Where we are now in Afghanistan- Editorial Opinion by PL


(Lt. Hamilton VC at Kabul where he commanded Sir Louis Cavangnari's escort)

A year or so after the US intervention in Afghanistan began in 2001 I perceived that there was a danger that US public and government opinion might begin to favor the idea of "nation building" in Afghanistan.  From long experience in and study of the area of Islamicate civilization and its history it seemed clear to me that such an effort would be doomed to failure at any price that one should be willing to pay in; expended effort over time, money and blood shed on all sides. 

The basic problem with Afghanistan is that there "is no there there."  Afghanistan is really a geographical expression rather than a country in the sense understood of the word in the post-Westphalian system of independent states.

Across the Islamicate world from Mauritania to Bangla Desh and beyond to Oceania there is a pronounced tendency to atomization in group perception of identity. Arabs do not identify with Berbers, etc., Tribes and clans within these groups regard all others as rivals and often enemies unless they are needed as temporary allies.

The Islamic religion which holds unity to be an ideal is often thought to be a unifier against the atomizing tendency in these cultures, but in fact there are many, many varieties of Islam, each one believing that it is uniquely favored by God.  This often cancels out whatever unifying effect Islam, as religion, can have.

Afghanistan, created as a buffer between imperial Russia and British India, is an extreme case of atomization among the inhabitants of a state which has recognition in the world political system including membership in the UN.  In spite of that status , a status that might deceive one into believing that there is such a thing as "the Afghan People,"the population of Afghanistan is actually made up of a number of different ethnic nations; Pushtuns, Hazzara, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turcomans, Arabs, etc.  These different  peoples all speak mutually unintelligible languages which often have such extreme separation in dialect that this amounts to uninteligibility as well.   Some of these groups are Sunni and others Shia.  This is yet another factor in the separation of the segments of the population.

The country has little substantial physical infrastructure.  What there is was largely constructed in the 50s and 60s as part of Cold War competition between the USSR and the US.  There is very little legal or governmental infrastructure.  A commercial company investing its own or borrowed money in Afghanistan is taking a great risk of never being able  to recover its investment from the local "pirates."  Government is generally predatory in its attitude toward foreign investment funds.  I tried to find a safe haven in Afghanistan for some of my company's funds and could find none.  Senior Afghan government people would typically respond to questions about legal infrastructure with exhortations to "bring your project, all will be well."  Needless to say …

US intervention in this place was inevitable after 9/11, but what was not necessary or wise were repeated US decisions for a COIN nation building campaign.  As this tendency began to be evident I argued for a much more limited goal in which the US would keep about 20K troops in country to maintain a government controlled enclave around Kabul and Bagram.  This would enable pursuit of located international  terrorist groups through raiding operations from that base area.  The basis for this strategy was my conclusion that the US could never "pacify" all of the territory of Afghanistan and that we would "break our teeth" trying.

I pressed this belief in various fora and with various individuals within the Obama Administration even as Obama endlessly contemplated the entreaties of the COINista generals, Petraeus, Mattis, McChrystal etc. for a country wide nation building COIN campaign.   The most interesting of these encounters was at an IQ2 debate at NYU in 2009 where I (and teammates) argued that "The US can never win in Afghanistan."  My side lost on points but the leader of the other team recently told me that he knows now that we were completely correct.  Obama gave in to the generals, and gave them the COIN war that they wanted.  I suppose that for "Barry" it was immensely flattering to have them "butter him up."

It is clear now that the COIN strategy has failed miserable and totally.  Afghanistan is not one bit more united or modernized than it has ever been.  The US has spent a sea of money there and many brave people have perished or been wrecked in chasing the idea of Afghanistan as a Central Asian Switzerland.

Trump has allowed Zalmai Khalilzad to attempt to achieve a negotiated peace with the Taliban, the former salafi takfiri, Pushtun rulers of Afghanistan, in the apparent belief that they could be "talked down out of the tree" just as his business competitors could always be talked down to meet at a "closing" table where his supposed "closing genius' would bring a DEAL.

Unfortunately this belief  in his closing talent goes unrewarded in Palestine, Syria, Turkey,Yemen, Iran, China (not yet), North Korea and Afghanistan.  IMO his difficulty in finding solutions lies in his entrapment within his own New York City business model, a model in which everything is for sale if the deal is structured skillfully to advantage the stronger party while all the while claiming that the party you are screwing is your friend.

Sadly for The Donald all those "stupid" foreigners do not understand that "everything is for sale."  Among them, the Taliban, an army and religio-political movement are notable for a lack of belief in the commercial possibilities of selling out to Donald Trump for a "mess of pottage"  or thirty pieces of silver whichever reference you prefer.  They want to win, and they want to be seen to have driven the "crusaders" from Afghanistan and in the process to have humiliated the US as the leading infidel state.  To that end they lie, prevaricate and await the day when they can crush the puny forces of "modernism" after the American departure.  Zalmai Khalilzad is an Afghan pushtun Sunni by birth and rearing.  Did he not know that they could not be trusted in dealings with the US?  I do not blame the Taliban for being what they are.  I blame all the American and NATO fools for believing that they could make the Taliban either go away or become "happy campers."  They were never going to do either of those things.  We should have known that.  Some of us did, but Americans are addicted to all the melting pot, right side of history foolishness so common in "levelled" America,

What should the US do now that the scales have fallen from Trump's eyes and the time of "good faith" negotiation with the Taliban is "dead?"  The first thing to do is to fire Khalilzad.

Last night, Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor told Tucker Carlson that the US should simply leave, and should have never intervened.  IOW we should get the hell out totally and forever.  This is a tempting thought.  I have wrestled with the attractiveness of the idea but there are certain problems with it.

1.  We should not want to give the jihadi movements proof of our feckless defeatability.  IMO if we leave suddenly the Afghan government and armed forces will soon collapse.  The country will then further disintegrate into a welter of jihadi factions and regional tribal strongmen, the strongest of which will be the Taliban.

2.  We have encouraged modernist Afghan men, women and girls to emerge from the shadows.  Shall we leave them to their fates under the rule of the jihadis.

3. What about all the translators, base workers and other people who have cast their lots with us.  The Taliban and other jihadis will simply kill them as apostates.  We abandoned a lot of such people in Iraq.  Will we do it again?

On balance I would say Macgregor is right that we must leave.  The time for a small remaining presence is past.  The forces in the field are too strong for a small force to maintain itself even with massive long range air support.  Think of Sir Louis Cavangnari.   No, we should leave, but we should leave on a schedule that will enable us to control the timing of our going and to protect the departure of those who wish to leave with us.  pl

BTW, SWMBO says that no mutually understood languages = no country.


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57 Responses to Where we are now in Afghanistan- Editorial Opinion by PL

  1. Fred says:

    Very timely commentary. On small bright note is that Trump fired Bolton last night.

  2. Keith Harbaugh says:

    “We should not want to give the jihadi movements proof of our feckless defeatability.”
    Gee, like admit to reality?
    My view: Acknowledge the U.S. is not omnipotent, and has very limited ability to influence, let alone, control, other parts of the world other than those to which it has extremely close ties, most especially the Five Eyes and other parts of what was once called Western Civilization.

  3. Aono says:

    I just want to mention that about once a year I dig the IQ2 debate out and watch it again in full. Call it a sanity check I suppose. It is clear that you were trying to be substantive throughout, which was somewhat hampered by the amorphous premise of “success” undergirding the debate question. The other side (Nagle in particular) was trying to “win” the debate by defining success so broadly as to exclude questions over the “how,” and they used that as an excuse to dodge your indictment of COIN. But it is very clear who had the right of it, and it is at least somewhat gratifying to hear that same admission was made to you.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    I suspect that we will retain our forces in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. To understand why you’ve got to consider the politics rather than the pragmatics.
    No president wants to be the one who “lost Afghanistan” (as though it were ours to lose) or, worse yet, be the president who removed forces from a country from which an attack on the U. S. would emanate afterwards or be staged from or planned from.
    The greatest likelihood of our removing our forces from Afghanistan would be towards the end of a president’s second term, especially if that president were a Democrat and could expect to take less heat from the media. In other words Obama should have removed our forces from Afghanistan and if he wouldn’t Trump won’t, especially not before being re-elected.

  5. catherine says:

    Afghanistan,the land where other countries go to die.
    I know next to nothing about strategy and such but it seemed to me totally stupid to go into Afghanistan to supposedly rout ALQ….they and their cause could move around and pop up anywhere.

  6. blue peacock says:

    Col. Lang
    No matter what the US government does or does not do, wouldn’t Afghanistan revert to its natural state as you have described it?
    It seems Trump’s “negotiated” deal with the Taliban would have been a good approach to getting out but that’s now no longer a possibility. Would supporting the Tajiks through Russia and India as a counter-balance to the Taliban work to keep them from completely dominating? Russia and India likely have an interest in preventing jihadis from using Taliban dominated territory to infiltrate. Is it even worth any effort on the part of the US government? It would seem Pakistan and China would continue working to influence events there.

  7. Grazhdanochka says:

    My longstanding belief is that Afghanistan to be ‘tamed’ requires the type of Steel that only existed long ago.
    The Modern World has modernized beyond the brutal realities that taming it likely requires, and as such may lose a fraction of the Lives and Treasure as past – but cannot sustain it politically or socially.
    The next Question – If Afghanistan is simply a construct, why not forsake most of it and develop the regions of Afghanistan that ARE more amiable and Homogenous?
    A lot of the Tadzhiks and Uzbeks (varied Turkmen) I suspect could be far more easily propped up and supported in their own Lands, which back to back with the Central Asian FSU States is a more viable ‘Nation Building’ Exercise.
    What ultimately tamed the ‘Wilds’? The Development of strong local States, Force of Arms and ultimately – Demographics.
    If you will not do it yourself, pick a unified Team and back them in doing it.
    Ironically the means to inflict harm on occupying Militaries seems to go down as those Armies means to stomach it does also.
    The next obvious Question. Is it worth considering (not necessarily for the US and Western States – who will appear as desperate Losers) the idea that Afghanistan if allowed to run as strong Armed Islamic State, albeit modernized – might actually one day develop into one more approachable to further modernization?
    All just quick Thoughts for me.

  8. I agree we should unilaterally withdraw all our forces from Afghanistan. The military can surely plan and carry out a unilateral withdrawal. Just do it. The Taliban are not al Qaeda or the Islamic State. Their desires don’t extend beyond the mountains of Afghanistan. Hell, they’re fighting IS. Let them do so and don’t give them reason to go over to them.
    The rub will be all those Afghanis who tied their futures to us. We should resettle them here or somewhere more familiar to them as part of that withdrawal. The chance of that happening under the Trump administration is nil.

  9. Ray R says:

    A “long, long, time ago” in “a land far away”, Najibullah was deposed. Pat, you’ll recall that I was then serving as the chair of the Inter-agency Task Force on Afghanistan. Well, we had our regular meeting at which a couple of the folks opined that this was a wonderful development for the country and the folks would now all join hands, dance around the campfire, and sign Kumbaya. To bring the group back to reality, I asked for someone to identify the national sport of Afghanistan. One of the group said that, obviously, it was buzkhasi. So I then asked for someone else to clarify how such a game unfolds and another stalwart did so. This dialogue quickly brought everyone back to reality. For those unfamiliar with the sport, buzkhasi consists of two nominal “teams” on horseback trying to get a headless goat carcass across the opponent’s goal line. All goes well at first, but ultimately the teams disintegrate until it’s every man for himself in mass mayhem. Thus, IMHO will go Afghanistan.

  10. A. Pols says:

    Sadly enough this old quote seems especially true in the case of the “Afghan War” or whatever it is. Our experts’ obdurate insistence on pursuing “peace with honor” or some outcome we can get our heads around and feel good about has become a receding horizon…
    The only way we could “win” would be by waging a war of extermination with the goal of totally depopulating the entire territory and building an impenetrable barrier around it. But of course that would be a hard sell for a country with a good guy reputation to protect. And then what would we do with the land? After all, we still haven’t been able to settle most of Nevada and Wyoming!
    “History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”
    Ambrose Bierce

  11. turcopolier says:

    TTG et al
    If Trump wants to abandon those who depend on us rather than arrange for those to wish to leave to do so then resisting that gross behavior is a good way to be fired from his administration. Long ago
    we made a deal with the VN communists and then left the country. Two years later the VN communists attacked and much of the VN population fled in anything that would fly or float. Many died in that flight.

  12. walrus says:

    I said at the beginning of this mess that the one sure thing was that we would end up with chains of Iraqi and afghan restaurants begun by the refugees who had to leave their countries with us when we left. I just hope we have progressed from leaving behind card indexes of our in-country supporters for the Taliban to discover, as allegedly happened in Vietnam.

  13. Barbara Ann says:

    These kind of wars seem to take 3 presidents to end. Trump is this war’s Nixon and was elected on a platform which included ‘losing’ Afghanistan. The media will howl once the Taliban take over, but it will swiftly pass as they realize Americans have no interest in a place where their countrymen are no longer dying.

  14. Barbara Ann says:

    I enjoyed the IQ2 debate you reference, particularly your coining of the word “Vermontize”. Incredible to think this conversation about an 8 year old war was 10 years ago – and we are still having it. Here is the link for anyone interested:

  15. Valissa says:

    I really enjoy these type of situational overview and analysis posts, thanks!
    Although I see your point about Trump’s crass business approach, let’s face it… the military and various US gov’t orgs have had any many years to try various approaches to “solving” (cough, cough) Afghanistan. After all the US has been in Afghanistan since 2001. We had been in Afghanistan for 15 years was Trump was elected. After all those years of failure by the Borg I have no problem whatsoever with Trump taking a shot at the situation in his own way. Trump tried a certain tactic and it didn’t work. Oh well, but lessons learned. He’ll regroup, get more advice and try something else. He’s making more of an effort to resolve things than previous presidents, and willing to think outside of the Borg box.

  16. BraveNewWorld says:

    If the US leaves and I believe it should it doesn’t have to mean the end of days. China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan have all expressed interest in clearing the area of terrorists. They have all been blocked by the US presence. Preferably the US would work a deal with those players who are far better connected and prepared to clean up the neighbourhood than the US is from the other side of the world. Russia was willing to act as guarantor for the collapsed deal. Work a deal for one or more of them to move in as the US moves out.
    My concern is that with all the big players wanting a piece of the pie that it evolves into an even worse proxy war. But China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran are all rowing in more or less the same direction these days and India has bitten off all it can chew in Kashmir so this may be the perfect time. Americans just have to get over that indispensable nation nonsense.
    Ya, I know go fuck myself.

  17. Antoinetta III says:

    “The Afghans who tied their future to us.”
    Do we have some estimate of how many people this involves?
    Antoinetta III

  18. Antoinetta III says:

    TTG refers to those Afghans who have “tied their future to us.” This would indicate some approximately specific number of individuals.
    You refer to “arrange for those who wish to leave.” I suspect that the latter number would be far higher than the former. The number of individuals who have reason to fear retaliation by the Taliban is, I suspect, far smaller than those who would wish to leave Afghanistan because the economic grass is greener over here.
    Allowing the former group to settle here is one thing, but allowing economic refugees to piggyback on the political refugees is something altogether different. So how to sort this out, especially in light of the fact that most of the Left sees immigration as an unqualified positive and would work to allow everyone in?
    Antoinetta III

  19. CK says:

    That is the exact same argument I heard in 72 and again in 75. By early 76 no one cared. There are in every country and in every involvement Quislings and main chancers who find the short term gelt available to be worth the future risk of making the wrong and visible choice.
    In the case of most of these Afghanis the tie was a slip knot at best.

  20. turcopolier says:

    Antoinetta III
    Do you care nothing for the women and girls who will be forced back into the Middle Ages by the jihadis?

  21. turcopolier says:

    Antoinetta III
    you have an accountant’s soul.

  22. RenoDino says:

    Afghanistan borders China. For that reason alone, we are never leaving whatever the cost in blood or treasure. The country is a very forward, strategic military base that can be used to launch air attacks on Chinese assets and impede China’s Belt and Road initiative.
    Despite his bluster, Trump is very weak and knows the Taliban is winning and fears they will try to drive us out before the election, ushering in his defeat. Most of his time is spent cowering in his golf resorts, ranting and raving on a tiny little cellphone.
    The Blob will not allow any of his fears to shake the resolve of the Deep State to make Afghanistan a colony for a thousand years.
    They have been successful in implanting in the psyche of every American the incorrect notion that the Taliban launched 9/11. That notion alone means there is no support for any truce or treaty with our bete noir.

  23. Morongobill says:

    These lines from Rudyard Kipling immediately came to my mind:
    “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    Go, go, go like a soldier,
    So-oldier of the Queen!”
    We are never going to change Afghanistan so getting out and taking those who supported us is appealing to me.

  24. evodevo says:

    No, all Trump was doing was looking for a re-election publicity stunt and a shot at that elusive Nobel like Obama got….he’s done this kind of thing for the last 40 years – he isn’t going to change his personality now…

  25. turcopolier says:

    It is not a base. It is a sinkhole.

  26. Diana C says:

    Thank you for thinking of the women and girls….and perhaps their little boys.
    I’ve lived through the abandonment of Vietnam and the influx of refugees from that part of the world, the mess after the Iraq War that included bringing to our country many who had tied their fortunes to us. We can not this time decide to abandon any who have tied their hopes to us after we came in and caused so much turmoil in their country.
    I always thought it was hubris on our part to think we could do what the Soviets failed to do.
    If we bring these people here, my hope is that we examine how our bringing in Somalis has, in many places, not been a successful effort in regard to integrating them into our society. (Do not many of us, including Nancy Pelosi, regret the bringing in of at least one Somali woman?) We need to prepare for their entry into our country in some way that will not mean just dropping them somewhere and letting them fend for themselves.
    I know the government has some sort of protocol for finding them places to live. Often, however, the people seem to be dropped in and left in some ways to depend on themselves “as strangers in a strange land.” This should be our last time. Stop the “nation-building” efforts.
    I feel that most Americans are welcoming and friendly people, but they often just do not understand how difficult it is for some to adapt to a very different way of life.

  27. guidoamm says:

    It seems to me that if one parsed reports from the Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction along with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime’s “Afghanistan Opium Survey”, any illusions as to what the reasons for the West’s intervention in that country were, should dissipate rather speedily.
    History repeats.

  28. confusedponderer says:

    Mr. Lang,
    It is not a base. It is a sinkhole.
    Maybe that’s why Mr. Prince wanted Trump to make him the viceroy of Afghanistan.
    What a career that would be – a former SEAL lieutenant, then mercenary, promoted to something like a field marshal, bringing fabulous quarter numbers, strategy or something like that, peace and freedom to the place by privatising the war and fighting it more cost effective for himself.

  29. turcopolier says:

    so, your belief is that we invaded Afghanistan so that we could steal the foreign aid money that we would give them and could sponsor the opium trade. Funny! A joke right?

  30. ISL says:

    Dear Colonel,
    I see no evidence that Trumps vision is actually clear. For that he (and the blob) would have to acknowledge that inside every Afghani is (not an American waiting to emerge) an Afghani (of their local tribe).
    IMO, we should turn the mess over to Pakistan and allow Afghanistani’s who (stupidly given our history and our current and former leaders) supported our efforts highest priority in immigration with no quota).
    And pigs can fly to the Jupiter – given Trump’s anti-immigrant re-election strategy.
    Oh wait, we are busy antagonizing Pakistan (along with just about every other country in the world) – but who needs friends (or allies) when you are rich rich rich (just ignore the debt that cancels it all out), I mean have an awesome credit line on the visa card……
    Afterall, its not as if states follow their interests and if you dis-align your interests with theirs you cant just make it work out nice.

  31. turcopolier says:

    IMO Trump has no clarity of anyhthing in foreign policy. He is just trying to make a deal in accordance with his experience of deal making and is not doing well. It will be interesting to see if he and Trudeau can sell the USMCA to Pelosi. this is clearly a gooddeal. Let’s see how hard he pushes for it. With regard to the ME, have reached the conclusion that his basic attitudes are formed in the culture of New York City Jewry. A Christian Brothre who had two PH.D.s in STEM and was a New York City guy once told me that I had to understand that everyone in NY City is to some extent Jewish, even the cardinal archbishop.

  32. Antoinetta III says:

    No, but the women and girls would be half the Afghan population, or around 19 million people. I expect most would be here in a jiffy if they get the chance.
    But the real issue is, and I think most here agree, is that it is impossible for the US to deal with all the nastiness that goes on around the globe. Extend this logic globally, and we’re looking at a couple billion people who would love to come.
    The humanitarian angle was pushed to gin up our involvement in Iraq, Syria and Libya. All that led to was a level of death, destruction and displacement, of misery that was magnitudes larger than any of the brutality of Saddam, Khadafy or Assad.
    The various regions and cultures of the world are going to have to sort out their own issues. There are no good options, but the least bad option is for the US to get out of the way and let them get on with it.
    Antoinetta III

  33. RenoDino says:

    It is not a base. It is a sinkhole–A distinction without a difference.
    Your reference to Mr. Prince was spot on. He understood what the long-term plans for Afghanistan were and still are. A viceroy is the designated ruling representative of a colonial power.
    American’s negotiating position in every instances with rival nations is to dictate the terms for surrender regardless of the circumstances on the ground. It’s an untenable position and guarantees perpetual war and occupation which is precisely the point.

  34. turcopolier says:

    “It is not a base. It is a sinkhole–A distinction without a difference” If you make stupid comment here you will be banned. A base is a secure place from which to operate. A sinkhole is a useless place that does nothing for you and just soaks up resources. The US had no long term plane for Afghanistan and you have no proof that we did. Please. Give me an excuse to ban you.

  35. turcopolier says:

    Antoinetta III
    OK, heartless one, let’s not try to distinguish among people who were victimized by our intervention in their country and half the world’s poor.

  36. JM Gavin says:

    I spent several years in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014. I was there, with a front row seat, when the shift to nation-building began. The best days of my life were in Afghanistan, spent amongst the finest men and women from many nations…including Afghanistan.
    We lost the war a long time ago. By 2006, I could see we were losing. By 2008, I knew it was lost.
    How many Afghans have hitched their horses to our wagon? More than enough. How many others chose to live as free men and women because we were there? A significant part of the population. They face a reckoning for living that hope out loud, in public.
    The Afghan people are amazing, and a lot of them believed in us, and in a future where women could be more than a piece of property. I can see why some would say we should walk away, and, it’s hard to argue against that.
    I’ll carry what we did in Afghanistan to my grave.

  37. Dave Schuler says:

    Human affairs are not particle physics in which things happen because of impersonal forces. People do things for reasons. They may be right or wrong and they may be rational or irrational but they have reasons. If a different direction is taken it is either because circumstances have changed or the personalities have changed.
    Don’t be surprised if Trump leaves troops in Afghanistan for the same reasons Obama did.

  38. This has been Trump’s true failing – not applying his vast business acumen to turn DoD into a profit center.

  39. Jim Ticehurst says:

    Colonel …I agree with your Opinion on this matter of Withdrawl..I have read a Year by Year timeline of The Millions spent..for the Training Of Afghanistan Military and Security Forces..and Like in Viet Nam..they will..Fail to Defend Themselves..Thier Hearts wont be In It..and Like Viet Nam..It Just made The Communist North Vietnamese the Third Most Powerful Conventional Weapons stockpile in the World..withnAll nthe Equipment we Left behind…The..Billions Spent to keep Our Military presence there..The Millions Spent for VA Resources to care for Our Wounded..Many with Traumatic Head Injurys…The loss of Our People there..Overt and Covert…The loss of Seal Team 6 in the Aftermath of Finally Getting Osama Bin Laden…It will Never End…There will always be those willing to die for Ji -Had..Forever..Over a Trillion Dollars..Plus all The Money we sent to Pakistan..Which has been Most of Our Foreign Aid..Its been a Tragic Blunder..and .there Has Never Been such a Thing as “Mission Accomplished”..This hs been the second most Costly War since WW-Two……..Bring Them Home.. …9/11/2001,,,,9/11/2019.A War of the Politicians..By The Politicians For The Politicians.and the Military..Industrial Complex….and Their Egos..and Bank accounts..Period…Thomas Jefferson Knew This was coming.

  40. Jack says:

    I know nothing about Doug Macgregor but he sounds really sane in this interview with Tucker. If Trump does what he suggests it would be a welcome approach and drive the Borg insane.
    Do you know him or have an opinion about him?

  41. turcopolier says:

    Yes, I know Doug. A fine soldier. AIPAC would rather see me have the job than Doug

  42. Bill Hatch says:

    I agreed with sending SOF in to kill AQ being harbored by the Taliban. I said at the time, “Go in, kill the people who need killing & get the hell out.”
    There is only one thing that can unify Afgan tribes, that’s the presence of foreigners. A very long history has resulted in the reference to “the graveyard of empires.” I don’t believe that the Taliban is a threat to the US outside of Afghanistan. They are a threat to any American in Afghanistan. Nation building in Afghanistan is domed to failure. The only issue is what is to be the fate of the Afghani’s who assisted us or bought into the idea of westernization. Our recent history is to abandon these people.
    Eventually we will join the list of Afghan invaders from Cyrus, to Alexander, to the Brits. The only question is how we depart & how much more blood & treasure we spend.

  43. JM Gavin says:

    In my experience, nothing can unify Afghan tribes, or even the sub-tribes. There is a saying amongst the Pashtun: “Me against my brothers, my brothers and I against my cousins, my cousins and I against the world.” The real Taliban (meaning the political entity, exiled to the east, also known as “The Quetta Shura,” have never been able to get “Taliban” factions in Afghanistan to unite against anything. COL Lang is spot-on, there is no collective “Afghan” identity.
    Afghanistan is still run by warlords. The vast majority of folks referred to as “Taliban” are really just warlords (and the warlords’ minions) wrapping themselves in the Taliban flag, as it suits them now. If the Taliban were to come back to controlling power in Afghanistan, many of the warlords would switch to fighting the Taliban. True territorial gains in Afghanistan are generally made when warlords switch sides. Afghan warlords are the most loyal people money can buy…well, rent, anyway.

  44. Barbara Ann says:

    Yes, I should have expanded on my thinking: The point I meant to make was that the war will likely end very much because of personal (emotional) forces. Circumstances and personalities change, but the cyclic nature of the human emotions felt by a public fighting long-term wars does not. Anger at the enemy and hope we could win were the dominant moods during Bush’s terms. Weariness gradually became dominant during Obama’s time, just as it did during Johnson’s. But people seldom have the courage to publicly admit they were wrong, especially if they want to be re-elected. Like Nixon, Trump has a fresh mandate based on weariness and anger at the war’s cost and can be seen as a winner by ‘losing’ Afghanistan.
    Trump may try and leave a residual force, but I’d bet he will return to the table & try and make peace with the Taliban.

  45. The IQ2 debate was significant for me personally when I first saw it. The arguments for staying in Afghanistan were set out coherently and for perhaps the first time I caught a glimpse of the immense intellectual effort, in the think tanks and the academies, that goes into justifying the neocon position. That neocon  position working through almost by osmosis to the heavyweight newspapers and media outlets, and providing the narrative framework within which the Intelligence Initiatives of this world right down to the little propaganda sites work.  Such varied figures as Charles Lister or Peter Tatchell have backup, and how.  
    It’s an intellectual fortress, the whole, and for many of us in the general public
    it confirms us comfortably in the neocon rationale.  It gives us the arguments, and the excuses, and as long as one declines to notice that those arguments and excuses do shift around, we pay our taxes for this or that crazy neocon venture without complaint and often gladly.  Gramsci and his like stand vindicated.  Capture the academies and the rest of us follow, often willingly.
    And just a few, of those in the public eye, standing up true and declaring “This emperor has no clothes!”
    Which happened, as I saw several years later when I got to view it, in that IQ2 debate.  Around that time I came across Major Stueber’s documentary which had rather more than seven minutes to lay out how hopeless it was for Western armies to fight alongside local forces, when those local forces were so hopelessly factional, corrupt, and therefore ineffectual.
    And a footnote just recently.  I head a Swedish aid worker relating just how impossible it was for him too to function in Afghanistan.  Money put through to local groups swallowed up in false invoicing, ghost workers whose salaries went to swell the pay packet of their superiors, slush funds because that was the only way to get things done.
    It was never a doable venture, Afghanistan.  That was clear to a few in that debate ten years ago and it’s clear to more now.  I hope it’s possible to get out without leaving the urban Westernised Afghans too much at the mercy of the rest.
    And perhaps, also reflecting that the Rovean narratives that the academies and think tanks conjure up for us, at such expense and at such effort, all crumble eventually when reality, as it must finally, breaks through.

  46. Jane says:

    How will our Afghan encounter end? I recommend the most recent article by retired military officer, author and now president of the newly founded Quincy Institute, Andrew Bacevich in the bipartisan “Anti-War” website in which he reflects on our departure from Vietnam as relevant to Afghanistan. Quincy [named after John Quincy Adams who advised against unnecessary foreign entanglements]. This new think tank is the ultimate bipartisan effort to combat the predominant “forever war” syndrome within the Democratic and Republican establishments. Seed money came from Charles Koch and George Soros! Conservative Bacevich and liberal former NIAC head, Iranian-American author and activist Trita Parsi are the pioneers in this venture.

  47. Jane says:

    It is said that in Afghanistan, he who governs lightly, governs the longest. This policy of regional decentralization allowed the country’s Pashtun rulers to govern the highly diverse population without regional fragmentation. Those who chose another path didn’t last long. Today, this remains the reality, with either warlords or local Taliban commanders in charge.
    Another historical lesson underappreciated by the US is that social and cultural changes were introduced to the urban upper and middle classes and then gradually adopted by poorer urbanites and in rural areas when locals were attracted to these changes; the use of technology to improve their livelihoods, access to education and health services spread as paths to upward mobility or more comfortable living. This is why later government- imposed country-wide changes were seen as foreign and “un-Islamic” and met with resistance, first by the mujaheddin and then to the Taliban.
    Urban and other educated Afghans learn both Pushtu and Dari in school, with one or the other as language of instruction and the other as a second language. Dari is the language of most official communications of the government and lingua franca for trade. The media are also a significant factor in the mutual intelligibility and use of the two languages, even where neither language is native to the region. Even In distant parts of the country, where many people may only speak the local language, media saturation following the fall of the Taliban have increased understanding of one or both of these two predominant tongues.
    Many Afghans today have access to media from neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Not so sure that the offerings from Tajikistan and China are very entertaining. Uzbekistan likely broadcasts a lot of Turkish entertainment programming wildly popular from Latin America to Indonesia. Private Afghan networks do so as well. I don’t know if there are any studies of all this.

  48. elaine says:

    Colonel, I think it would be righteous to show loyalty to those Afgans who
    risked their lives working with us as translators & in other positions of
    support however we can’t bring all the woman & girls of that area stateside.
    Today I watched Chrisann Amonpour’s show on CNN; she featured a piece with Arwa Damon interviewing ISIS brides being held in Kurdish makeshift detention
    centers along with the children of the widowed brides many of whom wanted to be repatriated to their home countries. Do you have an opinion of this matter?

  49. turcopolier says:

    What I meant was that we should identify those women and girls who are most at risk through feminist activism, female education and the like and offer them the chance to come to America if they want it. Women who have been used as “booty” by the jihadis cannot go home. they should know that. Amanpour, a Shia woman by birth and rearing, should know that.These women are soiled forever in the minds of their own people. The neocons and foolish people like Bush 43 should have understood the social consequences of meddling in the rather delicate societal balances of Iraq before acting. Ah! I forget that Cheney, Condoleeza Rice. Libby Judy Miller, and Michael Gordon and such as they were forced to act by the threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons (irony).

  50. turcopolier says:

    John Quincy Adams was one of the leading instigators of the Northern nationalism that brought on the Civil War. I am not interested in what they have on their site.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I have no sympathy for foreign ISIS brides that went there to Iraq and Syria to fight for the cause of Jihad.

  52. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Heaven only knows what Jihadist would have done to Amanpour if they had gotten their hands on her.
    Anglo-American Feminists cannot help those women. Muslims cannot help them. May be Catholic Social Services?

  53. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Trita Parsi is a Zoroastrian.

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    When the English helped complete the separation of the Land of Lamentations from Iran, they denied 2 things to Afghans: oil wealth, and culture wealth. Make New Mexico and independent state and watch it spiral downward…

  55. Barbara Ann says:

    Extrapolating in the spirit of Thoreau, one would imagine that he who governs not at all should be able to govern Afghanistan forever.

  56. Jane says:

    The historical role of Adams aside, if this gets going seriously, it will be the only/only partisan or bipartisan think tank and venue for countervailing voices. Bill Kristol launched the opening salvo against what they stand for.

  57. JamesT says:

    Afghanistan borders Iran. For that reason alone, the US will not leave until after we have invaded Iran.

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