The Aug. 18 front-page article “Afghanistan’s future hinges on whether Taliban’s new face is real” noted that Taliban operative Zabiullah Mujahid claimed that the group had “changed” and “would refrain from retributory violence and respect women’s rights,” as the article put it. Yet the terrorist organization’s “new face” is merely a mask.

The Taliban wants to assuage Western concerns and secure aid, support and even diplomatic recognition. Accordingly, the group is putting on a show, holding news conferences and even sitting for interviews with female journalists.

But the Taliban hasn’t changed. It remains a movement with a medieval ideology. Footage has already emerged of the Taliban whipping women and hunting down, torturing and murdering suspected “collaborators,” as well as anyone who doesn’t abide by the Taliban’s twisted worldview.

As the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a D.C.-based think tank, has documented, the Taliban has even continued to collaborate with al-Qaeda. Twenty years after 9/11, the United States can’t afford to be hoodwinked by Islamist terrorists. The costs to the Afghan and American people alike are too high.

Sean Durns, Alexandria

The writer is a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

David Von Drehle’s Aug. 18 op-ed, “Biden’s grave miscalculation in Afghanistan,” was one of the best I have read. Mr. Von Drehle’s analysis and retrospective were superb. However, I was puzzled by his conclusion that President Biden miscalculated the Taliban. Mr. Biden understood the nature of the Taliban, the situation on the ground and how this would end whenever it occurred. There would be no flag-waving, band-playing celebration of the world’s next democracy; we all know that. 

If there was a miscalculation, it was in accepting now-deposed Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s pretense of governance and assurance of resistance that would provide the time to allow a more orderly leaving. That is speculation, which is what the second-guessing is, too. Same with the myth that leaving 2,500 soldiers was going to deter the Taliban in perpetuity, which has been seized upon by pundits and pols of every stripe. 

Mr. Von Drehle’s assessment of the endless hubris and miscalculation by this nation, especially the neocons, was spot on, but I’m not certain that it was Mr. Biden’s miscalculation.

Roger Kurrus, Aldie

I did not support President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban regarding a military withdrawal from Afghanistan, nor did I support President Biden’s decision to follow through with it. Those who say that Mr. Biden’s hands were tied by the agreement are wrong. Taliban leaders are (and have been) in violation of the agreement in several ways, not the least of which is their failure to sever their ties with al-Qaeda. The current administration had ample opportunity to void Mr. Trump’s agreement, and had no legal or moral obligation to adhere to it. Those who argue otherwise are wrong about the facts. Mr. Biden clearly wanted to leave Afghanistan, regardless of any agreement made by the previous administration. And now he has.

Brian J. Morra, McLean

The U.S. population didn’t object to the troop withdrawal from Vietnam because it was weary of the televised nightly bloodbath. The moral failure was that the United States refused to keep its solemn promises to the Vietnamese. Now, former ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and others worry about the consequences of a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan and warn of a new Vietnam tragedy.  

But the Vietnam War was bloodier than Afghanistan, and it was fought by draftees, not volunteers. It tore apart the social fabric of the nation and produced an unprecedented outcry. The present war has not aroused such protests, and that absence makes it easier for the United States to hide from its obligations.

No one knows what will ultimately happen in Afghanistan once the United States has finally withdrawn. The Taliban might try to impose its ideology on women. And in the absence of an enforceable understanding, the United States cannot meaningfully intervene in the treatment of individuals since it can only attack terrorist bases with drones and missiles.

Vietnam should remind us of the costs of wishful thinking in the final stages of war. A quiet, well-planned, orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan could have looked much different from a chaotic Vietnam exit.

Francis Kovzelove, Chantilly

Dick Metzger, Arlington

Regarding Condoleezza Rice’s Aug. 18 op-ed, “No, the Afghan people didn’t choose the Taliban:”

I was very involved in the intelligence community during our invasion and attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan. Had it not been for blunders by the administration Ms. Rice served, the Afghan people would not be under control of the Taliban today. For example, with fewer than 15,000 troops in Afghanistan in December 2003, we had essentially destroyed the Taliban. With perhaps 10,000 more troops, we could have obliterated the Taliban in another year. Then we should have brought home all of our troops and continued nation-building.

Instead of doing that, the Bush administration sent 130,000 troops into Iraq, lost thousands of American lives and spent trillions of dollars there for no valid reason. All of this activity was built on bogus rationale provided by the administration. If one-tenth the money and resources wasted in Iraq had been applied to Afghanistan, the Afghans might well have a stable democratic government today.

John O’ Hara, Bowie