Martin Meenagh, whose excellent blog I can heartily recommend, has been busy making lists.
Here is a list of all those major powers who have invaded Afghanistan at one time or another. I do not pretend that it is authoritatively exhaustive, but believe that it may be, and if you want to comment further I'd be happy to hear from you.
Alexander the Great
Mahmud of Ghazni and the Ghaznavids
The British Empire
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 1979-1989
Here is a list of those who managed to hold the place without any major massacres, corruption, devastation, or the ultimate collapse of their hold from exhaustion, bankruptcy or foreign invasion so far.
Here is a list of those who ended up being accused of overstretch, brutality, the collapse of self confidence, and folie de grandeur (and that was those of the group not remembered by a species prone to psychosis as monsters).
All of them."
Quite. As Seumas Milne writes:
The war in Afghanistan, which claimed more than 6,500 lives last year, cannot be won. It has brought neither peace, development nor freedom, and has no prospect of doing so. Instead of eradicating terror networks, it has spread and multiplied them. The US plans to send 3,000 more troops in April to reinforce its existing 25,000-strong contingent, and influential thinktanks in Washington are pressing for an Iraqi-style surge. But only a vastly greater deployment could even temporarily subdue the country, and that is not remotely in prospect. The only real chance for peace in Afghanistan is the withdrawal of foreign forces as part of a wider political settlement, including the Taliban and neighbouring countries like Iran and Pakistan.
But of course, the neo-cons and their liberal imperalist allies don't see it that way. They want us to 'stay the course'.
Rather easy to say when it's not you or your family doing the dying.