In September 2001, George W. Bush simply demanded that the Taliban deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy bases of al Qaeda. This was an appropriate demand, i.e., the extradition of an accused criminal. Presumably, if the Taliban government in Kabul had acceded to these demands, there would have been no additional Afghan war.
In reply, the Taliban regime offered to try Bin Laden in an Afghan court, so long as the United States provided what it called “solid evidence” of his guilt. This, too, is an appropriate response, because Osama bin Laden may have commited crimes on Afghan territory. Moreover, Kabul stated it was prepared to incorporate US complaints into any legal action.
Precipitately, the Bush regime refused to accept the legitimacy of Afghan legal procedure. The regime stated that it refused to hand over its evidence to Kabul.
The Bush regime therefore backed itself into a contradictory situation. It conceded that Kabul had effective control over the governance of Afghanistan to effect the apprehension and extradition of OBL, yet refused to recognise the legitimacy of Kabul’s judicial system. Therein lies the central contradiction of the Bush regime folly in Afghanistan.
Now, more than a decade later, Bush’s successors are seeking ways to grasp the painful nettle of conceding to the Taliban a legitimate role in the governance of Afghanistan. The Bush regime bit off much more than the US can chew. The US continues to choke on Afghanistan.
If only the Bush regime had shown a little respect and patience, perhaps Bush’s legacy would have been slightly less risible.