Simple-minded analogies with Vietnam in 1975 are misleading. The Taliban does not have anything like the military might of the North Vietnamese army. Moreover, Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethnic communities, tribes and regions, which the Taliban will struggle to rule whatever happens to the Kabul government.
The disintegration of the Afghan army and security forces has accelerated the Taliban’s attack, which has often faced little resistance, and has enabled it to make spectacular territorial gains. Such rapid changes of fortune on the battlefield in Afghanistan are traditionally fuelled by individuals and communities swiftly changing to the winning side. Families send their young men to fight for both the government and the Taliban as a form of insurance. Swift surrenders by cities and districts avoid retribution, while over-long resistance leads to massacre.
There was a similar pattern in 2001. While Washington and its local allies in the Northern Alliance were trumpeting their easy victory over the Taliban, the latter’s fighters were returning unscathed to their villages, or slipping across the border into Pakistan to wait for better days. These came four or five years later, when the Afghan government had done enough to discredit itself.
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