A partnership of HuffPost and the

Afghanistan's Sad Last Chapter

Those pundits who like comparing our Afghanistan experience to Vietnam must be giddy this morning. The Taliban made their move toward legitimacy by opening a headquarters in Qatar, and the United States signaled its willingness to take a role in talks to end the fighting. Simultaneously, the Taliban continues to kill American troops. The parallels are becoming uncanny.

The Afghan government responded to the developments by suspending talks on continued basing of a small U.S. force in the future. Afghan president Hamid Karzai is upset about our government lending the Taliban too much legitimacy by being willing to meet at a Taliban office that looks more like an embassy than a headquarters, complete with a flag, and fancy, official-sounding name.

Karzai is convinced that we're so desperate to keep a presence in the country that the fact gives him leverage. Those of us who feel that our departure is years overdue hope that we've had enough rhetoric from a man who has been a false friend while grabbing cash with both hands from CIA bagmen up to their usual, ill-advised, cloak-and- dagger operations.

What's important is that we end this heartbreak. As a result of an attack yesterday, the Department of Defense will have to explain to four more families why their loved ones died in the last days of a lost cause. Hopefully, we will also call to account generals and State Department officials who repeatedly lied to gullible war supporters in Congressional hearings about how close we were to success, while our troops in the field, who did the dying, knew better.

Many experts assume that whether we negotiate or not, we will leave and the Taliban will become the dominant force. This is likely the case. The Afghan Army, lacking the skills and assets of our own forces, will be revealed as the hollow force it is. The lack of a legitimate government and the Coalition failure to build real infrastructure will continue to compromise buy-in by the Afghan populace.

Nonetheless, negotiations might, at least, soothe our national conscience. For example, we could ask that villages that were sympathetic to the government, and individuals who acted as interpreters or worked for us in other capacities not be targeted for reprisal. Of course, once we're out, we're out, and nothing we negotiate will be ours to influence. Regardless, we need to ignore Karzai and move forward with whatever steps will extricate us most quickly. As with Vietnam, negotiations might buy a little time for the government we leave behind, but we have the small consolation that we're separating from the worst partnership we've ever had. And like North Vietnam, the Taliban are unlikely to pose a threat to our security once we've left.

All we need now are the news clips of helicopters leaving the roof of the U.S. Embassy while people dangle from the runners.

Subscribe to the World Post email.