On the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, while the names of the dead were being read aloud one by one in a somber New York ceremony of remembrance, the terrorists, child abusers and drug dealers responsible for the atrocity celebrated their victorious return to power in Afghanistan.
It was no coincidence that September 11 was the date the Taliban originally picked to inaugurate their new government in Kabul — but wiser heads in China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan prevailed; even for America’s worst enemies, such blatant contempt was a step too far.
Instead, the Taliban held a flag-raising ceremony inside the tessellated walls and manicured grounds of the presidential palace, “officially” replacing the Islamic Republic’s black, red and green flag with the white banner of their Islamic Emirate. And the new regime’s armed enforcers continued as they began a few weeks before, hunting down opponents to torture and kill.
The Taliban are a criminal cartel who produce and traffic most of the world’s heroin. They beat women, torture journalists, and murder at will, all in the name of God. They kidnap children and then brainwash them in religious schools that churn out platoons of suicide bombing foot soldiers for their brutal jihadist crusade.
All this they do now with impunity, pumped up with what a friend in Kabul calls “victory madness,” after vanquishing the United States and its “puppet” government in one of the greatest humiliations of modern history.
I have just spent three months in Afghanistan, reporting on the end of the war, just as I reported on its beginning two decades ago. I have spent years on the ground in this war-torn country, witnessing and reporting on that historic arc of hope and despair, of violence and courage, of corruption, lies and hubris, covering all sides of America’s longest war.
I watched as America bombed the Taliban into submission, securing “victory” for the West on October 7, 2001 — and I found myself aboard the last commercial flight out of Kabul on August 15 this year, aghast as the same band of unreformed Taliban thugs swarmed in to retake the capital city.
In the intervening years, I strove to tell the story of this war. I saw men, women and children shot, blown up, maimed, cut down as they ran from American bombs, or were beaten to death by their fellow Afghans, their bodies thrown away like so much garbage. I saw corruption