Are we still trying to defeat the Taliban?

He proposed a modest counterfactual: Imagine, he said, if Western leaders had announced in December 2009 that the surge would come to an end not according to a predetermined timetable but only when the Taliban had been defeated. Such steadfastness could have caused the Taliban to quickly collapse…

I asked Rogers what, specifically, he found so confusing. His answer was pleasantly clear-cut. “The administration is talking about negotiating with the very people we’ve been trying to discredit for 10 years,” he said. “We’ve been trying to gain the support of people who are scared to death of the Taliban, and now they’re scared to death that we’re trying to bring the Taliban back.”

Rogers, a former Army officer whose brother is a two-star general, doesn’t think it’s too late to inflict a strategic defeat on the Taliban. But he argues that this isn’t a goal shared by the Obama administration. “We were winning on the ground. I was one of the few who came out in favor of the president’s surge. Yes, people say we’ve been there for 10 years, but it’s really been only since 2009. The surge is the real date. We had good intel then that the Taliban commanders were losing the fire in the belly. We saw what was happening, but guess what? We brought them back to life — we said we were leaving, we don’t care what the circumstances are. It’s a well- known idea that you never go to war thinking that you can’t win.”