More than 16 years after it began, the war in Afghanistan is often described as a stalemate.
But a stalemate against an insurgency like the Taliban is actually a victory for the insurgency, an Afghanistan expert told On Point Thursday on our show about the long-running war.
And it’s not actually even a stalemate at all, Thomas Johnson, professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, told guest host Anthony Brooks.
“I think the Taliban are actually in control of the situation. … I think that they've already won,” Johnson said.
They’ve won in large part because the United States lost the narratives, Johnson said.
That was put into stark relief after giving a speech in 2009 in front of military leaders, Johnson said. He asked them what three themes the U.S. would push to convince Afghans that America wasn’t an occupying force.
The room went blank, Johnson said.
“My intuition told me that the war was over that we had lost,” said Johnson, who recently came out with a book called "Taliban Narratives" that explored the subject.
He added: "We've lost the war of the story in Afghanistan, and we can't recover’
More than 2,400 Americans have been killed in the war, and thousands of civilians die every year in the conflict.
We were also joined Thursday by Johnny Walsh, senior expert on Afghanistan at the US Institute of Peace, who said the war isn’t quite lost — but that the Taliban is strong, and getting stronger every year.
Given the unpopularity of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the very real tensions coursing through society, we can’t expect that things won’t get worse, Walsh said.
“In the complete absence of foreign troops, there's a there's a very real chance of a bloodbath,” Walsh said.