Ten Reasons Why America’s Afghan War Lasted So Long and Ended So Disastrously

One thing is certain: The U.S. military succeeded in arming the Taliban (captured military equipment; photo from The Guardian)

W.J. Astore

The headlines claim America’s war in Afghanistan has finally ended, but of course no war ends just because someone claims it to be so. The Afghan people will be living with the chaos and destruction of this war for decades to come, even as mainstream media pundits in the USA and at the Pentagon pivot quickly to new wars or rumors of war in China, Africa, Iran, and elsewhere.

The Afghan War, I’ve argued, was never America’s to win. The U.S. military had the watches but the Afghan people had the time, as the saying goes, and unless U.S. forces stayed there forever (as retired General David Petraeus advised with his empty talk of “sustainable, sustained commitment”), the Taliban or indigenous forces like them were always going to prevail. After all, it’s their country, their culture, their people, and they want to live their way, free of foreign interference, whether it’s British or Russian or American.

That said, why did America persist in a lost cause for two decades? What explains this debacle? If we can explain it, perhaps we can avoid similar catastrophes in the future. 

In that spirit of optimism, here are ten reasons why America’s Afghan War lasted so long and ended so disastrously:

  1. Lack of a military draft in the USA. No, I’m not advocating for a return of the draft. But because there is no draft, because America allegedly has an “all-volunteer” military, most Americans pay it little mind, including the wars it fights, no matter how long they last.
  2. Related to (1) is the Pentagon’s practice of isolating Americans from the true costs of war. Elsewhere, I’ve called it the new American isolationism. We are simply encouraged not to look at the true face of war and its many horrors. Isolation from wars’ costs, I’d argue, acts to prolong the killing and dying.
  3. Related to (1) and (2) is the lack of a sustained anti-war movement in America. When there’s no draft and little exposure to war’s horrors, there is neither the cause nor the outrage needed to generate a significant anti-war movement. The lack of a strong anti-war movement serves to prolong Pentagon folly, which is fine with the Pentagon, as long as budgets for war continue to increase.
  4. Related to (2) and (3) is extensive Pentagon lying, which is abetted by mainstream media propaganda. The Afghan Papers in 2019 revealed how the American people had been lied to repeatedly about “progress” in Afghanistan, but those revelations came late, and most Americans, isolated from the war, paid them little mind anyway.
  5. Politics. It seems like every decision about Afghanistan was driven more by U.S. domestic politics than by realities on the ground. Firstly, the U.S. invaded as revenge for 9/11, even though the Taliban wasn’t responsible for that attack. Attempts by the Taliban to surrender or to turn over Osama bin Laden were rebuffed. Later, Barack Obama and the Democrats cynically turned the Afghan War into the “good” war as opposed to the badly botched Iraq War of Bush/Cheney. Obama persisted in fighting the Afghan War partly as a way of showing his “seriousness” as U.S. President. Trump inherited the war, thought about ending it, then decided he’d prosecute it even more vigorously than Obama did, after which he decided to negotiate with the Taliban without bringing the war to a conclusive end. Biden inherited that mess, a mess he’d helped to create as Obama’s Vice President, and is now being blamed for a chaotic withdrawal, even as he tried to tie the war’s conclusion to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It’s a sordid record with plenty of cynical manipulation by Democrats and Republicans alike. In Washington, the war became a political football, tossed about willy-nilly with plenty of unforced fumbles resulting. 
  6. Solipsism.  Everywhere we go, there we are. Did the Afghan people even exist in the minds of Washington officials?
  7. Profit. Endless wars generate boundless profits for a select few. As General Smedley Butler noted in the 1930s, war is a racket. Many warrior-corporations got very rich off the Afghan War. Most in Congress willingly went along with this: they were getting paid too. Hence Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial-Congressional complex as a vastly powerful entity. It only gains strength as war is prolonged.
  8. Poor strategy. You simply can’t deliver a “government in a box” to Afghan peoples destabilized by decades of war exacerbated by foreign meddling and manipulation. Creating well-armed “national” police and security forces, meanwhile, is a great way to build an authoritarian police state, but not a participatory democracy. Did the U.S. spend so much time creating police and military forces in Afghanistan because that is what the Pentagon and its various mercenary camp followers understood best? If so, the effort still failed spectacularly.
  9. Dereliction of duty. The U.S. military knew it was losing the war. It hid the truth by massaging metrics and by lying repeatedly, including to Congress. Senior commanders were never held accountable for these lies. Indeed, the two most famous U.S. commanders, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, were fired from their jobs for reasons unrelated to lies and lack of progress in this war.
  10.  Too many guns brought to a knife fight.  The U.S. military used massive firepower in the cause of limiting American casualties. Afghan casualties didn’t matter. But every time a drone strike hit a wedding party, or a Hellfire missile generated “collateral damage,” more Afghans turned against America and its military occupation.

Looking at these ten reasons, facing them squarely, is tougher than it sounds. Addressing them is even tougher. Some suggested reforms:

  1. A return to a military draft that picks the most privileged sons and daughters of America first. Start with the families of Members of Congress and the Executive Branch. Fill out the ranks with anyone attending the Ivy League and all private prep schools. And fight no war without a Congressional declaration of the same. (If this all sounds like nonsense, because you “know” the rich and privileged won’t allow their sons and daughters to be drafted and to serve in harm’s way, then you should also know from this that America’s wars since 1945 are dishonest as well as avoidable.)
  2. Face the true costs of war. Any expenditures on war should result in an immediate tax hike on the richest Americans (those in the top 10% of wealth). Casualties of war, whether of U.S. troops or foreign innocents, should be aired on national media in a manner similar to the New York Times’ coverage of 9/11 victims in 2001.
  3. Anti-war voices deserve at least an equal hearing in the mainstream media as pro-war ones. Indeed, anti-war voices should be amplified to provide a humane balance to pro-war ones.
  4. Given the evidence of consistent Pentagon mendacity, whether in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan and elsewhere, the default position of the mainstream media should be supreme skepticism. At the same time, information about war should be declassified and shared with the American people so that informed decisions can be made about the war’s true course and progress toward victory (or lack thereof).
  5. War, the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said, is the continuation of politics by other means. By this he didn’t mean that war should be defined and driven by an internal politics focused tightly on partisan advantage. War may be too important to be left to generals; it is also most assuredly too important (and deadly) to be left to partisan politicians striking tough guy poses.  Coda: Any politician making noises about putting on “big boy pants” and similar bellicose nonsense shall be handed a rifle and deployed immediately to the front.
  6. Before waging war with or against a people, those people should be recognized as, well, people, possessing their own unique culture, mindsets, and abilities.
  7. Taking the profit out of war is perhaps the best way of ending it. If America must wage war, it should be a non-profit operation.
  8. Strategy at the highest level should be agreed upon by the American people and be explicable by the same. Americans should be able to explain “why we fight,” with clear ideas about ending the war quickly, i.e., an exit strategy.
  9. Military officials caught lying to the American people, whether before Congress or elsewhere, demonstrate a lack of integrity and should be fired with loss of all future benefits. More serious lies shall result in prison sentences.
  10. Any war that requires U.S. military forces to use massive firepower merely to tread water against much weaker enemies is a lost war from day one. Using sledgehammers to kill gnats is never wise, no matter how much Americans like to sling sledgehammers. 

For any self-avowed democracy, a politics based on honesty, equity of burden-sharing, and humane values among citizens is a must. If America is to wage war, which I would prefer it not do, except in those rarest of cases when America is directly attacked or imminently in danger, that war’s causes and goals should be debated honestly and fully, with the burden of warfighting shared fairly.  A quick cessation of hostilities should be the goal.

Ultimately, you wage war long, you wage it wrong, should become the byword of U.S. policy now and forever.

55 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why America’s Afghan War Lasted So Long and Ended So Disastrously

  1. Beautifully said WJA.

    It seems there was a ‘window’ of opportunity in Afghanistan from about 2002 – 2008 when almost all the country was Taliban free. I am reading the book On Corruption in the United States which one of the contributors to this site listed as good reading ( and it is ).

    The author, Sarah Chayes, ran a business in Kandahar employing Afghans in the area to make products from the Arghandab River valley. Instead of producing opium she bought spices, flowers, herbs and fruits to sell abroad. She also learned Pashto which is a difficult language to master. More of that sort of involvement would have stifled the Taliban.

    The basic Taliban recruit is a young man with no future. He has no job, no money, and no respect. Give that man a job and he is on his way to becoming a peaceful citizen. If not he still gets all the above but with an AK-47.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks. Yes — give that young man an AK-47 and then point him in the direction of the foreign invader.

      Strangely, we Americans never think of ourselves as the foreign invader. Even when we come heavily armed and busting heads.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. She’s a feisty lady with some “good old spunk” to her telling. I like that one can sense her connection to the reality that she experienced, she is speaking from a wounded heart that is still filled with that intuitive nature, which informed her from the get go; that she was participating in unnaturally altered state of reality. I loved her clarity a whole bunch. Testify Laura Jedeed; your fire is inspirational.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Agree—her voice and narrative come from a place of truth and intimate experience. Her authenticity shines through. The part about the fertilizer-powered IED triggered by discarded batteries is symbolic of the whole insane situation.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Another brilliantly written piece Bill. Thanks for what you do.
    I like and agree with all your points – but I have two much simpler ones:

    1. America should mind its own business.
    2. America should stop killing people. For every “terrorist” you kill, you create five more.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. From your MYOB piece of 5-years ago…..

        ………We’ve got plenty of problems: crumbling infrastructure, inefficient and inadequate health care, too many people in too many prisons, social divides based on race and sex and class, drug and alcohol abuse, not enough decent-paying jobs, huge budgetary deficits, the list goes on……..

        Sadly, none of that has changed in 5-years. In fact its just got worse!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your list is perfect and hovering over it is one directive – avoid war. Also hovering over it is something that appears to be new with United States – war can be cost free. That’s an illusion, but to the average citizen it looks true, things go on as they normally do even as trillions of dollars are spent. As the wealthiest country in all of history what we could do for we the people is breathtaking, yet it remains undone while wars of choice have been eagerly entered.

    Looking at what has happened since 9/11 I’m impressed with the colossal failure of US foreign policy. We are adrift in the world lurching and halting at the whims of each administration. The State Department, the CIA, and the military are capable of giving excellent advice to a President, but the Executive Department now runs on its own with a small number near the President assuming they know best. Meanwhile Congress is frozen with corruption, dedicated to the profit motive and clearly seen to be so. With our currency established as the international medium of exchange, we have a license to throw dollars around with abandon and optional war has taken the lion’s share.

    We have been on top since WW2, but we have hit the wall. The US is truly a pitiful giant not because it doesn’t have the power to lash out and destroy anywhere in the world but because it has been captured by the few to become helpless to work for the good of its citizenry, far less for the betterment of mankind.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Denise, I think it’s important to know where the warping occurs. I just finished reading State of War about the events from 9/11 through 2005 by James Risen. It tells the now well known story of how we got into both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars but with details I did not know about.

        What it relates about the CIA and the military is very interesting. It tells of how the professional estimates and analyses from both organizations was disregarded. In the case of the CIA, Dick Cheney intervened as gatekeeper to make sure the CIA would not get anything to Bush that did not support the rush to invade Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of “Defense” also railroaded things through that the military professionals opposed. In addition, Rumsfeld would disregard directions from GWB if Rumsfeld opposed them and then would keep bringing up his own opposing viewpoint with a heavy dose of intimidation at lower levels until it prevailed. Our government was highjacked by a few men determined to have their own way, with 9/11 providing the background of fear to drive through their agenda. These few men were given powerful positions by a bewildered Boy President who failed to keep reins on his elders wise in the way of power politics .

        I am very wary of the priority that many in high places put on loyalty to superiors above all else. We need far more whistleblowing, like that of Ellsberg and Snowden, guided by a sense of loyalty to the American people over the President or heads of agencies.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I agree completely with your last paragraph.

          As for the CIA, the organization has quite a shadowy past, and a record of wrong calls and goals set by hard-liners. For reference, recall the Bay of Pigs and the black ops during the Vietnam War. The work of L. Fletcher Prouty (CIA insider) has been refuted in some venues, but if even half the things he asserts are true, we shouldn’t trust the CIA any farther than we could throw a spy plane.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. dickie, donnie, and georgie-porgie,…what a team! the entire triumvirate consisted of self-serving ‘little boys’ all boasting twisted egos. despite their respective ages, there was not a single ‘elder’ in that gaggle of misfits [lest english speakers besmirch the definition of ‘elder’]. the complicit msm should reserve the elder-status for the sagacious, such as ellsberg, snowden, assange, manning, thunberg, sjursen, wja, hedges, and so many others, no matter their lack of seniority, youth, or impuissance. however, the msm is as duplicitous as their corporate and congressional paymasters; it lionizes those poured out of the most nocent, nociceptive molds.

          as wja reminds us so eloquently:
          “War may be too important to be left to generals; it is also most assuredly too important (and deadly) to be left to partisan politicians striking tough guy poses.  Coda: Any politician making noises about putting on “big boy pants” and similar bellicose nonsense shall be handed a rifle and deployed immediately to the front.”

          we can only dream of such a chimeric outcome.

          Liked by 4 people

        3. I might point out that all these warmongers From Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Donald Trump and their cohorts are all draft dodgers. I also include George W. since the National Guard and the Reserves were sanctuaries during the Vietnam War for the rich and connected, after President Johnson promised never to sent them to the jungles. And Georgie didn’t even serve his proper time in the guard, dereliction of duty is what Eisenhower would call it. (Yes Clinton was also a draft dodger, but he did not get us into Iraq or Afghanistan.)

          Liked by 2 people

  4. With respect to point 1, a day or two ago, I read a competing view about the draft. Apparently, there are currently two rival bills working their way through Congress. One would put the Selective Service Act into indefinite hibernation, while the other would mandate the inclusion of women in the draft; the latter evidently being a measure to assure protests of the draft. The author argued, persuasively, that the availability of conscripted forces enables the Pentagon to deploy them anywhere, at the drop of a hat. Conversely, if military forces are well below optimal strength, there has to be forethought and preparation before deployment, thereby creating an interval during which opposition to deployment could be mounted.

    Regarding point 5, I’d thought that Biden had pushed to end the war in Afghanistan in 2009? Did he not oppose Obama’s surge?

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    1. Hi Denise: A draft that targeted the rich and privileged first is another way of saying “no draft,” since those in power would never allow it to happen.

      My understanding of Biden and Afghanistan in 2009 is that he called for fewer troops to be sent with the Surge, but that he didn’t outright oppose it or push for an end to the war. A weak skeptic, perhaps? I will check. Let me know if you find something different on this. Thanks.

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      1. Yes, that gibes with what I’ve heard. Biden wanted a more limited “surge” with a focus on counter-terrorism rather than nation-building. So, instead of nearly 100,000 troops, Biden wanted about 70,000 in total.

        Of course, no one back then in the mainstream was allowed to argue for a complete withdrawal and an end to the war in 2009. After all, Obama had called it the “good war.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “So, instead of nearly 100,000 troops, Biden wanted about 70,000 in total.”
          Here’s a terrific example of the writer’s astonishing ignorance, now in tandem with a risible attempt to make a factual claim. Any evidence that Biden wanted 70K in total in 2009 or is this just made-up garbage? (Bet on the latter.)
          “President Obama is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan, including a plan advocated by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to SCALE BACK American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda there and in Pakistan … Instead of increasing troops, officials said, Mr. Biden proposed SCALING BACK the overall American military presence.”(https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/world/asia/23policy.html)

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          1. Your argument is with Fred Kaplan at Slate. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/02/biden-afghanistan-troops-withdrawal.html Here’s an excerpt: “And he was vice president when Barack Obama, in his first year as president, decided to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, raising the total to almost 100,000, and to adopt a new strategy of counterinsurgency, a.k.a. “nation-building.” Biden was the only official in the National Security Council to oppose that troop-surge, arguing instead to deploy a mere 10,000 extra troops and to use them strictly to fight al-Qaida terrorists and to train the Afghan army. He made the case that nation-building wouldn’t work, given the corruption of the Afghan government—and he was right. Obama reached the same conclusion after 18 months of giving it a try, withdrew most of the troops, and adopted Biden’s more limited goals.”

            Kaplan says Biden opposed the surge but supported an “extra” 10,000 troops to fight al-Qaida and for Afghan army training. We now know how well all that “training” went.

            Meanwhile, in 2009 I was writing articles against the war and against the surge as well. Here are two examples:
            “Mary McCarthy in Vietnam, Barack Obama in Afghanistan: Seven Lessons and Many Questions for the President.” TomDispatch.com, Nation Institute, April 16, 2009. At http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175060.

            Obama at the Precipice: Tough Guys Don’t Need to Dance in Afghanistan.” TomDispatch.com, Nation Institute, October 11, 2009. At http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175119. Excerpted by the New York Times: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/the-vietnam-war-guide-to-afghanistan/.

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  5. I think that there should be independent channels of anonymous witness testimony from those enlisted and ordered to prosecute the war. They should be allowed to file reports to an independent board of governors that monitors the real time assessments from those who are doing the fighting and all this information should be available to freedom of information requests. Putting full disclosure before the public will create active participation, for or against, the military decisions. No longer will obfuscation allow the horrors of failed policies to last beyond their expiration dates.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent idea. Real-time reports from the boots on the ground would definitely pull back the curtain the Pentagon has erected to shield the public from the truth. Or should I say, shield themselves from the wrath of the citizenry.

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  6. It might also be pointed out that to reach the “higher” levels of command in the military one must have combat experience. Hence the revolving door of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is no way to
    earn the trust and friendship of the people we are trying to “help”. Also no way to fight a war – changing commanders every year. The real “winners” in this war were the arms manufacturers and the ambitious, though rarely skilled, generals. The proof is in the pudding – look at the facts.
    As to a draft it should be universal, but not limited to military service, but include the peace corp., Volunteers in service to America (VISTA), the forest service, schools and health care. Service can be rewarded with a “GI Bill” to provide scholarship money to go to school, build a home or business. Thus student debt is reduced, communities benefit from youth service, and people of all races and income level are thrown together helping to heal the divisions we have.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve been looking for a word to explain the colossal absence of empathy in such starements as “We don’t do body counts” et cetera.
    At last I have it. Solipsism.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have not been here to comment in a while (although I am a subscriber and continue to read and enjoy your articles when they hit my email). This article may be your magnum opus, Mr. Astore. One of the good things about the recent Afghanister (Afghanistan + Disaster) is that it has shined a spotlight on the whole corrupt forever war issue. This is your time…keep hammering, Bill-Man!

    With that said, I can never resist adding a few numbers to your top 10 lists. Here are a couple:

    11. Hubris. When we were young officers back in the late 80’s, the sting of Vietnam was still fresh in military culture, and the lessons were driven into us hard; some of these learnings are in your list above. But over 40 years or so, we forget or ignore, and drift back to old, bad habits out of ignorance or arrogance. Like an alcoholic who starts having a couple drinks, thinking they can handle it…next thing you know, completely addicted again and having severe withdrawal symptoms.

    12 (making it a dirty dozen): Exit Strategy. As you know, I am a technologist, and exit strategy is just as important in my world as it is in warfighting. Ex: My Team is doing a full upgrade of our computer network this week, removing and replacing everything, while continuing to support full-time business operations. Essentially going to war with the network : ) We have a very detailed plan on how to do this, and we also have an equally detailed plan on how to successfully “back out” if something goes wrong mid-stream. Our ‘exit strategy’ for Afghanistan was sophomoric at best; a sad example of leaders who have never been in the trenches and do not understand that successfully executing a good plan is far different, and even more important, than making the decision.

    13. Making it a baker’s dozen: Leadership. The President is the Commander in Chief for a reason. Competence, Character, and Conviction are table stakes for the job. Elections have consequences, and we got exactly what we should have expected from a corrupt, 50-year Washington bureaucrat. What an astonishingly weak leader. We could not even count on Biden to successfully lose a war (yep, you heard that here first : )

    Keep the light shining bright, Mr. Astore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, TJO. Yes, hubris. We always think we can do what other people can’t, e.g. the French in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, etc. Yes, exit strategy. There wasn’t one in Afghanistan except to leave while depending on Afghan government forces that we knew were shabby. Yes, leadership. Bush was clueless; Obama was inadequate; Trump was inattentive; and now we have Biden, visibly in mental decline.

      Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bill, why are your great writings not always posted at anti-war dot com? Sometimes they are. But not always.
    This one, with TJO’s 3-additional points, would be a great one for anti-war dot com.
    Also these would be great articles for Tom Feeley’s Information Clearing House, and Joe Lauria’s Consortium News. Have you ever had any of your articles posted on these two great sites?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I write for TomDispatch.com, my articles are sometimes posted at Information Clearing House and Consortium News, among other sites. But my articles here at Bracing Views are usually crossposted only at LA Progressive (and occasionally at Antiwar.com).

      It’s all about contacts …

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  10. America has blown its chances by throwing its weight around when our country has had an image in the world that has nothing to do with forcing ourselves on others but by simply showing what Lady Liberty expresses as she looks out to others. Consider the following excerpt from the book Balkan Ghosts where the author is talking to a Romanian named Mihai just as the Ceausescu regime had fallen.

    “Mihai also wanted to take his family to America: ‘Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to emigrate. Why should I be a poor Romanian immigrant to America when there is so much opportunity to make money in Suceava? (a Romanian city) But I need to touch the Alamo, to touch the Lincoln Memorial, to make sure that such things are real. I want my son to see America, to know what a society of dreams-come-true is like. You think I am not sincere? I know more about your American history than you do. And if I don’t I appreciate it still more.’ ”

    When I read this I had to pause because of the power of it and the realization that America is producing its own tragedy.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. And.., a couple free bitter pills IMHO that needs to be done to alleviate some of its own tragedy & my despair is to disband the CIA for one, and also the Brass (Ass) Hats while we’re cleaning house…! Then this old Town of D.C. will look a lot cleaner when it snows. I know I’m only wishing on a falling star though.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Generals “Mad Dog” Mattis “General Dynamics” & Mcchrystal both landing lucrative Post Mil. Careers despite their abysmal performances in Command— what is wrong with this Pic.? And.., I’ll never forgive Mcchrystal calling his Civi. Leaders incompetent fools & worse, then also for evading then hiding the real cause of Hero “Pat Tillmans” death by Friendly Fire in Afghanistan “Where Men Win Glory” Jon Krakauer, and even using it to their advantage…! As Vonnegut says: “And so it goes.”

    Liked by 2 people

  13. A person who is publishes a lengthy opinion piece on this topic without even using the word “Pakistan” one time demonstrates an astonishing level of ignorance, willful or otherwise.

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    1. OK. You’ve called me ignorant to “an astonishing level.” Bully for you. Please enlighten us on Pakistan and the role it played. Sorry I couldn’t list all the reasons why America lost and why the war went so poorly.

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      1. Thanks for sharing links to your earlier analyses. I’ve been writing on this topic since 2002. And thanks for the article from Kaplan, even as it does not support your claim about Biden wanting 70K troops.
        The burden for your enlightenment on Pakistan’s vital role is not on your audience. You’ve made a lot of worthy points but the omission of Pakistan is a spectacular and damaging one IMO. Have a pleasant Labor Day.

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        1. I’ve learned a whole bunch from the folks who post on Williams sight. Everyone seems interested in flushing out the truths behind authorizing the extermination of another human being. I came here to know more about an endeavor I have no personal experience participating in; so I’m looking for a more complete understanding; even though my participation would be labeled “living vicariously “ through one who has inhabited a war zone. It might help if you share your ideas and knowledge for all of us to profit from. I’m curious …. what’s up with Pakistan?

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        2. I’m no expert on Pakistan. I’m not sure of their motives. I think it was in their interest to keep the Taliban occupied, as in busy, fighting the Americans. They provided arms, safe havens, and so on. Now that the Taliban is in control of Afghanistan, more or less, I wonder how Pakistan will attempt to play this. Pakistan has historically wanted a weak Afghanistan, i.e. one they can manipulate and control. Will a Taliban resurgence “infect” Pakistan in some way?

          Certainly, Pakistan was no ally of the U.S., but why should they have been?

          Overall, the USA has attempted to project power way too far from home in areas of marginal importance to nearly all Americans. Excessive means, minor aims, in regions of marginal utility: this is how Hannah Arendt described U.S. intervention in Vietnam in the 1960s; it holds for the Af-Pak region as well. $2 trillion, all those troops and mercenaries, and for what, exactly? What was the mission? The goal?

          As I understand it, Biden didn’t want 70K troops in 2009. He clearly didn’t want 100K+ (The Surge), and of course McChrystal and the Pentagon wanted even more troops. Biden lost the argument for a smaller presence and a tighter mission, so he compromised and argued for 10K additional troops to the 60K or so that were already there. (This is what Kaplan is saying, right?). But Biden lost that argument too. We got the Surge with 30K+ with nation-building etc. and it failed spectacularly.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. There’s a book, by Craig Whitlock, of the Washington Post. The Afghanistan Papers…
    Here’s a bit of an article from the Guardian that talks about this book. Authored by, Julian Borger.

    William pretty much has told me, through following his teachings; about every one of these observations by this new book.
    Thank you sir for keeping me well informed, in an age where information about war coming from the
    “Experts” who manage the operation is camouflaged; I sure do appreciate the fact that leaning on your observations when I speak of these things with friends and acquaintances, the sword of truth is un-scabbarded.

    The Afghanistan Papers is a book about failure and about lying about failure, and about how that led to yet worse failures, and so on for 20 years. The title and the contents echo the Pentagon Papers, the leaked inside story of the Vietnam war in which the long road to defeat was paved with brittle happy talk.

    “With their complicit silence, military and political leaders avoided accountability and dodged reappraisals that could have changed the outcome or shortened the conflict,” Whitlock writes. “Instead, they chose to bury their mistakes and let the war drift.”

    As Whitlock vividly demonstrates, the lack of clarity, the deception, ignorance and hubris were baked in from the beginning. When he went to war in Afghanistan in October 2001, George Bush promised a carefully defined mission. In fact, at the time the first bombs were being dropped, guidance from the Pentagon was hazy.

    It was unclear, for example, whether the Taliban were to be ousted or punished.

    “We received some general guidance like, ‘Hey, we want to go fight the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan,’” a special forces operations planner recalled. Regime change was only decided to be a war aim nine days after the shooting started.

    The US was also hazy about whom they were fighting, which Whitlock calls “a fundamental blunder from which it would never recover”.

    Most importantly, the invaders lumped the Taliban in with al-Qaida, despite the fact the former was a homegrown group with largely local preoccupations while the latter was primarily an Arab network with global ambitions.

    That perception, combined with unexpectedly easy victories in the first months, led Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to believe the Taliban could be ignored. Despite offers from some leaders that they were ready to negotiate a surrender, they were excluded from talks in December 2001 on the country’s future. It was a decision the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, called the “original sin” of the war.

    Rumsfeld declared there was no point negotiating.

    “The only thing you can do is to bomb them and try to kill them,” he said in March 2002. “And that’s what we did, and it worked. They’re gone.”

    Not even Rumsfeld believed that. In one of his famous “snowflake” memos, at about the same time, he wrote: “I am getting concerned that it is drifting.”

    In a subsequent snowflake, two years after the war started, he admitted: “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”’

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Just a bit of info on Pakistan, the North-West has a significant population of ethnic Pustans which are also the dominate ethnic group in Eastern Afghanistan. Pustans are Pakistan’s second largest ethnicity consisting 15% of the population. They constitute a significant diaspora community in the cities of Lahore and Karachi, and are also a major ethnic group among the Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

    The lines drawn on the map for India-Pakistan and Afghanistan were mainly a British and to a lesser extent a Russian construct. Reminds me a bit of Central and Eastern Europe before WW 1, when different nationalities were corralled into the Empires.

    There were always the reports that Pakistan was playing both hands against the middle. Pakistan was anxious not to appear as “puppet” of the USA. There were always these reports that Pakistan was not trying very hard to stamp out the Taliban in Pakistan or aggressively try to find Bin-Laden. OBL was finally tracked down and seemed to be living under a witness protection program in Pakistan as some have put it.

    Back during the Cold War there was all this “tilting” as it was called. India was tilted to the Soviet Union since the Soviet Union was semi-hostile to the Chinese who were India’s hostile neighbor. The USA had Pakistan tilted to the USA. The classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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    1. Thanks, ML. This is roughly my understanding as well.

      I believe Pakistani elites have little interest in encouraging the Taliban, especially their ideology. They see the Taliban as something to be manipulated and controlled.

      Speaking of Pakistan, when I was an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, I had a Pakistani exchange cadet in my history class. As usual, this cadet knew more U.S. history than many of my red-white-and-blue American cadets.

      Pakistan puts its own interests first and is not above playing both the U.S. and the Taliban — we shouldn’t be surprised by this.

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    1. This article makes a great deal of sense, JPA. What the authors say aligns closely with reports I’ve read, in that the Taliban didn’t just walk into key cities and towns in the last two weeks and conquer them. Rather, they’ve been infiltrating for months, hiding in plain sight since not long after Biden confirmed TFG’s deal. When the time was right, the concealed forces simply shucked their disguises and pulled out their guns. Poof! Instant takeover.

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  16. Thanks for the knowledge. If I were Pakistan, I would understand that my neighbor has been living a nightmare “Groundhog Day” reality for much of it’s existence. So, to them, the Taliban were not just one hit wonders. They would rise and either be an extremely violent inconvenience; or a neighbor that minded it’s affairs within it’s own borders and participated in mutually shared interests without the aggression of unwanted entanglement between their societies. I believe that’s the best they could ever hope for. It’s hard for us to understand any possible help that Pakistan afforded the Taliban. We look at everything through our own righteous perspective; never calculating the problems we will create for Pakistan now that we’ve left Afghanistan to it’s own devices. I’m sure if Pakistan went all in with the coalition forces, they would be facing decades of border wars and a drain on funding for national interest that would enhance their citizens. I don’t believe arm-chairing Biden’s efforts are relevant to the greater cause of us who critique the American War Experiences . If he says he wanted to avoid the surge; I’ll give him credit for seeing a no win situation that we manifested. I have to believe that there were forces inside of every administration that bear blame; but beating up the current administration may actually provide cover for the original sin. It’s just common today to fling manure on your favorite political opponent; instead of extricating ones reasoning faculty from the manufactured partisanship, that I believe is a tactic to keep us all chasing our tails. It’s the whole fabric of monetary military ideology which you have woven together for me, this tapestry of terrorism is where the weight of my contempt wants to bear down upon. Heck, since I Biden was a long haul politician; you had to believe that every stance that he publicly took on major policy issues was going to filtered through the medium of electoral politics that could make or break his presidential aspirations.

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  17. In Afghanistan there live 18,356,000 adults according to the Credit Suisse Bank’s Global Wealth report for 2021. (Databook, page 115)
    The mean savings per adult is $1,744 in 2020.
    Multiply the two numbers for total private Afghani wealth: $32.012 billion.
    Cost of Afghan war in dollars over 20 years? — from Associated Press, April 30, 2021, “Counting the Cost of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan”
    “The U.S. has spent a stunning total of $2.26 trillion on a dizzying array of expenses, according to the Costs of War project. The Defense Department’s latest 2020 report said war-fighting costs totaled $815.7 billion over the years.” —
    The Brown University paper says total cost of post-9/11 wars is $6.4 trillion.

    My point — a nation with $32 billion in private net worth is not worth a 20 year war costing $815 billion or $2,260 billion. The Merchants of Death were the main cause of the war. Americans are pro-military to a fault. There’s a better way than war. Such a huge disconnect! That money could have delivered schools, universities, hospitals, roads, phone systems, power grids or local renewable power complexes, and public infrastructure, many times over the net worth of the population (about 70 times the net worth).
    And then there’s the human cost.
    Afghanistan adults on average are among the poorest 2% of the world’s adult population.
    There are 11 African nations with lower average adult savings, equal to 2% of the world’s population.
    And if I’m correct, the wars in Africa have been bloodier and deadlier than Afghanistan’s war.

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  18. Tom of Tom’s Dispatch has a good article along the lines of this one.
    ‘Imagine Spending $8 Trillion to Rebuild a Society Instead of Destroying One
    Post-Afghanistan, nation (un)building comes home.’

    They weren’t kidding when they called Afghanistan the “graveyard of empires.” Indeed, that cemetery has just taken another imperial body. And it wasn’t pretty, was it? Not that anyone should be surprised. Even after 20 years of preparation, a burial never is.

    In fact, the shock and awe(fulness) in Kabul and Washington over these last weeks shouldn’t have been surprising, given our history. After all, we were the ones who prepared the ground and dug the grave for the previous interment in that very cemetery……………….

    https://portside.org/2021-09-07/imagine-spending-8-trillion-rebuild-society-instead-destroying-one

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  19. Viewing our “adventures in Afghanistan” from a 20 year perspective is taking a short view of history.
    The ONLY times in the past 3000 years when a foreign culture succeeded in conquering an indigenous native culture was when they implemented a policy of genocide.
    Moses destroyed the Midianites for having wanton sex with the Israelites (as written in Deuteronomy, the Romans destroyed Carthage and eliminated their child-sacrifice rituals, the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and eliminated the “pay for pray” practice of sacrifices, and the Europeans unleashed small pox on Native Americans to make the land and resources available for “Civilization.”
    Until now, Afghanistan has been a far-to-remote country to conquer.
    The USSR Communists were about to eliminate the tribal and religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan when we foolishly supplied the Taliban with Stinger rockets to shoot down Russian helicopters. During that Communist invasion, Afghanistan had better secular education and a higher average personal income in its history.
    Hopefully the Crime Lords who run Russia and the “Communists” who run China will divide the country to increase their share of the resources. The Helmond area produces 90% of the world’s heroin and the Eastern Afghan provinces are some of the world’s richest deposits of rare-earth minerals for semi-conductors. Russia (and the Crime Lords who run it) distributes 80% of that heroin and China is the biggest investor and employer in Eastern Afghanistan for those mineral assets. Until now the Afghan profits from those “industries” went to support the Afghan Taliban and ISIS insurgencies and to bribe the Afghan officials. If the Taliban get as greedy as I expect, they will piss off their Russian and Chinese overlords who will then try to secularize Afghanistan because it is “good for business.”
    To paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz , “War is the continuation of politics by other means” and how they do business.

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