More Afghan War Lies

Like much of Biden’s face, America’s Afghan War is kept hidden behind a dark mask (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

W.J. Astore

President Biden has announced that all U.S. military combat troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 9/11/2021. That date was chosen deliberately and cynically. Recall that 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi. Recall that Osama bin Laden was Saudi. Recall that it was Al Qaeda, not the Taliban in Afghanistan, that was behind the 9/11 attacks on America. Yet America’s Afghan War has always been falsely advertised as both preemptive and preventative, i.e. America went to war to preempt another 9/11-style attack and has continued that war to prevent similar attacks coming from Afghanistan. It’s a false narrative that has largely worked to sustain the Afghan War for twenty years, and Biden is reinforcing it.

Another critical issue: What does it really mean when Biden says those combat troops will be withdrawn? What it doesn’t mean is that the war will end. Doubtless the CIA and similar intelligence operatives will remain behind, shrouded in secrecy. Doubtless some special forces units will stay. Doubtless private contractors, many of them ex-military, will stay. Doubtless America will reserve the “right” to continue to bomb Afghanistan and to conduct drone strikes from halfway across the world, ostensibly in support of the Afghan “national” government in Kabul. So is the war really ending?

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is getting what it wants: a boosted budget (even above what Trump requested) and a future defined by plans for war with China and Russia (and perhaps Iran as well). I’ve seen plenty of articles screaming that China is building a powerful navy, that China is building dangerous missiles, that China is building advanced fighter jets, and so on, which is exactly what the Pentagon wants: a “near-peer” rival to justify even more military spending, especially for big-ticket items like aircraft carriers, fighters, bombers, missile defense systems, and so on.

Biden’s linking of the failed Afghan War to 9/11 and its forthcoming 20th anniversary is yet another exercise in pernicious lying by America’s vast national security state. Once again, we’re reminded that the first casualty in war is truth. And perhaps the last casualty of the Afghan War (whenever it really ends, at least for America) will also be truth.

63 thoughts on “More Afghan War Lies

  1. When I heard the announcement about a September 11th withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, my first thought was, “How tacky! Who’s the idiot who sold this to him as a good idea? This is bad on a scale worthy of the former guy.” But I guess they’re ignoring the breathtaking level of irony, and hoping the population is stupid enough not to get it, but instead see it as some kind of “closure.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Unless there’s a “terrible and unforeseen turn of events” that delays departure, US troops may very well be gone from Afghanistan by 09/11/2021 (“live” coverage on CNN).
    Of course, our mercenaries will still be there (contractors are people who add a room onto your house), the CIA will certainly be there, as well as other assorted non-military “operatives.” Someone is bound to point out that while we will still have “a presence” there will be no more “boots on the ground.” Our valiant men and women will no longer be “in harm’s way.”
    Air strikes, drone strikes, maybe even cruise missiles? Yes, yes, and yes.
    But America’s “best and brightest” won’t be there. But will they actually be “coming home” or merely redeployed to nearby bases, “just in case”? Hey … the important thing is we won’t be there (officially) anymore.
    Well, I for one, am glad all those Taliban airbases and missile complexes have been destroyed and their ability to strike the homeland right along with them. I will sleep easier here in The Land of Windmills, Wooden Shoes & Fine Chocolate knowing that my friends and family back home will no longer live under the fear of attack from “the Graveyard of Empires.” Like all of you, I look forward to the flood of photographs and video footage showing tearful Afghanis as their American friends depart and the heartwarming & heartbreaking stories that will accompany them.
    Of course, there are still those millions scattered throughout the middle east and, I hear, Africa, who have sworn their lives and the lives of all future generations to the destruction of America and our “way of life” but one thing at a time. We’ll settle their hash in another twenty years, just you wait and see.
    Oh, one question: when our troops pull out, will they be taking their anti-personnel mines with them? After twenty years, there are bound to be a few that haven’t gone off.
    (The cynicism of expatriates knows no bounds.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent use of your sarcasm font, sir. Masterful skewering of the ludicrous rationale for the invasion, the “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” mentality.


  3. I agree with Bill’s outlook even though I don’t have his Military background. “Doubtless the CIA and similar intelligence operatives will remain behind, shrouded in secrecy. Doubtless some special forces units will stay. Doubtless private contractors, many of them ex-military, will stay. Doubtless America will reserve the “right” to continue to bomb Afghanistan and to conduct drone strikes from halfway across the world, ostensibly in support of the Afghan “national” government in Kabul. So is the war really ending?”

    This new departure Date is what the rest of the World can see is so common with the America 1st mentality that was there when the US nuked the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just to show the World who the New Boss was after America took over Britain’s Imperial Mantle in this World.

    Other Nations increasingly can see the US is not to be Trusted for Stability and Continuity, when any President can change his or her mind over what came before, especially in these increasingly Volatile Times.

    Trump negotiated a US Pull out starting May 1. If Biden and his boys unilaterally changed that Date to September 11 without agreement by the Taliban, American soldiers are likely to become focused targets between May and September.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you BIll. Here’s for what it’s worth my comments written before reading you.
    Warning, this will be a long and emotional read. I did not listen to Biden, knowing I could probably not stomach it. So this is my reaction after merely the info about the 9/11 reference.

    Finally withdrawal, 19 years too late and without any logical – not to mention moral or ethical – rationale. The tasteless choice of the withdrawal date I suppose expected to remind the world that the 20 yrs of occupation of that country was somehow ‘legitimate’ because of 9/11. Too sick for words and just the latest proof that it’s all about ‘sexy’ sound bites & national political expedience rather than any proper policy or even strategy.

    So what will ‘total’ withdrawal mean ? Fighting military, ‘trainers’ (the absurdity of military who themselves cannot win any war, claiming to be fit to train others …), private contractors, special forces, intelligence forces (with those since many years embedded in USAID taking over ?), all NATO forces in the same categories ? And how about the military bases, Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif to name just a few major ones ? Will they be handed over to Afghan army ? In the same state as previous ‘abandoned’ ones which were stripped of anything that might be useful for the Afgan army – the one that we are supposed to be training and strengthening – down to even electrical wiring ? Not to mention leaving shooting ranges next to such bases littered with UXO which then is collected by local kids trying to make a living from scrap metal ? Killing or maiming them ?

    And now what ? I have long compared the ambivalent attitude of Afghans towards withdrawal with a patient with a sore tooth, who hopes that somehow magically the problem will disappear spontaneously. In reality, the longer you wait to have the infection removed, the worse it gets and you might end up with major drama. The US/NATO occupation being the caries.

    Obviously withdrawal in 2002 would have been preferable in every way, as the taliban then were very weak and the opium economy and corruption in their infancy compared to what they are now. But what’s more, people then only too well remembered the civil war which had ended just a few years earlier. They overwhelmingly wanted to end any fighting and start rebuilding their lives. So the scramble for power would probably have led to a civil war, but a relatively short one.

    Fast forward to 2021 with security steadily decreasing and exhaustion increasing over the years, there now are two generations who did not live through the previous civil war or at least were too young to remember its horrors. Add to that rampant unemployment, poppy economy, number of drug addicts and corruption (it takes two to tango also in that field – we are the ones who made poppies & corruption sky-rocket) not to mention Covid, and you have a perfect pool of potential cannon fodder for a civil war, as that will offer some sort of paid employment – even if it will be unreliable. Society at large has become agressive over those 20 years, as opposed to their initial positive attitude towards foreigners – grateful that the bombing had at least rid them of taliban rule – and to their careful optimism back then.

    Funny, when Bin Laden had been overstaying his welcome in Afghanistan, that country was collectively punished for not expelling him at three weeks’ notice. When the US/NATO are overstaying their welcome for 20 years, there’s nothing wrong with that … The completely mindless way in which the US/NATO now leave without having achieved any sustainable changes or road map for the immediate future (let alone asking the Afghans for their opinion in this matter) of course does not help either. Don’t be mistaken, the developmental improvements achieved should overwhelmingly be credited to the incredibly resilient and dedicated Afghans themselves, not us – and that includes my own development efforts there…

    Let’s just hope that the present day taliban are less un-yielding than those 20 years ago and will be open to a ‘reasonable’ power sharing option rather than ratcheting up warfare. And that rather than repeating the world’s reaction after the Soviet – true – withdrawal as well as our 2014 – phoney – one, this time there will be a serious effort to finance civilian development, crucial for keeping potential fighters peacefully employed and capable of feeding their families. Fat chance, with Covid and starvation rampant all over the world …
    And that the withdrawal will indeed happen and not be deferred once more based on whatever excuse at hand – ‘justifications’ which can all too easily be provoked.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, Pamela, your post is indeed emotional, and obviously heartfelt. And thoughtful. And piercing. You bring up questions that, as with Vietnam, will most likely never even be voiced by our leaders, let alone addressed or answered.


  5. The more serious threat facing This World, is the sabre-rattling going on NOW, with the US and Russia as Biden wants to let Putin know how tough he is with the US Military-Industrial Complex behind him.

    Naturally I was disappointed when the UK Independent Newspaper immediately Deleted or Cancel Cultured my comment within a minute of posting it in response to their article with the header, ‘Biden tells Putin to de-escalate troop buildup on Ukraine border.’

    Ukrainian officials claim there are 50,000 Russian troops along Russia’s western border and in Crimea, which accounts for 18 per cent of the country’s entire ground force.

    That’s a real token number, considering the whole geographical area of Crimea and that part of Ukraine joined directly at the Border with Russia.

    Of course the US/NATO wants Ukraine in NATO.
    Then US Troops would be Face to Face AT Russia’s Border, so far from the US, except for land or sea launched MISSILES, either Conventional or Nuclear?

    Washington saw more than half that number of Troops guarding just the Capital Building. The Russians had nothing to do with that.

    Talk about swallowing a camel and choking on a fly!!!


    What they did allow after that disabled post was this comment,
    With all the US Propaganda accusing Russia of being the aggressor, none of those Propagandists tell the Truth, of what came bBEFORE Russian Troop repositioning within Russia, in anticipation any possibility of Military Conflict at their Border initiated by Ukraine, US/NATO.

    US Propaganda leaves out reporting on the Ukrainian action that precipitated and compelled the Russian Troop movements as a precaution against the Western/NATO right to Russia’s Border.

    The Ukraine President effectively issued a Declaration of War against Russia.
    He would not have done it, if he did not get US support and encouragement for making the Declaration of War from the Biden Administration.
    Anyone who believes otherwise, doesn’t understand the machinations of POWER in this Material World.

    It’s the US and NATO doing the sabre rattling, not the Russians.

    The document that he signed is known as Decree No. 117/2021, and you won’t read anything reporting it in the US Western MSM Corporate media. It always has to be Russia’s Fault, or the flow of US Tax Dollars to the US Military-Industrial Complex would be trimmed to deal with the Practical Realities.

    In accordance with Article 107 of the Constitution of Ukraine, I decree:
    1. To put into effect the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of March 11, 2021 “On the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” (attached).

    2. To approve the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (attached).

    3. Control over the implementation of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, enacted by this Decree, shall be vested in the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

    4. This Decree shall enter into force on the day of its publication.
    President of Ukraine V.ZELENSKY
    March 24, 2021

    This decree makes it the official policy of the government of Ukraine to retake Crimea by force.
    Russia has every legitimate reason to get prepared for any eventuality at their Border.


  6. Thank all of you for your comments and insights. I am truly torn over whether the withdrawal is good or bad.

    It is well known that the Taliban kept Afghanistan in the dark ages and were especially restrictive and punitive towards women. Please view the Kite Runner for a glimpse of what life was like when the Taliban ruled. I fear for the women of Afghanistan who have held any position that is disapproved of by the Taliban when that organization regains control. The soccer stadium will be running blood!

    On the other hand, it is time for the Afghans to step up and fight for their freedom. They have had 20 years and one generation who have lived in freedom; now they need to choose whether to defend it or not. Perhaps that is too simple a thought but it seems that it is time for all to make a choice.

    Is there any way to protect the innocent from the revenge of the Taliban?
    Emigration is not an option for most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to have these concerns. But countries could say the same of the USA. For example, who will help women to receive pay equity in the US? To overcome sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape? To ensure access to medical care, including abortion rights? Alternatively, who will protect Blacks and other minorities in the USA from police prejudice? When will murders by police end? Who will intervene to reduce mass shootings and other violence in America?

      Of course, we as Americans want no one to intervene in our affairs. We’re the best, most exceptional, country so no one can help us, right? Because we’re better than them. So we think.

      Why can’t we leave the Afghan peoples to settle their problems without foreign interference? It’s what we would want … and we’d resist any country that tried to intervene in our domestic affairs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Also, we have to take Afghanis’ traditions and religion into account. Several years ago, I read a commentary by an Afghani woman, who said that she CHOOSES to wear the burka, because it expresses reverence for her religion. While some women obviously don’t want to be ruled by their husbands or male relatives, and don’t want to be veiled in public, we can’t assume that they ALL feel oppressed, just because American women would feel that way.


        1. too true, denise. when i chatyapped w/ some of the consociate school chums of our teenaged children and w/ my own friends during our years in the islamic countries of egypt and the hashemite kingdom of jordan, as well as islamic femmes in sierra leone, indonesia, malaysia, cambodia and here in the philippines, many admitted that they felt “relieved” to be able to practice the tradition of niqab or burka-veiling for multifarious reasons:

          they did not want to be stared at;
          they did not want boys detracting them from their studies;
          they felt unattractive compared to the alleged ‘pretty girls’;
          their faces had erupted in pimples and they were embarrassed;
          they did not have to waste time mulling over what to wear every morning;
          they did not want to bother brushing or washing their hair regularly;
          they did not want to bother w/ makeup;
          they were old and felt ugly… etc. etc.

          as you so accurately observed, denise, and i can asseverate, young, middle-aged, and the elderly women in multiple islamic ambits actually can CHOOSE to either cover or not cover, depending on their personal circumstances, finances, degrees of self-confidence, self-assurance, or self-image.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m curious to know what this means to you in your comment, “who have lived in freedom,” in the context of a War that is still going on after 20 years? Were you being facetious? I’m not sure?


  7. This article at Scheerpost explains how the war really isn’t over for the U.S.

    The Fine Print on Biden’s Afghanistan Announcement

    By Norman Solomon

    When I met a seven-year-old girl named Guljumma at a refugee camp in Kabul a dozen years ago, she told me that bombs fell early one morning while she slept at home in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley. With a soft, matter-of-fact voice, Guljumma described what happened. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm.

    Troops on the ground didn’t kill Guljumma’s relatives and leave her to live with only one arm. The U.S. air war did.

    There’s no good reason to assume the air war in Afghanistan will be over when — according to President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday — all U.S. forces will be withdrawn from that country.

    What Biden didn’t say was as significant as what he did say. He declared that “U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan” before Sept. 11. And “we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily.”

    But President Biden did not say that the United States will stop bombing Afghanistan. What’s more, he pledged that “we will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” a declaration that actually indicates a tacit intention to “stay involved in Afghanistan militarily.”

    And, while the big-type headlines and prominent themes of media coverage are filled with flat-out statements that the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end come September, the fine print of coverage says otherwise.

    The banner headline across the top of the New York Times homepage during much of Wednesday proclaimed: “Withdrawal of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Will End Longest American War.” But, buried in the thirty-second paragraph of a story headed “Biden to Withdraw All Combat Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11,” the Times reported: “Instead of declared troops in Afghanistan, the United States will most likely rely on a shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives to find and attack the most dangerous Qaeda or Islamic State threats, current and former American officials said.”

    Matthew Hoh, a Marine combat veteran who in 2009 became the highest-ranking U.S. official to resign from the State Department in protest of the Afghanistan war, told my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy on Wednesday: “Regardless of whether the 3,500 acknowledged U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the U.S. military will still be present in the form of thousands of special operations and CIA personnel in and around Afghanistan, through dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the region, and by hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.”

    We scarcely hear about it, but the U.S. air war on Afghanistan has been a major part of Pentagon operations there. And for more than a year, the U.S. government hasn’t even gone through the motions of disclosing how much of that bombing has occurred.

    “We don’t know, because our government doesn’t want us to,” diligent researchers Medea Benjamin and Nicolas Davies wrote last month. “From January 2004 until February 2020, the U.S. military kept track of how many bombs and missiles it dropped on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and published those figures in regular, monthly Airpower Summaries, which were readily available to journalists and the public. But in March 2020, the Trump administration abruptly stopped publishing U.S. Airpower Summaries, and the Biden administration has so far not published any either.”

    The U.S. war in Afghanistan won’t end just because President Biden and U.S. news media tell us so. As Guljumma and countless other Afghan people have experienced, troops on the ground aren’t the only measure of horrific warfare.

    No matter what the White House and the headlines say, U.S. taxpayers won’t stop subsidizing the killing in Afghanistan until there is an end to the bombing and “special operations” that remain shrouded in secrecy.


    1. All too true. In fact it has been a militarised special operations matter right from the beginning, rather than what we usually call ‘war’. And plenty of those operatives are already embedded in supposedly civilian development efforts. Like the young American who not only was fluent in French, but also knew Dari & Pashtu while being extremly vague about his professional background. Had studied political science and supposedly had learned the latter two languages by living in Afghanistan without any employment for one year. Quite a feat and if that were true, what was such a linguistic genius doing in a development position with – as I established beyond any doubt – no understanding whatsoever of (rural) development let alone any experience in that field, in a poorly financed international NGO ? How did he even manage to get visa extensions ? That was several years ago, so apparently even then the intelligence embeds had spread out from notorious USAID and US consultancy firms, to possibly less obvious non-US hosts. Unfortunately when the taliban say ‘all troops out’, they mean exactly that and not some magician’s trick of make believe.
      The fact that someone is not well educated does not mean he’s stupid.

      As for freedom in the past 20 years, it is a very superficial and nervous one, totally unsustainable as such. What is ‘freedom’ if the price is never knowing when you leave home, whether you and your family members will live to return to it in the evening ?
      If you or any of your male family members, including kids, can get arrested at any time and be accused of ‘supporting terrorists’ and be thrown into some dungeon ? Based on erroneous ‘intelligence’. Or murdered ‘for fun’ by some bored military ‘kill team’ ?
      If you and your family can be bombed into oblivion or maimed for life by a drone, when attending a wedding or simply sleeping in your bed at night ? What is freedom when you’re stuck between US/NATO forces and taliban or much worse ISIS and all sides accuse you of aiding the other one ? What is freedom, if you have no say in what happens in your own country, as it is decided by ruthless foreigners ? And so on and on.
      Even if the lack of clarity for near future is frightening, if 20 years of US/NATO intervention has not been able to create any real freedom and peace, what can possibly be the point in continuing with more of the same ? When a spoken message is not understood, there’s no point repeating the same one over and over, louder each time.
      But I do understand the rhetorical question. I never participated in anti-Vietnam war protests in Europe, as I felt I knew too little about it to have a valid opinion. Being the child of political anti-communist refugees I knew about the evils of communist regimes much more than most in my western european age group. So while I felt deep sympathy for the Vietnamese as victims of a proxy war, I then had no idea what might be best for them. Their own opinion was not available, only propaganda, including our ‘domino effect’ one.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. “Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”— Dylan Thomas

    A Vicious Circle Villanelle
    (after the style of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night”)

    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.
    The perpetrators of the crime command:
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    Their troubled foreheads, wrinkles deeply crease
    With consequences that they never planned.
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.

    No logic brings intelligent release.
    The unforced errors earn no reprimand.
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    The mounting costs leave few sheep fit to fleece.
    Who next will pay the ransom on demand?
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease.

    Yet still the sophists ladle on the grease:
    Those ancient fallacies the flames have fanned.
    More dying, please! We can’t afford the peace!

    The lies add up in thousands dead apiece.
    The questions begged, both trivial and bland:
    Once folly starts, it cannot ever cease?
    More dying, please? We can’t afford the peace?

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2008

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As Bullwinkle would say to Rocky the Flying Squirrel each time he Moose tried and failed to pull a rabbit out of his magic hat: “This time for sure!”

    Ebb and Flow

    We have done this before
    Now we do it once more
    We kick open the door
    Leaving her on the floor

    Once inside, though, we find
    That the enemy’s mind
    Is a different kind
    So he’s left us behind

    Then we stay for a spell
    In that bleak, blasted hell
    Bagging up those who fell
    So their mothers can’t tell
    How they died

    Then, surrounded, we wait
    For that moment when fate
    Either early or late
    Orders us out the gate
    With our pride

    When we go they come back
    First they flee then attack
    Daytime bright, nighttime black
    It’s not courage they lack
    On their side

    They’ve got nowhere to go
    This is home: all they know
    We can lay the place low
    Blood in rivers may flow
    Deep and wide

    Still the families mourn
    Ours and theirs, spirits torn
    Of all hopefulness shorn
    Only grief; nothing born
    From Death’s bride

    In the end we’ll depart
    As we came: dumb not smart
    Leaving others to start
    Healing wounds and with heart
    Turn the tide

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2005

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “In the end we’ll depart” — I hope so. It seems the new US tactic is to stay forever in one form or another. Just look at our colossal embassies/fortresses.

      Of course, taking the long view, we will in the end depart. Our empire will fall, as others have fallen. And those embassies will bear testimony to our folly.


  10. I’ll take any face-saving move Biden wants to make to end this epic mess, but I would like to see him add some statement about ending the president-as-assassin-by-drone role he has as well. That has dropped off the radar.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Simon Jenkins at the Guardian on what the U.S. and NATO have accomplished during the Afghan War:

    The longest, most pointless and unsuccessful war that Britain has fought in the past 70 years – its intervention in Afghanistan – is to end in September. I doubt anyone will notice. Nations celebrate victories, not defeats.

    Twenty years ago the United States decided to relieve its 9/11 agony not just by blasting Osama bin Laden’s base in the Afghan mountains, but by toppling the entire Afghan regime. This was despite young Taliban moderates declaring Bin Laden an “unwelcome guest” and the regime demanding he leave. The US then decided not just to blast Kabul but invited Nato to launder its action as a matter of global security. Britain had no dog in this fight and only joined because Tony Blair liked George W Bush.

    American and British troops roamed the country, signing up warlords or setting up new governors. Visiting Kabul at the time, I was told of Nato’s ambition to wipe out terror, build a new democracy, liberate women and create a “friend in the region”. I had an eerie sense of Britain in 1839 embarking on the First Afghan War.

    Most Americans at the time wanted to get out, and concentrate on nation-building in Iraq. It was the British who were eager to stay. Blair even sent a minister, Clare Short, to eliminate the poppy crop. Whatever she did, it increased production from six provinces to 28, and raised poppy revenue to a record $2.3bn (£1.7bn).
    Biden announces all US and Nato troops to leave Afghanistan by September 11

    Spin forward to 2005, and the British army was in full imperial mode, itching to march south with 3,400 troops and conquer Pashtun Helmand. The British commander, General David Richards, was adamant that it would be just a matter of winning hearts and minds in friendly “inkspot” towns. His defence secretary, John Reid, hoped this would be achieved “without firing one shot”. They had fun giving their operations names such as Achilles, Pickaxe-Handle, Sledgehammer Hit, Eagle’s Eye, Red Dagger and Blue Sword.

    Everything in Helmand went wrong. The expedition had to be salvaged by 10,000 American marines. Four hundred and fifty-four Britons died.

    The Russians, who had been forced out of Afghanistan a decade before, were privately amazed at the ineptitude of the western operations – and publicly delighted. Gordon Brown, by then prime minister, was forced implausibly to explain in 2009 that British troops were dying in Helmand to make Britain’s streets safe.

    Since then, most of Nato has retreated, hoping against hope that diplomacy would rescue the Kabul government and the west from abject humiliation. Three US presidents have pledged various forms of “surge and depart”, but lacked the political nerve to go through with them. Even Joe Biden has extended a May deadline to September. Each has done just enough to keep the puppet regime in Kabul safe without returning to full-scale imperial rule.

    America’s 2,300 troops and their air support will now leave, as will Britain’s 750 (as one senior UK defence source told the Guardian: “If they [the US] go, we’ll all have to go,”). For the US, the cost has been high: 2,216 dead and more than $2tn spent. Billions in “aid” are said to have left Afghanistan, much of it to the Dubai property market. The cost to Afghan civilians has been appalling, put at between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths over the two decades, all in retaliation for “hosting” the 9/11 attackers. Is that what we call western values?

    As a senior US official said this week, when President Biden fixed his new deadline: “The threat against the homeland from Afghanistan is at a level we can address.” That has surely been the case for years in Britain as in America, yet we are still there.

    The latest peace talks in Qatar are going nowhere. The reason is obvious: that the Taliban need only to wait for September, when they can do as they choose. The current regime may hold Kabul for a while, but if it can barely govern with American help, it can hardly do so alone.

    Left alone back in 2001, the Taliban leadership – with which US intelligence was already liaising – would have dealt with Bin Laden. It would have been held in check by its local warlords and by the Pakistani army. Instead, the Pashtun have been left to rampage for two decades, financed by western heroin users. The worst it has suffered is the decimation of its senior figures by US drones, to absolutely no effect. Afghanistan will need these people to contain another product of Nato intervention: the country is now a focus of Islamic State activity.

    What has the US and UK intervention achieved? The military theorist Gen Sir Rupert Smith, in his book The Utility of Force, has pointed out that modern armies are almost useless in counter-insurgency wars. They have roamed the Middle East from Afghanistan to Libya, “creating one ruined nation after another”. Britain’s sole justification is the hoary Foreign Office cliche about having influence, deterring terror and standing tall in the world. They are neo-imperialist vacuities. In a world of apologies, some mighty big ones are due in September.

    Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The line that hits me is: “The cost to Afghan civilians has been appalling, put at between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths over the two decades, all in retaliation for “hosting” the 9/11 attackers. Is that what we call western values?”

      Truth to tell, America wanted blood for 9/11, pointed a finger at Afghanistan, at Mullah Omar, was not interested in talks and attacked. GWB was not the man to calm things down, the “bring it on” cowboy in him was eager for revenge and the the pointless sacrifice of what turns out to be 20 to 40 Afghans for each victim of the action of a group of Saudis went forward.

      Of course he went on to the even greater debacle of Iraq with far more deaths of faceless foreigners yet he is remarkably at ease now on his ranch, popping up from time to time with a presidential buddy. His actions were monstrous but he remains a likable guy showing no indication of remorse, something juries look for in a criminal trial where someone is accused of killing one person.

      For 20 years the Afghans have had the US in their faces, but almost immediately upon taking office, Obama was ready to “look forward, not backward” regarding the deeds of his predecessor. The innocent pay in mass for something they did not do and the one guilty of giving the ok for the destruction receives immediate forgiveness.

      Liberty and justice for all…it burns the tongue.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah….I’d always thought that the Shrub was the most despicable President possible. Then the former guy came along. I’d say that, between the two, it’s a tie. Each is a thoroughly execrable human being, in his own way. Their fathers weren’t any better, from all accounts.


      2. Speaking of tongues burning from reciting bogus slogans, Glenn Greenwald has an outstanding book on the subject entitled, With Liberty and Justice for SOME: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful (2011).

        “For all the homage we pay to equality under law, we have virtually abolished it in practice. Indeed, beyond isolated, politically motivated rhetoric, we hardly even pretend to believe in its validity any longer. Instead, the United States now has the exact opposite of a single set of laws before which everyone is equal. It has an entrenched two-tiered system of justice: the country’s most powerful political and financial elites are virtually immunized from the rule of law, empowered to commit felonies with full-scale impunity and to act without any constraints, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in far greater numbers than in any other country on the planet.”

        Or, as George Orwell wrote in 1984: “In Oceania, there is no law.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The great irony/tragedy I see in US Militarism coming from that most Christian Nation, is Abraham, Father to Jews, Christians and Muslims, got famous arguing with God, that God is too Great and too Just, to kill the Righteous with the Guilty in Sodom.
        These Days, Collateral Damage is already factored in waging War, Hiroshima and Nagasaki prime examples of that War Crime.

        Both the Senate and House Chaplains of the US Congress came from Senior positions as Military Chaplains.
        I wonder if they give much thought to this 1 line in the record of the Prophet Zechariah in their Bibles?
        “Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,” says the Lord of Hosts.

        They might have to now, since that line was the Subject in the email I sent them last Monday.

        The recently signed Abraham Accords are in fact, just another US Arms deal cloaked in a Peace Treaty to bring Peace to the Middle East


    2. “Left alone back in 2001, the Taliban leadership – with which US intelligence was already liaising – would have dealt with Bin Laden.” And in due time the Afghans themselves would have dealt with the Taliban, as they too had already outlived their welcome after they initially had reduced civil war insecurity. One of the reason they were so easily defeated, was that most of their foot soldiers had been coerced into joining against their will and were only too happy to leave their ranks. As for women, their Minister of Health in 1968 was a woman. How many female Cabinet members in the US at the time ?
      Women indeed have infinitely more opportunities now for study and work than under taliban rule, but are regularly murdered for it, as we have encouraged them to work publicly without securing a safe environment. By moving the ‘exit’ date Biden has created five months of additional anguish and not only for Afghan women. When the 2014 ‘exit’ – which heralded an end to the dollar bonanza – was announced, corruption spiked. What will spike this time ?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I too am concerned about a withdrawal, especially in regards to women’s rights in Afghanistan. It isn’t just about wearing head coverings, it is about going to school, university and being able to hold jobs even in the government. But on the other hand, we’ve never been much concerned with rights in Saudi Arabia, which isn’t even a country in my opinion. More like a family owned plantation propped up by western governments turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. I don’t know, I just wish all the best to the Afghans, they’ve suffered so much for so long.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The US wasn’t much concerned with women’s rights when the Taliban rebelled against the Afghan government in the 70s – and the biggest factor in triggering that was the government of the time starting to educate females. Brzezinski made it policy to support them with money and weapons and it was all in the hopes of baiting the USSR into a quagmire of a war. And of course when the USSR dissolved the US just walked away from the charnel house they had helped create.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. In line with your second paragraph, Prof. Astore, I came across the following (boldface mine)…

    “The meaninglessness of President Biden’s announcement becomes apparent when we consider that the Pentagon employs more than seven contractors for every serviceman or woman in Afghanistan, an increase from one contractor for every serviceman or woman a decade ago.

    As of January, more than 18,000 contractors remained in Afghanistan, according to a Defense Department report, when official troop totals had been reduced to 2,500.

    These totals reflect the U.S. government’s strategy of outsourcing war to the benefit of private mercenary corporations, and as a means of distancing the war from the public and averting dissent, since relatively few Americans are directly impacted by it.

    Most of the mercenaries are ex-military veterans, though a percentage are third-country nationals who are paid meager wages to perform menial duties for the military.”

    Full article here.


    1. Mercs, camp followers, and slaves. There’s so much continuity to history, especially where war is concerned.


    2. Averting public dissent – tepid at best anyway – but also any accountability …
      Two memories from airplanes to Afghanistan : one such mercenary in front of me stretching his bare arm, with a fat scorpion tatooed on its biceps. Another one on an Afghan airline which for some time had direct flights to Frankfurt. An Afghan woman asked me whether I would change seats with her as she was afraid of her neighbour. So I did. An American mercenary who already had had his fill at the airport and was continuing with spirits disguised as Coca Cola, hidden in a paper bag. I won’t repeat the expletives I got as an answer when I reminded him that alcohol is not allowed on Afghan planes and to this day regret that I did not smack him in the face, as I was tempted to do. He did move to some pals elsewhere though. So much so for respect for Afghan women.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But the U.S. government doesn’t care about the mercenaries’ behavior, because they’re not members of “our” military. As you commented, Pamela, no accountability.


        1. Easier to hide their deaths too. They are truly an all-volunteer military. Their motto: Show me the money!


          1. I agree, but with the caveat that mercenaries truly know what they’re signing up for—it isn’t a matter of “God and country” for them. It’s the same as with practitioners of extreme sports such as free climbing, free diving, sky diving, etc. Their deaths are their own choices.


  14. It would be interesting and informative if some Afghans would contribute to this conversation. How do the people of Afghanistan view the withdrawal of U.S. troops? Are they fearful of the Taliban? Do they consider their lives now good or bad? How many who remember the Taliban days of the 1990s and early 2000s are dreading or welcoming the return of the Taliban? How many are thinking of or wishing they could emigrate?
    I am fairly sure the answers would be different from those who live in Kabul or the other major cities versus those in the villages. Different also from rich versus poor, etc. Still I would really like to hear from the people involved what they feel and believe.


    1. An honorable country that truly cared about the Afghan people would allow any Afghan seeking sanctuary in the USA to come here.

      That is not going to happen except in the rarest of cases. And that shows how much the USA truly doesn’t care.


  15. A teaser at “Foreign Policy” shows how Biden’s move is being sold in the mainstream: “The problem with the United States’ forever wars is not their length—it is their extravagant objectives. In withdrawing from Afghanistan, U.S. President Biden has finally acknowledged this, Stephen Wertheim writes.”

    The problem with America’s debilitating and long wars is not their length? The problem is that America the beautiful just tries to achieve too much? And now good ol’ Biden is here to inject a much-needed note of realism and humility into the mix? OK…

    I really need to get a gig writing articles like this for money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading this article was heartening. I’ve always feared that the veterans of all the wars since WWII would be bitter and feel they’d been used as pawns for no reason, that everything they’d suffered had been in vain.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a respected teacher who once told me,
        “Everything’s appropriate!”
        While I wander down these shadowy, mysterious halls of time; sometimes life has come upon me like a thief in the night, catching me completely off guard. I work hard at trying to allow and understand, no matter how foreign the information seems. I am trying my best to take it all in through bare attention. Letting each sensation in and allowing it’s full expression to be known through as full an awareness as possible, watching, as it activates, and contracts my emotive center. This impression is then released through an exhaled expansion towards my mind where the substance of the feeling is then defined by thoughts of knowing, either through instincts or intuitions. Trying to take in life through this mechanism helps me slow down the course of experience and I am becoming more careful.
        This process of mindfulness helps me to allow the horror and pain to take up residence; as well as the joys of good vibrations; my goal is to let them in without any known prejudices. I am asking for help so that each sensation gets to express itself completely; as if it just entered from the void of un knowing; allowing it to reveal its pure substance so that it becomes intimately known to my mind.
        This is what I hope for all humanity; that they learn to apply bare attention to every sensation before them; which I believe is somehow ; perfectly placed at the feet of each person for their full flowering to mature and blossom . I strongly believe if one can freely experience life’s sensations without prejudicial dissipation or repelling; then one can know how to live wisely. Perhaps one will tread their path slowly and gently; doing as little harm as possible through one’s human experience.
        What a soldier takes in during their career, especially in war’s theatre, is surely an experience like no other. The headmaster in the halls of war is unforgiving and the material in each class is on the level of quantum understanding. To see “this experience” with bare attention must be one of the hardest paths a human can tread. I never enrolled. These folks who attend the university of battle have my utmost respect; and I pray that they are all able to see “their experience” as clearly as possible. But, sadly I fear that it is a most crushing course load that leaves many trampled by the process.
        To ask another human to open themselves up to this form of insanity and expect them to process it with clarity seems more than cruel. Lord knows there’s got to be a better way…
        The wisest among us said there will always be wars and rumors of war….
        But with right attention, maybe we could learn to somehow confine this activity to the classroom and not allow it to be acted out in our halls of reality…and surely
        We should never require anyone to spend 20+ years on the battlefield of this dangerous education!
        If this is the case; then I would say that the headmasters need to be re-placed and
        re-educated……..they know nothing concerning mindfulness, in my humble opinion.
        Does this make any sense?


        1. eminent, unequivocal sense, utejack. but how does one enter the redoubt of concinnity and an intimate sense of consanguinity w/ his /her brethren whom s/he has been perfervidly endeavouring to kill, murder, maim, and torture for 20 years, w/out sacrificing one’s sanity?

          mindfulness is a practice few are able to understand, never mind indulge in w/ any degree of transformative success. most of these veterans return as aliens in their home countries, barely capable of becoming functional fathers, salubrious cynosures, adequate providers, sensibly sensitive spouses, or clarion mouthpieces for political change in the CMIC structures of america’s social scaffolding. the william astores and danny sjursens are, i fear, singularities… nakedly selcouth anomalies.

          debilitating cauchemars are endemic to most veterans’ cortical matricies. however, the US can alter its war-machine mentality by ensuring sufficient, universal, and relevant education for their young people, no matter what their financial circumstances are or where their talents lie, w/out their being forced to volunteer for the military murder machine just so they can pay the rent, put food on the table for their young families, gain access to adequate medical care, and can be technically trained in their fields of interest.

          the ‘war’ against covid-19 is a more facile challenge facing us than the never-ending wars of the CMIC and US taxpayers’ tacit, etiolated, anaemic responses to all the gormless wars infecting their psyches.

          Liked by 1 person

  16. I appreciated reading this conversation but it was a tough slog knowing that the foundation of this experience was based on desire fueled by egos to big to be contained.
    I took a dose of medicinal music on YouTube to relieve the stress of meditating on this misadventure.
    I have a prescription list that I know will deliver the needed dose. I took 3 pills delivered through headphones into the ear canals and then put this body to bed.
    I listened to Mr Dylan sing
    John Brown
    Masters of War. &
    Lou Reed perform Bob’s …Foot of Pride
    How he knew so much about the horrors of conflict at such a young age still amazes my mind!


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