The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of his associates were thought to be holed up there under the protection and the patronage of the Taliban, the jihadist militia cum narcotics syndicate that controlled Afghanistan at the time. U.S. forces marched in, toppled the Taliban, and installed a client regime under Hamid Karzai, a wildly corrupt and borderline incompetent leader who was, all things considered, probably the best we could do at the time. We eventually had a falling out with Karzai and his government, and Afghan democracy — “democracy” — moved on. The country has remained in a slow-motion civil war, with the Taliban waxing and waning conversely with U.S. interest in this unhappy little corner of the world.
The NATO occupation and other foreign spending accounts for the lion’s share of Afghanistan’s formal economy; the lion’s share of the real economy is producing opium for the heroin trade, a field in which Afghanistan enjoys a 90 percent share of the world market. We spent millions of dollars importing Italian goats into Afghanistan, hoping to create a thriving cashmere-production industry. The goats went missing and were “presumed eaten,” according to Newsweek. Worse things have happened to goats.