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You can end our war in Afghanistan

We have reached an important moment in the Afghanistan War, a point where citizen involvement can make a difference.  If we speak out.  And success here might show our strength, and lead to greater victories hereafter.

Hawks usually give two justifications for the war:

  1. to prevent another 9-11, and
  2. to build a stable and “good” Afghanistan (good being defined in many ways — cherishing human rights, prosperous, democratic, etc).

The first of these is the Big Lie.  Afghanistan had little or no role in 9-11.  Whatever we do in Afghanistan does not prevent another 9-11.  The 9-11 attack was planned in Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, and Hamburg.  The most important and relevant training of the 9-11 terrorists took place in the US.

AQ’s Afghanistan camps primarily trained fighters against the Northern Alliance. The training they provided for 9-11 could easily have been done elsewhere. For more on this see “The ‘safe haven’ myth“, Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, 18 August 2009, or “Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?, Paul R. Pillar, op-ed in the Washington Post, 16 September 2009.tan had little or no role in 9-11.  Whatever we do in Afghanistan does not prevent another 9-11.

The second reason is so absurd that it needs no rebuttal, as most Americans reject it as either impossible or not worth the cost in blood and money.

This big lie is the keystone of the Afghanistan War.  Remove it and public support for the war will collapse.  No war can be waged by America without a high degree of public support.  Start today!  Tell your friends and relatives.  Write your newspapers.  Post comments on blogs.  Speak up!  So far all the passion has been by the pro-war advocates, like Ralph Peters (see here for examples).  When the rest of us speak up with equal passion the war will end.


  1. The 9-11 Commission debunks the big lie about AQ’s bases in Afghanistan
  2. A supporter of the war admits that the “prevent another 9-11” story is bogus
  3. Our geopolitical experts spread the big lie
  4. The big lie lives, repeated to us today by our leaders
  5. For more information about our war in Afghanistan

(1)  The 9-11 Commission debunks the big lie about AQ’s bases in Afghanistan

The most complete public collection of information about these things is The 9-11 Commission’s Report.  For details about the role of the training in Afghanistan, see page 156, Chapter 5, Al Qaeda Aims at the American Homeland:

In the fall of 1999, the four operatives selected by Bin Ladin for the planes operation were chosen to attend an elite training course at al Qaeda’s Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. Bin Ladin personally selected the veteran fighters who received this training, and several of them were destined for important operations.

… The Mes Aynak training camp was located in an abandoned Russian copper mine near Kabul. The camp opened in 1999, after the United States had destroyed the training camp near Khowst with cruise missiles in August 1998, and before the Taliban granted al Qaeda permission to open the al Faruq camp in Kandahar. Thus, for a brief period in 1999, Mes Aynak was the only al Qaeda camp operating in Afghanistan. It offered a full range of instruction, including an advanced commando course taught by senior al Qaeda member Sayf al Adl. Bin Ladin paid particular attention to the 1999 training session. When Salah al Din, the trainer for the session, complained about the number of trainees and said that no more than 20 could be handled at once, Bin Ladin insisted that everyone he had selected receive the training.

The special training session at Mes Aynak was rigorous and spared no expense. The course focused on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters combat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Although the subjects taught differed little from those offered at other camps, the course placed extraordinary physical and mental demands on its participants, who received the best food and other amenities to enhance their strength and morale.

Upon completing the advanced training at Mes Aynak, Hazmi, Khallad, and Abu Bara went to Karachi, Pakistan. There KSM instructed them on Western culture and travel.

See page 332, Chapter 10 — Wartime, and ponder the road not taken:

The State Department proposed delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban: produce Bin Ladin and his deputies and shut down al Qaeda camps within 24 to 48 hours, or the United States will use all necessary means to destroy the terrorist infrastructure. The State Department did not expect the Taliban to comply. Therefore, State and Defense would plan to build an international coalition to go into Afghanistan.

Both departments would consult with NATO and other allies and request intelligence, basing, and other support from countries, according to their capabilities and resources. Finally, the plan detailed a public U.S. stance: America would use all its resources to eliminate terrorism as a threat, punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, hold states and other actors responsible for providing sanctuary to terrorists, work with a coalition to eliminate terrorist groups and networks, and avoid malice toward any people, religion, or culture. (State Department memo, “Gameplan for Polmil Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan,” 14 Sept 2001)

President Bush recalled that he quickly realized that the administration would have to invade Afghanistan with ground troops.

(2)  A supporter of the war admits that the “prevent another 9-11” story is bogus

Even some supporters of the war admit that the “prevent another 9-11” rationale is bogus.  Such as Stephen Biddle in “Is It Worth It? The Difficult Case for War in Afghanistan“, The American Interest, July/August 2009 — Excerpt:

The United States has two primary national interests in this conflict: that Afghanistan never again become a haven for terrorism against the United States, and that chaos in Afghanistan not destabilize its neighbors, especially Pakistan. Neither interest can be dismissed, but both have limits as casus belli.

The first interest is the most discussed — and the weakest argument for waging the kind of war we are now waging.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in the first place to destroy the al-Qaeda safe haven there—actions clearly justified by the 9/11 attacks. But al-Qaeda is no longer based in Afghanistan, nor has it been since early 2002. By all accounts, bin Laden and his core operation are now based across the border in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The Taliban movement in Afghanistan is clearly linked with al-Qaeda and sympathetic to it, but there is little evidence of al-Qaeda infrastructure within Afghanistan today that could directly threaten the U.S. homeland. If the current Afghan government collapsed and were replaced with a neo-Taliban regime, or if the Taliban were able to secure political control over some major contiguous fraction of Afghan territory, then perhaps al-Qaeda could re-establish a real haven there.

But the risk that al-Qaeda might succeed in doing this isn’t much different than the same happening in a wide range of weak states throughout the world, from Yemen to Somalia to Djibouti to Eritrea to Sudan to the Philippines to Uzbekistan, or even parts of Latin America or southern Africa.

(3)  Our geopolitical experts spread the big lie

“We need to do 4 things – what we might call “essential strategic tasks” – to succeed in Afghanistan. We need to prevent the re-emergence of an Al Qaeda sanctuary that could lead to another 9/11.”
Statement of David Kilcullen before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan on 5th February 2009

“The mission is to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other transnational extremists. That’s what it had become before the operations conducted in the wake of 9/11. Al Qaeda wants to carry out further attacks on the US and our allies, and we need to deny them safe havens in which they can plan and train for such attacks.”
— From “The Battle Ahead – General Petraeus on US Strategy”, Ralph Peters, op-ed in the New York Post, 19 May 2009

“Failure in Afghanistan would mean not only a possible return of pre-9/11 safe havens, but also a sharp blow to the prestige of the United States and its allies.”
— “Triage: The Next Twelve Months in Afghanistan and Pakistan“, David Kilcullen et al, Center for a New American Security, 10 June 2009

“The war in Afghanistan is in the interests of the United States for four reasons. First, increasing stability in Afghanistan and preventing Taliban control of the country deprives Al Qaeda of an important training ground, making an attack on the American homeland, American forces deployed abroad, and other Americans abroad less likely.”
— Scott Wedman, The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue: Day One, posted at Abu Muqawama, 8 August 2009

“In my personal view, the United States really has only 2 core national interests – preserving the safety and security of the country and its citizens, and sustaining a stable international system that facilitates commerce, communication, and travel. The conflict in Afghanistan clearly relates to the safety of our country and our people, as it was the haven from which Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. We have an obligation to the American people to prevent such a haven from arising anew.”
— from unnamed person, The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue: Day Three, posted at Abu Muqawama, 10 August 2009

“As President Obama and Prime Minister Brown have both stated clearly in recent speeches, our objective for entering Afghanistan in 2001 – the need to deny Al Qaeda a base from which to launch attacks on the world as it did in 2001, 2003 and 2005 – still holds true in 2009. To do this successfully we must support the Government of Afghanistan in dismantling the insurgency, which still threatens to provide that base, by using the dual approach of military power and political engagement.”
— from unnamed British person, The Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue: Day Six, posted at Abu Muqawama, 13 August 2009

(4)  The big lie lives, repeated to us today by our leaders

Overcoming these lies will not be easy, as our ruling elites repeat them with so far unquestioned assurance.  As does President Obama in his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on 17 August:

As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight and we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.

We must force them to explain the connection between the Afghanistan War and America’s national interests.  We saw in Andrew Exum’s debate (Abu Muqawama, posted at the Center for a New American Security), that when pressed the war’s supporters have little to say in support of the war other than “prevent another 9-11” and the delusional “nation-building”.

The war rests upon our passivity, our reluctance to say that the Emperor is buck-naked.  We can do better.  Our forefathers did do better, and so can we.

(5)  For more information about this topic

To see all posts about our new wars:

Some posts about the war in Afghanistan:

  1. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
  2. Stratfor: “The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan”, 13 May 2009
  3. Real experts review a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009
  4. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  5. “War without end”, a great article by George Wilson, 27 June 2009
  6. “Strategic Calculus and the Afghan War” by George Friedman of Stratfor, 17 July 2009
  7. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 1, 18 July 2009
  8. We are warned about Afghanistan, but choose not to listen (part 2), 19 July 2009
  9. Powerful insights about our war in Afghanistan, part 3, 20 July 2009