Tag Archives: afghanistan

Stratfor: Peace talks and Afghanistan’s Inexhaustible Insurgency

Summary: Yet again we get rumors of serious peace talks in Afghanistan, as almost ten thousand US troops remain there (3 dead YTD). Here Stratfor assesses their odds of success, and evaluates the strength of the Taliban’s insurgency.

“This spring, {the Tailiban} will likely launch fresh attacks against the struggling Afghan National Security Forces in support of their enduring goal to exert control over Afghanistan. Therefore, the nation’s war against extremism and struggle for stability, unity and peace will persist.”
— The Taliban would agree, as they intend to bring stability, unity, and peace to Afghanistan.


Afghanistan’s Inexhaustible Insurgency

Stratfor, 24 March 2016

After nearly 15 years, the Taliban show no signs of slowing their insurgency in Afghanistan. Hopes that the group would participate in peace talks were recently dashed when it announced it would not do so, even though a small rival Islamist group, Hizb-i-Islami, agreed to be included. Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States — all part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group for stabilizing Afghanistan — ended their latest meeting in February on a cautiously optimistic note by formally inviting the Taliban to talks.

But in early March, the militant organization released a statement saying it would decline the invitation until its demands are met. Then in an unexpected gesture on March 17, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor — leader of the mainline Taliban faction who has been silent since allegedly being wounded in a gunfight in November — released an online statement in Pashto exhorting the Taliban to intensify their fighting. This suggests that Mansoor is motivating the Taliban to launch a spring offensive, even as the organization has, unlike in previous years, fought continuously through the harsh winter months.

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Here’s the latest news from Afghanistan. It’s a fire fed by our dollars.

Summary: The presidential candidates posture and bicker while the war in Afghanistan burns in its 15th year, consuming billions of US dollars while our infrastructure rots. Our ignorance is a choice because the government and NGO’s report the sad details. Here is an update. Nothing will change unless we make it an issue, and more broadly unless we re-take the reins in America. {Second of two posts today.}

  • Cumulative funding for Afghanistan reconstruction: aprox $113.1 billion.
  • Cost of the Apollo Program (1959-1973): aprox $109 billion in 2010 dollars.

Afghanistan war

The projects to occupy, develop, and restructure Iraq and Afghanistan are among the largest projects the United States has ever attempted. The expedition to Afghanistan, now in its fifteenth year, has been a series of thoroughly-documented failure. Yet we learn nothing and the project runs on while Afghanistan deteriorates.

The presidential candidates seldom mention it and show no interest why we have burnt so much money there while America’s vital infrastructure rots. Historians probably will consider it one of the clearest examples of the inability to learn from experience that so damages US political affairs.

Here is the latest, a 230 page compendium of failure — with some small, mostly exaggerated, success. Like its predecessors, it will have the effect of a pebble thrown into the sea.

SIGAR logo

Excerpt from The Quarterly Report to Congress, January 2016

This quarterly report focuses on the Afghan economy, but as the essay in Section 1, “Growing an Economy in Stony Ground,” concludes, developing Afghanistan’s economy may depend more on improving security, the business climate, and the educational system than on implementing specific economic programs. However, in this reporting period, Afghanistan proved even more dangerous than it was a year ago. The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001.

Vicious and repeated attacks in Kabul this quarter shook confidence in the national-unity government. A year after the Coalition handed responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), American and British forces were compelled on several occasions to support ANDSF troops in combat against the Taliban.

The lack of security has made it almost impossible for many U.S. and even some Afghan officials to get out to manage and inspect U.S.-funded reconstruction projects. This quarter the dangers of absent oversight were exposed when a task force appointed by President Ashraf Ghani reportedly found that millions of dollars were being embezzled while Afghanistan pays for numerous nonexistent “ghost” schools, “ghost” teachers, and “ghost” students

… Another performance audit this quarter found that despite U.S. training efforts, the Afghan National Army’s National Engineer Brigade is incapable of operating independently.

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Let’s learn what happened in Afghanistan, so we can do better in phase 2 of our Long War

Summary: Today’s must-read is a retrospective on NATO’s expedition to Afghanistan, even more important today as we begin the second phase of our Long War. It opens with a shocker and gets even better. The reviewer has deep in experience in Afghanistan; the author has even deeper experience. The combination provides powerful insights while cutting through the accumulated lies of the past 14 years. Yet their clear sight of the need for action blinds them to the simple fact that foreign armies almost never defeat foreign insurgencies. How much blood must be spilled in vain before we see this?

Afghanistan war

Afghanistan: ‘A Shocking Indictment’” by Rory Stewart

New York Review of Books, 6 November 2014

Review of No Good Men Among the Living:
America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
by Anand Gopal

Ashraf Ghani, who has just become the president of Afghanistan, once drafted a document for {his predecessor} Hamid Karzai that began:

There is a consensus in Afghan society: violence…must end. National reconciliation and respect for fundamental human rights will form the path to lasting peace and stability across the country. The people’s aspirations must be represented in an accountable, broad-based, gender-sensitive, multi-ethnic, representative government that delivers daily value.

That was 12 years ago. No one speaks like that now — not even the new president. The best case now is presented as political accommodation with the Taliban, the worst as civil war.

Western policymakers still argue, however, that something has been achieved: counterterrorist operations succeeded in destroying al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, there has been progress in health care and education, and even Afghan government has its strengths at the most local level. This is not much, given that the US-led coalition spent $1 trillion and deployed one million soldiers and civilians over 13 years. But it is better than nothing; and it is tempting to think that everything has now been said: after all, such conclusions are now reflected in thousands of studies by aid agencies, multilateral organizations, foreign ministries, intelligence agencies, universities, and departments of defense.

But Anand Gopal’s  shows that everything has not been said. His new and shocking indictment demonstrates that the failures of the intervention were worse than even the most cynical believed. Gopal, a Wall Street Journal and Christian Science Monitor reporter, investigates, for example, a US counterterrorist operation in January 2002. US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, had identified two sites as likely “al-Qaeda compounds.” It sent in a Special Forces team by helicopter; the commander, Master Sergeant Anthony Pryor, was attacked by an unknown assailant, broke his neck as they fought and then killed him with his pistol; he used his weapon to shoot further adversaries, seized prisoners, and flew out again, like a Hollywood hero.

As Gopal explains, however, the American team did not attack al-Qaeda or even the Taliban. They attacked the offices of 2 district governors, both of whom were opponents of the Taliban. They shot the guards, handcuffed one district governor in his bed and executed him, scooped up twenty-six prisoners, sent in AC-130 gunships to blow up most of what remained, and left a calling card behind in the wreckage saying “Have a nice day. From Damage, Inc.”

Weeks later, having tortured the prisoners, they released them with apologies. It turned out in this case, as in hundreds of others, that an Afghan “ally” had falsely informed the US that his rivals were Taliban in order to have them eliminated. In Gopal’s words:

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Stark evidence from our past about our inability to learn today

Summary: Nothing shows our FAILure to learn more than how we’ve repeat so many of our mistakes of Vietnam in Afghanistan. No hegemon, no matter how powerful, can survive a rapidly changing world, filled with rivals and foes, if it doesn’t profit from its experience. Today is FAILure to learn day, with 3 lessons from the past that we have ignored, to great cost. If American’s leaders won’t learn, its citizens can.  {1st of 3 posts today.}

“Hegel says somewhere that all great historic facts and personages occur twice, so to speak. He forgot to add: ‘Once as tragedy, and again as farce.’”

— Opening line to Karl Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1869).

Vietnam: closer than you think.

Here is the final pages of David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest (1972), describing how Nixon took ownership of the Vietnam War from LBJ — much as Obama did from Bush. I was going to change the names to those from our war in Afghanistan. But why bother? The parallels are obvious.

Remember, because every day is a teachable moment.

Henry Kissinger


About the same time Henry Kissinger, who had emerged as the top foreign policy adviser of the Administration (in part because he, like Nixon, was hard-line on Vietnam, whereas both William Rogers, the Secretary of State, and Mel Laird, the Secretary of Defense, had been ready to liquidate the war in the early months of the Administration), was asked by a group of visiting Asians if the Nixon Administration was going to repeat the mistakes of the Johnson Administration in Vietnam. “No,” answered Kissinger, who was noted in Washington for having the best sense of humor in the Administration, “we will not repeat their mistakes. We will not send 500,000 men.” He paused. “We will make our own mistakes and they will be completely our own.” There was appreciative laughter and much enjoyment of the movement.

One thing though — Kissinger was wrong. To an extraordinary degree the Nixon men repeated the mistakes and miscalculations of the Johnson Administration, which prompted Russell Baker to describe it all as “the reign of President Lyndon B. Nixonger.” For step by step, they repeated the mistakes of the past. They soon became believers in their policy, and thus began to listen only to others who were believers (they began to believe, in addition, that only they were privy to the truth in reports from Saigon, that the secret messages from the Saigon embassy, rather than being the words of committed, embattled men, were the words of cool, objective observers).

Doubters were soon filtered out; the Kissinger staff soon lost most of the talented Asian experts that had come in with him at the start of the Administration. Optimistic assessments of American goals, of what the incursion into Cambodia would do, of what the invasion of Laos would do — always speeding the timetable of withdrawal and victory — were passed on to the public, always to be mocked by ARVN failure and NVA resilience.

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Rambo & James Bond taught us about Afghanistan’s mujahideen

Summary: Films from 1987-1888 about the Afghanistan mujahideen reveal much about our inability to clearly see the world and learn from it. We can do better.

Accusing eyes of the women in the lands we've liberated.

Accusing eyes of the women in the lands we’ve liberated.

With childlike wonder each day I see with astonishment our willingness to believe what we’re told. We suffer from our lack of curiosity, our minds closed to alternative sources of information. We treat the information highway like a Fisher-Price toy.

A previous post reviewed the many outright lies told us by high government officials about enemies of America — and how we fail to learn, but believe the new lie. Today’s post looks at something more subtle but just as deceitful: the narratives spun in the news by government officials, their associates, their useful idiots, and journalists. There’s a pattern here that we refuse to see, a costly error. As with so many aspects of America, it’s clearly seen on the big screen.

Today we look at three films from 1987-1988, the end of the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghanistan War — in which we played so large a part, with horrific results for Afghanistan and America. Here we see what we were told about that war, and the mujahideen “freedom fighters”, despite the ample information available showing this to be false.

Mujahadeen riding to the rescue in "The Living Daylights"

Mujahideen riding to the rescue in “The Living Daylights”

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