The situation in Afghanistan is a debacle. I am mystified that our military could train a 300,000-man government army for years and years and see them capitulate to a ragtag bunch of guerrilla Taliban fighters without so much as a fight. In many cases, they didn't even fire a shot. What can explain this?

For one thing, just as in Vietnam, we seriously underestimated the enemy. Since we removed them from power, the Taliban has been very busy. They understand and speak the various languages of the country. They understand and respect all the tribal cultures and ways of life. They share the common religion called Islam. We are ignorant of the languages, the culture and the religion. There's no doubt that the Taliban has been grooming and converting the people of Afghanistan, especially the rural people, to their cause. The Taliban has promised peace and many Afghans believe them.

We insist that there be a democratic form of government in Afghanistan. Other than Israel, there are no democracies in that part of the world. Promises of democracy don't fill empty stomachs.

The scariest possibility is that the Taliban will consolidate their power and that the country will become a safe haven for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and all our blood and money will have been in vain.

JOHN ENGELSMAN

retired lawyer, Army veteran

Baton Rouge