In early October 2001, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a cable to his envoy in Pakistan, ordering her to get a message to the head of the Taliban through Pakistani middlemen: Stop harboring al Qaeda or else. The message, channeled through U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, came days before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, amid fears al Qaeda was planning more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil following Sept. 11.
“We will hold leaders of the Taliban personally responsible for any such actions. Every pillar of the Taliban regime will be destroyed,” the cable read.
Now, two decades later, the U.S. war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. And the Taliban, once threatened so bluntly by Washington with total annihilation, have never been stronger.
Read the full story and more from Foreign Policy.