They recruit themselves. And for 10 years the Taliban have battled U.S. soldiers and Marines, backed up by NATO troops, to what Gen. Stanley McChrystal called "a draw."
And if Afghanistan has become a stalemated war between the Americans and Taliban after a decade in which 1,600 Americans have given their lives and 12,000 have been wounded, how well will the Karzai regime and ANA make out when the Americans, the best soldiers in the world, depart, and they face the Taliban alone?
"This war does not lend itself to a military solution" is the cliche of the hour. And, surely, if the United States cannot achieve victory over the Taliban with 100,000 troops, we are unlikely to achieve it with 70,000, or however many may remain after 2014.
But has anyone heard the Taliban concede, "This war does not lend itself to a military solution"? Even should the Taliban come to the table and agree to compete democratically, does anyone think it will be faithful to a commitment given to the infidel Americans, once the infidel Americans depart? Why should they?
Over the next 15 months, the United States will be pulling out all or almost all of its 50,000 troops from Iraq, plus the 30,000 from the Afghan theater.
Our NATO allies will execute similar drawdowns.
This will leave Iraq up for grabs. But the Islamic world will see the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan for what it is: a retreat, forced upon a war-weary America by Islamic holy warriors who are the sons of the mujahedeen who drove out the Red Army in the 1980s and helped to bring down the Soviet Empire.
Make no mistake. Obama is headed for the exit ramp, and the Karzai government and Afghan army will not succeed where that same government and army, backed by 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops, could not succeed.
McCain and the neocons will blame what is coming, a terrible day in Kabul and across Afghanistan, on those who refused to soldier on, no matter the cost in blood and treasure.
But the people who should be indicted by history are not those who, after half a trillion dollars and a decade of bleeding, decided to cut America's losses, but those who stampeded this country into two of the longest and least necessary wars in the history of the republic.