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It's a long way from landlocked Afghanistan to the South China Sea, but... The May 21, 2016 U.S. assassination by drone of Mullah Mansoor, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, would have seemed to be a bad thing for the People’s Republic of China. Mansoor, after all, was the chosen instrument of the Pakistan... Read More
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A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East
We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan
So Taliban supremo Mullah Mansour’s white Toyota Corolla was rattling across the Baluchestan desert just after it had crossed the Iranian border when a Hellfire missile fired from a US drone incinerated it into a charred / twisted wreck. That’s the official narrative. The Pentagon said Mansour was on Obama’s kill list because he had... Read More
Our ageing Russian-built helicopter flies into the Panjshir valley from the north, high over desolate, brown hills. We land at Changaram, a narrow point in the valley where lush, green fields and terraces cling to the sides of the mountains. All along the narrow dirt road are signs of the armies that have tried to... Read More
War reporting is easy to do but very difficult to do really well. There is great demand for a reporter’s output during the fighting because it is melodramatic and appeals to readers and viewers. This is what I used to label in my own mind as “twixt shot and shell” reporting, and there is nothing... Read More
America’s Opium War in Afghanistan
After fighting the longest war in its history, the United States stands at the brink of defeat in Afghanistan. How can this be possible? How could the world’s sole superpower have battled continuously for 15 years, deploying 100,000 of its finest troops, sacrificing the lives of 2,200 of those soldiers,
In October 2001, the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan largely through proxy Afghan fighters with the help of Special Operations forces, American air power, and CIA dollars. The
Once More Down the Rabbit Hole
Ten months ago, on December 28, 2014, a ceremony in Kabul officially marked the conclusion of America’s very long war in Afghanistan. President Obama
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America’s Peculiar Brand of Global Imperialism
The United States is a peculiar sort of empire. As a start, Americans have been in what might be called imperial denial since the Spanish-American War of 1898, if not before. Empire -- us? We denied its existence even while our soldiers were administering “
Afghanistan! Whether the story is the
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Why Washington Can’t “Stand Up” Foreign Militaries
First came
The deaths in South Asia of three of the West’s ‘Great Satans’ were announced in recent weeks: Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani in Afghanistan; and Pakistan’s Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul. I never met Mullah Omar though I was present at the birth and expansion of his movement, Taliban. Mullah Omar was a renowned combat veteran... Read More
Soon after 9/11, Ann Jones went to Afghanistan to help in whatever way she could, “embedding” with civilians who had been battered by the rigors of that war-torn land. Out of that experience, especially dealing with the crises of women, she wrote a powerful and moving book,
A "Martyr," a Murder, and the Making of a New Afghanistan?
I went to Kabul, Afghanistan, in March to see old friends. By chance, I arrived the day after a woman had been beaten to death and burned by a mob of young men. The world would soon come to know her name: Farkhunda. The name means “auspicious” or “jubilant.” She was killed in the very... Read More
40 Years Later, Will the End Games in Iraq and Afghanistan Follow the Vietnam Playbook?
If our wars in the Greater Middle East ever end, it’s a pretty safe bet that they will end badly -- and it won't be the first time. The “fall of Saigon” in 1975 was the quintessential bitter end to a war. Oddly enough, however, we’ve since found ways to reimagine that denouement which miraculously... Read More
The other day, as I was reading through the New York Times, I came upon
How an American Fantasy Conflict Created Disaster in Afghanistan
[This essay is taken from chapter five of Anand Gopal’s
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And the U.S. Is Losing Out
Call it an irony, if you will, but as the Obama administration struggles to slow down or
In June 2014, as he was preparing to send 300 U.S. military advisers back to Iraq, President Obama
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What If It Weren’t Us?
Let’s play a game, the kind that makes no sense on this single-superpower planet of ours. For a moment, do your best to suspend disbelief and imagine that there’s another superpower, great power, or even regional power somewhere that, between 2001 and 2003, launched two major wars in the Greater Middle East. We’re talking about... Read More
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Five Bedrock Washington Assumptions That Are Hot Air
“Iraq no longer exists.” My young friend M, sipping a cappuccino, is deadly serious. We are sitting in a scruffy restaurant across the street from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It’s been years since we’ve last seen each another. It may be years before our paths cross again.... Read More
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It's No Accident
2014 was a banner year for Afghanistan’s booming opium industry. According to a United Nations annual survey released on Wednesday, opium cultivation set a record in 2014, increasing by an impressive 7 percent year-over-year and up nearly 50 percent from 2012. Afghanistan presently produces 80 percent of the world’s heroin which provides billions of dollars... Read More
“Lord of our far-flung battle-line, Beneath whose awful Hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine— Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget! Far-called, our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire: Lo, all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! Judge of... Read More
From the beginning, it was to be “Russia’s Vietnam.” First the administration of President Jimmy Carter, then that of President Ronald Reagan was determined to give the Soviet Union a taste of what the U.S. had gone through in its disastrous 14-year war in Southeast Asia. As National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski would
After 13 Years of War, the Rule of Men, Not Law
On September 29th, power in Afghanistan changed hands for the first time in 13 years. At the Arg, the presidential palace in Kabul, Ashraf Ghani was
You may not believe in the supernatural, but it’s still a certifiable fact. Your tax dollars are paying for ghosts. Just ask John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who
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Why American Efforts to Create Foreign Armies Fail
In June, tens of thousands of Iraqi Security Forces in Nineveh province north of Baghdad collapsed in the face of attacks from the militants of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS), abandoning
After 13 years of war in Afghanistan – the longest in US history – the US government has achieved no victory. Afghanistan is in chaos and would collapse completely without regular infusions of US money. The war has been a failure, but Washington will not admit it. More than 2,000 US fighters have been killed... Read More
Having nearly provoked war over Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia, the Obama administration has now launched a full-scale crusade in Iraq and Syria against the evil Saracens of ISIS. America’s aerial might, including B-1 heavy bombers, is plastering ISIS miscreants. Washington’s Arab allies and rightwing governments in Canada and Australia have joined the fray. The British... Read More
Decisions have consequences. I wonder when there will be a Global Truth & Reconciliation Commission to deal with the ruinous decision of the United States to partner with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations to cultivate, employ, exploit and/or unleash jihadism and religious sectarianism to destroy unfriendly or unhelpful secular/socialist regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya,... Read More
MRAPs, Sprained Ankles, Air Conditioning, Farting Contests, and Other Snapshots from the American War in Afghanistan
In the eight years I’ve reported on Afghanistan, I’ve “embedded” regularly with Afghan civilians, especially women. Recently, however, with American troops “surging” and journalists getting into the swing of the military’s counterinsurgency “strategy” (better known by its acronym, COIN), I decided to get with the program as well. Last June, I filed a request to... Read More
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: For today’s “Best of” entry, I’ve turned to the remarkable Ann Jones, who has written a little introduction/update to her memorable 2010 piece, “There Be Dragons.” A year after she finished it, she was back in Afghanistan again (at age 73) following wounded American soldiers, fresh off the battlefield, into a... Read More
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Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin were ships passing in the night while in Paris for the G-7 meeting. The American president reportedly refused to dine with Putin, who was being hosted by France’s president Francois Hollande as part of the D-Day commemoration. So Hollande, who is on a diet after being called a “little... Read More
The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at,' wrote Sergeant Bergdahl in an email later published by...
It is a bitter indictment of an army in trouble. It was written by the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in his last email to his parents sent just before he walked off his base in eastern Afghanistan on 30 June 2009. Within hours, he was picked by the Taliban who held him for five years... Read More
The Unreported Story of How the Haqqani Network Became America's Greatest Enemy
It was a typical Kabul morning. Malik Ashgar Square was already bumper-to-bumper with Corolla taxis, green police jeeps, honking minivans, and angry motorcyclists. There were boys selling phone cards and men waving wads of cash for exchange, all weaving their way around the vehicles amid exhaust fumes. At the gate of the Lycée Esteqial, one... Read More
You might think that 12-and-a-half years after it began, Washington would have learned something useful about its war on terror, but no such luck. If you remember, back in the distant days just after 9/11 when that war was launched (or, in a sense, “lost”), the Bush administration was readying itself to take out not... Read More
Afghanistan’s national election held this week is a sham. A group of candidates, handpicked by the US, will pretend to compete in an election whose outcome has already been determined – by Washington. The candidates include US groomed politicians, and drug-dealing warlords from the Tajik and Uzbek north. Chief among them, Rashid Dostam, a major... Read More
Corruption has blighted the torrent of dollars poured into the country by America since 2001
An Afghan acquaintance who had worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) told me several years ago how an Afghan subcontractor had made a large profit from a contract to build and get running a tractor repair shop in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan. Uruzgan, the home province of Mullah Omar, the... Read More
Washington and Kabul have, for
A Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl, that annual celebration of violence as sport, featured a most joyous homecoming for a U.S. veteran of the Afghan War. It was a fitting tribute to the fact that he survived, but you would have to be drunk on Bud not to notice that the three decades since... Read More
The country is in such a bad way as western troops depart that leaders can only spin, almost to the point of lying
A few years ago in Kabul, I was listening to a spokesman for an Afghan government organisation who was giving me a long, upbeat and not very convincing account of the achievements of the institution for which he worked. To relieve the tedium, and without much expectation of getting an interesting reply, I asked him... Read More
The big story of 2014 will be Iran. Of course, the big story of the early 21st century will never stop being US-China, but it's in 2014 that we will know whether a comprehensive accord transcending the Iranian nuclear program is attainable; and in this case the myriad ramifications will affect all that's in play... Read More
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The White House is pushing hard to keep a significant number of American soldiers in Afghanistan contrary to President Barack Obama’s earlier pledge to have then all out by the end of 2014. As the United States President has demonstrated himself to be a habitual liar that failure to connect promises made in 2008 with... Read More
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Those wondering what lies in store for Afghanistan need only look at the way the British Empire ruled Iraq in the 1920’s. As Shakespeare wrote, “what is past is prologue.” Imperial Britain created the state of Iraq after World War I to secure Mesopotamia’s vast oil deposits that had become vital for the Royal Navy.... Read More
After a year of talks over the post-2014 US military presence in Afghanistan, the US administration announced last week that a new agreement had finally been reached. Under the deal worked out with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US would keep thousands of troops on nine military bases for at least the next ten years.... Read More
Back in the distant year 2003, my novel about a world I had inhabited for decades,
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The Cost of War American-Style
The last time I saw American soldiers in Afghanistan, they were silent. Knocked out by gunfire and explosions that left them grievously injured, as well as drugs administered by medics in the field, they were carried from medevac helicopters into a base hospital to be plugged into machines that would measure how much life they... Read More
Operation Enduring Misery Shambles Into its 13th Year
October 7 marked the 12th anniversary of the Afghanistan War, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the papers. In fact, “America’s longest war” has become so unpopular that both the media and the Obama administration have done everything in their power to sweep the whole matter under the rug hoping that people just forget... Read More
The Afghan War is officially winding down. American casualties, generally from towns and suburbs you’ve never heard of unless you were born there, are still coming in. Though far fewer American troops are in the field with Afghan forces,
12 Years in Afghanistan Down the Memory Hole
Will the U.S. still be meddling in Afghanistan 30 years from now? If history is any guide, the answer is yes. And if history is any guide, three decades from now most Americans will have only the haziest idea why. Since the 1950s, the U.S. has been trying to mold that remote land to its... Read More
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