Our primary target after 9-11 should not have been the Taliban in Afghanistan; it should have been the regime in Iran. But if we were going to pursue the Taliban, we certainly should have eliminated these vile creatures swiftly and permanently. In order to have done so, however, our military would have to have been under the command of a president who was willing to use the full force of the military—and to use it not only against the Taliban but also against the regime in Pakistan, which materially and spiritually supports the Taliban. Instead, the Bush administration dropped small bombs and much bread on Afghanistan, permitted the Taliban to escape into Pakistan, and dubbed the regime in Pakistan our "friend."

The result? Here is a measure of the Bush administration's success in ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan:

The letter pinned overnight to the wall of the mosque in Kandahar was succinct. "Girls going to school need to be careful for their safety. If we put acid on their faces or they are murdered then the blame will be on their parents."

Today the local school stands empty, victim of what amounts to a Taliban war on knowledge. The liberal wind of change that swept the country in 2001 is being reversed. By the conservative estimate of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, 100,000 students have been terrorised out of schools in the past year. The number is certainly far higher and many teachers have been murdered, some beheaded….

The fate of the mixed-sex Sheikh Zai Middle School, on the outskirts of a community in the mountains of Maruf district is sadly not atypical. A local witness told Human Rights Watch what happened when the Taliban came: "They went to each class, took out their long knives.... locked the children in two rooms, where the children were severely beaten with sticks and asked, 'will you come to school now?'"…. . . .

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