U.S. government perceptions of the battlefield also continued to shape thinking about negotiating with the Taliban, even when those perceptions were flawed. Chris Kolenda, a retired U.S. Army colonel and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, pointed to critical factors that the United States misjudged or failed to appreciate: the Taliban’s external sanctuary in Pakistan, a degree of indigenous support for the Taliban and the Afghan Republic government’s inability to win the battle of legitimacy in insurgent-controlled or contested areas.
These factors were stacked against U.S. goals to degrade or defeat the insurgency and build a national government with an army and police forces capable of standing up to the Taliban. As Kolenda underscored, historically, no counterinsurgency effort has been successful when those factors were pointing in the wrong direction. The U.S. exit strategy, however, was premised on the vain hope that it could overcome those factors.
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