"We never had anywhere close to the number of troops that we needed there," the New Yorker staff writer told Katie Couric. "The money we did spend was largely wasted on big contracts for private contractors who sent 90 percent of the money back to the United States. We took our eye off Afghanistan."
"We forgot that there was a Taliban," Packer added. "Turned out the Taliban had not been defeated. They had really withdrawn across the border to Pakistan and reconstituted themselves and a lot of the old figures are now back in play."
Packer blamed both a corrupt Afghan government and the U.S. for giving the Taliban a "second chance."
Military historian Kimberly Kagan also suggested to Couric that corruption in the government of Afghan leader Hamid Karzai may have helped the Taliban.
"The question is would the Taliban actually be capable of providing a competition within Afghanistan for the support of the people" if the Afghan government was more legitimate, she said, noting that "the Taliban is able to provide more services for some of the population."
She said that one of the lessons of Iraq was that it was beneficial for American officials to directly confront Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government for its tolerance of malign action and abuses of power.
American officials "actually confronted a number of players from Maliki down to smaller, lower level general officers, lower level officials, in order to compel them to stop those behaviors that were actually alienating the people from the state," she said.
Added Kagan: "I think that this kind of aggressive interactions, both with Karzai and members of his administration, is part of the key to success in Afghanistan."
Watch part of the conversation above, and click here to see the whole thing.
More from the conversation:
George Packer: Obama Doesn't Want War to Doom Presidency
Kimberly Kagan on How Taliban and Al-Qaeda Differ