Today, in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters took over the presidential palace in Kabul, the country’s capital, while the president of the U.S.-backed Afghan government, Ashraf Ghani, fled to Tajikistan. The U.S. and many other countries are rushing to evacuate their diplomatic personnel and allies from the country, although Russia is not, as the Taliban has guaranteed their safety. As of tonight, all U.S. embassy personnel are at the Kabul airport, which is currently being protected by the U.S. military.
My husband Glen died of ALS last year. The Veterans Administration considers ALS to be a service related illness- upwards of 20% of people diagnosed with ALS in a year are current or former military.
Wheeling Glen’s wheelchair through the VA hospital here in Minneapolis last year was a hellish experience because of COVID. And the incredibly vulnerable, sickly and disabled folks I saw being cared for had to be truly in need to risk a trip - I was praying the whole time, trust me.
The care we received was stellar. Adaptive equipment that helped me care for Glen at home, a van to help me transport him safely and every other week visits from a home health care nurse to check Glen’s vitals helped immensely.
Now multiply my experience across the country with every family caring for a sick or disabled veteran. Millions.
Whatever you need to rant about here concerning American military policies around the world, when completed, please take a moment to think about those paying the ultimate price for those policies - the women and men who comprise the military. And if you are able, support one of the many organizations that support veterans and their families. My personal favorite is Paralyzed Veterans of America but there are many. My gratitude for their help with Glen’s care and help obtaining Glen’s military benefits is endless.
Afghanistan was a debacle, start to finish. The Taliban’s treatment of women is terrifying. But I know, from first hand experience, that watching a loved one die slowly and painfully is also terrifying-and way outside the military’s thought process when planning campaigns. So, by all means write your congress people and share your knowledgeable and thoughtful opinions but please support veterans and their families too.
What I posted on Lucian Truscott's substack posting this morning:
As always, Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. But what I find stunningly hypocritical in virtually all media outlets, in the political community and, yes, in the military (especially those 4-star generals NPR loves to interview) is all the hand wringing that is going on now. There was virtual silence and nothing but shrugs when the Taliban started assassinating reporters, female educators and female members of the Afghan assembly, anyone with clear ties to the west. They "didn't take responsibility" for the murders, so all those people now hollering about how horrible it is shrugged and said "we don't know who killed her" (which is bullshit and we know it). It reminds me all too much of Shrubbie Bush discovering, after 9/11, that Afghani women were being oppressed--who knew?! I'm sickened by the whole thing, especially by the hubris of the US government and military leadership in thinking that they are so special they can change an inevitable outcome. Why did the Taliban win? Because they had never really lost.
Thank you for one of the most brilliantly written summaries of the Afghan war in light of today's events that I have seen and, I am certain, that will be written.
First, the NY Times, where I get most of my news, a news source that was pro for American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, is saying that the Afghan war cost a mere $86 Billion dollars. That is an outrageous lie. Your estimate of one trillion may even be low. The amount of infrastructure the USA built in in Afghanistan, had it been built in the US, I once read, could have built a new American public High School in every town in America. Or, it could have built a new Hospital in every town in America.
Second, the NY Times has Bret Stephens today, a Republican who often obscures the actual past to create a false look at the present, does precisely that in his lengthy blame of Biden for what happened. Your writing here clearly delineates Donald Trump's role in the US pullout after Trump's agreement with the Taliban. Although Trump was probably being told what to do by Putin, I completely agree with pulling out of Afghanistan.
The entire Republican party is trying to wash away the fact that Bush started the war, and failed to find Osama Bin Laden, even though the 911 attack was sponsored mostly by Saudi Arabian citizens. They are also washing away that fact that Trump, probably operating under Putin's instructions, had negotiated the removal of all American presence with the Taliban.
Biden is doing EXACTLY the right thing here after 20 years of the USA sponsoring a textbook case of how to create a disaster in another country by wantonly killing innocent Afghans with contractors and sometimes the US Military. Including killing almost all of the 12 year old boys in an Afghani village who were gathering wood outside the village. A 50 caliber machine gun from a US Helicopter killed them all but one. Can nobody remember the past?
My hearty congratulations to Joe Biden for having the courage to do what no other President would do. Biden has implicitly admitted our mistake, which was invading Afghanistan in the first place, and then corrected it by getting our boys and our money out of that country.
George W. Bush, a Republican, should go down in history as the most corrupt, worst President in US History, for his failed wars.
Biden should go down in History as a mature, right thinking American for removing our incompetent presence.
Joe Biden is an American hero today.
From my post "Why We Fail" at my substack blog, That's Another Fine Mess:
In 2008, Ruslan Aushev, a highly decorated combat veteran of the Soviet adventure in Afghanistan who served two tours, first as an infantry battalion commander and later in charge of a full Soviet regiment during nearly five years, gave an interview to the Toronto Globe and Mail:
"Canadians and Americans are learning the hard way. You have been there seven years and you have no prospect of early victory. We knew by 1985 that we could not win," he recalls. It then took Moscow four more years to extricate hundreds of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while claiming victory on the way out. Afghanistan was plunged into civil war."We could take any village, any town and drive the mujahedeen out. But when we handed ground over to the Afghan army or police they would lose it in a week.”
"The Taliban may not be able to win militarily but they can't be defeated and sooner or later the Western alliance will be forced with pullout," he warned. Support for the insurgents will grow the longer the foreign armies remain in Afghanistan, he said. Although the Soviets deployed more than 100,000 soldiers across Afghanistan and trained an Afghan army three times the size of Kabul's current security forces, it was never enough, Mr. Aushev said. "There will have to be an accord with the Taliban, because at least 50 per cent of the Afghan population supports them. It's impossible to conquer the Afghans. Alexander the Great couldn't do it, the British couldn't do it, we couldn't do it and the Americans won't do it. No one can.”
This morning, amidst the reports of the end of the U.S. Afghan war, NBC News Pentagon Correspondent Courtney Kube gave the best analysis of the actual military situation on the ground I have heard in 20 years of war reporting about Afghanistan.
She pointed out that, no matter how much training and equipment the United States could provide, we could not give the Afghans the will to fight, the willingness to fight to the death against the Taliban. “And throughout the war, the Taliban fighters have been willing to lay down their lives for their cause,” she stated, nailing the essential truth. She went on to point out that while there were Afghan special forces that had been fighting very competently for several years, “The average soldiers, they’re out in the rural areas, and they get told that the people who have been supporting them are leaving in a few months. That means no more medevac, no more air support, no more logisitics - the simple things like providing food and fuel and ammunition regularly. No more air control to tell the air force where to provide support. You have to understand the corruption there in the government, in the military, they’re unable to provide just those absolute basics.. That loss of support led to a loss of morale. And the result was they stopped fighting because they couldn’t see a way they could win.”
And if we stayed there for another six months, or one year or two years, and then left would the end result be any different?
No. It wouldn’t.
If Afghans aren’t willing to fight for their freedom today, they won’t be willing to fight tomorrow.
Biden made the least worst choice.
How could the US mess up so badly on this? One of my management saying is that "No decision is made until you know how to implement it." Where was the planning to get translators and their families out of there safely? Where was the intelligence that said the Taliban would likely take over quickly? Where is the consideration of what was going to happen to the women and girls going back to slavery, rape and worse after knowing freedom? The world has lost trust in the US. The Taliban and others will take advantage of that for decades. It's too late for Americans to put their country over their party. Trust once lost is very hard to regain. Where is the Frances Perkins of our time? Where is the woman with vision to bring Americans back to sanity? Where is the courage to do the right thing by each other and Be the Light as Amanda Gorman so beautifully put it at the Inaugural? It's time to hold politicians accountable and to elect people with courage and empathy for others and the integrity and values to do the right thing by all. Power corrupts. Money is not speech. Perhaps it is time for universal democracy not the sham of representative democracy which is in reality an oligarchic kleptocracy . Our representatives do not represent us any more. They are too busy doing the bidding of their donors who only have personal greed as their god. They are too busy obstructing government rather than being the People's government. They are too busy squabbling like two year olds and telling lies and inducing fear to take away the freedom to vote. Re-elect no one unless you are sure they are Americans and for the People above all else. Only vote for candidates not by the R or D by their name but only ones with A by their name. A for American, a person of integrity, values and courage to create Well-Being for everyone.
It’s notable how aware the Taliban were of the optics, when taking Kabul today. When the MAGA terrorists took our Capitol they were screaming like idiots, climbing buildings, wearing horns on their heads, and defecating in offices. When Republicans make the Taliban look good like that, it doesn’t bode well for Democracy. Republicans destroying Democracy at home, and that makes it unsustainable abroad.
Regardless of how current Washington officials explain Afghanistan or how Trump Republicans rewrite or erase history, this looks a lot like Vietnam. Decades of Washington officials and America military, with US citizen support, propping up a corrupt government in a foreign land that we did not understand.
Vietnam started out as a Democrat war. Afganistan started out as a Republican war. Both ended with the other party trying to win the war, and then withdrawing. Both left the future in the hands of the country that we tried to reshape.
France had colonized Vietnam before the US entry and was driven out. Russia had dominated Afghanistan before the US and was driven out. We can either learn from history or repeat it. We tend to repeat history because of our pro war and agressive too often dishonest politics. The aggressors in our nation draw in our moderates, and our conservatives are never conservative. Our macho leaders like all bullies want to show off their argument that fight makes right.
What troubles me most is that we cannot distinguish between nationalism and extremism. Vietnam was fighting to overcome the centuries of colonial power domination by a number of countries. They had fought Japan in WWII, supported the US and expected the US would support their independence. But we supported France and got hung up on the word "communism" believing all people who tried to free themselves from foreign capitalist domination and got recognition from Russia or China is "communist" and must be crushed. Now we are trading and tourism partners with Vietnam.
The Taliban are an extremist group. That doesn't change our responsibility to allow foreign nations to pursue their own internal governance nor make it anymore appropriate or possible to administer military solutions to their extremism. The fast fall of our propped up modern Afghan society that gave so many average Afghans, particularly women, hope should remind us of how easily the advances of modern civilization can be dashed to pieces and set back what seems like centuries. Our own modern democracy is under siege by our own "Taliban" wing of the Republican Party. They have taken over the Republican Party and are marching into every American capitol taking over in many ways with lies, misinformation, guns and money from wealthy investors looking to eliminate all democratic measures and participation that would limit their power. Women are at risk here in our "Trump World" ie "Taliban" world just as in Afghanistan.
Democracy is fragile. Modern society is fragile. Culture is fragile. Every civilization before and after the Roman Empire has fallen to Huns and thugs. Guns in our society are not for defense. They are for offense. Yes the criminals are the ones who use guns against the defenceless. But we have political criminals in the US just as Afghanistan has them. We need to di a better job of dealing with the political criminals in the US. The ones who say they "can shoot someone ... in broad daylight, and not lose a supporter". The Taliban do exactly this everyday.
Thanks Joe Biden for bringing the inevitable end to the certain failure in Afghanistan. No country, in all of history, has been able to succeed there. We've been living in state of denial of denial because no one wanted to be the President who lost in Afghanistan.
Even if Trump had not started the withdrawal ball rolling, I bet Biden would have done this anyway.
It hurts to admit we failed, and by we, I mean the U.S. Military and it's industrial war machine in the private sector. Maybe if they had tried to fight the Taliban on its own terms there still would never have been a definite end. We've had 20 years to set up the Afghan government and military and they couldn't hold the line for a month. It was never going to change, Biden is right.
History is full of these kinds of failures, the Romans and their walls in Britain is but one example.
In the end Afghanistan was a war of foolish pride with no real exit plan that should have ended when they had a chance to capture Osama bin-Laden for political reasons. I feel for the women there, I feel for all Afghans, I feel for the troops who fought, were injured and died there, but I'm glad it's over.
This boondoggle was always going to end like this and should have come much sooner.
The scenes out of Kabul over the weekend were eerily reminiscent of Saigon in 1975.
To me, the Afghanistan War can be summed up in four words: They won. We lost.
My heart goes out to the Afghanis who worked with and for us during our 20 years in the country. We owe it to every one of those individuals to bring them (and their families) here. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
On the same line, I feel for every soldier who served there. Those who did not perish must be asking themselves why we went in to Afghanistan in the first place.
The similarities with the endgame of our Vietnam fiasco are striking. Is it progress that there were far fewer deaths in Afghanistan?
"The U.S. and many other countries are rushing to evacuate their diplomatic personnel and allies from the country, although Russia is not, as the Taliban has guaranteed their safety."
I get the feeling that Putin engineered this whole thing, using Trump as a very useful patsy. Remember the bounties on US soldiers?
So, is Russia the current winner of Kipling's Great Game? That would be towering irony.
Thé USA no longer deserves trust upon the world stage. We have demonstrated our incapacity to comprehend other cultures. We have also evidenced that our corrupt dependence upon ‘contractors’ bodes ill for our collaborators. The corruption of our operations simply mirrored the corruption in Afghanistan. Did I hear something about the emperors’ new clothes?
I appreciate the work of the Biden administration, but this situation was out of control and will be lethal for many. Our collaborators, the women and children of Afghanistan will suffer. We could have done better.
The world has many heartaches, not the least of which is Afghanistan. The cruelty of prehistoric patriarchy takes our breath away, but reality does not change. The melting of the Afghan army is testimony to the fundamental truth why our efforts failed.
It feels like Vietnam all over again. Blinken can say it’s not Saigon as much as he wants, but from here “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, …”
But dang, Betsey De Vos's brother made a packet over the last 20 years, as did all the warmongers who ramped up the production of war machines to sell at inflated prices to the US government, which are now in the hands of the Taliban, and got the government to pay for mercenaries who did f*** all except exploit and terrorize the Afghanis. It was parteeeee time for the people profiting off of war and death. So sad that they are now going to have to find some other sucker to convince to pay for another f***ing war.
What kind of a country unilaterally decides to invade another?
Did the US Congress declare war on Afghanistan?
Of the 19 - 911 terrorists, how many were Afghan? "fifteen of them were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two were from the United Arab Emirates, one was from Lebanon, and one from Egypt"
"In the five years before the war [Yemen] U.S. arms transfers to Saudi Arabia amounted to $3 billion; between 2015 and 2020, the U.S. agreed to sell over $64.1 billion worth of weapons to Riyadh, averaging $10.7 billion per year. Sales to other belligerents in the war, like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), also rose exponentially."[Brookigs.edu]
Exactly how many Americans died in the 9/11 attack on our soil? "A total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers" (history.com)
Search domain en.wikipedia.orghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_afghanistan_(2001–present)
"According to the Costs of War project at Brown University, as of April 2021, the war has killed 171,000 to 174,000 people in Afghanistan; 47,245 Afghan civilians, 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan military and police and at least 51,000 opposition fighters."
[Search domain dailyalternative.co.uk] www.dailyalternative.co.uk/real-reason-afghan-war/
The Real Reason for the Afghan War? Share; Tweet; When the United States decided to invade Afghanistan to grab Osama bin Laden—and failed, but stayed on like an unwanted guest—could it have known that the Afghans were sitting on some of the world's greatest reserves of mineral wealth?
(usatoday.com) 1. Lockheed Martin Corp.
• Country: United States
• Arms sales: $44.9 billion
• Total sales: $51.0 billion
• Profit: $2.0 billion
• Employees: 105,000
Lockheed Martin is by far the largest defense contractor in the world. In 2017, the Bethesda, Maryland, company made $44.9 billion in arms and defense contracts, nearly twice the amount of arms sales at Boeing, the second largest defense contractor. The company makes a wide range of military aircraft, including the F-16, F-22, and F-35 fighter jets, as well as sonar technologies, ships, missile defense systems, and missiles used by the Navy. More than $35 billion of Lockheed Martin's arm sales in 2017 came from the U.S. government, more than the entire budget of the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency combined.
Net sales are expected to have climbed even higher in fiscal 2018. In late 2018, the company was awarded a $22.7 billion contract for 106 F-35 fighter jets for the U.S. military and another 89 for ally nations."