Even the Taliban don’t claim they’ve won.

Well, it’s all over folks, seems that a News Limited journalist has a scoop. The Taliban have “won the war”. Communication is never perfect but it seems no one has told the Afghan Army guys at the checkpoint around the corner that it’s all over. Oblivious to the Taliban victory, they are still at their post.

I was alerted to a discussion about the US and Afghanistan government relationship on the Australian ABC’s ‘The Drum’ program. You can find the discussion, such as it is, here. It starts at about 19:45, and is introduced as a piece on the latest diplomatic manoeuvres between US President Obama and Afghan President Karzai and the US considering an early, and possibly complete, withdrawal from Afghanistan. It kicks off with a statement from the White House that a decision [about a pull-out] is not imminent and the discussion is about options for what happens in about eighteen months.

However the discussion takes a rather bizarre turn about a minute later when presenter Sarah Ferguson turns to one John Lyons, Middle East correspondent for News Limited’s ‘Australian’ newspaper. She asks for a comment on the recent apparent deterioration in the relationship between the US and Karzai.

Lyons’ claim is remarkable.

“What we know … is that the Taliban have won the War”.

Lyons claimed “the Taliban can essentially take over parts of Kabul for days, and have shootouts, and there is nothing the US or anyone else can do about it.”

I don’t know what part of the Middle East Lyons purports to correspond from, but his comments haven’t demonstrated much of an idea about this place. While the Taliban also promote their case using misinformation, exaggeration and distortion, even they don’t make claims like this.

Mr Lyons, this is utter rubbish, hopeless misrepresentation. You won’t be able to cite a single example since 2001 where the Taliban took over any part of Kabul. In fact, you won’t be able to cite an example where they took over the centre of significant city in Afghanistan at all.

Unfortunately, the former Australian politicians on the panel agree with this claptrap and wring their hands that it has all come to this. The commentary ends with one of them repeating the mantra that the Taliban have won the war. It’s still claptrap, no matter how often it’s repeated.

As for nothing anyone can do about it? There have been many attacks in Kabul, and a few complex attacks, but all have been swiftly put down. Every last one. The recent attack on the presidential palace was in mop up phase within an hour or so. And that’s been the pattern this year. And the US did nothing about it because they have already handed over security to the ANA/ANP, who have proved very effective at dealing with such events.

I’m not saying the Taliban aren’t out there, or that they haven’t increased their influence, and aren’t a force to be reckoned with. You can read a recent report about their shadow administration here, and about their growth as a network here. If you want a prophecy from me, look at the past. Afghanistan has been involved in a civil war for the last 28 years, a lot of fighting and a lot of shifting alliances. In that time, no-one, including the Taliban, ever won control of the whole of the country. No-one has control of the whole of the country now. I suspect no-one will win the war. Most Afghans I’ve met hope one day to win a peace, and I hope they win that.

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