“A Saigon Moment” is a nice way of saying that the US withdraws from a country disgraced, with its tail between its legs. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:
A Taliban fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan’s third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege, August 13, 2021. Photo: AFP
August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.
In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.
First thing in the morning, they took Ghazni, which is situated around 140 kilometers from Kabul. The repaved highway is in good condition. Not only are the Taliban moving closer and closer to Kabul: for all practical purposes they now control the nation’s top artery, Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar via Ghazni.
That in itself is a strategic game-changer. It will allow the Taliban to encircle and besiege Kabul simultaneously from north and south, in a pincer movement.
Kandahar fell by nightfall after the Taliban managed to breach the security belt around the city, attacking from several directions.
In Ghazni, provincial governor Daoud Laghmani cut a deal, fled and then was arrested. In Kandahar, provincial governor Rohullah Khanzada – who belongs to the powerful Popolzai tribe – left with only a few bodyguards.
He opted to engage in an elaborate deal, convincing the Taliban to allow the remaining military to retreat to Kandahar airport and be evacuated by helicopter. All their equipment, heavy weapons and ammunition should be transferred to the Taliban.
Afghan Special Forces represented the cream of the crop in Kandahar. Yet they were only protecting a few select locations. Now their next mission may be to protect Kabul. The final deal between the governor and the Taliban should be struck soon. Kandahar has indeed fallen.
The Chinese and Russians watched the US pour blood and treasure into Afghanistan and get less than nothing for it. Now, if the US is really getting out of Afghanistan, it’s somebody else’s turn. From Doug Bandow at antiwar.com:
The U.S. is leaving Afghanistan – finally, after two decades. The result is not likely to be pretty. Government soldiers are surrendering. Taliban forces are advancing. Kabul officials are panicking. The Biden administration is desperately trying to slow the regime’s incipient collapse with resumed airstrikes.
It is a tragic situation, but, looking back, at least, appears inevitable. The Afghan civil war is in its 40th year. The US has been involved for almost 20 years. The US quickly achieved its initial objectives, disrupting al-Qaeda for conducting the 9/11 terrorist attacks and punishing the Taliban for hosting a-Qaeda.
However, expanding the mission to nation-building proved to be a bust. Despite the expenditure of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, the result was essentially a Potemkin state. The Kabul authorities always were less than ideal: when I visited Afghanistan, I found no Afghan with anything good to say about his or her government who did not work for it.
Even the regime’s decidedly limited authority began evaporating the moment President Joe Biden announced his intention to withdraw. America’s effort had neither created a real country nor convinced the Afghan people to fight for their government. Although the special forces, along with some regular units, continue to fight bravely, there likely are too few loyalists to sustain government control of major urban areas, let alone the entire country.
Posted in Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Military, Politics
Tagged Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, US withdrawal
The US’s involvement in Afghanistan has been an enormous mistake, and it’s probably not over notwithstanding the hype around the announced withdrawal. From Eric S. Margolis at lewrockwell.com:
The US-led war in Afghanistan looks to be ending, and not a day too soon. America’s father, Benjamin Franklin, wisely wrote: ‘No good war; no bad peace.’
Yet for 20 years, the United States waged all-out war against this small, remote, impoverished state whose only weapons were old AK47 rifles and the boundless courage of its fierce people.
In my first book about Afghanistan, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ written after being in the field with the anti-Soviet ‘mujahidin’ warriors, I called them ‘the bravest men on earth.’ Now, some 21 years later, I repeat this title.
For the past two decades, the Afghan nationalist mujahidin have faced the full might of the US empire: waves of B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers; fleets of killer drones, constant air strikes from US airbases in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Gulf; 300,000 US-financed Afghan mercenary troops; up to 120,000 US and NATO troops and other US-paid mercenaries; the brutal Communist-run Afghan secret police, regular government police, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek militias, hit squads sent by the US and Britain, plus famine and disease. Use of torture by western forces was rampant.
All this to defend the US-installed Afghan puppet governments whose main business was protecting the nation’s growing opium trade which made Afghanistan the world’s largest exporter of opium/morphine that was processed into heroin. Another proud moment for Washington which, in the 1970’s had been up to its ears in Indochina’s opium trade, and later in Central America’s cocaine business.
The Soviet Union made a mess of Afghanistan. So did the US. Now it’s China’s turn. From Con Coughlin at gatestoneinstitute.org:
- China, which shares a tiny 47-mile-long border with Afghanistan, has long coveted developing closer ties with Kabul, not least because of the large, untapped reserves of mineral wealth that Afghanistan possesses.
- Rich in copper, lithium, marble, gold and uranium, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has been estimated to exceed in excess of $1 trillion….
- Beijing already enjoys good relations with neighbouring Pakistan, where the country’s charismatic prime minister, Imran Khan, was once dubbed “Taliban Khan” for supporting the Islamist movement.
- As part of Beijing’s efforts to deepen and broaden its ties in Central Asia, Beijing is also concentrating its efforts on expanding its influence in Afghanistan, a policy it expects will bear fruit if the Taliban achieve their goal of seizing control of the entire country.
- Mr Biden, judging by his spirited defence of his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, clearly believes that it is in America’s interests to end its two-decade-long involvement in the country. But if the US withdrawal simply opens the way for China to become the new dominant power in Afghanistan, then Mr Biden will be responsible for causing, so far as the West is concerned, a strategic disaster of epic proportions.
|China, which shares a tiny 47-mile-long border with Afghanistan, has long coveted developing closer ties with Kabul, not least because of the large, untapped reserves of mineral wealth that Afghanistan possesses. Pictured: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left), Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (center) and Afghanistan’s then Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani at the China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers Dialogue in Islamabad, on September 7, 2019. (Photo credit by AFP via Getty Images)
The indecent haste with which the Biden administration has undertaken its military withdrawal from Afghanistan not only raises the prospect of handing control of the country over to the hardline Islamist Taliban movement. It also presents China with a golden opportunity to extend its influence over this strategically important Central Asian country.
There never seems to be a “right” time for Washington to withdraw from its forever wars. One possibility the author doesn’t consider is that it’s not fear, but rather a gravy train of out and out intelligence and military corruption that leads to perpetual war in places like Afghanistan. From Dan DePetris at responsiblestatecraft.org:
n the days since the Trump administration announced the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Beltway has turned into the epicenter of righteous condemnation.
Lawmakers like Republican Sen. Ben Sasse are issuing mealy-mouthed press statements calling the troop drawdown a modern-day retreat from evil terrorist forces. Retired 4-Star Generals, including John Allen and Joseph Votel, are wondering why the White House would deliberately hand Afghanistan over to the Taliban when there is so much more work to do.
One of the most sanctimonious denunciations of the withdrawal came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who scurried to the Senate floor on the eve of the announcement to make his displeasure known: “The consequences of a premature American exit…would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975.”
The American public has heard all of this before. Invocations of Vietnam, claims about terrorist vacuums, and the levying of emotionally stultifying words like “retreat” are par for the course in Washington. But the last several days of huffing and puffing from the usual, so-called national security “experts” have been so obscenely dishonest that one wonders why they are consulted at all.
The talking point of a U.S. withdrawal being rushed or irresponsible is perhaps the most laughable of the bunch. The term “precipitous” has been used by opponents of the withdrawal so many times over the last several days that some journalists are habitually injecting it into their own reports. “Precipitous,” however, connotes a disorganized, panicked sprint to the exits. Trump’s decision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in the country is anything but — the administration has made it abundantly clear that Trump sees no point in throwing good money after bad in one of the most violent and corrupt places on earth. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien telegraphed the move to bring U.S. force levels in Afghanistan to 2,500 over four weeks ago. Nobody should be surprised. Nor should movement towards a final exit from a war that just entered its 20th year be referred to as a “precipitous” action.
The thinking of the American military-industrial-intelligence complex is that once you’re in a country, you can’t just say it was a mistake getting in and get out. From Daniel Larison at theamericanconservative.com:
Having failed to overthrow the government there, we’re now penalizing the civilian population for our failure. Enough is enough.
AFP via Getty Images
Why are there still thousands of American troops in Syria? The government offers up an official counter-terrorism justification for maintaining an illegal military presence in the country, and the president will sometimes talk about “keeping the oil” there, but the real answer is that no one with any authority or influence in Washington wants to bring them home. The usual mix of inertia, cowardice, and ideology that defines so many of our foreign policy debates also creates perverse incentives for politicians in both parties to defend an illegal, unauthorized mission that has nothing to do with American security.
U.S. troops are in harm’s way in Syria, and they are occasionally engaged in hostilities with pro-regime forces. Four American soldiers were injured in a collision last Wednesday between their armored vehicle and a Russian one. That was just the latest in a string of clashes between U.S. forces and Syrian and Russian government forces that has been going on for months. Last month, a group of American troops came under fire from Syrian government forces. The Syrians claim that a U.S. helicopter had attacked a Syrian government outpost and killed one of their soldiers. There was a bigger clash in February of this year that also resulted in at least one Syrian fatality. These have all been minor incidents, but they show how potentially dangerous it is to keep these troops there.
The longer those troops remain in a country where they aren’t wanted, the more likely it is that some of them will end up getting seriously injured or killed. That would be a senseless waste of lives, and could trigger a larger conflict that could claim many more. Even if the U.S. avoids the worst-case scenario of a new war, there is still no good reason for American troops to be in Syria. All of them need to be pulled out as soon as possible.
The indispensable nation does have to leave any place it doesn’t want to, even when it’s asked to do so. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:
President Trump’s decision earlier this month to assassinate Iran’s top military general on Iraqi soil – over the objection of the Iraqi government – has damaged the US relationship with its “ally” Iraq and set the region on the brink of war. Iran’s measured response – a few missiles fired on an Iraqi base after advance warning was given – is the only reason the US is not mired in another Middle East war.
Trump said his decision to assassinate Gen. Qassim Soleimani was intended to prevent a war, not start a war. But no one in his right mind would think that killing another country’s top military leader would not leave that country annoyed, to say the least. Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) said the Trump Administration’s briefing to Congress on its evidence to back up claims that Soleimani was about to launch attacks against the US was among the worst briefings they’d ever attended.
What kind of arrogant assholes insists that the US stay in Iraq, a putative ally, when that nation doesn’t want us there? From Steven Sahiounie at mintpressnews.com:
Even amongst Iraq’s more pro-US factions, the calls for “Yankee go home” have grown increasingly louder.
Iranian forces launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against two military bases housing US troops in Iraq early hours of Wednesday morning. The al-Assad airbase in western Iraq was hit by 17 missiles, and 5 targeted at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil. No US casualties were immediately reported.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the attack a “slap in the face” of the US, and observers seem to question whether the attack was designed to kill or inflict casualties, or was it carefully orchestrated to produce closure to a situation which could have escalated into a regional or perhaps world war. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said he was informed of the attack by Iran ahead of time, which acted as a safety valve after he, in turn, informed US commanders.
Iraqi militias may now begin attacks of revenge for the US assassination of the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who died alongside Soleimani in the drone strike on Friday. Iraqi militia leader Qais al-Khazali said today his group’s retaliation should be “no less than the size of the Iranian response.”
The headline would have been just as appropriate in 2002, and the US would have saved much American treasure and both US and Afghan blood. From Kurt Schlichter at theburningplatform.com:
Surprising no one, recent revelations demonstrate that not only is Afghanistan a hopeless wreck but our glorious foreign policy elite has been lying about it for going on two decades. Remember, these people are our betters, our moral superiors, the people we should genuflect to and obey because of their wisdom and insights and credentials. And they are lying garbage people. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous impeachment foolishness, maybe our country could focus on this endless disaster – and one that is still killing our best and our bravest.
Here’s the bottom line. Donald Trump’s instincts were right when he looked at this Seventh Century wasteland and asked (I’m paraphrasing), “What the hell are we doing still being here?”
We need to get out of Afghanistan yesterday. The 4K Trump’s supposed to be pulling out soon should be the down payment. Bring our troops all home.
How does the US get out of its interminable foreign interventions? Try just walking away. From Laurence Vance at lewrockwell.com:
After more than seventeen years of war in Afghanistan, most Americans have simply accepted the perpetual war for perpetual peace that the war has become. U.S. soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan, but no one seems to notice—expect perhaps the parents, wife, and three children of Sergeant Major James G. Sartor, who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado. Sartor “joined the Army in 2001 as an infantryman and had deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan.” He “had received more than two dozen awards and decorations and will posthumously receive a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.”
It seems that conservatives are always making excuses for the imperialistic, militaristic, reckless, belligerent, and meddling U.S. foreign policy that keeps American soldiers in Afghanistan and countless other places around the world.
A case in point is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who “studies US foreign policy and defense strategy,” and is also “the Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).”