On September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorists murdered thousands of Americans. Shortly thereafter, US President George W Bush issued a series of demands to the de facto government of Pakistan—specifically demanding that the Taliban assist the US in apprehending key al-Qaeda personnel and shutting down al-Qaeda operational bases. The Taliban leadership refused, and chose instead to side with al-Qaeda’s leadership. At this point the Bush administration—again rather sensibly—began following through on anti-Taliban threats by offering military support to anti-Taliban armed forces and putting a limited number of American soldiers on the ground. Soon thereafter, however, Bush decided that he wasn’t so interested in this Afghanistan thing any more even though bin Laden and other key Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders remained at large, and even though the Taliban had not truly been defeated and started focusing his administration’s time, money, military personnel, and attention on Iraq.
Barack Obama turned that balance around and it seems to be working.