ALSO BY THIS WRITER: Afghanistan war: Is the US in it to win it?
For a time in 2001-02, it looked as if the effort to defeat the terrorists would go quickly. The Afghan Taliban – who had sheltered Al Qaeda – fell from power in a matter of weeks. The siege of the caves at Tora Bora, where Osama bin Laden had fled, promised to bring about his demise and a strategic defeat for terrorism.
Instead, it turned into an extended conflict, which tore at the fabric of our own conscience as much as it made gains against the terrorists. Despite years of efforts to track Mr. bin Laden, he proved elusive. Fears that Saddam Hussein could supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction – ultimately based on wrong intelligence – led to the war in Iraq. But miscalculations there – combined with a diminished focus on Afghanistan – meant that we were soon faced with two wars going badly. A controversial surge in Iraq turned the tide there, but a more modest surge in Afghanistan has yet to prove successful.