As German blogger b writes at Moon of Alabama:
As National Security Advisor of U.S. President Jimmy Carter Brzezinski devised the strategy of using religiously motivated radical militants against secular governments and their people. He sent Saudi financed Wahhabi nuts to fight the government of Afghanistan before the USSR intended to send its military in support that government. His policy of rallying Jihadis (vid) caused millions of deaths. Brzezinski did not regret that:
What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
The war the U.S. has fought since its special forces entered the country in October 2001, following the September 11th terrorist attacks of that year, grinds on. Sometime a year from this September, a teenager who was not yet been born on 9/11 will enlist in the United States Marine Corps upon reaching his 17th birthday.
The U.S. dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb to ever be used in combat on an ISIS occupied cave complex did nothing to deter the Taliban from an attack on an Afghan army base in the northern part of the country days later, which killed a reported 66 U.S.-supported Afghans. More recently, At least eighteen people were killed and six injured by a suicide blast in Khost province that targeted U.S./NATO supported Afghan militias. While the Pentagon strongly implies that Russia is arming the Taliban (without providing proof to substantiate this allegation), the U.S. Department of Defense is still likely receiving parts from the sanctioned state-owned firm Rosoboronexport for Afghan military Mi-17s, as replacing the entire Kabul government fleet with American UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters is not coming along as fast as U.S. Senators like Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut have wanted.
By the time the Soviets ended their decade-old occupation of Afghanistan in 1989, they had lost over 15,000 soldiers killed in action with another 35,000 wounded. Afghan casualties were estimated to be over a million dead with half the country's population displaced by the war. As of late October 2016, shortly before a U.S. presidential election in which America's longest war (exceeding the decade and a half from 1960-1975 of U.S. advisory mission followed by active combat in Vietnam) barely registered, American KIA were 2,386 deaths. Nearly 1,200 U.S. private military contractors (PMCs) had been killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
During Donald Trump's successful campaign for the presidency, he was excoriated by critics in the U.S. national security establishment for declaring the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obsolete or ineffective against the threat of jihadist terrorism. Critics pointed to the over 1,100 combat deaths suffered by U.S. allies, principally NATO members the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Denmark in the Afghan conflict as proof that Trump didn't know what he was talking about and was an ingrate for demanding these nations aside from the UK contribute more funds to NATO. Left unexplained by these individuals on Twitter and in their writings was how those NATO servicemen's deaths contributed to protecting anyone in Europe from terrorist attacks -- particularly when a German Chancellor and the French political class seem determined to admit more potentially radicalized Afghan young men into the EU as refugees.
So, the question the Russia Analyst is asking on this Memorial Day 2017: did America learn anything from the Soviets experience in Afghanistan? It's not true that no one in the Pentagon tried -- the real battle for Hill 3234, fictionalized in the 2005 Ukrainian-Russian war movie 9 Rota (The 9th Company), was studied at the U.S. Army War College. It's not as if, well before 9/11, many U.S. military historians (as well as the CIA) didn't produce detailed studies of what went wrong for the Soviets after a brilliant special operation to seize the Kabul presidential palace on Christmas Day 1979. Nor were these studies solely the product of relatively unknown officers, not with genuine (if occasionally excessively ideological) experts on Soviet war-fighting and tactics like U.S. Army War College Prof. Stephen Blank producing their own widely read and used as course material assessments. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Ft. Bragg, N.C. invited Soviet psyops and 56th Airborne Assault Brigade veteran Evgeny Khrushchev to speak to American servicemen about what lessons they could draw from the USSR's failed campaign in the country.
The fault then for America's longest and perhaps least successful of wars, at least with success measured in anything other than the tremendous Afghan heroin and human trafficking trades, lies with Washington's civilian leadership. Who have not asked enough tough questions about measuring progress and who under President Barack Obama gave counterinsurgency (COIN) snake oil salesmen like Gen. David 'Betray-us' Petraeus relatively free reign to apply lessons supposedly learned in Iraq's Sunni triangle of Anbar province to the far more polyglot and difficult terrain of the Hindu Kush. Whether courageous officers standing up against the civilian leadership and resigning in protest at the sacrifice of more fine young men (and now women) under their command would stop the war is debatable. Perhaps the younger version of current White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster would've called his future multi-starred peers nearly as derelict in their duties as the Vietnam-era generals who served under Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Ultimately, no amount of opiates, lithium for batteries and rumored to be vast gas reserves are worth the price that has been paid in American blood since 2001. Whether it's post 9/11 nation building hubris, bureaucratic and military industrial complex inertia, or simply geopolitical positioning vis a vis nearby Russia and China gone terribly wrong, the U.S. remains in Afghanistan and seems likely to stick around through the end of President Trump's first if not second term.
After all, no one wants to be the man (or woman) sitting in the Oval Office when it is America's turn to have troops cross the famous Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan (even with Putin or his successor helpfully providing VDA Antonovs for flying out the contractors and Russian Railways trains for the U.S. vehicles' long journey to western Europe) -- or when Americans to take the last helicopter out of the Kabul Embassy roof as in 1975 Saigon.