Wherein the former foreign-policy aide to Dick Cheney attempts to exonerate the Bush administration’s complete and total fuck-up-itude on Afghanistan. Words fail. It’s hard to excerpt. But I’ll try.

“Eight years of drift,” according to Obama administration officials seeking to explain their lengthy deliberations over strategy and troop numbers. But, as Stephens suggests, the reality is a good deal more complex. The fact is that, after a period of genuine progress following the Taliban’s removal in late 2001, the situation in Afghanistan only began to deteriorate markedly between 2005 and 2006. Suicide attacks quintupled that year. Remotely detonated bombs more than doubled. Insurgent attacks nearly tripled. And the trends have steadily worsened every year since.

Yeah, except for that, it was all going so well!

The question is why?

An ideological inability to embrace the necessity of state-building? A defense secretary who refused to allow U.S. forces to perform peacekeeping tasks? Consistent and thorough underresourcing? A president who never treated Pakistan as a theater of the Afghanistan war? Or who reduced policy in both countries to two chiefs of state? A totally unnecessary additional war that you geniuses decided to launch?

I certainly don’t have an exhaustive answer…

May I offer one?

Zalmay Khalilzad left Afghanistan

Uh, he didn’t just leave. You guys sent him to Iraq. There’s a lesson here that you might not be absorbing.

NATO assumed overall command for the Afghan mission from the United States.

The U.S. is part of NATO! If you didn’t like the command structure, you could have changed it! That’s what David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and Jim Stavridis are doing right now! It’s shame you weren’t in office or anything.

Whatever the merits of ramping up NATO’s role — e.g., the importance of multilateralism; the need to divert greater U.S. attention and resources to the deteriorating situation in Iraq — the benefits, in retrospect, have not been worth the costs in terms of advancing U.S. war aims.

I love that little backhanded insult to “the importance of multilateralism,” as if Bush’s failures on Afghanistan are attributable to his critics who warned of the dangers of unilateralism. Anyway, this is the only time in the post where Hannah devotes attention to the “need” to divert attention and money to Iraq. And look how he phrases it! “The need to divert greater U.S. attention and resources to the deteriorating situation in Iraq.” Uh, you diverted attention and resources to Iraq from the start. As in before the invasion. You can even read about it in this idiot’s book.

America’s failure to hold Pakistan to account for its support of the Taliban became fully manifested.

Well, can’t argue with that.

[T]he larger point is that the United States did enjoy a significant period after the Taliban’s downfall when real progress was being made. The causes of that success and why things began going badly need to be studied closely.

No. This is like saying that Iraq was going so well after the fall of Saddam until the insurgency. “Real progress” was actually a phony-war period while the Taliban regrouped and the conditions that allowed for the insurgency to germinate took root. Eight years later, Dick Cheney’s people still don’t get it. They never will. And they want to lecture Obama — and the rest of us — about the war?