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Once Again, in Afghanistan, the U.S. Proves It Can't be Trusted
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The first draft of this column came not to bury but to praise Donald Trump. I planned to applaud the president’s peace initiative with the Taliban, his strategy of ignoring the corrupt and discredited puppet regime Bush installed in Kabul and his desire to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. This was a move I have been almost alone in promoting since the U.S. idiotically invaded the country in 2001, and I congratulate Trump for having the courage to unwind Bush and Obama’s mistakes. The Afghan people should be allowed to shape their future free of imperialist interference.

But then, hours before representatives of the Taliban — who control about half of Afghanistan — were set to board a plane to Washington, where they were scheduled to meet with Trump at Camp David, the president canceled their visit and scuttled years of progress toward ending America’s longest war, which has killed more than 2,300 U.S. servicemen and at least 30,000 Afghans. “He claimed that it was because the Taliban had been behind a recent attack that killed an American soldier,” reported Politico.

There is, of course, no requirement that combatants observe a ceasefire during peace negotiations. Richard Nixon’s “Christmas bombing” campaign in 1972, which killed 1,600 Vietnamese civilians, was a U.S. attempt to soften up North Vietnam for the upcoming Paris peace talks. The United States has killed numerous Taliban soldiers throughout 2019.

“This (decision to scuttle peace talk) will lead to more losses to the U.S.,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “Its credibility will be affected, its anti-peace stance will be exposed to the world, losses to lives and assets will increase.” He’s right.

Few Americans pay attention to Afghanistan. Fewer still are aware of America’s history of proving itself an untrustworthy diplomatic partner in that war-torn country — a tradition that Trump’s fickleness continues. “The Taliban have never trusted American promises; (Trump’s) volte-face will only deepen that mistrust,” observes The Economist.

In the late 1990s, Afghanistan was the world’s leading producer of opium. The U.S. and its European allies were seeking to mitigate a heroin epidemic, and the Clinton administration was negotiating terms for a pipeline to carry oil and natural gas from Central Asia via Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. So, even though the U.S. had imposed sanctions on the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and denied them diplomatic recognition, Clinton paid the Taliban $114 million in 2000 to encourage them to ban the farming of opium poppies. Bush followed up with $43 million in 2001.

For the most part, the Taliban held up their side of the bargain. Their ban on poppy cultivation reduced production of exported heroin by about 65%. Considering Afghanistan’s primitive infrastructure, poor communications and fractious political culture during an ongoing civil war, that was as much as the U.S. could have hoped for.


But tensions grew between the Taliban and the U.S. over the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline project. The U.S. tried to lowball the Taliban with below-market transit fees, the Taliban refused, and American negotiators became angry. “Accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs,” a U.S. negotiator snapped at her Taliban counterparts at a meeting in Islamabad. It was August 2001, three months after Secretary of State Colin Powell paid the Taliban $43 million and weeks before 9/11.

It’s impossible to know for certain why the U.S. chose to invade Afghanistan, which had nothing to do with the attacks. The hijackers were recruited from and funded by Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan, where the terrorists were trained. Central Asian watchers speculated that the U.S. was more interested in controlling the then-only pipeline carrying the world’s largest untapped energy reserves than catching bin Laden.

We do know what the Taliban took away from the experience: They cut a deal, did their part and got bombed, invaded and occupied in return.

Both sides say they’re open to resuming talks. If and when they do, the Taliban — who, after all, didn’t invade anyone and are defending their territory from foreign aggression — hold the moral high ground over the United States.

Heckuva job, Donnie.

Ted Rall, the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.”

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  1. Robin says:

    Come on, Ted. You and all your readers know damn well 911 was CIA / Mossad. Stop insulting our intelligence.

  2. So according to this brilliant theory, the U.S. invaded so China could ink deals with Kabul for oil and gas exploration. Which is precisely what’s happened. The U.S. hasn’t reaped anything except dead bodies.

    And why is there no name attached to the infamous “carpet of gold” quote? You’d think this truculent gal, whoever she is, would be world famous by now, forced to defend her alleged threat in all sorts of media. But she’s oddly mysterious. Isn’t that a bit troubling?

    • Replies: @Curmudgeon
  3. @Bragadocious

    No, there were a number of pipelines to be built out of Turkmenistan, including one to China.
    Bridas Corp of Argentina won the contract to build the pipeline to Pakistan. Unocal did not like the outcome. The invasion was to install Karzai, re-neg on the Bridas deal, and turn it over to Unocal. Bridas successfully sued Unocal over the project.

  4. The hijackers were recruited from and funded by Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan,

    And the US is obvious never going to attack those two great and useful ‘allies’, so Afghanistan, with its fundamental Islamic leadership, it was. Simplistic? Yes, but remember who was Prez and Vice-Prez at the time.

  5. As soon as the USA/UK boots were on the ground they were protecting the poppy fields from the Taliban’s effort to crush opium production.

    In 2001 the Afghan opium production was minimal, in 2002 it had shot back up.
    BS about USA, INC. ever caring about an drug epidemic in any population.

    Opium has always been the domain of the spooks. East India Company/MI6 to the CIA (aka “The Company”).

    Oil and Opium. The spice that must flow.

  6. “But she’s oddly mysterious.”

    Not if you comprehend the matter of chivalry and special protections for women.

    But I am wholly unfamiliar with this story. I knew we awere interested in pipeline deals. And that Taliban leaders had been to Texas but I have never read about that exchange.

    I too would have appreciated some source cites.

  7. The hijackers were recruited from and funded by Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan, where the terrorists were trained.

    Still spouting mythology! Oh! Go away! It gets tedious.

  8. One wonders if the just concluded bombing of Saudi oil fields and Trump’s firing of the evil John Bolton are somehow connected. Many have hoped that Bolton’s firing signaled that Trump was breaking from the Neocons, who have controlled foreign policy since before 9/11.

    The Neocons and the Israelis are not about to let Trump take a turn toward peace. Trump has fallen for their hoaxes again and again, with two US cruise missile attacks against Syria over unproven Syrian gas attacks against their own people being obvious examples. Earlier in his Presidency Trump was rolled by the MIC and Neocons into increasing troop strength in Afghan, when he said he wanted to pull them out. The same happened when he wanted to pull the troops from Syria, which led to SecDef Mattis’ resignation. Trump will fall for their lies yet again, maybe this time by finally attacking Iran.

  9. Rall is utterly pathetic. A typical leftist radical, he is unfamiliar with history and makes things up for his own convenience. The “Christmas bombing” was not to “soften up” anyone. The North Vietnamese had been making every effort to make the peace talks a charade. The talks were recessed, and Nixon ordered the bombing. The North was not softened up. They were scared to death. They learned that we had fought the war in a very restrained fashion, and they could talk peace, or fight. It was up to them. But, if fight it was, the rules were going to change, and they were already hurting.

    • Agree: Johann Ricke
  10. Muggles says:

    When I think of the endless war in Afghanistan I am reminded of the lyrics to the Eagles song Hotel California: You can check in, but you can never leave.

    By now the 9/11 plotters/planners/enablers of al Qaeda are long dead. (Sorry conspiracy buffs, but it wasn’t Bush or even Chaney.)

    So why are we still killing them there? Sure the Taliban is a nasty primitive mafia claiming religious justification, kind of like the old Irish IRA but with turbans. But so what? Not our problem. Not worth spending a trillion bucks for sure.

    Time to check out.

    Trump would probably like to but may fear a military coup or assassination if he pushes too hard. Sad.

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