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The past is the best guide to the future, so there’s no surprise that there is already a rebellion breaking out against the Taliban. Finding its core in the natural fastness of the Panjshir Valley, which foiled repeated Soviet attacks during the 1980s, the Northern Alliance is reconstituting itself under Ahmad Massoud (the son of the famous mujahideen) and Acting President Amrullah Saleh.

Will they succeed? No idea. People who know more than me are making all sorts of predictions. That said, I allow that rebels will not even be the Taliban’s biggest challenge in the coming months. And it’s something that almost nobody is talking about.

I’m talking about afghanis. Money.

The following figures are from a World Bank report on Afghan finances up to the year of 1397. (No, they don’t touch on financing the campaigns of Timur the Lame. Afghanistan, which I am told is an American puppet state, apparently doesn’t even use the Gregorian calendar in their World Bank reports). What they show is that Afghanistan might well be the single most “subsidized” state in the world.

With a population of ~38M and a GDP of \$20B, its total expenditures as of 2018 totaled \$11B versus revenues of just \$2.5B.

The results in an amazingly large amount of largesse by Third World standards. As a share of GDP, Afghan budget expenditures approximate those of the most expansive First World welfare states, as opposed to its Third World peers. This expenditure is dominated by wages and salaries (“70 percent of recurrent expenditure and around 70 percent of all expenditure growth since 1389“). However, despite the huge budget deficits, debt is very low. That is because “grants” accounted for 75% of its budget. Thanks to foreign infusions*, the Afghans have gotten used to very high wages relative to their extremely low productivity levels, which they get to spend in what is possibly the cheapest country in the world.

Guess what the US and the IMF have just cut off in the past few days.

Loss of subsidies aside, Afghanistan’s official \$9.5B in foreign currency reserves have also been frozen.

In Syria, the central government continued paying state salaries and pensions in insurgent-controlled areas (with the help of Iranian subsidies). This helped the Assad regime preserve its legitimacy in territories occupied by jihadists and Islamic State. But where exactly is the Taliban supposed to get the money for financing the Afghan state apparatus?

There is an economic crisis brewing on the horizon. Tax revenues are slated to go through the floor. It has just lost the means to finance its massive trade deficit of \$5B / year (25% of GDP). Imports will grind to a halt. (Incidentally, trade with India has already been shut down by the Taliban).

As per above, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan had very small amounts of debt (8% of GDP in 2020). So the Taliban will find no relief through default, as the Bolsheviks did in Russia.

The Taliban will no longer have to finance the ANA. However, they will still have to pay their own soldiers. They are stretched thin. To hold down the territory they conquered in their recent blitz, it will have to expand them in size. Only way to do that cheaply is through conscription, but if approval of the Taliban is anything to go by, it will be mostly through press gangs. Given the underdevelopment of the Afghan economy, which is now on the brink of a hard contraction anyway, there is zero chance of them maintaining the windfall of modern US military equipment that has just fallen into their hands. Their single A-29 Super Tucano will remain grounded.

No private enterprise is going to be investing into a country in the throes of a new civil war ruled by an organization that are recognized as terrorists by multiple countries.

Meanwhile, many of the “smart fractions” who actually have some experience in running the country are trying to hitch a ride out for entirely legitimate reasons of self-preservation. The past is a good guide to the future:

When the Taliban first sacked Kabul 25 years ago, the group declared that it was not out for revenge, instead offering amnesty to anyone who had worked for the former government. “Taliban will not take revenge,” a Taliban commander said then. “We have no personal rancor.” At the time of that promise, the ousted president, Mohammad Najibullah, was unavailable for comment. The Taliban had castrated him and, according to some reports, stuffed his severed genitals in his mouth, and soon after, he was strung up from a lamppost.

It is a bold and perhaps stupid man who would trust the Taliban past the date when the world’s photo cameras are out of Kabul.

And in seems that they will have to navigate all of these challenges – a massive fiscal crimp, urban unrest from the majority of Afghans who don’t want them in charge, economic immiseration, probable lack of international recognition – while battling an insurgency or three.

This is a set of challenges that would test the most ingenious economists and policy-makers.

But while the Taliban themselves might know something about religious scripture and low-tech insurgent warfare, history again suggests that they fall short on the governance front.

I am not necessarily saying they’ll fail. But the challenges before them do seem at least as great as those they faced in subjugating Afghanistan in the first place, and they’re of a nature much less suited to their innate strengths as theocratic militants.

I would even go so far as to say that the one scenario in which their victory (that is, sustainable control over most or all of Afghanistan) becomes close to assured is if China – there’s no other plausible candidate – funnels in billions of dollars to prop them up.

Meanwhile, the world should probably get ready for another great wave of Afghan refugees.

***

* To be sure, a significant part of it is surely siphoned off by corruption. However, what actual attempts to quantify corruption in Afghanistan have been carried out don’t suggest it’s massively higher than amongst its peers. According to the Global Corruption Barometer, 29% of Afghans said they paid a bribe in 2013, which is not cardinally different from Pakistan (23%) and India (34%). According to the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys, 47% of Afghan companies reported they experienced at least one bribe request, which is higher than Pakistan’s 31%; however, the value of “gifts” expected to secure government contracts was twice less as a percentage of contract value than in Pakistan (4% to 8%). Corrupt yes, but not cardinally dissimilar from its corrupt neighbors.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, Terrorism 
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  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

    Commenting rules. Please note that anonymous comments are not allowed.

  2. Some Guy says:

    What about Islamists around the world, Saudis, Pakistanis etc?

  3. Anatoly, you should probably stop writing about Afghanistan, cause you just keep digging deeper hole for yourself:

    1. Taleban is now nominally in charge of Afghanistan. A challenge to their authority is NOT a counter-insurgency.

    2. Ahmad Massoud is a young man, educated in Britain, which practically guarantees that he is a pussy. UK is obviously up to no good, but this uprising has as much chance as Navalnist uprising in Russia.

    3. Afganistan will survive without Western money, the same way the Ukraine did without Russian money. Granted the withdrawal of Russian financing happened gradually over time, but Afghanistan is the more robust country.

    BTW, Ukrainian economy is doing horrid right now. 1H2021 gdp growth is only 1,7% vs 4,6% in Russia.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  4. Of course a great deal of that largess was funding massive graft and corruption so it’s disappearance may make less of a difference to the average Afghan than one would expect.

    • Replies: @Anon7
    , @Anatoly Karlin
  5. Anon7 says:
    @Barbarossa

    I’ve read that many of the Afghan army officers not only could not read or write, they could not count either. When US military advisors wanted them to gather some number of troops for a patrol, they would draw a square in the dirt (“fill this square”) to show how many were needed. I don’t think many Afghans are bothered by their “national” debt; don’t many of them deny the concept of “nation”?

    OTOH, the word is that the Chinese are even now starting to belly up to the bar; they’re interested in digging stuff out of Afghanistan’s endless uninhabitable mountains and they’re willing to pay handsomely. Whoever “rules” in Kabul will make out like bandits, as the saying goes.

  6. @Anon7

    All US would have to do is sanction Afghanistan and no Chinese company will dare show its face there. Sanctions are China’s kryptonite.

  7. True Aim says:

    Here are the Afghanis. From the Afghanistan Pew Survey conducted in non-Taliban times:

    99% say they want Sharia

    96% say converting others to Islam is a duty

    94% say wife always obliged to obey husband

    85% say stoning is a must for adultery

    79% say death must for apostasy

    39% say suicide bombing justified

    https://mobile.twitter.com/ARanganathan72/status/1427174259567120387

    • Replies: @Morton's toes
  8. Yevardian says:

    Was going to post this in the previous thread, but I guess that’s old now, so I’ll put it up here.

    What do people think about the most practical solution for the ‘Afghan problem’ being partition, with China and Russia overseeing the process? It seems like a natural way to tackle the otherwise eternal ungovernability of the place.

    The eastern and shiite Hazara regions go to Iran (in the 3rd largest Afghan city, the dialect is closer to Farsi than Dari), the north to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Pakistan joins the Pashtun areas to it’s northwest autonomous region. This way the enormous costs of establishing order in the demolished country are restributed, along with the refugee problem.
    Millions of Afghans already live in Iran and Pakistan. I can’t speak for the latter, but in Iran they’re relatively well-integrated (mostly poor construction labourers and porters), but I’ve never heard of them being involved in any terrorism there.

    The governments of Iran and Pakistan basically represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Afghans too. In fact Afghans would hypothetically be much more comfortable with a ‘moderate Islamist’ government like Iran than many actual Persians, who are often much more liberal.

    I wonder if the era of artificially guaranteeing the sovereignty of states that are so blatantly incapable of governing themselves (unfortunately, I’d have to even put my own homeland into this category, there’s no doubt it would be better off as an autonomous part of the Russian federation [I’m sure the Armenian lobby could ensure Chechnya-level regional gibs], probably the only reason Russia didn’t aggressively pursue this was it didn’t want to own Armenia’s Artsakh problem, ruining relations with the Turks) will last into the post-WWII consensus future. I think at practically anytime in the past, the aftermath of either the fall of the Afghan monarchy or Najibullah’s government would have quickly resulted in partition, legal or de-facto.

  9. @Felix Keverich

    The US has already used that weapon for quite a bit, and is running out of ammo. But China is quite good at creating shell companies at any rate.

  10. Yevardian says:
    @Felix Keverich

    I think this mostly applies in as far as the American population still provides an absolutely enormous market for Chinese goods. Ironically, I think if US government ever seriously attempted to totally end economic-codepenence with China, the US would be the much bigger loser, and it would free up China to pursue market dominance in areas it’s still treading lightly out of respect, like US-sanctioned countries.

    Russia’s economic relations with the US are absolutely minimal by comparison, so it has nothing to lose by taking a much more strident diplomatic attitude to the US, or aiding states like Venezuela.

    • Agree: Barbarossa
  11. anonlb says:

    Compared to their rule 20 years ago now they have more chalenges but also more opportunities: open up for China, blackmail neighboring countries and EU with refugees and request huge aid, boost poppy production, sell american fancy toys to the highest bidder, secret deals with US, get more money from sponsors…

  12. Up your butt
    Around the corner
    Over the grass
    And in your ass.

  13. Max Payne says:

    Afghanistan as a nation-state we see on the map is incorrect. It’s just and always will be land. Literally. And this Western/Soviet/UN-backed label of borders and territory is what causes problems. It’s a place in the world where the under-the-table discussions matter more than the surface announcements.

    In the West everyone is expected to follow rules and be governed by a central government (with only a select few permitted closed-door meetings which diverge from public discourse or policy). But in Afghanistan EVERYONE has a right to legitimate backroom deals and under-the-table discussions alongside public statements.

    This divide is hard to grasp because Westerners are cucked beyond recognition.

    China – there’s no other plausible candidate – funnels in billions of dollars to prop them up.

    Someone is forgetting the concept of the volunteer Islamic Police these societies like to spawn. You don’t pay a volunteer. Taliban doesn’t need to control ALL of Afghanistan, just nodes.

    Besides Islamic donations from the Gulf will prop up the Taliban like it did in the past. Just like how Gulf money pours into Sudan and Somalia and keeps all sorts of Madrasa-like organizations happy.

    It also doesn’t need “billions” of dollars unless you’re a low IQ American diplomat who doesn’t understand the concept of HAGGLING.

    If an Afghani is quoting a price, divide it by 1000, and convert it into a shit currency like rupees and that’s the real value. Sadly this lost art is something the West threw away for cuck-like digital transactions. Everyone overprices everything so they can steal a dollar by spending ten (it almost makes the USSR seem sane).

    You think it’s funny Taliban laughing at a woman talk about female politicians. You must’ve not seen the laughs when some dumbshit Westerner nods engagingly when a hopped up Afghani quotes \$10,000 for a second hand photocopier from 1983. A guy that probably looks like this when he’s talking:

    Time stamp 43:49, the laugh of a opiate-user trying to keep a straight face when he says “Taliban? All gone” to British forces. Even his kid brother has to bite his own lip from laughing.

    Anyway let’s all join hands and pray these are the opening steps to what will be a future strike on Iran (by removing a shitload of NATO forces out of missile-harms-way). Amen.

    • Disagree: YetAnotherAnon
  14. @Felix Keverich

    I have thought of probability of the US setting up an economic trap by putting the Taliban (as a terrorist organization) in charge of Afghanistan and then sanctioning anyone sending foreign aid or subsidies to the new government. The obvious target would be China which gets Russian-level sanctions and possibly embargos.
    Taliban has always been an American creation and it’s the dark twin of the American puppet government.

  15. Why would China want to go there?

    The minerals as long as they remain in the ground, it doesn’t matter to China, economically.

    The Chinese leadership has to be really braindead to go in there.

    Also, Pakistan obviously can and want to do a little of this and that. And if the Afghans have to live like in a real actual third world country, what is wrong about that?

  16. The only value the Afghans are of, to the world and China in particular, is being a reminder of US badness.

    They are perfectly forgetable. Who cares. They can build up their civilization by their own pace.

  17. Svevlad says:

    I think that with the brain drain that will ensue, any hope that Afghanistan can ever not be a basket case barring ultra genocide is gone. Literally below Africa tier.

    What happens when it collapses? Do we just kind of fence it off and declare it some sort of international park?

  18. @Felix Keverich

    UK is obviously up to no good, but this uprising has as much chance as Navalnist uprising in Russia.

    Thanks for the correction. But as concerns the rebellion, I think I said pretty explicitly that I have no idea if it succeeds or not. Reasons for why it would fail are obvious – its leaders can strike a deal with the Taliban, or the Taliban can surround Panjshir and bottle them up. OTOH, the Taliban are spread thin, the people in it are now self-selected (so much fewer pro-Taliban infiltrators like with the old ANA), and they are a dozen kilometers from Bagram Air Base (if they can take it and keep it, they can be resupplied). So I really don’t it’s that clear-cut. Regardless, though, I also don’t think it’s even the main issue. The main issue is:

    Granted the withdrawal of Russian financing happened gradually over time, but Afghanistan is the more robust country.

    The fiscal means at Afghanistan’s disposal have just contracted by 75%. This doesn’t even begin to compare to Ukraine, which “just” lost tax revenue from Donbass and only gradually at that.

    But if we go down that route, consider this.

    Look at how hard Ukraine has worked and squealed to cancel Nord Stream 2, which will progressively take away \$2-3B in annual revenue (2% of GDP).

    Afghanistan has just lost something like 45% of its GDP in annual revenue due to the loss of international grant support, not to mention access to its reserves.

    Public expenditure far exceeds government revenues. Afghanistan is entirely reliant on grants to finance very high levels of public expenditure. Grants are equal to around 45 percent of GDP, compared to an average of around 10 percent for low income countries. Grants finance 75 percent of total public expenditures. Government revenues are currently equal to around US\$2.5 billion per year, while total expenditures are equal to around US\$11 billion per year. While there is scope for further revenue growth, Afghanistan is already collecting around 13 percent of GDP in own-source revenues, comparable to other South Asian countries. There is likely to be mounting pressure on public expenditures as grants decline over the medium-term.

    This is going to make for very disgruntled urbanaites in another few months. If the Taliban survives for a few years, it is going to make for de-urbanization, as said urbanites go back to the country to survive or go abroad.

    • Agree: Not Raul
  19. Svevlad says:
    @Yevardian

    There are many solutions, depends on what you want to achieve.

    I’d say – identify the smart fraction, put em in a bunker, annihilate the rest, they can do with the resulting wasteland whatever they want

  20. @Yevardian

    This would be the reasonable solution, but I think it’s complicated by Afghan ethnicities being strewn over the place, it’s going to be a messy process, and probably bloody in the short-term. Not something that any hypothetical occupier power would want to “own”, not something that’s politically realistic for any official Afghan government.

  21. @Barbarossa

    This is certainly a factor, but consider what needs to be true to reduce this to a trivial issue.

    You would have to assume that 75% of the Afghan budget is indeed “stolen”, i.e. equivalent to its reliance on foreign grants. (I am sure for all Afghanistan’s problems it is way less than that, but let’s assume that to be so). You would also then to have to posit that a Taliban administration will not steal anything at all on account of its pure and unvarnished love for God. (LOL).

    You will also need domestic tax revenue to remain steady. But as the World Bank report notes, it was already running at high capacity by the standards of low-income nations. The country has just been severed from the world economy, so a sharp decline there is all but assured. The Taliban was already financing itself from poppy cultivation, so no room for “expansion” there. Any new mining etc. operations would take years to set up and in any case no private company is going to be taking those kinds of risks at this time.

    Finally, even all that is substantially moot in the sense that even stolen revenues still trickle down to the economy, if less optimally and fairly than when done through official channels. It’s not like all of it was just transferred offshore on receipt.

    • Replies: @Barbarossa
    , @Not Raul
  22. @Anatoly Karlin

    I don’t disagree with you. I wasn’t saying that this was a trivial issue, just one that could be somewhat overstated on paper. The Taliban is certainly in a much more vulnerable position than ever transitioning from an insurgent force to a governing one. The fighting may well prove to be the easy part.

    Even though the Taliban has stated they plan on eliminating opium production, I doubt they will do it till other sources pick up the slack.

    A lot probably rests on what deals and plans the Taliban has laid in advance. It seems clear that Russia, China, and probably others have been talking with the Taliban for some time, but it’s impossible to see yet what fruits that might yield. The situation the Taliban finds itself in now was fully predictable, and so it seems hard to imagine that the Taliban hasn’t given it some careful consideration, since they seem capable of playing a long game.

    Any new mining etc. operations would take years to set up and in any case no private company is going to be taking those kinds of risks at this time.

    The US tried to set up mining in Afghanistan over three presidencies (Afghanistan has the world’s largest reserve of lithium carbonate, among others) and failed for those reasons.
    IF the Taliban can maintain some stability this will be possible. However, this is Afghanistan we are talking about…

  23. @Anon7

    Yet, according to some talking heads if we had just stayed the course a little longer Afghanistan could have been just like New Jersey…

  24. @Anatoly Karlin

    While I agree that cutting the firehose of foreign aid is a financial disappointment for the Taliban and Afghanis in general, there are two mitigating factors:

    1) a lot of that foreign aid really just went into foreign bank accounts in Switzerland or Dubai, so it was always irrelevant to the actual Afghan economy and won’t be missed by anyone other than the now flown corruptocrats, and

    2) most Afghanis are no more than one generation away from subsistence farming, so the prospect—or actuality—of returning to subsistence farming doesn’t hold the terrors it would to a First World urbanized population, who would die in droves if they suddenly had to return to subsistence life. For an Afghan it’s just same old same old, no biggie. Maybe he can’t buy the gold-inlaid livingroom furniture set he had his eye on when he was a US-paid deputy provincial vote wrangler or whatever, but that’s irrelevant to his productive life. He and his family will still eat, still have clothes, still have children, still have his AK-47 (now with an M-16 backup as long as the 5.56 ammo holds out), and still be a member in good standing of his tribal militia. As before, so also now.

    One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

    Some people live a lot closer to Ecclesiastes than we do.

  25. Unit472 says:

    Cambodia didn’t have a lot going for it either in 1975, economically at least, but since the regime didn’t much care about GDP or its standing in the ‘international community’ it got done what it wanted to do.

    Anatoly’s suggestion that Afghanistan my have to ‘de-urbanize’ is frightening. Kabul is now a city of close to 5 million and turning them back into rural agrarians is guaranteed to cost many their lives even if the Taliban doesn’t engage in mass executions. The prospects of a winter trek across Afghanistan to reach a dessicated and sanctioned Iran or Turkey, where Erdogan is busy building a wall to keep them out, doesn’t seem promising either. The world may have reached Peak Refugee so it may be a case of having to shelter in place.

    • Replies: @nebulafox
    , @Triteleia Laxa
  26. @Almost Missouri

    Some people live a lot closer to Ecclesiastes than we do.

    Exactly. The Taliban will still have to fund the workings of government if they want to succeed, but perhaps the majority of Afghans are quite used to eking by without any such thing. If the Taliban can deliver a reduction in corruption and violence without any immediate increase in services this will still be a welcome change for the better for a lot of the country.

    Kabul will be more of a challenge, but even there I expect that the bar is relatively low.

  27. @True Aim

    We could use a compilation of all the kinder-gentler-nation-Taliban takes. It might lighten everybody up a bit.

  28. Afghanistan’s official \$9.5 in foreign currency reserves have also been frozen

    They planned on buying a few gallons of gasoline for the Taliban leadership, but I guess it’s gone…

    AK: LOL. Thx, fixed.

  29. TG says:

    The Iron Law of Development is that FIRST people stop having seven kids a pop, THEN if everything else goes halfway right, they can slowly accumulate real per-capita wealth.

    The United States basically subsidized a population explosion from 20 million when they invaded to about 40 million now. The Afghanis will need to double their food production+imports over the next 20 years to cover 80 million – which I don’t think is going to happen.

    The Afghanis can’t even feed their current population without subsidies, which as has been pointed out here, have now been cut off.

    This feels planned. The Afghanis will rapidly be given to desperation, this will be blamed on the Taliban, and a large fraction of the population of Afghanistan will be imported into the United States (‘because we owe them!’), cheap labor and soaring rents above all.

    Seriously, I don’t think this is a bug, I think it’s a feature. I don’t think this is a coincidence that it’s happening just as the southern border is being basically thrown open. Jam in as many people as possible in the shortest time possible, doesn’t matter if they are sinners or saints, if they foght ‘for’ us or against us, just pack them in.

  30. GMC says:

    Well the Spring/Summer poppy harvest is over , and I’m sure that is why the US stayed around until now, but with Russian, China and a few others, they will try to pull a Afghani government out of the hat. If the Taliban can co – op with a few intelligent other Afghanis, and keep their religion , mostly, out of International affairs, they might get lucky. They and the populace will definitely have to change their mindset or else do svidonya. Great couple of articles AK.

  31. nebulafox says:
    @Unit472

    Cambodia still doesn’t have a lot going for it. The main attraction it has are gambling resorts for Chinese tourists. Broadly speaking, the PRC can be viewed as playing the “Pakistan” role in Cambodia, mainly as a counterweight against the hated Vietnamese.

    Cambodia and Afghanistan do share some vague similarities in terms of historical trauma and underdevelopment, I suppose, but the cultural differences are too sharp for any direct comparisons. Also, the ethnic situation in Cambodia is less complex than Afghanistan’s, even before the Khmer Rouge went genocidal on minorities. Khmer ultra-nationalism was and still is a real, incredibly potent force. Afghanistan seems to lack any sort of unifying national force like that, hence Islamic fundamentalism.

    >Anatoly’s suggestion that Afghanistan my have to ‘de-urbanize’ is frightening. Kabul is now a city of close to 5 million and turning them back into rural agrarians is guaranteed to cost many their lives even if the Taliban doesn’t engage in mass executions.

    I don’t think that’s going to happen. The Taliban don’t seem to have an ideological anti-urban animus per se like the Khmer Rouge did, and Kabul today is bigger than any Cambodian city was or ever has been.

    A lot of people are going to flee, don’t get me wrong, and Kabul’s population will never be the same. But I don’t think we’ll be seeing mass forced movements down to the countryside. The friction between urban and rural people was deeply embedded in Cambodia and reached genocidal levels of hatred by the 1970s. I just don’t see any analogue with the Taliban and Afghanistan.

  32. The Taliban can pay its soldiers with land, women and privileges. They’d essentially have to resort to medieval feudal type arrangements.

    They may not be popular with the population but the population clearly doesn’t dislike them enough to risk life and limb as we saw with the ANA. Plus, the country is exhausted after 42 years of war and would probably welcome peace, even under the Taliban.

    The best and likely course of action would be for the Taliban to let the Chinese in. The Chinese could mine the 1-2 trillion dollars worth of non-ferrous metals and perhaps build a pipeline to Iran. The Chinese might even pay them a few billion to keep the peace and ensure the mines and pipelines are safe. Then there’s the TAPI pipeline. Even if India bails on it, Pakistan would probably take it and Turkmenistan would export gas to the world market via Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    They have sources of revenue and sustenance. They only need to grasp for it

  33. @Anatoly Karlin

    The loss of Russian market and energy subsidies destroyed the Ukraine’s industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs. These workers clean toilets in Eastern Europe now.

    In Afghanistan the main loser will be parasitic bureaucracy that Western aid used to sustain. I can see a new “refugee crisis” on the horison, but how is this a Taleban’s problem? It’s not like these people are going to form a militia or something.

    • Agree: notbe
  34. @Almost Missouri

    You can’t go back to subsistence farming with almost 4 X the population of 1985.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  35. @Unit472

    No government has destroyed their own country as fast as when the Khmer Rouge came to power. I don’t think they so much wanted to do that as were unequipped to do any better. I include ideology in “equipment.”

    The Taliban may just let numerous provinces go in to de facto independence, but their biggest problem is Kabul. They need to control it in order to maintain legitimacy, but 5 million people, concentrated, who disagree with them? That is impossible.

    They’ll be facing a French Revolution type scenario if they don’t de-urbanise, but if they de-urbanise they will break world historical records for barbarism.

    I would committ to power sharing were I them, and let others govern the parts of the country that I couldn’t, but then an election might come along and the Taliban would be finished.

    They are in a terrible position and only billions of billions of free money will save them from the choice of extreme barbarism, fading into irrelevance or going the way of the Ancien Regime.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @Barbarossa
  36. @Caspar von Everec

    Your comment is your own internal fantasy from start to end. I would list what is incorrect about your observations, but they all are. Pick which one you think is most supportable and I’ll prove it is nonsense easily.

    • Replies: @Caspar von Everec
  37. Apparently American aid dropped by over 50% over the past decade.

    Aid to Afghanistan has waned in the last decade. The United States sent over \$13 billion to the country in 2011, but less than \$5 billion reached Afghanistan in 2019, just over \$1 billion of which was allotted to economic and humanitarian programs. The Trump administration promised just \$600 million in civilian aid in 2021.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/joewalsh/2021/04/21/us-promises-300-million-boost-in-aid-to-afghanistan-heres-why/

    One obvious source of savings could be that the previous government was fighting a civil war in 34 (or at least 25-30) provinces, whereas the new government will initially face a civil war in only a few provinces. To me it’s not obvious that they need to radically expand the size of their security forces.

    Also it’s not clear how much of the imports went to useless things. Apparently they often built some infrastructure projects which then quickly fell into disrepair. I don’t know how much import was needed to sustain those useless investments, nor what percentage of the the foreign aid was wasted on what essentially amounted to little more than digging holes and burying them.

    Apparently their foreign currency reserves were growing by some \$500M annually over the past decade, I guess they wouldn’t want to increase their reserves. That’s 10% of the foreign aid in recent years, so not totally negligible.

    Regarding corruption, I thought it was an established fact that the Taliban was less corrupt than most other Afghan governments, at least what immediately preceded and followed them. Also the corruption often didn’t move into the economy. Given the clearly transitory nature of the pro-American regime, many of the officials would probably keep the money abroad or simply as piles of cash. (The president is rumored to have left the country with over \$100M cash while leaving a lot of cash around the presidential palace to distract anyone who might have wanted to pursue him. It’s not necessarily trivial if reports of Ghani being less corrupt than his predecessor were true.

    A few obvious sources of revenue would be selling mining concessions and building pipelines, but like you say the prerequisite is peace and no one other than perhaps the Chinese government or a consortium of governments has deep enough pockets to upfront pay for such a risky (even if potentially lucrative) business.

    Overall I don’t know enough to make a prediction, but the numbers do look unfavorable.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @nebulafox
  38. @Caspar von Everec

    Setting up liquefaction plants and LNG export terminals is very expensive.No one is going to invest 10s of billions of dollars for such infrastructure in Pakistan for feedstock coming over Afghan territory.

    It would be much simpler for the Turkmen to build a pipeline to China via relatively stable central asian SCO member states. The Chinese will happily buy all the gas they can produce and possible finance and build the pipeline as well.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
  39. @Triteleia Laxa

    No government has destroyed their own country as fast as when the Khmer Rouge came to power.

    Based.

    They’ll be facing a French Revolution type scenario if they don’t de-urbanise, but if they de-urbanise they will break world historical records for barbarism.

    That’d be based.

    • LOL: Anatoly Karlin
  40. @Triteleia Laxa

    I would committ to power sharing were I them, and let others govern the parts of the country that I couldn’t, but then an election might come along and the Taliban would be finished.

    The Taliban does not seem opposed to some sharing of power if core beliefs and independence are not compromised. I see that they have been talking to Hamid Karzai and other figures, and may work out some deals that make the forming government more palatable to Western eyes.

    I’m not sure how the Taliban would fare in elections, whatever those mean in a place like Afghanistan. It all depends of the alternatives on offer of which there are really none right now.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  41. @Caspar von Everec

    Your fantasy must be compensating for quite some holes in your self-conception. It is very aggressive in maintaining itself.

    Anyway, you seem to be going with the single assertion that Afghanistan is rich in rare earth metals, with “trillions” of them, and that the Taliban need only invite China in to mine it all and solve their problems.

    The problem is that “The global rare earth elements market size was valued at USD 2.80 billion in 2018.”

    Having “trillions” of something hard to reach underground with an annual market that is only worth a few billion likely means having nothing of value. Can you work out why? Or is critical consciousness/culture of critique a threat to your internal power fantasy?

    • Replies: @Caspar von Everec
  42. @Barbarossa

    Sharing power means giving up a lot of power. That will not be easy for an organisation like the Taliban.

  43. @Vishnugupta

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkmenistan%E2%80%93Afghanistan%E2%80%93Pakistan%E2%80%93India_Pipeline

    China is not the buyer of Turkem gas. Its India and Pakistan. China if anything has an incentive in building an oil pipeline to Iran as a safeguard against a US naval blockade of China. Plus, it would also lessen Chinese dependence on Saudi and Russian oil.

    • Replies: @Vishnugupta
  44. @Triteleia Laxa

    >Afghanistan is rich in resources like copper, gold, oil, natural gas, uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, rare earths, lithium, chromium, lead, zinc, gemstones, talc, sulphur, travertine, gypsum and marble.

    https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/what-are-afghanistans-untapped-minerals-resources-2021-08-19/

    Non-ferrous metals encompass far more than just rare earths. China itself has vast reserves of rare earth metals. Lithium will be a major component in the decades forward as the green energy grift gains momentum.

    It would pay for China to have financial control of these critical resources. They’ve similarly taken control of such resources all throughout Africa and those countries are vastly more unstable than Afghanistan.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  45. @Caspar von Everec

    Look. This thread is already pointless. Your best argument was the rare earth metals one, or you thought it was, and I then showed you why you were completely stupid for mentioning it.

    Now, rather than saying “thank you” for informing you better, or at least acknowledging your previous total ignorance, you somehow find an even stupider point to make. You are beneath talking about serious things with. You are unable to escape your own wishful thinking.

  46. Hyperinflation was pretty insane in Kabul.

    It was indeed a puppet state, but as with all puppet states, there are varying levels of compliance and expectations. Afghanistan’s main duty as a puppet state was being an gigantic embezzlement scheme and test for certain “blank slate” tests. They didn’t care what calendar they used. Most of the actual money of course was absorbed by the private/public foreign and local interests involved. Many wells remained unbuilt. Losing access to the gold and dollars will cause severe issues and challenges though, and while long term the latter will be healthy for Afghanistan (no national economy should ever be “based” on corrupt charity), the latter is another mark on the sheer, vile unfairness of the Western Empire, which refuses to allow other nations to exist and function on their own terms.

  47. @Yevardian

    This would also reunite the Pashtuns with their natural ports in Balochistan.

  48. What is an “Afghani”? Anything like an Afghan?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  49. @yakushimaru

    The Chinese are already working on a copper mine, but I expect them to continue being fairly sensible about the whole enterprise, rather than worry about “nation building.”

    Normal mercantile things. Xi Jinping will only ruin the Chinese Dream if he tries to replace America as “the Emperor of the world.”

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
    , @nebulafox
  50. @Reg Cæsar

    Afghani is the official currency of Afghanistan.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  51. @Boomthorkell

    They signed the contract for it 12 years ago. It was near Kabul and secure. They now “intend” to “re-open” it if things become a lot more stable. This is all meaningless PR, except that it shows that private Chinese companies are happy to consider working in Taliban controlled areas, which is the same as all private companies.

    • Thanks: Boomthorkell
  52. @Vishnugupta

    I think one issue is that the stability of the Central Asian states is relative. Just in recent months there were border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and we don’t know what’s going to happen in Nursultan once its namesake is dead. So maybe hedging their bets with a couple extra pipelines might not be the worst idea. Again, provided that the Taliban proves to be sane enough to keep the country without a large scale civil war for a few years.

    Just imagine that Ukraine received three billion dollars from the pipeline transit fees, that’s sixty percent of the annual American aid to Afghanistan. I’m pretty sure that with a somewhat less corrupt and especially less wasteful management that’d be enough to avert an economic collapse. The question is how to get there – building a pipeline is expensive and takes a long time. Lithium mining concessions might produce even more income and might result in some kind of organic growth.

    The potential is there, but we’re talking about… Afghans. So, super risky. If the investor is the Chinese government, then there are non-economic returns to be had from such a scheme. Political stability in China’s backyard is one such important non-economic consideration. It’s only worth anything if it can become self-sustaining, but then it will be worth a lot. Also the extra pipeline and perhaps an extra road to Iran or Turkmenistan is worth a lot in case of a war with America. If for no other reason, then because of the extra capacity. But probably also because the Central Asian ‘stans are not very stable or reliable entities themselves.

    I wouldn’t make predictions, but it feels a bit like Tesla a few years ago, always likely to go horribly wrong, but if not… the upside is there.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
    , @Aedib
  53. songbird says:

    The idea that some have that the Taliban would choose to attack planes lifting off seems crazy. Those are valuable remittances in the making. They might set a record as a percentage of GDP, even above Tonga and Somalia, after the economy collapses and hundreds of thousands more are resettled.

    • Agree: Aedib
    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  54. @reiner Tor

    I don’t think that a spare pipeline that is incredibly vulnerable to any instability or bribed tribal militia counts as an upside. Not in the land of infinite bribeable tribal militias.

    Nor would a road be very useful in military conflict. It could be IED’d by any random tribal militia for a pittance in cash. The US efforts to keep Highway One open were extraordinary. You should read about the technology involved, and also the constant military action.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @Daniel Chieh
  55. @songbird

    You’re right, but then stoning women to death is also crazy. As is pretty much everything they believe.

    The real reason why they won’t do it is that they don’t want to poke the NATO tiger even more, when they can just wait. They have just suffered 20 years of getting bombed, shot and pushed into the margins, from the last time they even hosted a terrorist type. If anything would teach you not to do similar, it would be what they experienced as a two-decade long punitive expedition.

    • Replies: @songbird
  56. @Triteleia Laxa

    In a Sino-American war the Pakistani airspace would be closed to American flights. Russia and Iran would make sure that American planes didn’t get to fly to Afghanistan. Needless to say that land routes would be closed even more thoroughly, since literally no important state in the region would want America to win or China to lose. So how would America bribe the tribes? I guess they can send them bitcoins. Should that happen, the pipeline could be repaired and the offending tribes punished properly. I’m pretty sure that China would be willing to do whatever it takes to protect those pipelines. And, ahem, in these hypothetical scenarios the pipeline would be one of the main sources of revenue for the Taliban government. Would they not be motivated to punish those who damage it, depriving the government of revenues?

    Another point is that there are pipelines going through Georgia or other Caucasian regions, often with tribal and primitive populations, and with wars waged nearby. Guess what, they are still worth a lot.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
    , @songbird
  57. @Caspar von Everec

    China is unlikely to “go in” for obvious reasons; that’ll involve putting their citizens in Afghanistan and therein lies the road to hell. Unlike the US, China doesn’t have a strategic need – China can interact with Central Asian states perfectly fine and doesn’t need an airbase there.

    There are some things that China can do, but they don’t seem particularly likely:

    1) Export surveillance state technology. This is probably one of the strongest moves that China could do and would doubtlessly stabilize urban areas if it was appropriately run, but it doesn’t really seem like the Taliban are the type to run a modern anything, let alone a modern surveillance state. This isn’t impossible, but unlikely.

    2)Mining, etc; China is unlikely to want to send in its own citizens as indicated. The Afghan don’t seem like they’re the type to setup a logistic setup, or to take advice from others on how to run things, let alone massive industrial setups and the security situation may not be guaranteed by the Taliban. Its hard to see how the same goal couldn’t be achieved somewhere else with less cost.

    The strongest argument for Chinese involvement is that they need Afghanistan stable enough so that it doesn’t escalate into strange situations with Pakistan and India. The way to do so may involve some aid, but it would be probably limited.

    It should be noted that the Taliban are not particularly popular with the Chinese population.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @showmethereal
  58. @reiner Tor

    1. You know nothing of maintaining infrastructure in Afghanistan.

    2. You don’t realise that it is easy to pay important Afghans through the many relatives they have sent to the West using previous payments.

    3. You compare Georgia to Afghanistan.

    wtf

  59. @Triteleia Laxa

    The US efforts to keep Highway One open were extraordinary.

    Given how unpopular the US was, it probably is not comparable to anyone that has the support of Pakistan, which China would by by definition have, and Pakistan does indeed have deep roots in Afghanistan making the ball game quite different.

    A gigantic reason why the US was unable to execute it goals was because Pakistan, while accepting US aid, was basically constantly undermining it. China is unlikely to face the exact same issue, because while Pakistan remains generally inelastic to both threats and incentives, there’s a long history of Chinese cooperation with them and the ongoing rivalry with India provides additional motivation.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  60. songbird says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    I would call stoning “barbaric” rather than “crazy.” Seems to have been widespread in the past, which probably means that it served a purpose. One possible explanation is that men are more cooperative, if cuckoldry is punished – and that punishing it allows for more sophisticated societies than would exist otherwise, even if they still seem primitive from our perspective. Though, possibly scarlet letters would work just as well or better.

    Never a good idea to poke the US, but I think it is more than just fear. It probably shows more authority, more face, to let the evacuation proceed peacefully. And it would be the natural thing to do, if you are hoping for international investment (and I’d think anyone with that youth bulge would).

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  61. @Triteleia Laxa

    If there’s a big Power war with the US, then I suspect that a lot of human rights-related compunctions will go by the wayside. In the current era, maintaining the security of hypothetical roads and pipelines through Afghanistan to Iran and Pakistan – if it is deemed vital to the Chinese war effort – should be a relatively trivial matter.

    Of course this is now all a moor point, today AFAIK there’s not even a proper road through the Wakhan corridor that connects Afghanistan to China.

  62. @Daniel Chieh

    1. The Taliban needed Pakistan when they didn’t have Afghanistan.

    2. If they ever secure Afghanistan, they will look across the Durand Line to support their brother insurgency in Pakistan.

    Pakistan will not, until the society of Afghanistan changes a lot, ever be in a position to reliably provide security for country-spanning infrastructure in Afghanistan. Their influence over the Taliban is proportionate to the Taliban’s insecurity.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  63. @Anatoly Karlin

    I keep thinking of things to reply with to your posts on Afghanistan, or this reply, or others, but I write and re-write before I realise that I have nothing useful to add. Thank you.

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
    • Thanks: Anatoly Karlin
  64. @Triteleia Laxa

    No, its not that simple. There’s a lot of ISI involvement with the Taliban, on a very deep level, but there’s also Taliban factions that dislike Pakistan; it seems likely that the latter have been heavily sidelined for now. However, it is not just an alliance of convenience, the ISI have been involved in this for at least seventy years, probably more.

    Pakistan will not, until the society of Afghanistan changes a lot, ever be in a position to reliably provide security for country-spanning infrastructure in Afghanistan.

    Pakistan is just a step above Afghanistan, they’re not some sort of exemplar Islamic state, they’re the wonderful people who have given us the Paki rape gangs in England and have demonstrated an incredible genius as of late at “receiving aid” just a bit short of “extorting the world.” They’re mentally quite compatible with the Afghans, for better or worse but they also have access to and capability for modern technology.

    This gives them, I suppose, unique capabilities.

    I wouldn’t doubt their ability to manage limited goals.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  65. songbird says:
    @reiner Tor

    I’m thinking Ethereum 2.0 might be a better crypto for Afghanistan.

    Though, personally I do like the idea of a special crypto for the Third World that would feed HBD stats directly into the chain, using workplace, school, and public records as well biometrics. Something that would discourage graft, by keeping an open record and using a social credit system – thus making resource extraction as efficient as possible. Something that might help tell us some of these hidden stats, like the real local murder rate and the true percentage of people with HIV.

    But Anatoly says Cardano is vaporware!

    • LOL: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  66. Aedib says:
    @reiner Tor

    Nursultan managed his retirement quite good. I think Kazakhstan will survive his death and keep the relatively successful state and development path. The rest of Stans are far more unstable. The very same Putler is looking at Nursultan experiment with interest.

    • Thanks: reiner Tor
  67. @songbird

    I would call stoning “barbaric” rather than “crazy.” Seems to have been widespread in the past, which probably means that it served a purpose. One possible explanation is that men are more cooperative, if cuckoldry is punished – and that punishing it allows for more sophisticated societies than would exist otherwise, even if they still seem primitive from our perspective. Though, possibly scarlet letters would work just as well or better.

    All that stoning doesn’t seem to have done much for the advancement of Afghanistan, or for cooperation among their men.

    Could it have been outweighed by other factors? Perhaps, but then that is all just supposition with little reason to believe any of it. You might argue intuitively that punishing female cheating may reduce men competing with each other, but what about the murdered woman’s family? Or her potential cheat partner? Or friends? You might get them to agree to the punishment in theory, but you’d have to get them to agree to the verdict too; which may actually be even harder.

    Societies that became world-leaders in cooperation don’t seem to have a recent history of stoning, while societies that have completely failed, like Afghanistan, have centuries of such behaviour. I stand by calling it “crazy”, though it is certainly barbaric as well. I’d also bet that the majority of Afghans would call it both nowadays.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    , @songbird
  68. @songbird

    Smart contracts is an interesting idea for dealing with third world graft.

    • Agree: songbird
  69. @Daniel Chieh

    How long, if the Taliban feel secure, for the NW Frontier to start fizzing again?

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  70. @Triteleia Laxa

    Not sure where you are getting “4× since 1985”. And why use 1985 as benchmark when the Taliban were last in charge 16 years later?

    At the first (and apparently only undisputed) census in 1979, the population was 15.5 million. At the initial US invasion in 2001, the population was reckoned to be a little over 20 million. Today the population is reckoned to be something in the 30s millions, depending on whom you ask.

    US aid started in 2002 but only got really enormous in 2009 with the Obama surge. So depending how you calculate, you could argue that the population today is as little as 1.2× what it was before mass foreign aid or as much as 1.8× what it was since the last time the Taliban were in charge.

    In any case, everyone seems to agree that whatever the population is, it is only a quarter urban, which means that three quarters of the population doesn’t need to go back to subsistence farming since they’re already there.

    Most of the urban population is in Kabul, and is probably already trying to leave, so needn’t trouble the Talibs if they don’t want it to.

  71. @Triteleia Laxa

    It is interesting that stoning does seem to only be a common capital punishment in the Near East; a quick gander through historical capital punishment seems to indicate that it was most widely used by the early Jewish and Islamic systems. It doesn’t seem to feature in the oldest legal code, the Code of Hammurabi, and seems to have minimal existence with the early Roman legal code.

    Women are pretty much universally punished by all ancient civilizations for adultery by death, but I think the distinction that is stoning is a public and specifically humiliating spectacle by mob, as opposed, I suppose by the notion of a centralized authority that handles it. Obviously in such situations, there is never a consideration of mass agreement(in fact, there’s quite a few examples of women were executed over the objections of their husbands): that’s the entire point of centralized power. Romans did find women who poisoned their husbands particularly heinous and reserved the worst punishment for them as per Gibbon: raped to death by animals in the Colosseum.

    The distinction between “successful cooperators” and less organized civilizations then would perhaps be less being whether they punished adultery with death, but more than legal enforcement was removed from public agreement and given to a centralized authority, and perhaps in such, a much stronger monopoly of violence.

  72. @Almost Missouri

    Not sure where you are getting “4× since 1985”.

    Google “Afghanistan population.” A neat graph will appear. I don’t know the methodology, but their population is obviously increasing at a tremendous rate.

    And why use 1985 as benchmark when the Taliban were last in charge 16 years later?

    It was more fun, but the point, even with the population only doubling since the US arrived, remains the same.

    In any case, everyone seems to agree that whatever the population is, it is only a quarter urban, which means that three quarters of the population doesn’t need to go back to subsistence farming since they’re already there.

    61 percent of all households derive [some] income from agriculture.

    It seems that once you factor the some of each household out, you are left with a population that is far too large to support by subsistence farming, perhaps twice too large.

    You can see this with food imports:

    In 2018, food imports for Afghanistan was 34 %. Though Afghanistan food imports fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to decrease through 1968 – 2018 period ending at 34 % in 2018.

    They are clearly not deficient in labour.

    Subsistence farming also tends not to be able to make great use of capital; so their problem is arable land and the very system of subsistence farming itself, which hinders the adoption of capital.

    Increase capital and there’ll be fewer farming jobs. Decrease capital and there’ll be even less food production. Neither works for your scenario. The Taliban are going to need to provide the sort of socio-cultural framework that allows for more than being an illiterate peasant or their Mullah master. Not just because otherwise any power can come in and kick the sh*t out of them for fun, but also because their population has outgrown their territory.

    Perhaps they’ll shed half of their population as refugees and become just about sustainable as something like a late dark ages backwater, but the route out of Afghanistan isn’t easy. Also, if this is the Taliban’s best hope for governing and not sacrificing their Talibaness then it doesn’t seem like much hope at all.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  73. @Triteleia Laxa

    The Taliban aren’t a single entity. The Afghan Taliban are basically straight up aligned with the Pakistan, essentially friends with common goals and mentality, while the Tehrik-e-Taliban are a terrorist group to the Pakistan government. Given that the ISI was probably intimately involved in the current victory – I think they executed a large part of the strategy, the balance of power is almost certainly with the pro-Pakistani Taliban, perhaps with the TTP now isolated.

    Maybe they can find common cause soon by sending them to renew troubles in Kashmir, which is sort of a happy confluence for Sikhs opposing them as well, so everyone can return to killing again without the risk of a bigger world war.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/18/pakistan-hand-taliban-victory/

  74. @Caspar von Everec

    The Taliban can pay its soldiers with land, women and privileges. They’d essentially have to resort to medieval feudal type arrangements.

    Incidentally, and perhaps rather amusingly, the Afghans have not quite reached feudalism. That would involve something like stability, but they’re mostly like some mix of pastoralists and farmers and from what I’ve read, most resemble ancient Hebrew tribes perhaps around the era of Judges – in this, the Taliban offer jurisprudence and apparently are appreciated for their lack of corruption. Infrastructure is not their concern.

    They haven’t consolidated to the era of Kings in the Bible.

    I’m sure they could pay people in women to an extent, but its hard to pay people in land when there’s no equivalent of a royal guard(Taliban aren’t actually a centralized force) to stop others from challenging your newly gained right, and you can only have privileges over peasants, but they don’t properly quite have peasants, just other tribesmen with guns and sheep too.

    So their social organization could be said to be at 1200-1000 BC, quite a bit pre-feudalism.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
  75. @Daniel Chieh

    It seems to me that Medieval England, rather than Ancient Rome, is the best fitting example of a country that got men to cooperate well enough to create modernity.

    The principle that men might legally kill adulterers found with women under their control persisted following the Norman Conquest in the Leis Willelmi, but the Leges Henrici Primi of around 1114–1118 decreed that the King should have the executive authority to punish an adulterous man, and that adulterous women should be punished by bishops. During the twelfth century, as English common law emerged, the punishment of adultery was shifted from the secular authorities to the ecclesiastical ones. Ecclesiastical authorities did not impose death penalties, but the killing of a male adulterer by a male cuckold was not outlawed in secular law, leaving scope for lawful revenge-killing. In time, however, adultery came exclusively to be a concern of the Church courts, and was not a crime at common law.

    Keep in mind that at this time it was ordinary to execute someone for stealing a loaf of bread, even while adultery was not a crime at all. It also seems that punishment, when it happened, was much harder on the men than the women, which makes most sense if you think that punishing transgressions against male cooperation increases male cooperation.

    As for stoning, nothing says “based” like these guys, though since they seem like a much more hardcore version of SJWs on social media, with many women and the hatred of using taboo words, it seems odd for right dissidents to think this behaviour is cool:

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  76. @Triteleia Laxa

    I think Rome did just fine.

    “Modernity” is the result of many other factors besides adultery law. Insofar as there was a reason for English reduction in violence, a better reason would indeed be the executions, iirc Gregory Clark mentioned that the widespread use of capital punishment for trivial punishment served to reduce the genes associated with violence, with something like 1% of the entire male population executed.

    While it seems to serves your purpose to promote female equality, there’s not much evidence that it has much association with rise of civilizations, and appears instead quite a bit right before the fall of empires, the decadent stage, perhaps as a sign of overall lack of cooperation and self-maximizing behavior.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  77. @Daniel Chieh

    I would guess there’s a connection between length of sedentary life and severity of punishment for adultery. Hard monogamy seems specific to agricultural civilizations, where maintaining transmission of property within the family line was a big concern. Hunter-gatherers owned nothing and were happy. Industrial civilization has been progressively returning to that primeval form, the value of “material” things becoming steadily devalued due to their sheer abundance. Eventually, the transition will be total.

    • Replies: @Yellowface Anon
  78. @Almost Missouri

    In any case, everyone seems to agree that whatever the population is, it is only a quarter urban, which means that three quarters of the population doesn’t need to go back to subsistence farming since they’re already there.

    The primary characteristic of such societies is that they are really poor. One aspect of that is that they have very few reserves.

    A rich country, if it faces a food crisis, can export its high added value goods to pay for food. In a true emergency, it can run down its existing stocks of grain and livestock, which are much larger than in societies where many people live at the edge of subsistence. It can enforce a rationing system (organizational capacity). It can massively subsidize farmers to plant more. It can import or produce more fertilizer, it can build tractors, etc., etc.

    Poor countries have much fewer such options. If foreign aid is unforthcoming, they just starve.

    I think in general the idea that poor countries can withstand isolation from the world economy more easily than rich countries is an urban myth. It’s the other way round.

  79. @Daniel Chieh

    While it seems to serves your purpose to promote female equality, there’s not much evidence that it has much association with rise of civilizations, and appears instead quite a bit right before the fall of empires, the decadent stage, perhaps as a sign of overall lack of cooperation and self-maximizing behavior.

    It is painful to let go of so much hard-won knowledge and theory, but your historically based cycle of civilisation is built on a small and, most importantly, irrelevant sample.

    We live in a world that would be completely alien to all humans throughout history. Yet you want to apply some quarter-formed patterns from a few civillisations ago when ordinary people didn’t even leave their own village?

    It is like taking a strategy learned from playing draughts and applying it to whatever the most complicated computer game of all time is. There may be some superficial similarities in how you might win, but, if you take those similarities as more than an amusing coincidence or, at most, a point to consider, then you’ve already lost.

    [MORE]

    There are spiritual constants to humans, but their potential to meet them has been exponentially increased by the technological environment which humanity has created. Women’s equality is a ridiculous concept in a world where everyone is but one bad winter away from starving. The King’s female family members were immeasurably superior to any ordinary man anyway. Focussing on it would just be shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Yet in our world, the developed one, it is ridiculous to argue against it. Those who try, must go into all sorts of stupid abstract theories and special pleading for what are usually bizarre personal reasons. Often they need to invoke some sort of apocalyptic scenario, that while lightly plausible, as all manners of millenarian nonsense can be, is not something they actually believe in, as you can always see in their actions and even their limited theoretical solution.

    A good example is the “women need to be enslaved” or else it is “white genocide” crowd, to which I suggested that men might just adopt more feminine values of nurturing and childcare, after all, it is 99% men who talk like that, so they’ll be the most motivated; but that easy individualised action was ignored or mocked as absurd. If men making more caring fathers is too high a price for the Unz crowd to avoid “white genocide” then actions to avert it must be quite low priority.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  80. Yevardian says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Romans did find women who poisoned their husbands particularly heinous and reserved the worst punishment for them as per Gibbon: raped to death by animals in the Colosseum.

    Very odd wording, not to mention behaviourally impossible… can you give anything more specific for volume, page or a full quote? I’ve read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall twice and still dip into the volumes I own regularly, but I don’t recall any such ridiculous phrase, unless it was in a footnote of Gibbon quoting a rubbish source like the Historia Augusta..

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  81. I’m having a hard time understanding this…. Afghanistan was not a developed society 3 months ago… Nor was it fully integrated into the global economy back when the Taliban ruled before. The difference is back then – Russia and China and Iran were enemies of the Taliban. Now the Taliban is working with all three. I can’t see any possible scenario where the Taliban of 2021 doesn’t develop the country more than the one of 2001 prior to the invasion.

  82. songbird says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    IMO, it is difficult to make a worldwide comparison when it comes to stoning, due to climatic and cultural differences. The narrow theory would be that it worked within the ME, or within Islamic and Jewish worlds. That societies that instituted it outcompeted earlier societies there.

    I think it is hard to make a comparison with Europe outside of Rome. We lack the history and what exists does so within a Christian context. Plus, one can assume that stoning might be less practical in some places than others. That, for example, banishment would mean death in a cold climates without being stoned.

    Letting a husband kill a man who cucked him might be problematic. Probably, the man would often be stronger than the husband (as the wife’s looking for strong genes.)

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  83. @songbird

    The narrow theory would be that it worked within the ME, or within Islamic and Jewish worlds. That societies that instituted it outcompeted earlier societies there.

    It existed in the Islamic world. This does not mean that it worked in any way that was intended, or that it was not actually detrimental. As for the “Jewish world”, the small collection of Hebrew tribes that famously held intermittent power over the tiny piece of land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean is not a hugely useful example to learn from.

    That, for example, banishment would mean death in a cold climate without being stoned.

    LOL

    But I am unsure that attractive young women have ever had difficulty finding a warm bed.

    Letting a husband kill a man who cucked him might be problematic. Probably, the man would often be stronger than the husband (as the wife’s looking for strong genes.)

    LOL – while 100 Years of Solitude assures me that ambitious mothers would send their daughters to the bed of great war leaders to “improve the breed,” I don’t think that “strong genes” was often high up the list in a woman’s affairs. Maybe “fertile” in the case of spousal infertility, but affairs are multifactorial and not to be reduced as you have.

    Also, please don’t fight to the death, but if you must, definitely don’t fight fair. Bring everyone you know to help. Use a weapon. “Fair” is a specious concept and your life will be on the line.

    Another perspective from 100 Years of Solitude, which I read recently obviously, is made when a character thinks chess is ridiculous. What is a competition where the two sides agree on the rules beforehand? I like that perspective even if it isn’t my own.

    • Replies: @songbird
  84. Yevardian says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    So their social organization could be said to be at 1200-1000 BC, quite a bit pre-feudalism.

    I think your reasoning is mistaken. ‘Feudalism’ wasn’t a societal or technological advance, of any sort, from ancient Near-Eastern states or Greco-Roman antiquity, it was the product of the breakdown of centralised authority across dark-ages Europe, or late-medieval Japan.
    The usually temporary and transitional nature of feudalism lasted for an extended period in Europe and Japan due to a combination of their fractured geography, new defensive technologies, and strong traditions of local autonomy and independence of the nobility.

    Feudal arrangements have long existed in greater Iran many times and for extended periods, under the Parthians, the weaker Achaemenid and Sassanid Shahs and so on.
    It depends what you mean by ‘Afghan’ though. Until the establishment of the ‘great game’ buffer-state’ of the same name, ‘Afghan’ was synonymous with ‘Pashtun’, who yes, have always been a tribal, usually leaderless, ungovernable people.
    But for the majority Persianate (Dari/Farsi/Tajik) population of the country, feudalism and settled life has been the norm, they’re not a martial people. The plundering hordes that have periodically spilled out of that country have always been Turkics or Pashtuns.

    Anyway, my point is, there are two completely kinds of people of Aghanistan, the primitive Pashtun tribesmen (as the Taliban) have taken over the country from the civilised Persian part of the population again. Significantly, nearly everyone in Afghanistan uses Dari whether it’s their first language or not, but very few people there ever bother learning Pashtun.

    It’s an ethnic conflict, not a religious or civil one. That’s why the obvious long term solution is partition, its an unnatural state that was originally shaped as buffer by others, like Belgium. The Persian parts of ‘Afghanistan’ (more accurately, Khorasan) were conquered by Pashtuns, as Iran collapsed into a century of exhaustion, after the campaigns of Nader Shah (a Napoleon-like gloryseeker and pseudo-visionary who ultimately rapidly accelerated his adopted country’s decline).
    Normally, core-Persian cities like Herat would have been reconquered, once the Iranian state recovered its strength under the Qajars, but by then the Pashto Durrani-state had been guaranteed by both the British Empire and the Russians. So for that reason, primitive, fundamentalist mountain tribespeople have been ruling over the civilised Khorasan and Tajik regions for an unnaturally long period of time.

    tl;dr, much of Aghanistan has always been a core part of Iran, and has been unaturally cut off from its hinterland due to outside intervention.
    Actually, now I think about it, it’s a lot like the position of Ukraine relative to Russia.

  85. @Felix Keverich

    LOLOL. Has US sanctions stopped China from doing business with Iran and Venezuela??? That was a joke right?

  86. @yakushimaru

    Ummmm – Pakistan and China are “iron brothers”… Pakistan has been pulling China and Afghanistan together.

  87. @Yevardian

    My apologies – it looks like I accidentally spread misinformation that has since been reverted.

    Seems like it was originally made common in the Internet back in 2009, with the original source being Mannix(likely inspired from an event described in the surviving Roman novel Golden Ass), eventually making it into wikipedia as a common source(where I got the information from) where quoted an author called R.E. L Masters, until after an edit war, it was finally removed from wikipedia in 2013. The female poisoner was supposedly Locusta.

    Apparently there’s some supporting sources, but since Manniex appears to have not sourced his original citation, its primarily dismissed by historians as debunked now.

  88. @Triteleia Laxa

    Pretty much all of your data is wrong; its impossible to even begin to address it as such.

    The spiritual evolution theory of history is pretty funny, though. Somehow, I’m pretty sure that the Gallic tribes were more carbon neutral than the Romans who conquered them, yet here we are using a Latinized language and Gaulish.

    • LOL: Triteleia Laxa
  89. @showmethereal

    Pakis are unfortunately by and large, not trustworthy: not to themselves and not to their putative allies.

  90. @Daniel Chieh

    Well China and the Taliban both stated openly what is the basis for their relations. China wants no safe haven for the ETIM….. The Taliban verbally agreed… We shall see what happens… We know the US de-listed them as a terror organization once of Pompeo’s last actions before he left. All of that is in the background. Ultimately both Russia and China want Afghanistan in the SCO (Iran is all but confirmed for approval now) – to continue rooting out militants from Central Asia.

  91. @showmethereal

    Ummmm – Pakistan and China are “iron brothers”… Pakistan has been pulling China and Afghanistan together.

    Imagine the only candidate a country can find for “iron” brotherhood being “Pakistan”. Perhaps the least reliable potential family member in the world, other than maybe Afghanistan. The country is a disaster with a GDP per capita of just over half of India’s. It has even been superseded by its former colony and rape victim Bangladesh. It was a cool place back when it was the centre of the Indus Valley civilisation, but that ended over 4000 years ago.

    I wonder how long the Chinese people will be happy with the political outlook which creates that situation? 20 years?

    Pakistan will also improve, but on a much longer timescale and will be left far behind.

    • Agree: Grahamsno(G64)
  92. @Triteleia Laxa

    Yes, Russia is a cool friend to have, but that’s only possible because US institutions haven’t been able to adapt quickly enough after the Cold War/got too greedy/haven’t been motivated enough.

    Not that it much matters, I suppose, as the conflict between the US and China is going to be a lot lower stakes than previous superpower conflicts. It will be more over pride and hurt feelings than anything which really affects the lives of its citizens. There’ll be plenty of posturing and cause to parade fun military hardware around, and that’s important to many people, but it will be very different from what came before and much less bad to the non-hysterical observer.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  93. @Yevardian

    I had a friend who was deployed there and had a lot of engagement with the Taliban, usually violently, so my understanding of Afghans is overwhelmingly that of Pashtuns in all of its good(brave and weirdly cheerful warriors, a true warrior’s society) and bad(essentially an unbelievably primitive society where even basic concepts like property rights are questionable).

    There are time the tribal life can seem rather romantic, with that sense of deep and and clear passions – which you could kind of see now in the victory photos: an almost childlike glee at fighting and winning, without really much of the bitterness or malice one would see from other hardened soldiers. No great sense of the past nor of the future, just a present existence. Its not a very useful mindset in many ways, but it can come off as somehow clean and genuine, in a way that say, the Pakistani never seem to be.

    Its just such a totally different mindset.

  94. @Triteleia Laxa

    Not that it much matters, I suppose, as the conflict between the US and China is going to be a lot lower stakes than previous superpower conflicts. It will be more over pride and hurt feelings than anything which really affects the lives of its citizens.

    I heard that if you keep repeating something, it’ll become true.

    Keep it up.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  95. @Daniel Chieh

    The thing about merely repressing your hysteria, rather than transcending it, is that you’re often left seeing world events through a hysterical lens, while comforting yourself that you’re not hysterical because your language is calm.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  96. @Triteleia Laxa

    Yevardian is here to tell you all about how Armenian calm was rewarded.

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/13/fury-in-armenia-as-azerbaijan-displays-war-trophies

    But all in all, its probably a good thing that you think that way.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  97. @Daniel Chieh

    Is your hysteria making you see that conflict as worse than it was, or is your hysteria making you see it as a portent of something in the developed world when it was not? It certainly isn’t your acuity that is skewing your perception of reality so much.

    Armenia and Azerbaijan are not in the developed world. Their medium stakes conflict suited their medium level of development.

    I am sorry to Yevardian, but trying to find the future in Nagorno-Karabakh is only quantitatively less wrong than trying to find the future in Afghanistan. It is still looking in reverse.

    • Replies: @Yevardian
  98. @Daniel Chieh

    There are time the tribal life can seem rather romantic, with that sense of deep and and clear passions – which you could kind of see now in the victory photos: an almost childlike glee at fighting and winning, without really much of the bitterness or malice one would see from other hardened soldiers. No great sense of the past nor of the future, just a present existence. Its not a very useful mindset in many ways, but it can come off as somehow clean and genuine, in a way that say, the Pakistani never seem to be.

    On war and peace (p. 31)

    The Pukhtun is never at peace, except when he is at war.

    The Orks are the pinnacle of creation. For them, the great struggle is won. They have evolved a society which knows no stress or angst. Who are we to judge them? We Eldar who have failed, or the Humans, on the road to ruin in their turn? And why? Because we sought answers to questions that an Ork wouldn’t even bother to ask! We see a culture that is strong and despise it as crude.

    • Agree: Daniel Chieh
  99. sher singh says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Pitamah Bhishma roared: “Kshatriya Dharma is unique. It has no memory. Not of sins, past births or failings” Fight bravely, and force Indra to share his throne. Even the gods envy the death of a Kshatriya on the battlefield”

    An abstract concept like right or central legal authority is gay, strength (Devi) is the final & only judge.

    https://repository.library.northeastern.edu/files/neu:1461 Covers Pathan, Sikh, Gorkha culture WW1

    ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖਾਲਸਾਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫਤਿਹ

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  100. Yevardian says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    I haven’t much commented on it actually, I don’t have any relatives from there, and I know more Armenians from Syria or Iran than the modern Soviet successor statelet.

    In as far as Azerbaijan is more than twice Armenia’s size, has oil, isn’t landlocked, has stable leadership, surroundes it on two sides (the Nakhichevan exclave), its an achievement that Armenia managed hold on to Artaskh (Karabakh dates much later, to a petty sultanate) for as long as it did.

    I already said everything there is to say on the matter, the odds were always against Armenia in the long-term in that conflict, Armenia elected a president who turned out to be useless idiot (and possibly a traitor), and the Turks saw an opportunity to attack during the middle of a global pandemic.

    ‘Azeri’ identity is Soviet invention, eventually that place will be divided up between Iran and Russia, and Azeris will no longer exist. Armenians will still be around as they have for the past 3000 years.

    I’m not sure in what context my name or ‘being calm’ was brought up in anyway. I mean, ideally, small and weak states should cultivate good relations with their neighbours, but that’s not really an option when they openly call for your destruction, having already nearly succeeded a century earlier. Relations with Georgia are abysmal too, but they currently can’t be improved considering Georgia still hates Russia, whilst Russia is the only thing guaranting Armenia’s survival, the Artsakh war demonstrating just how little leverage Armenia has in the relationship.
    The only productive, normal relations Armenia has with any nearby country is Iran, which remains an international pariah state.

    I mean, if it were paradox title, contemporary Armenia would be one of those nations notorious amongst the playerbase for being one of the most impossible in the game. But at least Armenians aren’t Afghanis, the diaspora is very succesful and resented for it.

    • Thanks: Triteleia Laxa
    • Replies: @Yellowface Anon
  101. @reiner Tor

    Afghani is the official currency of Afghanistan.

    I thought it was the bacha.

    • LOL: sher singh
  102. @Triteleia Laxa

    I might be wrong, but I thought there were pipelines in Dagestan and Chechnya. The latter certainly has oil fields and infrastructure. While Chechnya is smaller, it’s not necessarily all that much easier to maintain than Afghanistan. And Afghanistan also has better parts with more cooperative tribes.

    • Replies: @Yevardian
  103. Yevardian says:
    @reiner Tor

    Also, as I’ve been saying the past few posts, Chechyna is at least composed of one nation/ethnicity, Aghanistan is separated into quite distinct and often mutally hostile nations with differing lifestyles, languages and histories.

  104. @Anatoly Karlin

    there’s not even a proper road through the Wakhan corridor that connects Afghanistan to China.

    I think a new road is not needed there as the road could just join some other road in Pakistan and then run through Kashmir.

    The big issue is that if the road to Iran skips Pakistan than it would run through the southeastern part of Iran, which is most vulnerable to American military action. Even indirectly, like funding Beluchistan separatists to attack the roads and supplying them would be easier than doing the same with Afghan tribes.

  105. @Daniel Chieh

    So their social organization could be said to be at 1200-1000 BC, quite a bit pre-feudalism.

    Based.

    • Agree: sher singh
  106. @Anatoly Karlin

    Did you know what they are envisioning? It isn’t post-scarcity, but centralized ownership where all the users “rent” most things that used to be owned and still could have been owned if not for the demands of resource management.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  107. @Yevardian

    I remember Victoria II has a modern day mod even tho I had never tried it when I was playing the Vanilla game years ago.

  108. @showmethereal

    Pakistan and China are “iron brothers”

    I think that the Chinese would prefer normal relationships to this ‘Brotherhood of Iron.’

    https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202108/1232063.shtml

    The latest attack.

    https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/suicide-bombings-cast-doubt-on-chinas-pakistan-projects/article36037023.ece

    Two suicide bombings in the space of just over one month have cast doubt on the future of China’s ambitious projects in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan, with renewed concerns over the safety of Chinese personnel in the region.

    https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/chinese-workers-security-pakistan/31385180.html

    The most recent incident happened in the port city of Karachi, where gunmen on a motorbike opened fire on a car carrying the Chinese men, which sent them to the hospital with serious bullet wounds, RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal reported.

    Imagine sinking such a lot of money in Pakistan only to have your workers brutally murdered. Did you ever think of the fear factor amongst Chinese expatriates? And if Pakistan can’t guarantee the basics i.e. worker safety do you think the Chinese are going to repeat this experience in much more dangerous Afghanistan a country filled with Islamic crazies.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  109. Mitleser says:
    @Yevardian

    Herat was reconquered right before the Indian rebellion.
    Unfortunately, the Shah lost his nerve instead of waiting out the forces of the Perfidious Albion.

    • Replies: @Yevardian
  110. @Anatoly Karlin

    Afghanistan supposedly has 0.218 ha of arable land per person, which is – surprise! – slightly above the world average.

    Of course, the land isn’t particularly good, and neither are their technologies, but if they manage to free up the best lands currently occupied by a certain decorative flower, the perspective doesn’t look apocalyptic.

  111. Mitleser says:

    One should be sceptical of the notion that countries in the region will benefit from Taliban take-over, at least economically.

    Iran and Pakistan do not need Afghanistan for trade with the PRC, but as an export market Afghanistan mattered.
    Without foreign subsidies, Afghans will have to import much less than they used to.

    According to Hossein Salimi, the country which was the top export destination for non-oil Iranian commodities has fallen to second place recently, the portal of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA) reported.

    Afghanistan accounted for 11 percent of Iran’s total non-oil exports in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21-June 21), during which the country imported 296,000 tons of agricultural and food products worth \$134 million from Iran, the official said.

    Tomatoes, apples, potatoes, sweets, and fruit juice concentrate were the top exported items to the neighboring country, according to Salimi.

    https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/463867/Trade-with-Afghanistan-in-limbo-as-exporters-look-for-alternative

    Iran exports to Afghanistan was US\$2.93 Billion during 2018, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.

    https://tradingeconomics.com/iran/exports/afghanistan

    Imports will grind to a halt. (Incidentally, trade with India has already been shut down by the Taliban).

    Ironically, Afghanistan’s official trade deficit with India was the smallest among Afghanistan’s top trade partners.

    Value of Afghan imports from India in 2020: 429 mil Euro
    Value of Afghan exports to India in 2020: 355 mil Euro

    http://web.archive.org/web/20210822080706/https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/isdb_results/factsheets/country/details_afghanistan_en.pdf

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  112. @Mitleser

    It sounds like the Trump victory in 2016. Objectively it’s worth nothing for enemies of Globohomo or even a big net negative, but the memes and the liberal/neocon tears are glorious, and that’s what really matters.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  113. @Yellowface Anon

    No, the point is that nobody needs a car if everyone can afford Uber everywhere, but ramped up to the extreme in many areas of life, and the truth is already that owning car in a city is weird, except maybe with a lot of children. Uber is far cheaper and far more convenient as you have a driver, no need for parking and need do no maintenance.

    They also don’t say this to enforce this future. Forget what the internet says, these people aren’t Bond villains, though a bit out of touch with “somewheres”. It is to say that it is the way things are going because it makes sense, and it is likely a reasonable prediction because it does mostly make sense.

    The car is the best example, and they are overstretching their pattern elsewhere a bit, but have you ever had to “keep” a car? It is a pain. And it isn’t like driving in a city or crowded motorway is fun except in the “look at me, I am driving” way. I am currently in a city where an Uber costs less than the underground train where I am from. It will be even cheaper if ever automated. This is an immensely convenient fact. I would only buy a car because for fun and if I could pay other people to do all of the administration required. I rent one when I drive into the mountains or to the beach.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
    , @reiner Tor
  114. @Triteleia Laxa

    No need to resort to such complicated arguments. In 2001 war-torn Talibanized Afghanistan had about 22 million people with no significant food imports and no reports of famine. Today there may be half again as many people in a more peaceful country, and half of that increase may leave to avoid the new government. (Pakistan alone hosted 5 million refugees last time around.) To insist that Afghans can’t continue to survive on traditional farming, one must assume that 2001 Afghanistan was at its Malthusian limit and that the subsequent population increase can only survive on imports, which no one has produced any evidence for. Recall too that since the US invasion, large swathes of Afghan cropland have gone to opium poppy production. Re-Talibanizing Afghan agriculture may increase caloric output while strangling the heroin trade. Win-win.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  115. songbird says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    It is not a case of being banished from the home, but of being banished from the community, where such places are far apart. In winter, it would be impossible to make it to another, and if you somehow did, they would not throw scarce food at a stranger but let one starve. Plenty of young women die in a famine – they can’t sleep their way out of it. And food availability was not high back then.

    Women idolize strength, especially r-selected women. An r-selected woman is more or less looking for r-selected men, which means physique not brains or reliability.

    Wouldn’t knock Jewish stoning – may be the system the Muslims adopted and they made one of the greatest and quickest conquests in world history.

  116. @Anatoly Karlin

    Okay, but there’s “poor” in the industrial era of global trade (1% of history) sense of “doesn’t have much foreign exchange”, and there’s “poor” in the pre-industrial (99% of history) sense of “doesn’t have much land per person”. Afghanistan is “poor” in the former sense, but as Haruto Rat points out, not the latter sense.

    This is probably a major reason why despite being manifestly primitive, successive powerful empires repeatedly fail to subdue it. Afghans always have the option of taking their marbles and going home, flipping the bird to the occupier. With each valley being its own nation, and each farmstead its own fortress, they don’t need the foreign empire for anything, though they are happy to take advantage of it for everything, should it happen to show up. This isn’t traditional Egypt, where if you control the river you control the country, nor modern Egypt, which can’t feed itself absent foreign aid. Nor is it England which can’t feed itself without an overseas trading network. Afghanistan can feed itself and will, absent easier alternatives.

    Afghanistan abides.

    • Agree: showmethereal
  117. @reiner Tor

    … but the memes and the liberal/neocon tears are glorious, and that’s what really matters.

    Based.

    • Agree: reiner Tor
  118. @Triteleia Laxa

    It seems clear that you have never owned a good car.

    Your example misses the various secondary advantages of having a vehicle: the convenience of having a locker for your items, the comfort of not having to wait on anyone, the joy of driving itself- but also the various amenities of having a surround sound system, luxurious seats, customized environment(especially for kids) and the various capabilities thus afforded.

    To Uber my kids would require portable baby seats – quite a pain. To Uber back lumber for the shed I am building is quite impossible.

    Nor is the maintenance particularly onerous, especially not with the infrastructure in place. Working on a garden bed on my lawn takes far more of my life.

  119. @sher singh

    But you are Sikh, not Kshatriya, no?

    I was once taught a similar philosophy, but quite different in application. I do appreciate the notion of being not dependent on outcome as the driver of some of the most excellent martial actions.

    And I suppose, in many things that ask for courage.

    • Replies: @sher singh
  120. Dreadilk says:

    While it can really go any direction I am going to make a guess. I think war weariness is a real thing and every side needs to replenish. In these conditions we should see a break in hostilities.

    Another factor to keep in mind is that while Afghanistan under US receives a lot of money it probably can stabilize with a fraction of it. So let’s say if it’s 10 billion a year, maybe 2 billion from multiple source is enough.

    One more point. When a general amnesty is given it generally does not extend to the very tops. This is to get lieutenants to stop fighting not the leaders. My opinion.

  121. nebulafox says:
    @reiner Tor

    Divide by two at that scale, you still have the same time complexity.

  122. nebulafox says:
    @Boomthorkell

    I don’t know why everybody in Washington tries to pick Xi Jinping’s head. He’s quite open about what he believes, and whatever the man’s flaws, that’s not one of them.

    The stuff about building a xiaokang society goes all the way back to the late 1970s/early 1980s, IIRC.

    • Agree: Boomthorkell
    • Replies: @Boomthorkell
  123. sher singh says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Same Dharma, different Yuga.
    They kept Kesh, maintained weapons and sacred fires. Today, Khalsa does and Hindus do not||


    https://mobile.twitter.com/YungBhujang/status/1164908908202401792

    ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖਾਲਸਾਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫਤਿਹ

  124. @Triteleia Laxa

    It’s pretty convenient to have a car, especially if you have kids. Like Daniel has pointed out, it’s basically impossible to Uber kids. Also like Daniel said cars provide a locker for your things.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  125. Passer by says:

    Where Are the Afghanis?

    On the plane..

  126. @Triteleia Laxa

    Use a little bit of common sense. China and Pakistan are neighbors. Anyone with common sense would want to be very friendly with all of their immediate neighbors. Aside from india – and less so vietnam – China gets along with all of them. One of the main reasons China and India don’t get along is because China is so close with Pakistan. The irony is the former “rape victim Bangladesh” gets along quite well with China – even though China is close with their former colonial master… I wonder if Bangladesh can look past it – why India can’t do the same??
    Go ahead and denigrate Pakistan. That’s fine… But they surely outsmarted the US of A the past 40 years.
    But as to Afghanistan – in case you didn’t know China has dealt with the tribes in the region for many centuries and had trade relations. There was this little thing called the Silk Roads that maybe you might have heard of. China didn’t like the Taliban because the Taliban was friendly with the Uighur separatist terror group ETIM. Pakistan is wise to play the peace broker between China and the Taliban… Too bad if you don’t like Pakistanis.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  127. @Almost Missouri

    Yeah some of these people are acting as if Afghanistan became a developed country in the past 20 years… Far from it. The majority of the country was never even stabilized by the US puppet government. The majority of the country side was still either loosely “governed” by warlords – or had Taliban presence. Yeah – some people have strange ways of looking at things.

  128. 75% of the population is rural and more of less self sufficient. They will not be greatly affected by budget cuts. Medicine and education are often delivered by women. Loss of pesonnel will be more material to them. Half the population is not Pathan. They will resist anyway whatever the economics.

    The 25% urban population is new and will not tolerate the Taliban long with an economic collapse. 47 000 AFghan soldiers died in the war. Elements of the army will resist. They were cut off from food and ammunition for months by Trumpist withdrawal policies.

    The Taliban will not hold.

  129. @Grahamsno(G64)

    Chinese are robbed and murdered in Africa too – yet Chinese investment keeps pouring… Chinese have been robbed and murdered and lynched in South East Asia for decades. Never caused a pull back. Go to major US cities. In the most dangerous areas you will find only Chinese and Arab or Korean merchants. They suffer robbery. You don’t get that Chinese are not easily cowed??? China knows the Balochistan separatists were going to attack the CPEC from the very beginning. Nothing surprising about it. You don’t get Chinese. Chinese are not scared to go anywhere. And this separatist group hates the Pakistani government… Which is why they are targeting China – for helping that region to advance.
    You act as if you don’t have separatists in India – and don’t seem to know how it works. Well that’s what “brothers” do… They don’t let terrorists get in the way. Chinese don’t let criminals get in the way anywhere. You should get out more. Go in any dangerous country and you will find Chinese working. Afghan warlords won’t scare away Chinese. But what China doesn’t do is try to impose it’s military will on others. There is the difference – and that’s why the Taliban are willing to work with China.

  130. Only saw this thread from Afghan CB governor (who was “pushed” onto a plane) now.

    So Taliban have just <\$20M to play around with.

    [MORE]

    NGMI.

  131. @reiner Tor

    Correction: it is basically impossible to Uber 2+ under 5 year old children unless you order an Uber with the car seats, but this is rarely more than a few years in anyone’s life.

    As for storage, I often leave my apartment with just my phone. I pay with my phone, don’t need keys for my apartment and this is very nice.

    Uber is vastly more convenient for the majority of city and recent sized town journeys. For the rest, I can just sign up to a service like Zip Car and can pick one up within 5 minutes of where I was living in London. The car is much cheaper than keeping one and infinitely less hassle.

    Between Uber and Zipcar, it is close to having a private team of chauffeurs who maintain your vehicles but affordable for anyone. You all might prefer your own cars, I might even prefer a team of chauffeurs, though actually not, but Schwab is right about elements of the future and, it is important to note, that this future would make your choices easier too – e.g you would have more car parking space.

    • Thanks: Anatoly Karlin
    • LOL: Daniel Chieh
  132. Fresh from the Twitter rumour mill. US Forces and The Taliban at Kabul airport are conducting a joint operation to track down an Islamic State unit that seems to have been responsible for the single mortar attack that landed on the runway some time back now.

    The Taliban don’t want a fight. They want all foreigners out. They want all collaborators out bar perhaps a few informants and assassins. The fewer potential dissidents remaining in Afghanistan the better forthe Taliban. The Israelis did this in 1948.

  133. Last time the Taliban ran a Central Bank they canceled the issue of new notes and its governor spent more time on the battlefield than in his office. (h/t Adam Tooze)

    https://centralbanking.com/central-banks/governance/7720661/is-the-integrity-of-afghanistans-central-bank-under-threat

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  134. Dissident says:

    Tangentially related, a choice photo I had saved to my collection some while back, and just came across again now:

    Afghan teenager smiles for the camera in downtown en:Kabul, Afghanistan (June 2003). Photo by Peter Rimar.

    [MORE]

  135. @Anatoly Karlin

    As central banks are just a technique for the government to loot the economy in plain sight, it’s not a bad thing for Afghanistan if the Taliban don’t bother with it. The Taliban may miss the “free” income, though they already do okay with just collecting tolls. In any case, they did fine without a central bank last time, until the US invaded, so there is no reason they can’t do without one again.

    The United States went its first 137 years without a central bank and had higher growth rates then than after the Fed came online, and had a more stable currency too.

    • Agree: Showmethereal
  136. Steven80 says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Contemporary Afghanistan is what the Ottoman Empire was, a disfunctional society with a leading tribe (pashtun as turks) and little internal cohesion.

    Kunduz and Badakshan khanates are now split between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, with locals from both sides of the border having more or less the same worldview, despite some time in the USSR for half of them.

    Similar to what the conquered Balkans were to the Ottomans – different people and beliefs, higher culture and economic development, the county was conquered at one stage but conquered people never really integrated.

    Same with Uzbeks on both sides of the border. I would say Hazara are the Albanians of the Afghan mini-empire, living high in the mountains and having heretic form of islam for the ruling majority. Pashtuns rule there and their beliefs are imposed on everyone.

    This is very different from not reaching feudalism.

  137. @nebulafox

    Three reasons (not to say there are not more):

    1. Propaganda: The enemy regime, especially it’s leadership, must be a personal manifestation of evil and all that is wrong. Now there is a causus belli.

    2. Projection: They genuinely believe people must be as vile as they are, and so speak of them and study them accordingly.

    3. Fanaticism & Ignorance: “My master’s said this about X. It must be true. X is is the Devil.”

  138. Yevardian says:
    @Mitleser

    Imo, Nassar Qajar made the right call in withdrawing from Herat, Iran afterall only managed to maintain its independence into the 20th Century by the skin of its teeth.
    The country could easily have been partioned into ‘mandates’ or statelets several times, until the Cold War finally secured its territorial integrity, otherwise Iran could have become as much of an unsalvagable mess as the post Sykes-Picot Arab world.

    The Qajars and even Reza Pahlavi (not his brittle and hysterical son) deserve some credit for their careful diplomacy, and subtly playing the European powers off against each other.

  139. @showmethereal

    Chinese neighbours include South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, India, Tibet, Nepal Myanmar, North Korean Pakistan, Taiwan and the state of the former Soviet Union plus Afghanistan.

    China gets on with the states of the former Soviet Union thanks to Putin and Russia. Otherwise it fails to get on with the others unless they are under insane family dynasty, insane religious fundamentalism, insane military junta or are Pakistan, which is where they rape little girls for being the wrong religion.

    The countries they fail with are all the decent ones, like Vietnam, India, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. There are cool places with reasonable governments.

    What does that tell us about CCP diplomacy?

    Perhaps I am being provocative, but it does seem clear that China’s only near friends, if it weren’t for the extremely reasonable Putin, would be some of the most mental heads of state in the world. And if only mental people can get on with you?

    • LOL: Daniel Chieh
  140. @Triteleia Laxa

    No, you’re just using the incorrect analysis as usual. China is an authoritarian country, and as such, gets along with authoritarian nations and not so much with nations converged with the global homosexuality alliance. Anyway, a few more things wrong of your “analysis”

    1) China gets along perfectly fine with Nepal, another nation now rather hostile to India and favoring China. Nepal is always on the verge of the Communist party(or rebels) outright taking over, whereupon they would flatly favor China.

    2) Tibet isn’t a nation, but to the extent that it has a distinct population, its population supports China to the extent that polls in South Tibet(currently in India) would rather join China than stay in India(resulting in heavy Indian suppression). Despite your beliefs, terrible governance can indeed make people favor “authoritarianism” rather than more disaster.

    3) South Korea has had pretty good relationships historically with China, with the elite still pretty much tied to it; if there’s any change, its very recent in a faddish way. The Korean/Japanese rivalry more or less assures that Korea will sit with China. I work with South Koreans myself; perhaps they might despise Japan a little less if Japan stopped keeping preserved body parts of them:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimizuka

    4) While China isn’t happy about the Myanmar coup, it probably will end up better off as Myanmar is isolated from the world and the new military leadership will rely on China. Generally speaking, the more chaos there is in the world, and the more the US and the West cuts off people for “being mean”, the more hay China and Russia can make out of it.

    Beyond its immediate nations, China has pretty solid support from Cambodia, Singapore, and a bunch of SEA nations all with deep economic ties with China and sometimes with an Han elite(especially Cambodia).

    I find it amusing that you have simplified the world to “stinky pooheads” and “wonderfully spiritually advanced people”, which is almost so adorably dumb that it probably testifies why the Western policy will consistently fail.

    The strong horse wins.

    • Replies: @songbird
    , @Triteleia Laxa
  141. songbird says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    Would make a pretty good supernatural movie, if tens of thousands of Korean ghost-noses arose from the monument seeking revenge, and a Japanese and a Korean had to team together in order to stop them.

  142. @Triteleia Laxa

    Not sure if you are just trolling or you really believe what you wrote. I see someone else corrected a lot of your folly… So i will only touch a few points.

    In any event what makes India (who does have problems) and “communist” vietnam “decent”? That is defi itely troll territory.
    Japan has no Asian friends… Japan feels it is the superior and everyone else is a subordinate.

    South Korea and China g2t along well – even though the US wishes they didnt. So much so that Kim from North Korea had his brother assassinated (who was under Chinese protection and living in China) because he was fearful China and South Korea were plotting to use him as a replacement.

    In any event – since this is about Afghanistan – it wouldnt matter which Afghan government was in charge.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  143. @Daniel Chieh

    I find it amusing that you have simplified the world to “stinky pooheads” and “wonderfully spiritually advanced people”

    Hardly, I just pointed out that the Taliban, the Myanmese Junta, the Kim family and the ISI are all quite mad. Pakistan is less crazy than the other 3, but that only damns those more strongly.

    The strong horse wins.

    Perhaps, but what constitutes “strong” is often hard to predict. In fact, the best way to define “strong” is as “what wins”, rather than reifying the conception of “strong” that fits your own emotional needs.

    Given which countries are allied with which, it is therefore easy to see what makes for “strong” in the present day real world.

    Your “analysis” seems to follow a similar pattern. You start with what you consider “strong”, based on what you need to perceive it as, and work backwards from there to interpret the world. You should switch this process around for more clarity.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  144. @Triteleia Laxa

    You start with what you consider “strong”, based on what you need to perceive it as, and work backwards from there to interpret the world. You should switch this process around for more clarity.

    Nope, your inference of my process is wrong.

    Perhaps, but what constitutes “strong” is often hard to predict. In fact, the best way to define “strong” is as “what wins”

    I agree completely. We just disagree on who’s winning. You strongly seem to feel that the alliance of global homosexuality is, and I do not.

    Hardly, I just pointed out that the Taliban, the Myanmese Junta, the Kim family and the ISI are all quite mad.

    I also mentioned other nations. But the American republic was quite mad too, by the definition of monarchists. Everyone is “crazy” until they become the norm, so I don’t really find this to be meaningful at all. Fundamentally, there’s nothing particularly crazy about “totalitarianism.” China is “mad”, too. So’s Russia. And Hungary. And so on, blah blah.

    You predicate a lot of your assumption that there won’t be a major war, which itself is just like stacked on tons of incorrect ideas – fundamentally the idea that violence isn’t an important force because people are spiritually enlightened or something. I basically predict that something like that will happen(it doesn’t have to be an explicit war – there are plenty of ways in which military power causes pressure and loss, your Ubers won’t be there with a sufficient cyberattack, for example, and the wide-ranging ransomeware against the US – assuming that the payments are all going to Russia, constitutes a top-ten “import” of American cash to Russians), and the present-day decaying powers will take a major loss, with the according collapse in prestige.

    This isn’t apocalyptic or anything, though it seems like you think of it as such. Nations use their resources to their advantage(or to line the pockets of contractors), and sometimes that involves harming others who get in the way.

    You have all of these ideas of what’s “crazy” or not, which is all rather silly, and perhaps even unimaginative. The will to prevail involves using whatever possibilities that exist. Being willing to dare where others would not can be a compelling advantage.

    At its ultimate extent, using violence to blow up people’s power plants and cause the death of thousands in hospitals is nothing any different from issuing sanctions against medicine or providing subsidies to increase crop yields: its just another tool to get a result.

  145. @Showmethereal

    In any event what makes India (who does have problems) and “communist” vietnam “decent”?

    1. China is sort of decent and is “communist”.

    2. India is improving fast and has a rich tapestry of cultures with a minority of incredibly smart and interesting people. It has a long way to go, but it is not like Pakistan or Myanmar or some other disaster zone.

    3. Vietnam is also improving fast and Vietnamese are productive, organised and gregarious. The last bit made them wonderful hosts.

    Japan has no Asian friends… Japan feels it is the superior and everyone else is a subordinate.

    Chinese projection. For example, the young Han elites of SE Asia all love Japan and Japanese culture. They actively dislike China. This is a common sentiment all over Asia. Most of Asia sees Japan as superior and China as the potential harbinger of a dead culture. This is sort of unfair to the Chinese, but, again, compare the Asian countries that China really gets along with, versus the ones they don’t and you’ll see that water finds its own level.

    I mean you get random Chinese nutters here that talk about flattening Taiwan. Why anyone would want to do that to people they consider their own is beyond me. To “liberate” them from one of the best functioning polities in the world? To bathe in your brothers’ blood? Why? This is imbecilic stuff and it somehow plays well with many of the most outspoken Chinese people. What hole in their soul must there be?

    Don’t worry though, China will switch in a few decades at most.

  146. @Triteleia Laxa

    Taiwan is pretty much a fake and gay country these days. You’ll live long enough to see your theories disproven. I’ve always wondered how much contradiction in reality does it take for someone to change his or her beliefs – but I think mostly, I’ve found that people just mend over the cognitive dissonance with more fantasy.

    Well, this will be amusing.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  147. @Triteleia Laxa

    Chinese projection. For example, the young Han elites of SE Asia all love Japan and Japanese culture.

    Japan has excellent soft power. They love themselves. Their art and culture project this to others and it is a very successful method. I don’t really have any objection – I’ve had a lot of experience working with the Japanese and in many ways, their methodology and means of culture is charming and effective.

    However, most people who “admire Japanese culture” have very little experience of them beyond their projections, and thus will rapidly be disabused of their fantasies upon actually having to meet with or work with the Japanese, who indeed do have excellent notions of their fundamental superiority and an overall attitude that’s essentially a kind of modernized feudalism.

    I would not be unhappy in such a world(though I dislike the frustrations with open source code being basically nuked by the cliquish nature of doujin circles), but I suspect, you’ll have to rediscover a lot of your notions of what is spiritually advanced as they usefully disappear troublemakers with the yakuza and carry on with a 99% conviction rate against anyone falls under the challenge of their law.

    Perhaps they are the future after all.

    • Thanks: Boomthorkell
  148. @Triteleia Laxa

    China did switch. It switched from being against the Taliban – who gave haven to Uighur extremists to now working with them.

    All the other stuff you said shows you are on a different planet. For you to pretend India gets along with all of its neighbors means you have no real clue about South Asia. I see you have something against Pakistan though – so that is probably what this all stems from. Well i can say kt seems Pakistan is wising up by refusing the US access to condcut more military operations. Focus on economics will benefit greatly going forward. How ironic that in the cold war you”decent” India was in league with the Soviets while Pakistan was tied to the US. Very ironic.

    I will compare western diplomacy to social media. Full of “likes” but little substance behind it. Yes yes China is hated by all its neighbors but yet unlike many other regions where hate does exist for real – China hasnt killed or blown up a foreign enemy in decades. China is by far the top trading partner for most of its neighbors. But sure according to you and CNN and Fox – China is horrible at diplomacy. There are definitely two areas China is horrible at… Propaganda and psyops…

    But maybe that is why they are able to deal with the Taliban – since they dont seem to be good at it either.

  149. @Daniel Chieh

    Yup. The DPP government trampled on the will of the majority of those on Taiwan by forcing through gay marriage – to curry favor with the west as “the first Asian society to approve same sex marriage”. Not even US tool Japan was willing to take such a step. Its like the twighlight zone.

  150. notbe says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    except we think as westerners, Anatoly as a Russian is, of course, included in this,-in our thinking the situation is extremely dire for the Taliban but remember these people have been living in those mountains for 5000 years

    What are concepts like GDP, urbanization, loss of 75 percent of revenue, freezing of assets and the like in the the course of 5000 years, concepts like these have been around for only 75 years or so What is 75 years compared to 5000 years

    I say leave them alone- they somehow will sort themselves out If they shelter terrorists-sure give em a blast now or then otherwise leave em alone, give em a bit of help-for instance encourage farmers to raise food crops instead of opium but leave em alone otherwise

    theyll figure out some way to thrive on their own-it might mean a few deaths which, of course, is unfortunate but their society has lasted for a long time and thus is unlikely to completely vanish unlike our very, very recent , 10 to 15 year old LBGTQ BLM culture

  151. Not Raul says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    The Taliban will be so short of money, they could end up with feudalism: senior commanders could each get a province or two, their lieutenants could get districts, and so on. In return for getting a cut of everything that is produced in their territories, they would have to send a cut of that to their overlord, and be responsible for raising up a military unit.

    Perhaps Kabul, Herat, and other cities with more than 200,000 population can be something analogous to the HRE’s “free imperial cities”, under the direct overlordship of the Taliban government (such as it is) with city councils filled partially by Taliban appointees, partially by representatives of various trade and/or professional associations, and partially by popular vote.

    The standard of living would drop; but that would happen regardless.

    • Agree: notbe
    • Replies: @songbird
  152. notbe says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    sure the young of China and …Russia have an infatuation with the West but as people grow older they become more conservative-when you are young you do things that you reject as you mature and gain responsibility

    Just because Chinese young people admire Japan now doesnt mean they will be Chinese-hating Japanese-loving individuals as they become more responsible

    I would say the young of both China, Russia and Iran will become more nationalistic as time goes on
    After all, is there anything in the Modern West that a mature person can use and admire? Seriously is there anything…anything at all?

  153. songbird says:
    @Not Raul

    Make goat-herding into a guild?

    • Replies: @Not Raul
  154. Annatar says:

    I think the Taliban perspective is they will be fine, after all from their point of view, after God gave them victory over 51 countries including the Great Satan in a war where one side had a 1000:1 material advantage, why would he not ensure they have sufficient financial funds to rule.

  155. Not Raul says:
    @songbird

    Afghanistan has people who fix cars, and other equipment, heal the sick, make clothes, repair plumbing, etc.

    • Replies: @songbird
  156. songbird says:
    @Not Raul

    That is so, but I think they will be at a serious disadvantage.

    IIRC, the Hanseatic League, for example, started in Northern Germany. Coasts, some navigable rivers. That’s about more or less when guilds came along too.

    • Replies: @Not Raul
  157. Not Raul says:
    @songbird

    Sure, that’s a good point; but I never said that things would work out as well for Kabul as they did for Köln.

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