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Tag Archives: Afghanistan

The U.S. Military’s Lost Wars, by William J. Astore

Once upon a time militaries were supposed to win wars. From William J. Astore ate tomdispatch.com:

Overfunded, Overhyped, and Always Over There

One of the finest military memoirs of any generation is Defeat Into Victory, British Field Marshal Sir William Slim’s perceptive account of World War II’s torturous Burma campaign, which ended in a resounding victory over Japan. When America’s generals write their memoirs about their never-ending war on terror, they’d do well to choose a different title: Victory Into Defeat. That would certainly be more appropriate than those on already published accounts like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez’s Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story (2008), or General Stanley McChrystal’s My Share of the Task (2013).

Think about it. America’s Afghan War began in 2001 with what was essentially a punitive raid against the Taliban, part of which was mythologized last year in 12 Strong, a Hollywood film with a cavalry charge that echoed the best of John Wayne. That victory, however, quickly turned first into quagmire and then, despite various “surges” and a seemingly endless series of U.S. commanders (17 so far), into a growing sense of inevitable defeat. Today, a resurgent Taliban exercises increasing influenceover the hearts, minds, and territory of the Afghan people. The Trump administration’s response so far has been a mini-surge of several thousand troops, an increase in air and drone strikes, and an attempt to suppressaccurate reports from the Pentagon’s special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction about America’s losing effort there.

Turn now to the invasion of Iraq: in May 2003, President George W. Bush cockily announced “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier, only to see victory in Baghdad degenerate into insurgency and a quagmire conflict that established conditions for the rise of the Islamic State. Gains in stability during a surge of U.S. forces orchestrated by General David Petraeus in 2007 and hailed in Washington as a fabulous success story proved fragile and reversible. An ignominious U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011 was followed in 2014 by the collapse of that country’s American-trained and armed military in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State militants. A recommitment of U.S. troops and air power brought Stalingrad-style devastation to cities like Mosul and Ramadi, largely reduced to rubble, while up to 1.3 million children were displaced from their homes. All in all, not exactly the face of victory.

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Mr President. End This Shameful War Now! By Eric S. Margolis

The US has no business being in Afghanistan. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan.  This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war.  So far it has   cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US.  These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists.  This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

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The US Military Is Winning… No, Really, It Is! by Nick Turse

The US can “win” every war in which it engages, simply by having the military stay put wherever it’s inserted, and calling that winning. From Nick Turse at tomdispatch.com:

A Simple Equation Proves That the U.S. Armed Forces Have Triumphed in the War on Terror

4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later.

But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945. That’s what winning used to look like in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.

Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington.  After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as much as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in. That veterans association, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August statement suggesting that the planned parade should be put on hold “until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home.” Soon after, the president announced that he had canceled the parade and blamed local Washington officials for driving up the costs (even though he was evidently never briefed by the Pentagon on what its price tag might be).

The American Legion focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump’s proposed march, but its postponement should have raised an even more significant question: What would “victory” in the war on terror even look like? What, in fact, constitutes an American military victory in the world today? Would it in any way resemble the end of the Civil War, or of the war to end all wars, or of the war that made that moniker obsolete? And here’s another question: Is victory a necessary prerequisite for a military parade.

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Washington’s Backfiring Bombing, by Brian Cloughley

Bombing is not a particularly intelligent way to conduct foreign policy. From Brian Cloughley at strategic-culture.org:

Wikipedia tells us that “The Times Square Ball is a… prominent part of a New Year’s Eve celebration commonly referred to as the ball drop, where the ball descends 43 metres in 60 seconds… to signal the start of the new year.” It’s one of these silly things that is quite appealing in the spirit of the Christmas-New Year season, and most of us have a chuckle and consider ourselves slightly foolish for enjoying it.

But there was another and less amusing ball-drop on New Year’s Day, involving a tweet from US Strategic Forces Command or Stratcom, which declares it “deters strategic attack and employs forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of our nation and our allies” In the gobbledegook language of the military it, amongst other things “deters catastrophic actions from adversaries and poses an immediate threat to any actor who questions US resolve by demonstrating our capabilities.”

According to Stars and Stripes, the Stratcom tweet read “Times Square tradition rings in the New Year by dropping the big ball… if ever needed, we are ready to drop something much, much bigger.” As greetings go, you couldn’t get much more crass, confrontational and puerile than that.

The Washington Post noted that an embedded video “showed footage of a B-2 stealth bomber. As the words STEALTH, READY and LETHAL flashed across the screen, the aircraft released bombs. They fall to the ground and crash with a fiery explosion.” Just another video game, really.

The tweet was withdrawn with the apology that it “was in poor taste & does not reflect our values” but it is obvious that the original message is the one that Stratcom, the US Air Force and Washington as a whole want to send : their “values” include being “ready to drop something much, much bigger” on targets all round the world, and they’ve been blitzing with depressing frequency for many years. A month before the big ball bomb tweet Reuters reported that “At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed in US air strikes in the Afghan province of Helmand, officials and residents of the area said on Wednesday [November 28], the latest casualties from a surge in air operations aimed at driving the Taliban into talks.”

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Doug Casey on Syria and Afghanistan

It’s never too late to abandon a bad idea. From Doug Casey at caseyresearch.com:

Justin’s note: President Trump is pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria.

And frankly, it’s about damn time. After all, the U.S. government has already wasted more than $1 trillion fighting these wars, not to mention all the lives that have been lost.

Still, many people are critical of this decision. To find out why, I got Doug Casey on the phone. Below, you’ll find his take on this important development…


Justin: Doug, Trump is pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria. And I think most Americans would agree that this is the right thing to do.

But both Democrat and Republican politicians have been highly critical of this decision. Why is that?

Doug: It’s more clear evidence of how the Deep State has totally captured the U.S. government. Recall that the Deep State is not a formal conspiracy of any type. It’s composed of perhaps a couple thousand powerful congressmen, bureau chiefs, lobbyists, corporate heads, generals, lawyers, academics, and media people that share a common worldview.

The character of the U.S. has changed a lot since the Vietnam War. And quite radically over the last generation or so. Constant low-grade war is today’s leitmotif. The U.S. is actively at war in at least two countries, has something on the order of 700 or 800 bases in over 100 other countries, and is constantly prodding the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians, among others.

U.S. soldiers are not welcome in any of the places where they’re stationed – except by local quislings, professional cronies, and lickspittles. So pulling out of Afghanistan and Syria – however belatedly – is one of the few intelligent things that Trump said he was going to do and may actually do. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

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The Mattis Dilemma, by Philip Giraldi

James Mattis fell on the sword of policies that haven’t worked in order not to have to support policies that might work. From Philip Giraldi at strategic-culture.org:

The resignation letter of Secretary of Defense James Mattis that was published last Thursday revealed much of the Deep State mindset that has produced the foreign policy catastrophes of the past seventeen years. Mattis, an active duty general in the Marine Corps who reportedly occasionally reads books, received a lot of good press during his time at Defense, sometimes being referred to as “the only adult in the room” when President Donald Trump’s national security and foreign policy team was meeting. Conveniently forgotten are Mattis comments relating to how to “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” His sobriquet in the Corps was “Mad Dog.”

In the media firestorm that has followed upon General Mattis’s resignation, he has been generally lauded as a highly experienced and respected leader who has numerous friends on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Of course, the press coverage should be taken with a grain of salt as it is designed less to praise Mattis and more to get at Trump over the decision to leave Syria, which is being assailed by both neoliberals and neoconservatives who believe that war is the health of the state.

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Afghanistan, the Longest War in American History, by Doug Bandow

Afghanistan is not only the longest war in American history, it may be the most senseless. From Doug Bandow at theamericanconservative.com:

A Marine says goodbye to 1st Lt. Scott J. Fleming during his memorial service at Patrol Base Jaker, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2010.  Official U.S. Marine Corps photo/Sgt. Mark Fayloga

When President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing troops from Syria, shock and hysteria filled Washington. The screaming grew louder when it was reported that the president also intended to remove half of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with the rest likely to come home at the end of 2019.

Afghanistan is the longest war in American history, outlasting the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and Korean War combined. U.S. soldiers will soon be deploying to a war that started before they were born. Today the Taliban is advancing while the Kabul government is in disarray. Few believe that the latter, irrespective of who is president, can survive absent Washington’s support.

Both President Barack Obama’s and President Trump’s Afghan strategy appeared designed to push the inevitable collapse onto a future administration. Never mind that Americans still die in Afghanistan. No official wants to be the one to declare that thousands of lives and billions of dollars to have been wasted.

Yet going into his presidency Trump stated: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan.” However, he surrounded himself with conventional thinkers as national security advisers, unwilling to admit the obvious. Then he allowed himself to be talked into temporarily increasing U.S. force levels.

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