Wow! I mean, let’s start with the following caveats: this remains a fluid situation, our allies are better than our enemies but rough players themselves, and our fundamental goal — rolling up Al Qaeda — remains to be accomplished. But having said that, it’s hard to overstate the magnitude of our success in the last week. Not just in terms of achieving our objectives – or going a long way toward doing so – but also in the marriage of military force and diplomatic skill.
The president managed to be aggressive and resolute without giving in to the seductions of the Iraqoholics in his own administration. George W. Bush was on the line for this. And if it continues to go as well as it has in the last week, he – though I doubt his party – will certainly reap all sorts of credit.
The White House’s domestic agenda has been pretty much downhill since 9/11. But, as far as the foreign equation goes, I’m more than happy to give credit where credit is due.
One of the more interesting reports I’ve heard (heard but can’t confirm in any way) is that the Taliban retreat from Mazar-e Sharif really was a strategic retreat. That is to say, an intentional, considered move meant to strengthen their position, not a hasty necessity required by imminent defeat. But as students of military science well know, a strategic retreat is one of the most difficult maneuvers to pull off. Because they can easily turn into a routs, as this one clearly seems to have done.
It wasn’t just western pundits who had underestimated the sort of beating the United States had inflicted on the Taliban. The Taliban themselves didn’t quite seem to realize the extent of it either. It only became clear when they had to try to execute a coordinated maneuver. Then things began to fall apart.