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Who Lost Afghanistan? H.R.
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Congress, the media and many voters are asking military officials this week: How did we lose the Afghanistan War? I’ve been reading a book, “The Afghanistan Papers,” by Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock, that shows how America messed up its longest war. (Every now and then, corporate media hypes something that’s actually worth reading.)

What it does not show, and what Pentagon leaders don’t seem to understand, is why.

Whitlock’s book reads like a synopsis of the many essays, books and cartoons I produced for over 20 years, which were rejected by most newspapers and news websites because editors and producers refused to publish content that criticized the war.

For instance, Whitlock echoes my longstanding insistence that the Taliban posed no threat to the United States: “The Bush administration made another basic mistake by blurring the lines between al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” he writes. “The two groups shared an extremist religious ideology and a mutual support pact, but pursued different goals and objectives. al-Qaeda was primarily a network of Arabs, not Afghans, with a global presence and outlook. … In contrast, the Taliban’s preoccupations were entirely local. … The Taliban protected bin Laden and built a strong alliance with al-Qaeda, but Afghans did not play a role in the 9/11 hijackings and there is no evidence they had advance knowledge of the attacks.”

We spent 20 years fighting people who meant us no harm and couldn’t have hurt us even if they had wanted to.

While the after-action investigation is necessary and interesting — I’m following it every day — the postmortem necessarily focuses on acts of commission and omission during the war, after it started. Perhaps because both major political parties were equally complicit in the invasion as a knee-jerk response to 9/11 or because both the Democrats and the Republicans are in the pockets of the defense industry, no one is questioning the decision to start the war, only its atrocious execution and embarrassing wind-down.

The sad truth is the same screwups will continue. We will keep beginning wars against countries we ought to stay away from. We will make the same mistakes throughout the duration of those wars. Nothing will change because nothing has changed.

The reason is simple: personnel. Presidents keep hiring the wrong people to make decisions about war and peace. And the right ones never have a seat at the table in the room where it happens.

Voters who want to avoid fighting another Afghanistan war must insist upon candidates who promise to include anti-interventionists among their top military advisers and in their Cabinet. They should withhold their votes from politicians, even liberal Democrats, who refuse to promise to include pacifists, war skeptics and isolationists among their inner circle. Personnel is policy, they say in Washington, and that is never truer than when someone near the President of the United States suggests military action.


Dwight Eisenhower was one of the last American political leaders to understand the importance of drawing advice from an ideologically diverse group. “I know of only one way in which you can be sure you’ve done your best to make a wise decision,” Ike said. “This is to get all of the people who have partial and definable responsibility in this particular field, whatever it may be. Get them with their different viewpoints in front of you, and listen to them debate.”

Unfortunately, there’s hardly any debate on whether or not to go to war.

What passed for diversity of opinion in the George W. Bush Cabinet was a group of hawks with different styles and proclivities, but hawks nonetheless. After 9/11, Bush’s “war cabinet” included his notoriously bellicose Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State and former Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Chief of Staff Andrew Card and CIA Director George Tenet. No experts on Afghanistan were invited. No academics, no journalists, no one who had even spent a single night in a house in Afghanistan.

Predictably, all the choices discussed involved military action. “The war cabinet considered several options for the U.S. pursuit of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: a strike with cruise missiles, cruise missiles combined with bomber attacks, or ‘boots on the ground,’ that is U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan,” James P. Pfiffner noted in the journal Issues in Governance Studies. Most Americans now agree that the war was a mistake.

Bush should have stayed out of Afghanistan entirely.

Some people felt that way at the time, when it mattered, before we wasted trillions of dollars and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. But antiwar Americans were ridiculed when they weren’t simply being ignored. Bush couldn’t make the right decision because no one who had his ear ever argued for it.

Joe Biden is a different and hopefully better president than George W. Bush, yet his group of advisers suffers from the same lack of ideological diversity. No one who generally opposes war meets with the president on a regular basis. When there’s a foreign policy crisis, none of Biden’s senior advisers can be counted upon to argue against getting involved.

Understanding how we lost Afghanistan is useful.

If we want to understand why we lost Afghanistan, and if we want to stop the next Afghan war before it starts, we should look at who.

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  1. TG says:

    “Lose” the Afghanistan war? How could we “lose’ the war, when we weren’t even fighting it?

    Sure we had a bunch of troops out in the desert chasing their tails – and it was tactically brilliant tail-chasing, I am told, using very high-tech equipment – and it accomplished nothing other than enriching some politically-connected defense contractors.

    The entire point of Afghanistan, is that it was pointless! No matter what happened, no matter how many funds were siphoned off in corruption and graft, it would not have mattered – unlike a conflict with a peer or near-peer competitor, where such inefficiency would be catastrophic and obvious.

    And anyhow: you can’t conquer a cesspit by shooting it.

    Meanwhile: the Afghanis were breeding like rodents, from 20 million when the US invaded to about 40 million today – it will reach 80 million in the next 20 years. And food production did not increase – maybe it could have, if things had been different, surely, but the main point is that is DIDN’T. So the Afghanis became increasingly dependent on US food aid.

    One wonders: did the cost of feeding and providing for this exploding Afghani population start to whittle down the profits? Perhaps it was time to pull the plug on this scam.

    And perfect timing! Just as the Biden administration announces a total open-borders policy and invites in the entire third world, the Afghani puppet government is allowed to collapse, food aid is cut off driving the Afghani population to desperation, and a Madison Avenue style “We Must Save Our Loyal Allies!” campaign provided political cover to start yet another unlimited unvetted pipeline to the surplus population of the third world.

    Twenty years of massive defense contractor profits! And at home, lower wages, higher rents, and more profits for the people at the top!

    Mission accomplished!

    • Agree: GomezAdddams
  2. roonaldo says:

    It was all lies start to finish…well, it ain’t finished, since the Empire of Chaos will lash out as it goes through its death throes. Greed, incompetence, idiocy, mass slaughter, etc, aren’t going to win hearts and minds no matter how much bribe money is shelled out. The CIA can fund black ops without its Afghan heroin trade franchise.

    Don’t kid yourself thinking our votes can produce a softer, gentler war machine by installing peace-loving congress critters or that Dementia Joe can wield influence over anything more than an ice cream cone.

    No, the Empire is simply going down the tubes and other nations are ascending. The decrepit elites can’t see through the haze of their power-mad delusions. The question is how much misery they will inflict on humanity before their schemes collapse like an overdosed junkie.

  3. Bemildred says:

    Yes, thank you Ted, the problem here has been clear for a long time, criminals walk free here and get very good careers, retire well-off and respected. Nobody, still, has been held accountable for the failures of 9/11, the supposed pretext for it all. Or for the anthrax mailings. And so on. The list is long. The criminal justice system here is primarily engaged in rent-extraction and self-funding, so of course it isn’t much good for enforcing the laws or anything else. Government by grift.

  4. The Afghan war is better understood as the Afghan war crime. You can’t lose what you ain’t never had.

    It was a failure in the sense that it did not advance Imperial Washington’s project of ruling the world by force of arms. But the war profiteers did well.

    There was never any intention to do anything for the Afghan people. Other than kill them. So there could be no failure in that respect.

  5. anonymous[139] • Disclaimer says:

    Voters who want to avoid fighting another Afghanistan war must insist upon candidates who promise

    Fantasyland. You think you’re living in Shangri-La? You’ll get war and more of it and what’s more you’ll pay for it. Every war was entered into by a president who pretended to be a peace candidate so as to fool the masses. America=war. They’ll censor media and jail opposition to the degree necessary to pursue their war and what’s more they’ll have a portion of the idiot population so brainwashed they’ll turn on you as a traitor. If voting could change things it would be illegal.

  6. polistra says:

    None of this is mistaken or clueless or failed. Bureaucracies ALWAYS want permanent war, and take every possible step to keep a war going forever. Peace means budget cuts, and budget cuts are unthinkable.

    What we don’t know yet is why this particular war DIDN’T go on forever. Presumably someone with superior blackmail power prevailed over the executive and the Pentagon. Who and why?

  7. You can’t “lose” something that never was to be had in the first place.

  8. And yet MSM and administration and think tank “experts” continue to peddle the argument that US withdrawal will result in immediate recrudescence of AQ and ISIS.
    Once again it has to be repeated Taliban is only interested. in Afghan affairs,they are NOT & NEVER WERE jihadists.
    Secondlly,,historically,Afghanistan has not had imperial ambitions.
    Thirdly,they never liked arabs. They tolerated AQ because they brought in a lot of money to support their fighters and their families. They apparently do not believe in diversity,equity,and inclusion. Quite the opposite,especially when they noticed AQ were not as involved in fighting as they were in having training camps for their guys and their global missions.They may not need arab money as much now that China is preparing to exploit the huge supply of very valuable rare earth minerals Afghanistan has to offer.
    Lsstly,the recrudescence of ISIS d/t US withdrawal ? The Taliban hates ISIS and would like to kill any ISIS man or woman they find since they seem to be the only significant enemy of the Taliban regime.

    Since the enemy of my enemy is my friend–Does that mean the US will start sending weapons and money to ISIS?
    Just kidding.


  9. Pretender says:

    Chances are Afghanistan was a side show to the main conflicts which are likely to develop as soon as the lights go out in Europe and Chinese mothers don’t have enough rice to feed their children, now that China stopped one child families and is trying economic incentives to get Chinese families to have three children.
    The world is supposed to go into an inferno planet with excessive extremes, cold, heat, drought, floods, famines, obesity, pandemics, mass migrations and immigrations, dictatorships, criminal cartels, kleptocracies, narco-states, nuclear proliferation, maybe out and out greed, although the biggest crises develop from unforeseen consequences of misguided good deeds.
    Perhaps the biggest challenges will be whether democracies, primarily liberal democracies are actually capable of governing themselves, or whether the internet, computers, AI, and microsecond trades by electronic computers will bring down capitalistic economies and socialist/communist economies are able to sustainably feed themselves over the long term.
    There’s probably only enough natural resources left for one generalized world war, especially if protracted, which most wars turn out to be, the Six Day War being the exception.
    Will humanity manage to destroy itself, either one person at a time or by the millions in a thermonuclear war exchange, maybe three, four or five way when besides the US, Russia and China (the Chinese seem to be very busy building several missile silo launch fields in the Western Desert of China), the N. Koreans have developed miniaturized nuclear warheads up to 150 kilotons, in the H bomb range, India and Pakistan are in a nuclear arms race to develop thermonuclear weapons, Iran probably could have enough fissile material for “The Bomb” in a few months, if not weeks, Israel likely (no one’s saying) has up to a few dozen nuclear weapons of some kind.
    France also has H Bombs and the capacity to deliver them, as does the UK and a number of other countries such as Japan, S. Korea, probably Ukraine,
    Germany, S Africa, likely Saudi Arabia, could develop nuclear weapons within a few months , possibly even sooner, if they thought they had to, or could obtain access to them, even purchasing them from someone who really needs the money.
    Now NATO seems to have taken a very sobering appraisal following Afghanistan, raising the issue of the Europeans understanding they were and likely are on their own if there is a serious conflict.
    Perhaps that will end up being the biggest story out of Afghanistan.

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