For Westerners, Afghanistan has always been distant, exotic, and periodically threatening. In the Occident, the Afghan warrior tradition enjoys well-earned respect. Many countries have invaded Afghanistan, but few have controlled it for long. In the 19th century, the British conquered, then were defeated, then conquered again, and then left Afghanistan. The Soviets had an equally checkered relationship with Afghanistan and, like the British before them, were defeated.
Afghans, too, suffered the wages of war. In the late 20th century, the Soviets carpet bombed villages and valleys, killing over 1 million Afghans and dispersing many millions more into squalid, disease-ridden refugee shanties. After the Soviet invasion, the always-fragile traditional economy collapsed, plunging Afghans into destitution, fatalism, and despair.
As the book The Taliban: Afghanistan’s Most Lethal Insurgents comes to publication, U.S. forces are scheduled to leave, and the Taliban will certainly try to fill the security vacuum. Thirteen years of building a civil service, army, police, and health and educational system will be put to the test. The extent to which Afghanistan’s fortunes are intertwined with or independent of American military will be decided. Will the Taliban’s power-sharing negotiations become a viper’s embrace of the still-struggling Karzai regime? Can the Karzai regime stand on its own to meet the Taliban challenge? The stakes are survival for the new Afghan state.
Mark Silinsky is a 30-year veteran of the defense intelligence community. He has served as a senior counterinsurgency advisor and counterintelligence analyst in the United States and in Afghanistan. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California; earned a master's degree from Oxford University; and is a graduate of the Naval War College, the National Defense University, and the National Intelligence University.
 Statement of the Islamic Emirate on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11, Afghan Forums, Accessed July 1, 2014, http://www.afghanforums.com/showthread.php?23426-Statement-of-the-Islamic-Emirate-on-the-Tenth-Anniversary-of-9-11-you-must-read-it-)