Tag Archives: Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, America Failed to Know Its Enemy and Itself, by Srdja Trifkovic

The U.S. did its best to make the Soviet Union miserable in Afghanistan, and then it made the same mistake as the Soviet Union, fighting a twenty-year war contrasted to the Soviet’s war that lasted half as long. From Srdja Trifkovic at chroniclesmagazine.org:

The latest episode in an ironic reversal of the roles of the foreign powers that have tried their luck in Afghanistan is unfolding before our eyes. Britain’s profitless involvement (1839-1919) is ancient history, but more recently the Soviet intervention (1979-1989) and America’s subsequent “longest war” (2001-2021) have both ended in strategic failures.

Because the United States failed to know its enemy, it appears to have cleared the ground for China’s grand entry into the geopolitical game in Central Asia. That entry may well be successful, in the medium term at least, because it will not be accompanied by Beijing’s attempts to establish an ideologically friendly government in Kabul, or to conduct experiments in social engineering in the tribal lands, as the U.S. has a history of doing.

Back in the early 1980s, following the deployment of the Soviet army in an operation which completely lacked strategic clarity, the nascent Islamic resistance movement was used by the Carter Administration as a tool of undermining Moscow’s credibility and getting it bogged down in an unwinnable war. In a memorable 1998 interview with France’s news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski described how he advised President Carter in the summer of 1979 to draw the Soviets into military intervention.

“That secret operation was an excellent idea,” Brzezinski said. “It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap…. Indeed, for almost 10  years, Moscow had to carry on a war that was unsustainable for the regime, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Asked if he regretted having armed future terrorists, Brzezinski was adamant: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” He further rejected the notion that Islamic fundamentalism was a global menace as “nonsense.”

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With All Due Respect, by Douglas MacGregor

The generals played politics and CYA for twenty years. From Douglas MacGregor at theamericanconservative.com:

President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan has produced just the exposure the generals hoped to avoid with Trump’s defeat.

Presidents usually get the generals they want. In the last election, though, the generals got the president they wanted. Or, at least, so they thought.

It’s easy to understand. President Trump was a menace to the generals, especially the four stars in the Army and the Marines. In sharp contrast to his predecessors in the White House, Trump declined to accept unconditionally the generals’ best military advice.

As far as Trump was concerned, the answers he received from his secretaries of Defense and the four stars concerning the need to stay in Afghanistan—to build democracy, liberate women, encircle Iran, keep China out and Russia at bay—did not pass the smell test. For Trump, neither the Russians nor the Chinese were ten feet tall, and Afghanistan’s security was never as important as the security of Rhode Island, Alabama, or Michigan.

In Trump’s view, Afghanistan was never a strategic asset. The country is one of the most remote places on earth. There is no scientific-industrial base. Its geostrategic position affords little advantage in a world dominated by precision guided missiles and space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The planning and practice for 9/11 was conducted in Germany and the United States, not in Afghanistan.

Long before Trump came to the presidency, Afghanistan was an enduring entanglement with no return on investment. Economically, Afghanistan belongs to sub-Saharan Africa. An American military presence, let alone massive U.S. economic investment in Afghanistan’s society and various peoples, is one of the most extreme examples of wasteful strategic overstretch in human history.

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The Silver Lining of the Afghanistan Withdrawal: Afghanistan is No Longer Simply a US Problem, by Doug Bandow

Afghanistan is in a rough neighborhood. It might work out well for the US to let Afghanistan’s neighbors worry about it. From Doug Bandow at aeir.org:

Washington’s tragic misadventure in Afghanistan is over. Despite the botched ending, America’s withdrawal was long overdue. Central Asia never warranted so much U.S. attention.

Afghanistan first drew Washington in after the Soviets invaded. Few Americans knew where the country was. None expressed an interest in building a modern nation there. The idea was simple: arm Afghans to kill Moscow’s soldiers, thereby weakening what President Ronald Reagan accurately called the Evil Empire. Spread democracy and equal rights for women? Not so much.

A decade later the U.S.S.R.’s legions fled back into the Soviet Union. A couple years after that the Soviet-supported state collapsed, which was followed by a civil war among the victorious Mujahedeen. Washington had poured torrents of cash into Afghanistan, but foolishly allowed Pakistan to dole it out. This empowered radical jihadists, including Osama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda, Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the anti-Western Haqqani Network, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the radical Islamist Hezb-e-Islami, theParty of Islam. Some Americans complained that Washington didn’t stick around to “help” the Afghans. Had it done so, Americans would have been treated like Russians—shot at on their way out.

In 1994 a group called the Taliban arose. It enforced a 7th century fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. By 1996, it won control of most of the country by suppressing the Mujahedeen, and ending the chaotic violence which enveloped the country. The Taliban looked inward.

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It Looks Like We Forgot, by Peter Van Buren

In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. It’s become a hard-and-fast rule, particularly in the military. From Peter Van Buren at theamericanconservative.com:

Twenty years later, the people who ruined everything are still sitting on top.

Apr. 2, 2003 – U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.)

I know it’s almost October, but I’m not done with 9/11. I know we had the 20th anniversary, promised for a day to never forget whatever, and then an old-looking Bruce Springsteen rose to sing about everyone dying around him. (Read the room, Bruce.) But missing from the day was a hard look at what happened over the last 20 years.

Before we move on, can we address that? Because after the symbolic Big Two-Zero anniversary, and with Afghanistan sputtering out of our consciousness, this might be the last 9/11 article.

Part of the reason for the lack of introspection over 9/11 is the corporate media went back for “takes” two decades later to the same people who screwed everything up. It’s kind of like inviting students to grade themselves. It was familiar, like the parade of generals following the Vietnam war who blamed the politicians and vice-versa. I wanted a browser widget that blocked 9/11 commentary from any of the people who were wrong about WMD, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, or Yemen. The last thing anyone needed was to hear David Petraeus’s or Condi Rice’s take on anything.

Yet, as if to create the anti-widget of my dreams, the Washington Post instead reviewed the sprawling literature to emerge from 9/11 over the past two decades—what they generously called “works of investigation, memoir, and narrative by journalists and former officials.” The books included on the list were written by people taking post-mortem credit for issuing warnings they themselves never acted on, agencies blaming other agencies as if all that happened was the FBI lost a pickup softball game to the CIA, and, of course, journalists who helped sell the whole WMD line profiting off their mini-embeds to write a new “classic” war book about What It’s Really Like Out There, Man.

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The dangerous rise of a new stab-in-the-back myth, by Joe Cirincione

After every lost war, the cheerleaders for it always come up with some stab-in-the-back myth about why the war was lost (these myths are never called “conspiracy theories”). The cheerleaders go on to the next war and those who questioned the war from the get-go generally end up writing articles for obscure websites (like SLL). From Joe Cirincione at responsiblestatecraft.org:

The foreign policy elite are focused on defending their reputations and privileges, not in confronting failure in Afghanistan.

When the Nazi Party consolidated power in Germany in 1933, they enshrined into their version of history the myth that the German Army had not lost in the Great War but had been “stabbed in the back” by cowardly civilian politicians, Jews, communists and socialists.

After maneuvering to get Socialist political leaders to sign the armistice (and, thus, take the blame for it), German General Erich Ludendorff popularized the Dolchstoss Legende. “The lie that German democracy, not the earlier authoritarian regime, was responsible for the disaster of World War I,” writes historian Jeffrey Herf, “figured prominently in the right-wing propaganda assault on the Weimar Republic.” The Nazis then used the lie to paint fascism as a restoration of Germany’s honor and justify persecution of their domestic opponents.

President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger created a similar myth to claim that the United States could have won the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos had they not been undermined by the antiwar movement, liberals and the press. “The stab-in-the-back theme developed into a full-fledged explanation for American defeat after the war ended,” wrote historian Jeffrey Kimball in 1988, “and as another, related debate unfolded over the causes of failure and the future of policy.”

Years before becoming former President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, wrote an entire book, Dereliction of Duty, using a variant of the concept. He claimed we lost the Indochina wars because weak generals did not stand up to civilian leaders. The “war was lost in Washington, D.C.,” he claimed, barely acknowledging the tenacity and strategy of the Vietnamese.

As Kimball notes, this is not just an effort by the losers of wars to find scapegoats for their defeat. It is part of the struggle to shape future policy. After 9/11, the myth was used to counter the so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” — the twenty years when America turned away from launching major wars — and manipulate a fearful American public into waging a series of new wars in the Middle East.

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Eurasia Takes Shape: How the SCO Just Flipped the World Order, by Pepe Escobar

Lately Russia and China have been much more successful with their various initiatives across Eurasia and the Middle East than whatever the Western powers have been trying to do in those areas. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia. Photo Credit: The Cradle

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

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Biden Administration Blocks rescue of Persecuted Christians from Afghanistan, by Raymond Ibrahim

Christians are often persecuted in Muslim majority countries and Afghanistan is no exception. Are government has done almost nothing to help persecuted Christians in that country, where they are often seen as symbols of the West. From Raymond Ibrahim at gatestoneinstitute.org:

  • “The State Department has blocked us every step of the way. The State Department and the White House have been the biggest problem.  Everyone else, everyone else, has been working together, putting aside differences and trying to get these people to safety. The State Department and the White House have blocked us every single step of the way. In fact, an ambassador was called in Macedonia last night and told not to accept any of these people… We have to send people into even greater danger to try to smuggle these Christians out, who are marked not just for death, but to be set on fire alive because they’re converted Christians.”   — Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson Tonight, August 26, 2021.
  • Although nearly 80 percent of all persecution Christians experience around the globe is committed in the Islamic world, Afghanistan is actually the worst of all Muslim nations.
  • According to the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 nations in which Christians are most persecuted for their faith, Afghanistan is the second-worst nation in the world, followed on the heels of the worst nation, North Korea…. That report was published nine months ago — when a U.S.-supported government ran Afghanistan. Since then, matters have only significantly worsened for Christians….
  • Even worse, because U.S. and Western leadership are careful not to show any interest in Christian minorities — a sentiment that goes hand in hand with Western acquiescence to “Islamic sensibilities” — they are more prone to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians than even some Muslim governments.
While preventing Christian victims of Islamic terror from escape or entry into the US, the Biden administration is possibly granting refugee status to countless, inadequately vetted male Muslims from Afghanistan — not a few of whom may share in the same worldview as ISIS and the Taliban. Pictured: Afghans, hoping to leave Afghanistan, line up at the main entrance gate of Kabul airport on August 28, 2021. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration is preventing the rescue of persecuted Christian minorities from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, where they face certain and likely gruesome death.

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What US Defeat in Afghanistan Means for China, by Alfred W. McCoy

The US government will not bounce back on the world stage as it did after Vietnam. From Alfred W. McCoy at consortiumnews.com:

For the implications of U.S. global power, the collapse of Kabul was incomparably worse than the fall of Saigon, writes Alfred W. McCoy. 

Chinese cargo trucks awaiting Pakistan customs clearance in 2007 at Sost, the last town inside Pakistan before the Chinese border. (Anthony Maw, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The collapse of the American project in Afghanistan may fade fast from the news in the U.S., but don’t be fooled. It couldn’t be more significant in ways few in the country can even begin to grasp.

“Remember, this is not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a television audience on Aug. 15, the day the Taliban swept into the Afghan capital, pausing to pose for photos in the grandly gilded presidential palace. He was dutifully echoing his boss, President Joe Biden, who had earlier rejected any comparison with the fall of the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, in 1975, insisting that “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.”

Both were right, but not in the ways they intended. Indeed, the collapse of Kabul was not comparable. It was worse, incomparably so. And its implications for the future of U.S. global power are far more serious than the loss of Saigon.

On the surface, similarities abound. In both South Vietnam and Afghanistan, Washington spent 20 years and countless billions of dollars building up massive, conventional armies, convinced that they could hold off the enemy for a decent interval after the U.S. departure. But presidents Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam and Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan both proved to be incompetent leaders who never had a chance of retaining power without continued fulsome American backing.

Amid a massive North Vietnamese offensive in the spring of 1975, President Thieu panicked and ordered his army to abandon the northern half of the country, a decision that precipitated Saigon’s fall just six weeks later. As the Taliban swept across the countryside this summer, President Ghani retreated into a fog of denial, insisting his troops defend every remote, rural district, allowing the Taliban to springboard from seizing provincial capitals to capturing Kabul in just 10 days.

With the enemy at the gates, President Thieu filled his suitcases with clinking gold bars for his flight into exile, while President Ghani (according to Russian reports) snuck off to the airport in a cavalcade of cars loaded with cash. As enemy forces entered Saigon and Kabul, helicopters ferried American officials from the U.S. embassy to safety, even as surrounding city streets swarmed with panicked local citizens desperate to board departing flights.

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Covid, 9/11 & Forever War, by Kit Knightly

For our rulers, the only thing better than a perpetual war on a tactic—terrorism—will be a perpetual war on germs. If will give them even more power born of fear and panic. From Kit Knightly at off-guardian.org:

From the war on terror to the “pandemic”, the elite are constructing fake threats to start wars that never have to end.

The war was not meant to be won. It was meant to be continuous.
George Orwell, 1984

Our 9/11 coverage this year, the 20th anniversary, has been focused on viewing the attacks of 2001 through the lens of the Covid “pandemic” rollout.

The point is not that both Covid19 and 9/11 are necessarily part of the same grand plan, were carried out by the same people, or were in any way directly connected. Rather, they are thematically connected, on the meta-level.

They spring from the same collective urge all rulers and governments harbour, and are employed to the same end.

They are different tools designed to achieve the same end. Different approaches to the same problem. Different evolutionary stages of the same animal: The decades-long change in the core aims of warfare and even the very meaning of “war” itself.

War has always been vital to the preservation of the state. Wars make rulers rich, and people scared. They unite nations behind leaders, and distract from domestic political issues.

But, as nations become more powerful, weapon technology more advanced, and global power centralises in giant corporations rather than nations, war – in the traditional sense – becomes more expensive, more dangerous, and largely meaningless.

Essentially the old-fashioned motivations for warfare no longer apply, but the ancillary domestic benefits of war-like policy remain. While the state, and their corporate backers, no longer need to take part in pitched battles over the best farmland, they do still need their subjects to believe they are under attack.

In short, by necessity, “war” has gradually shifted from genuine inter-state conflicts over control of resources, into a top-down tool of psychological manipulation.

And the first stage of that evolution was 9/11.

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Twenty Years on, We’ve Learned Nothing From 9/11, by Ron Paul

Those who cannot learn from the past are destined for high office or other well-paid, prestigious Washington sinecures. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

Nothing upset the Washington Beltway elites more than when in a 2007 presidential debate I pointed out the truth about the 9/11 attacks: they attacked us because we’ve been in the Middle East, sanctioning and bombing the civilian population, for decades. The 9/11 attackers were not motivated to commit suicide terrorism on the Twin Towers and Pentagon because they dislike our freedoms, as then-President Bush claimed. That was a self-serving lie.

They hated – and hate – us because we kill them for no reason. Day after day. Year after year. Right up until just a few days ago, when President Biden slaughtered Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family – including seven children – in Afghanistan. The Administration bragged about taking out a top ISIS target. But they lied. Ahmadi was just an aid worker, working for a California-based organization, bringing water to suffering Afghan village residents.

This horror has been repeated thousands of times, over and over, for decades. Does Washington believe these people are subhuman? That they somehow don’t care about their relatives being killed? That they don’t react as we would react if a foreign power slaughtered our families?

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously suggested in an interview that killing half a million Iraqi children with sanctions designed to remove Saddam Hussein from power was “worth it.” It was an admission that the lives of innocents mean nothing to the Washington elite, even as they paint their murderous interventions as some kind of “humanitarian liberation.” The slogan of the US foreign policy establishment really should be, “No Lives Matter.”

The Washington foreign policy elites – Republicans and Democrats – are deeply corrupt and act contrary to US national interests. They pretend that decades of indiscriminate bombing overseas are beneficial to the victims and keep us safer as well. That is how they are able, year after year, to convince Congress to hand over a trillion dollars – money taken directly and indirectly from average Americans. They use fear and lies for their own profit. And they call themselves patriots.

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