In his assessment on how things could have been different in Afghanistan, David Sanger in Sunday's New York Times repeats one of the fixed assumptions about America's longest war to date: we wouldn't be in the current mess in Afghanistan "if only [the Bush administration] had not been distracted by Iraq, or averted [its] eyes from the Taliban's resurgence."
That's almost certainly the case. But it turns out that without the Iraq war, the U.S. could well have found itself fighting in Afghanistan without NATO.
It was the rapid U.S. advance across Iraq, particularly the fall of Baghdad, that turned opposition against entering the Afghan conflict into consensus within NATO, writes Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, who was the alliance's deputy secretary-general at the time, in his new book "The Road to Kabul: The International Committee and the Crisis in Central Asia." (You can read a review of the Italian diplomat's fascinating memoir, which is now available in an English version by Duke University Press, here.)