After the fall: 3 lessons from Afghanistan's state failure

The Taleban’s return to power points to the limits of projecting power into another’s territory. It will escalate demands on the United States to reassure friends and deter potential foes.

Stranded Afghans at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as America's war in Afghanistan unravels. Power imposed from afar ultimately fails, says the writer. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

As the third-ranking official at the US Agency for International Development (USAid) during the George W. Bush administration, I flew to Singapore on Sept 11, 2001. I found travellers huddled under television monitors at Changi Airport, staring up at images of the World Trade Center being struck by commercial aircraft and collapsing.

Across the Pacific Ocean, I deeply felt the fear and anger of my family, colleagues and fellow Americans. Violent attacks on innocent civilians in our homeland would demand a harsh response. The next day, then President George W. Bush declared a war on terror. The Taleban's resolve to harbour the Al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the attacks meant that America would soon be at war in Afghanistan.

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