Russia's withdrawal of 1988-89 led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire. What would a U.S. withdrawal do to the American Empire?
A Taliban triumph would mean the Afghans who sided with us in this war would face the same retribution as our allies in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Western aid workers would have to flee the country.
Under Taliban control, Afghanistan would be a sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban, which would be emboldened to settle scores with the Islamabad politicians who had sided with the United States.
Taliban allies in the Pakistan army and intelligence services would be seen as on the wise and winning side, while those who sided with America would be seen as losers. The odds would rise that Pakistan would face a revived insurgency and acts of terror against the regime. The odds on the survival of a pro-American regime in a country already marinated in anti-Americanism would fall.
Among Islamists worldwide, news that the Afghan Sunni Taliban had defeated and driven the United States out, as their fathers had the Soviet Empire, would be electrifying. Muslim governments aligned with America would be shaken and perhaps imperiled.
Al-Qaida, thwarted by U.S. security services and ravaged by U.S. Predator and Special Forces strikes, would be seen as having helped inflict a defeat on America unseen since Vietnam.
Osama bin Laden would be a candidate for Man of the Decade.
With his 9-11 attack, he had fired a shot heard 'round the Islamic world, sucked America into two wars that bled, divided and helped to bankrupt her, and seen the last superpower off in Afghanistan.
Osama's ultimate goal from the start -- the removal of all U.S. troops from sacred Saudi soil and expulsion of all Crusaders from the Islamic world -- would no longer be an impossible dream.
For America, loss of Afghanistan would poison U.S. politics as did the loss of China and of Vietnam. It would discredit nation-building for decades and ring down the curtain on Wilsonian interventionism for a generation. And it could bring about the defeat of Barack Obama as the liberal who lost the war al-Qaida began on 9-11.
Whether Obama cuts U.S. forces and advances the day of a Taliban victory, or doubles-down and sends the tens of thousands of U.S. troops Gen. McChrystal demands, Afghanistan has claimed another hubristic imperial power.