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Trump’s Withdrawal of Troops from Afghanistan Marks a Huge Failure
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In October 2001 I was standing on a hilltop 40 miles north of Kabul watching US aircraft bomb the Taliban front line. The night sky was lit up with the flash of explosions and the sparkle of ineffectual anti-aircraft fire. It was fairly obvious who was going to come out the winner.

A few weeks later the US-backed anti-Taliban forces advanced south and captured Kabul without the Taliban putting up any resistance. It looked as if they had suffered a decisive military defeat which had ended forever their rule over Afghanistan. As their armies broke up, I drove to the southern city of Kandahar past ragged groups of Taliban fighters on their way home.

Except that they had not really been defeated and, 19 years later, the Taliban are closer than ever to regaining power in Afghanistan as the US withdraws the last of its troops. Under an agreement between the Taliban and the US signed on 29 February this year, the number of US soldiers in the country, which once exceeded 100,000, dropped to 8,600 this week and the remainder should be out of the country before the middle of next year.

The final withdrawal of US troops may come even earlier than that because President Trump would like to declare that he has brought back all American troops in Afghanistan before the US presidential election on 3 November. He tweeted on Wednesday: “Bring our soldiers back home but closely watch what is going on and strike with a thunder like never before, if necessary.” The Pentagon is none too happy about this, but keeping US troops in the country for a few more months, after almost two decades of failure, is not going to make much difference.

The return of the Taliban should not have come as quite such a surprise. When I got to Kandahar on my journey south from Kabul in 2001, I asked a local man if I could meet some of the surviving Taliban commanders. He said this would be no problem. We drove to his village not far from the city where we met half a dozen tough, confident-looking Taliban who said that they would go back to war if they were marginalised and not treated right.

By 2006, they had done just that and three years later their motorcycle patrols had cut the road between Kabul and Kandahar. The US increased the number of its troops and deluged the country with bombs and missiles. The US generals were always claiming that victory was just over the horizon, if only they had more forces and more time. They got both, but were unable to do more than hold the line against the Taliban, despite losing 2,400 US servicemen dead and 21,000 wounded.

The Americans were not the only ones to miscalculate. Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul at the time, wrote in his memoirs that the worst mistake made by the Foreign Office in the previous 30 years was the invasion of Iraq, and the second worst was “its enthusiastic endorsement of Britain’s half-baked effort to occupy Helmand [in southern Afghanistan] in 2006”. Most of the 400 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan died in Helmand province in one of the most disastrous and ineffectual campaigns in British military history.

President Trump is trying to portray the US withdrawal as a peace agreement, but the peace he has agreed, such as it is, is between the US forces and the Taliban. Afghan government forces allied to the US have come under repeated attack. The crux of the peace agreement is the US withdrawal in return for Taliban assurances about their future actions.

There have been a few conciliatory signs such as an exchange of Taliban-government prisoners in the last few days. But elsewhere the war has gone on with the Taliban assaulting the northern city of Kunduz and making guerrilla attacks elsewhere. Earlier this month, Kabul witnessed one of the worst atrocities in decades of conflict when three gunmen, probably belonging to the local chapter of Isis, burst into the maternity ward of a hospital in the capital and shot to death at least 15 mothers, babies and medical staff. Most of the dead are reported to be Shia Muslims belonging to the Hazara ethnic minority who have long been a target of the fundamentalist Sunni Isis.

The Taliban denied involvement in the slaughter of the mothers and children, but they too have a history of anti-Shia bigotry and of persecuting the Hazara. In 2001, the Taliban famously blew up the 165-foot-tall 1,700-year-old Buddha statues in the Hazara heartlands in central Afghanistan.

There is a clue here to the future of Afghanistan and it is a grim one. Afghanistan is deeply divided by ethnicity, sect and tribe. Most Afghans I have spoken to over the years dislike the Taliban, though they may not like the spectacularly corrupt government and its forces any better. An attempt at a complete Taliban takeover will be resisted to the death by many, just as it was twenty years ago – which was why I was able to stay in an anti-Taliban enclave north of Kabul at the start of the bombing in 2001.

Could the outcome of the US-Taliban war, with Britain playing a bit part, have been any different? Militarily, the Taliban could never be put permanently out of business so long as they had the not-very covert support of Pakistan and could use Pakistani territory as their rear base and refuge. Trying to occupy Afghanistan has never proved a good idea for any foreign power. Reliance on a foreign sponsor like the US might prop up the central government, but this dependency robbed it of legitimacy and fuelled corruption. Billions of dollars in US aid and day-to-day expenditure meant that there was always plenty to steal.

ORDER IT NOW

Does anybody care about this in the US today when the 100,000 fatalities from coronavirus this year dwarfs the figure for American casualties in all its wars since Vietnam? Yet Trump’s gut political instincts are seldom wrong about what motivates the American voter; if he thinks that he will benefit from bringing back the troops, he is probably correct.

The American failure in Afghanistan is very real and it will be noticed in the rest of the world, preoccupied though people are by the pandemic. If the US is to retain the status of superpower, it needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in achieving its ends. On a much smaller scale the same is true of Britain. Nobody who witnessed the British state in action in the Iraq and Afghan wars will have been too surprised by its stumbling, poorly judged efforts to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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  1. PhilK says:

    In other news, I spent several trillion dollars trying to teach my cats to speak Mandarin.

    It was a huge failure.

  2. A123 says:

    The worst President in U.S. History, Barack Hussein Obama, surged tens of thousands of troops into Afghanistan. The deployment had nothing to do with American national interests. Ending the folly is a clear win for America, Trump, and the military. It saves lives on all sides, U.S. and Afghanis.

    The U.S. Withdrawal should be views identically to the USSR withdrawal of their troops in 1989. Both the U.S. and the USSR share the same success by ending a foolish engagement. It frees up those troops to rearm and retrain. Ultimately, making them available for more rational uses.

    If you wish to say the withdrawal is a defeat for Barack and his anti-American SJW Globalists, I could agree with that. Every defeat SJW Globalism suffers is a Victory for The U.S.

    PEACE 😷

    • Agree: Blue Juice
    • Replies: @WHAT
    , @Piglet
  3. Is this article some sort of joke?

    • Agree: donut
    • Replies: @MarkinLA
    , @donut
  4. Is Afghanistan a single country? If the USA focus had been protecting the Shia regions and setting up secure boundaries connecting those regions and cooperating with Iran on that issue they might quickly have won and left the country / region in peace.

    But wasn’t the CIA focus on keeping them at war to assist the CIA’s opium trade?

    • Replies: @Franz
  5. Does anybody care about this in the US today when the 100,000 fatalities from coronavirus this year…

    – As opposed to the CDC`s estimate of 50,000 from regular flu by the time the virus hit. I am not going to point out how the numbers are inflated.

    – I do not see what blowing up a Buddha has to do with being anti Shia.

    – Other than a few small British victories in specific targets during the 19th century, there has not been a successful invasion of Afghanistan since Alexander the Great. Why would the US expect a different result. There is a reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires.

  6. Charles D says:

    “If the US is to retain the status of superpower, it needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in achieving its ends. ” But what if the US doesn’t retain it’s superpower status? It is long past time to put aside this charade and stop wasting money and lives trying to remain the toughest dude on the block. We need to work with the other powerful nations to keep the peace and allow our businesses to compete in the market without reliance on government support in the form of military threats.

    • Agree: Ann Nonny Mouse
    • Replies: @anonymous1963
  7. Sulu says:

    Yes, a failure for the Jews to have America in continuous wars so they can send gentiles to die while they stay at home and make enormous profits.

    Sulu

    • Replies: @Christo
    , @Pat Kittle
  8. WHAT says:
    @A123

    Except USSR was actually building up the country. Literally all proper concrete buildings, all hospitals, all power stations, all airfields in Afghanistan were built by soviet engineers, and, contrary to hamfisted murrican propaganda of the time, mainly for the benefit of locals.
    But then USSR left, and US came. US was only ever interested in growing opium and bothering China and Russia. Literally nothing was built for the local use.

    The funniest thing is, once US leaves, Russia and China will come again, and will get to building stuff again too. OBOR and regional stability demand good infrastructure.

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
  9. Christo says:
    @Sulu

    Exactly. Patrick Coburn is the same shill the bankers have been using since they sent troops of their landed interests back in the first Opium War 150 years ago. Matter not if the idiot stooge soldier mercenary was British or now American, profits will be made. And that Colburn is sad about a loss of profits for such interests only proves he working for them and/or is just brainwash ignorant by years of MSM propoganda.

    • Replies: @Roger
  10. Paul says:

    “Nobody who witnessed the British state in action in the Iraq and Afghan wars will have been too surprised by its stumbling, poorly judged efforts to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic.”

    Not to mention Britain’s stumbling and poor coping with the Muslim grooming gangs and their working-class girl victims.

  11. Unless Trump has suddenly become competent, this is just another game, like pulling troops out of Syria. Its an election stunt and things will get worse there, so after November our troop levels will go back up. They’ve done this before.

    • Agree: Piglet
    • Replies: @Johann Ricke
  12. Franz says:
    @Ann Nonny Mouse

    But wasn’t the CIA focus on keeping them at war to assist the CIA’s opium trade?

    You got it.

    The “failure” in Afganistan will be a major plus for Americans, if history is any guide. Support for Vietnam didn’t crash because Nixon failed to bring the troops home by 1970. It crashed because the inflation Vietnam brought crushed any gains the working class had made since 1960. In ten years their buying power was eroding. And every mention of Vietnam reminded them why: Superpower bullshit means expensive wars abroad paid by broke workers at home.

    Fast-forward fifty years and it’s the old joke, “the same only worse.” Uber drivers are delighted the opium flow is making drug lords and CIA station chiefs rich? Is that what Patrick Coburn means by “superpower”? Like the Golden Triangle drugs fifty years ago?

    The founders of the country detested the idea of standing armies in peacetime. This is why.

  13. @Sulu

    Furthermore, if the US leaves Afghanistan the poor oppressed Jews will find it harder to provoke Iran along its eastern flank.

    Oy!
    <:-<

  14. @PhilK

    It was a huge failure.

    So you’re just going to cut and run?

    • Replies: @Piglet
  15. If the US is to retain the status of superpower, it needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in achieving its ends.

    I admit to skimming the article, but was the US end in Afghanistan articulated therein, or is everyone supposed to already know it? My understanding has always been that the goal was the enrichment of a comparatively small bloc of American sociopaths, and a longterm Israeli presence in Arab/Muzzer countries.

    So fly in Dubbya to some overhyped floating airfield, and unfurl the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner. You did it once again, America!

    • Replies: @SaneClownPosse
  16. Daniel H says:

    Failure? Well let’s fail upwards, then.

  17. Trump would still need to keep his 2016 promise to pull out of Syria and its oil fields.

    Oh, and Make America Great for the first time ever, for Americans who aren’t ultra wealthy. “Again” is inappropriate as America has never been Great for the 99%.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  18. @schnellandine

    “If the US is to retain the status of superpower, it needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in achieving its ends.”

    Way too late for that. Clowns In America. Trillions in National Debt created to enrich the Few.

    Better wording:
    “The US needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in ending the campaign of endless wars that benefit only the ultra wealthy.”

  19. Probably the two way tragedy!

    Tragedy going in as invasion force — and if the Taliban decide to exact revenge and control

    Then departing will be a tragedy.

    The invasion was a mistake to start with . And having invaded we should have owned the country — we chose instead a strategy of piece mealing creating safe zines and partitions – exactly what one commenter suggested — minor issue — you have to have enough forces to control the partitions. And the US minus effective Afghan assistance did not or could not.

    I am not sure this is any big win for the execute in the WH. He is correcting an error he supported in 2002.

    It might be wise to recall that supported the Northern Alliance before Sept 11.

  20. Roger says:
    @Christo

    His name is Cockburn, not Coburn nor Colburn. Unfortunately, getting something as small as this completely wrong detracts from your argument.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  21. Thomm says:

    If we couldn’t win in 19 years against a much weaker opponent (who doesn’t even have airplanes or tanks), then we weren’t trying to win at all.

    It is no secret that the Military-Industrial complex just wants to create $Trillions of artificial demand for its personnel and equipment, and a long stalemate in some location that can be portrayed as ‘evil’ in the eyes of Americans fits the bill.

    Note that China has spent virtually zero of its lives and treasure on military action outside of its own borders. It is saving its resources.

  22. UK says:
    @PhilK

    Best summary of the whole absurd endeavour ever. It would make an excellent Kipling or Waugh book.

  23. @Roger

    You fail.

    Christo was rubbing in the affectation of the way the syphilitic mick would like to be addressed.

  24. Stogumber says:

    It’s always interesting to see how many Leftists are now discovering that they are, and always have been, admirers of the Western Empires (now destroyed by incompetent Rightists). (Another prominent leaf of this tree is Tom Engelhardt.)
    In a way this in consequent: The epitome of Leftism was worldwide Red Imperialism as preached by Trotsky and realised by Stalin and his successors. And many Leftists were quite willing to see a capitalist Empire as the normal precursor of their own Dream Empire, the same way they saw capitalist monopolies as the necessary precursors of their own state monopoly.

  25. I could not read past the headline. It is a “huge” failure to get out of Afghanistan? What kind of weed is this fool smoking?

    It was a huge failure to enter Afghanistan 20 years ago.

    It is a huge failure of this idiot to write this article.

    Mark it.

    • LOL: Blue Juice
    • Replies: @anonymous1963
  26. @restless94110

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

  27. Is the US leaving Afghanistan ? Damn, I might have to sell my shares in Heroin Inc….

  28. Jiminy says:

    I bet there are a lot of US companies upset now that their chances of getting their share of the spoils has evaporated. I think the value of the varied mineral wealth under Afghanistan is something like a trillion dollars. Russia no, US no, China maybe.

  29. Anon[322] • Disclaimer says:

    No Western power could ever take Afghanistan. These people are tribal and do not care much about money or education. They will fight to the end to retain their way of life. No Western leader can stay in power long enough to win a war against these rag heads.

    Thus far all three imperial powers that tried to take Afghanistan and failed have all been Jew run — the British empire, the Soviet Union and now, the US. It explains why globohomo is so keen on taking down the Chinese Communist Party. They need to turn that country into a democrazy so they can take over their financial system, manipulate their media, hold “free and fair” elections to establish another puppet regime to try for a 4th invasion of Afghanistan.

  30. Piglet says:
    @schnellandine

    If you’d like to spend a few trillion more dollars of your own money to teach his cats to speak Mandarin, feel free to do so.

    • Replies: @schnellandine
  31. Piglet says:
    @A123

    The U.S. withdrawal should be viewed identically to the USSR withdrawal of their troops in 1989.

    I well remember when the US invaded Afghanistan. Some people said it war not going to turn out well and pointed to the USSR’s experience. The response was that the US was more powerful, smarter, better armed, etc., and could not be defeated. We were going to show everyone else how it’s done! Grrrr! Woof-woof!

    Yeah, we showed ’em.

    Something else to learn from the Soviet experience is that war drained their already faltering country and it soon imploded. Here in the States, we’re ridiculously deep in debt and making things worse for ourselves, and our cities are on fire with problems that are only going to get worse. While we spend massive amounts of money meddling around the world, our own country is coming unglued.

    We may again look to the USSR’s experience for what’s coming.

    • Replies: @bluedog
  32. @Piglet

    Helluva humor sense you’ve got there. Is that the 2005 model?

  33. bluedog says:
    @Piglet

    Your right of course we lost any status as a superpower (if we really ever had one) in Korea, when the U.S. and UN troops couldn’t beat a foe that lacked the kinds of weapons that they had,Nam really drove it home as we left with our tails between our legs,Iraq and Afghanistan was the nail in the coffin as thousands of troops with thousands of merc.’s who couldn’t beat a rag tailed band of goat herders armed with AK-47s,we live in a state of delusions about how great we are but the facts say different,,,

    • Replies: @trickster
  34. @SaneClownPosse

    “Again” is inappropriate as America has never been Great for the 99%.

    Then why do people keep coming here to join that 99%? Why did we have to pass laws, like in 1921 and 1924, to keep them out? It’s like those planeloads of Africans coming today to “racist” America.

    Are you in that 1% of Americans who own personal computers, or are you posting comments from the public library?

    • Replies: @trickster
  35. The American failure in Afghanistan is very real and it will be noticed in the rest of the world, preoccupied though people are by the pandemic. If the US is to retain the status of superpower, it needs to be seen as reasonably successful and competent in achieving its ends.

    All this shows is that Western governments lack the will to slaughter the civilian supporters and enablers of guerrilla movements. Provided they act quickly and ruthlessly enough, non-Western governments can eliminate rebel movements and/or potential rebel leaders in a matter of single digit years.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_mass_killings_of_1965%E2%80%9366
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Land_Reform#Mass_killings_of_landlords

    In conventional stand-up fights against military adversaries, the US is still the force to beat, which is why the Chinese have yet to invade Taiwan or sink an American warship passing through its claimed waters in the South China Sea.

    • Troll: d dan
  36. trickster says:
    @PhilK

    Your comment had me in stitches for several minutes.

    Seriously now, there are dunces on this site who will tell you that the US did not lose the war in Viet Nam, Afghanistan or Iraq. “We never lost a battle” they bray. General and Field Marshal A123 will assert this nonsense.

    It was not a rout where we left with our tails between our legs, whipped by shepherds wearing dresses, Chinese flip flops and riding motor cycles it was “A strategic withdrawal while maintaining our honour and ensuring the Afghan people embrace democracy, accountability, transparency”.

    When it comes to bullshit, the English language has no competitor .

  37. trickster says:
    @bluedog

    Very astute comment on your part. You better tell that to commenter A123.

    He thinks we won all three wars because “we were never defeated on the battlefield”.

    I am writing to Trump to induct A123 into the Pentagon with the rank of 5 Star General. Who better to lead our army in glorious combat against the forces of evil than someone like A123 whose military experience encompasses all aspects of warfare using water pistols in his mother’s basement.

  38. trickster says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    They come here because they are fleeing their wonderful life in the country of their birth where they live in abject poverty and squalor with no future.

    They dont really want to come to this horribly racist country for all the freebies like welfare, food stamps and government housing. I mean, it is hard to give up back breaking labour for a princely income of $300 per annum and have to survive in the US, doing nothing at $1000 per person per month plus a host of other goodies.

    You can see what a terrible sacrifice it is for them being forced onto a plane and compelled to come to the US. When they arrive at JFK we practically have to beg them to accept their monthly stipend and other perks. Its really hard for them. It must be a real heartache !

  39. There is a clue here to the future of Afghanistan and it is a grim one. Afghanistan is deeply divided by ethnicity, sect and tribe. Most Afghans I have spoken to over the years dislike the Taliban, though they may not like the spectacularly corrupt government and its forces any better. An attempt at a complete Taliban takeover will be resisted to the death by many, just as it was twenty years ago – which was why I was able to stay in an anti-Taliban enclave north of Kabul at the start of the bombing in 2001.

    I think this was a coded message. Let’s decipher it real quick…

    There is a clue here to the future of America and it is a grim one. America is deeply divided by ethnicity, sect and tribe. Most Americans I have spoken to over the years dislike Black Lives Matter (BLM), though they may not like the spectacularly corrupt government and its forces any better. An attempt at a complete BLM takeover will be resisted to the death by many, just as it was twenty years ago – which was why I was able to stay in an anti-BLM enclave north of Minneapolis at the start of the riots in 2020.

  40. @Carlton Meyer

    Unless Trump has suddenly become competent, this is just another game, like pulling troops out of Syria. Its an election stunt and things will get worse there, so after November our troop levels will go back up. They’ve done this before.

    Or they could introduce a neglected war-winning weapon into the mix – the hugely underrated Gavin M-113 APC, a veritable Swiss Army knife of armored vehicles.

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