There was never a plan to “win” in Afghanistan because Afghanistan was never the point.
From Day 1 of their time in office – before 9/11 – the Bushies wanted Iraq. They wanted the oil. They had meetings with oil companies, drawing up maps dividing up Iraq’s oil reserves.
Then 9/11 happened. Opportunity. They had to go into Afghanistan because of the “optics” but Iraq’s oil was always the target. Don’t forget that the Bushies convinced the public that Iraq attacked us on 9/11, and were going to attack us again with nukes and anthrax. Do you remember the fear?
The Republicans said that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, had weapons of mass destruction – including and especially nukes – and was going to give those weapons to terrorists or use those weapons on us SOON unless we act. “Dirty bombs” might go off at any moment. Smallpox might hit any day. We must go to war to save ourselves. Those Democrats are against the war – are against protecting ourselves.
The threat was so imminent that we must take the unprecedented step of having a war vote just before the elections.
Immediately after invading Afghanistan Bush shifted attention and resources to Iraq. From The Original Sin of the War in Afghanistan in the Atlantic, (Emphasis added, for emphasis.)
The Bush administration’s focus started shifting within weeks of the Taliban’s ouster, and plans for the Iraq invasion soon became all-consuming. Too light a troop presence in Afghanistan meant that security was never truly established; too little money actually delivered meant that the fledgling government was never able to prove its credibility to its own people; too little focus from U.S. policy makers meant that a highly centralized governing structure, imposed on a never-before-centralized nation, could not be prevented from degenerating into nepotism, ineffectiveness, and rampant corruption. Failure to provide enough troops, money, and focus on the front end resulted in exponentially more troops, money, and focus down the line.
By the time U.S. troops crossed into Iraq in 2003, Afghanistan was already an afterthought for the administration.
What followed was decades of … whatever that was. The presence of the Taliban meant the US kept sending billions to the corrupt Afghan government. We were supposedly building up the Afghan military and strengthening the government. But corruptly sending billions to corrupt officials was a powerful incentive to keep the Taliban out there.
Anyway … here we are.