The Bush administration started off brilliantly in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 by toppling the Taliban from power without having to mount a large-scale invasion with U.S. troops.Stephen Walt is not just any old blogger but the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, so seeing such an idiotic statement coming from him was disconcerting.
The US had initially said that they had evidence connecting Bin Laden to the September 11 attacks and would be providing that evidence as part of a demand for the Taleban to hand him over. By initially saying that and then not following through the US put question marks where none needed to be. To offer the evidence first then back down was a lot worse then simply making a demand for Bin Laden's head because it hurt the factions within the Taleban - never a particularly monolithic group - that would have used it as an opportunity to weaken Mullah Omar. But the US was in full unilateral mode at that time. The Bush administration instead of capitalizing on the global revulsion caused by the murderous assaults of 9/11 laid the seeds for the conflict raging today. The US proceeded with high altitude bombings which lead to civilian deaths - IIRC the first wedding party bombing was from around this time. The outrage over the civilian deaths was in large part responsible for the victory of the collection of religious parties, the MMA, in the Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan. These provincial governments would play a significant role in helping the Afghan Taleban develop sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border. Because of the lack of troops on the ground the US could not stop the Northern Alliance from entering Kabul further alienating the Pushtoon population and allowing the NA warlords to establish a hold that they have never relinquished. A hold which has contributed significantly to the corruption that the US now rails against. The increasing presence of India, which had backed the Northern Alliance inflamed the paranoia of the Pakistani Army whose support we needed and established facts on the ground that will be hard to reverse.
How anyone can look at the stupid blunderings of the Bush administration in Afghanistan, initial or otherwise, and call it brilliant is beyond my ken. I suppose which is why I am not the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, and Stephen Walt is.