‘We Removed the Taliban’?
One aspect of President Obama’s speech last night — part of the “If it’s on my watch I did it, if it’s on Bush’s watch we did it” theme — is particularly grating. Obama said:
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in [the war against al Qaeda]. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.
I pass over for now the fact that “we” disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense by tactics like interrogation and stepped up surveillance that Obama has disparaged. Obama brags that “we” removed the Taliban. But “we” did that a decade ago. In recent months, the Obama policy has actually been to negotiate with the Taliban — i.e., to encourage Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban — with an eye toward integrating the Taliban in Afghanistan’s final political settlement. And that was even before Karzai’s regime allowed 500 Taliban members — including scores of commanders — to escape from a prison in Kandahar a few days ago so they can rejoin the jihad.
We removed the Taliban?