US tried to moralize Afghans with bullets, bombs

Last August, the world watched the chaotic and painful American departure from Afghanistan. It led to a profound reckoning: How could two decades of war end in such humiliating defeat at the hands of Taliban militants?

In Afghanistan, the list of imperial powers that have tried and failed to exercise control includes the British in the 19th century, the Soviets in the 20th century – and now the Americans in the 21st century.

Afghanistan’s history of occupation suggests a deviation from the standard colonial playbook of using military control to extract wealth elsewhere in the Global South. All this has given rise to the erroneous trope that Afghanistan is a “graveyard of empires.”

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