Our esteemed host has asked me to produce another update on the collapse of the US/NATO project in Afghanistan. I do this with the understanding that the situation is changing rapidly but first I must begin by amending the introduction that I wrote yesterday because, as many will know, we have to go much earlier than that. Among slightly deeper thinkers, the US/NATO failure on Afghanistan will be traced back to the US invasion of 2001, based on the belief that the plotting of the 9/11 attacks began there. But I would propose that the axiomatic basis for the US failure in Afghanistan originates much earlier, to Zbigniew Brzezinki’s plan to use Afghanistan as a wedge to bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1979. It took Brzezinki 20 years to spill the beans but spill them he finally did in a January 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, in which he revealed that he convinced Jimmy Carter to issue a directive providing secret support to the opposition to the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. Carter’s directive was issued on July 3, 1979, almost six months before the Soviet invasion on December 24. Brzezinski believed that the US meddling he proposed would cause a Soviet military response and voila!, they would have their Vietnam.
A key part of Brzezinski’s strategy was the buildup of jihadi groups using the Saudis to train them and opium trafficking to help finance them. This operation gave birth to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and fostered the growth of jihadi terrorism throughout Southwest Asia. There’s much more to the story but others with a history of involvement of such matters will know it in ways that I cannot.
As I write this, the UN Security Council is meeting in emergency open session. Will it have the insight to overcome this history and seek alternative approaches that will actually work or will it continue floundering in the dark?
Chaos at the Airport
As some readers have already noted in comments posted to my article of yesterday, chaos now reins at the airport in Kabul. The developing situation prompted the Biden Administration to announced yesterday that the total number of US troops to be deployed at the airport would go up to 6,000, with the addition of two battalions from a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division. focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control,” the statement said. “Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas…”
Signs of the US takeover of the airport were evident hours earlier, however, when, as one example, an Emirates flight from Dubai was forced to turn around with landing. “There were surely many people booked on the return flight to Dubai,” former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted yesterday.
Was There a US Intelligence Failure?
Did the Biden Administration make its decisions based on false intelligence or did it ignore accurate intelligence assessments in favor for reasons of policymaking? ABC News noted that just days ago a US military analysis predicted that Kabul could fall within 90 days but not by the weekend. “This is a crisis of untold proportions,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) told NBC News Sunday as Taliban militants swept into Kabul. “This is an intelligence failure. We underestimated the Taliban and overestimated the resolve of the Afghan Army.”
But unnamed US officials are saying that in fact key intelligence assessments had consistently informed policymakers that the Taliban could overwhelm the country and take the capital within weeks — essentially repeating the 1975 fall of Saigon. “[U.S.] leaders were told by the military it would take no time at all for the Taliban to take everything,” an anonymous U.S. intelligence official told ABC. “No one listened.” Other intelligence sources said that Biden and his team of advisers had reached their decision about the U.S. military’s withdrawal — which was all but completed on July 4 — based on a variety of factors that went beyond Kabul’s fate.
An anonymous senior congressional official told ABC that intelligence officers had warned the U.S. leaders about a swift and total victory by the fundamentalist Taliban militants who had held power in Kabul during the late 1990s up until after the Sept. 11 attacks. “The intelligence community assessment has always been accurate; they just disregarded it,” the official told ABC News, speaking about the Biden administration.
Blinken reportedly floundered when asked about the collapse on ABC’s This Week. He insisted that that “this is manifestly not Saigon” — even as live video from Kabul showed helicopters ferrying American officials out of the U.S. embassy compound to the military side of Kabul’s airport.
Biden himself said on July 8 that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
“What is happening in Afghanistan is not the result of an intelligence failure,” former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell tweeted on Sunday. “It is the result of numerous policy failures by multiple administrations. Of all the players over the years, the Intelligence Community by far has seen the situation in Afghanistan most accurately.”
Then there’s the predictions as to what the future will bring with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan. Gen. Milley, according to anonymous sources, told senators in a briefing call yesterday that U.S. officials are expected to alter their earlier assessments about the pace of terrorist groups reconstituting in Afghanistan, reported AP. In June, AP notes, the Pentagon’s top leaders said an extremist group like al-Qaida may be able to regenerate in Afghanistan and pose a threat to the U.S. homeland within two years of the American military’s withdrawal from the country. Based on the evolving situation, officials now believe terror groups like al-Qaida may be able to grow much faster than expected, according to a person with direct knowledge of the briefing. The Biden administration officials on the call with senators – among them were Milley, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin — said U.S. intelligence agencies are working on forming a new timeline based on the evolving threats, the person familiar with the matter said.
Taliban Takover Kabul
In Kabul itself the streets are reportedly empty, with no sign of governmental authority and Taliban members occupying security posts at government buildings. The Taliban, driving Rangers, Humvees, motorcycles, and their personnel vehicles, are apparently patrolling the Kabul and are guiding the traffic on some squares, reported Khaama Press.
Separately, Khaama reported that after the “escape” of Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and head of Hezb-e-Islami Gulbadin Hekmatyar came together and shaped a temporary council. The purpose of the council will be to negotiate the transfer of power to the Taliban. All three issued video statements but Abdullah and Hekmatyar were particularly critical of Ghani. Abdullah accused Ghani of leaving behind a mess while Hekmatyar accused Ashraf Ghani of continuing the war and remaining stubborn to transfer power peacefully to a government that is acceptable to all.
As for Ghani’s whereabouts now, Kazakh Foreign Ministry Spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov denied that he is in Kazakhstan, as some reports claimed. “Ghani is not in Kazakhstan,” he told TASS.
The Russians, in any case, are accusing Ghani of leaving the country with carloads of cash. “As for the collapse of the regime, it is most eloquently characterised by the way Ghani fled from Afghanistan: four cars were full of money, they tried to put part of the money into a helicopter, but everything did not fit. And some of the money was left on the runway,” Russian diplomatic mission spokesperson Nikita Ishenko told Sputnik.