of only four U.

It was a stunning victory, even if Osama bin Laden and top Taliban leaders eluded capture. Flushed with success, U. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is a key figure in both volumes, personified the indecision. Empowered by George W. Yet he also showed a Discreet dating in Mohammad `omar side.

More than many of his colleagues, he worried about getting bogged down in Afghanistan, and about the potential cost of the struggle to U. He understood that American power, no matter how great in relative terms, was limited. He wanted to outsource to Afghan partners and be done with the place as soon as possible. In hindsight, he was prescient. Yet his actual decisions cut off opportunities to avoid the future he so feared. Thus Rumsfeld ignored entreaties to include the Taliban in the postwar settlement in latedespite support for the notion from Karzai. Thus he sanctioned overly aggressive counterterrorism operations that alienated ordinary Afghans and in short order drove former Taliban supporters to resort again to violence.

Most important, Rumsfeld neglected to build up the Afghan security forces. The Afghans scaled back their request, then scaled it back some more, until Rumsfeld agreed to a cap of 50, soldiers. Even then, little was accomplished, as Rumsfeld, increasingly preoccupied with the planning for the invasion of Iraq, insisted that training and housing costs for the recruits be minimized, and pay be kept low. By the beginning ofa mere 6, Afghan Army troops had been trained; bywhen Rumsfeld stepped down, the figure had risen to 26, still far too few to counter the major and successful offensive the Taliban launched that year.

Who are the Taliban?

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The Taliban arose in amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Talibanmen who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones.

Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be.

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One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions. How did the Taliban gain control? See how the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in a few months, and read about how their strategy enabled them to do so. What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are s that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.

What does their victory mean for terrorist groups?

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The United States invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to terrorism, and many worry that Al Qaeda and other radical groups will again find safe haven there. On Aug. How will this affect future U. Washington and the Taliban may spend years pulled between cooperation and conflict. Some of the key issues at hand include: how to cooperate against a mutual enemy, the Islamic State branch in the region, known as ISIS-Kand whether the U.

The offensive proved a turning point, showing in Discreet dating in Mohammad `omar terms the immense challenge the Bush administration had set for itself. Its client government in Kabul was beset by corruption and the lack of broad popular backing, while the Taliban was dedicated and resourceful and able to repair to sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan to rest and plan. From an early point, moreover, U.

Afghanistan became a sideshow. Yet even as American planners acknowledged — behind closed doors — that they were losing in Afghanistan, they kept up the bullish public pronouncements. Never mind the plethora of intelligence assessments showing the opposite — the Taliban, far from reeling, was expanding its reach, ever more confident it would prevail in the end. Or as a Taliban commander put it to a U.

The surge of under Barack Obama should loom large in any of the war, and so it does in these books. It involved a major but temporary escalation, which had the aim of using enormous resources to reverse the Taliban momentum within two years and then turning over security operations to the Kabul government.

And so they would remain under his successor, Donald Trump, who swallowed his initial inclination to get out and instead vowed to achieve the victory that had eluded Bush and Obama. Could it have gone differently? Neither of these authors gives much reason to believe that an alternative American strategy would have brought an appreciably different result. Malkasian, the more sanguine of the two, identifies some missed opportunities to limit the bloodshed and cut back U. Indeed, one puts down these two estimable works with the strong sense that the very presence of the United States created a monumental problem for the Kabul government.

Much like South Vietnam a half century before, it could never escape being tainted by its association with a foreign occupying power. Vast quantities of American aid, necessary to any hope of prevailing in the war, wiped out any hope of securing robust popular support. Could some way have been found out of the dilemma?

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The question loomed larger than ever as the last American aircraft rumbled down the runway at Bagram on that early July morning and flew off into the darkness. Card 1 of 6 Who are the Taliban?

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