The Afghan War — really, the war against terrorists and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan — has elements of a Greek tragedy. It was unavoidable but seemingly unwinnable.
Following the murder of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda’s gracious hosts, the Taliban, could not be allowed to remain in power. But in parts of Afghanistan, every valley is its own kingdom, ruled by tribal leaders who are loyal to the most likely winner. And the winner, it seems, may be determined more by patience than by firepower.
I recall the very start of the war in early October 2001. Sitting at the president’s desk in his cabin at Camp David. Trying to focus on writing the announcement of military operations. President George W. Bush near me on the phone, giving military commands and informing congressional leaders of imminent hostilities. At one point, Bush put his hand over the receiver and asked me, “Are you cleared for any of this?” I replied that I didn’t think so. “You are now,” he said.