Taliban Leadership Sees Afghanistan as a War They Already Won

Post-war structure still unclear, but Taliban is confident in its future

20 years into the US and NATO war in Afghanistan, the Taliban sees things as effectively over. Top Taliban officials say that the situation is unsustainable for the Afghan government, and that they’ve already won the war.

It’s not hard to see why they’d think that. The Taliban has increasingly controlled more and more territory in recent years, and with the US looking to make a peace deal with them, it seems they are in a very positive position.

This has informed a lot of Taliban reticence in negotiations, seeing the Ghani government’s unwillingness to consider an interim government as unrealistic given the position they are in militarily. With the US also looking to put off the pullout, the Taliban is once again waiting on the enemies to realize they’ve already lost, and not expect to make a better deal.

The Taliban’s willingness to say as much reflects a desire to use the military gains for propaganda. While the US would never admit to having lost the war, the reality of it is going to play a role in future US decisions in Afghanistan.

Biden may have designs to put off the May 1 pullout date, but in admitting it would be difficult for the US to stay beyond 2021, he is all but admitting that there isn’t a way forward for the status quo.

The Ghani government has been more direct in contradicting the Taliban, saying they are confident that they can sustain the situation without US backing. This rings hollow, however, since the Ghani government has also been seemingly desperate to keep the US and NATO troops involved.

It would’ve been fair to call the war unwinnable a decade ago, and while that should’ve started the rush to the exits, the conflict seems to be dragging on with increasingly unrealistic hopes of face-saving.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.