"We had no capacity or experience with some of our tasks"
August 14, 2021 5:03 PM   Subscribe

How America Failed Afghanistan. "We checked the box when it came to saying that we had trained our partners, spun a rosy narrative of progress, and perhaps prioritized the safety and well-being of our troops over the mission of buttressing partner capacity. (When our Afghan partners shot at us, killing our comrades in the now infamous “green on blue” incidents, we tightened up our security procedures but didn’t address the hard questions of why they were shooting at us in the first place.) We didn’t send the right people, prepare them well, or reward them afterward. We rotated strangers on tours of up to a year and expected them to build relationships, then replaced them. We were overly optimistic and largely made things up as we went along. We didn’t like oversight or tough questions from Washington, and no one really bothered to hold us accountable anyway."

"We failed to establish the necessary infrastructure that dealt effectively with military education, training, pay systems, career progression, personnel, accountability—all the things that make a professional security force. Rotating teams through tours of six months to a year, we could not resolve the vexing problems facing Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s armies and police: endemic corruption, plummeting morale, rampant drug use, abysmal maintenance, and inept logistics."

Also: The Return of the Taliban.
posted by storybored (259 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
A lot of us told you 20 years ago that we didn't want you to do this. And this is why.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 PM on August 14 [101 favorites]


seems like the US should've assigned the task of building up an afghan army to an allied country with a smaller, cheaper military that the afghans could emulate. training them to fight with and alongside the US military is such a specific and unusual thing, and they wouldn't ever be doing that again after the US left, so why focus on it?? i mean, i know the answer: to show successes in the short term in the field (with US assistance), but it sure as hell didn't work as a long term strategy to build a sustainable solo force.
posted by wibari at 5:27 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


My question is who was making money from this venture? Given that a lot of military infrastructure and support seems to be all contracted out, somebody was being paid. Meanwhile, soldiers et. al. were being killed, wounded, and psychologically damaged. Not to speak of the Afghani people. All this during four presidents. We were told, to begin with, that the Taliban were the enemy. We went there and “drove them out.” Well, they’re back. And Trump was negotiating with them. And now they are on the verge of taking over the whole country. Back to where it all started. Not just the expense, both in terms of money and human lives and welfare, but the basic, fundamental stupidity and deceitfulness of the whole thing marks this “longest war for America” as possibly one of the biggest stains on our already stained history.
posted by njohnson23 at 5:31 PM on August 14 [26 favorites]


I don't want forever war but JFC we didn't have the shit the bed and then cut and run.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 5:38 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


who was making money from this venture?


There's a list!

...and you can probably add a zero or maybe even a comma onto those given how well cloaked DoD funding is.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:39 PM on August 14 [12 favorites]


US essentially intervened in a civil war. Taliban always had a willing host in Pakistan whenever it got too hot. There was no way an alternate stable government could be established unless allegiances in the region were rewritten massively. Hopefully, US population will learn from this and be less supportive of future intervention aimed at changing governments.
posted by asra at 5:42 PM on August 14 [16 favorites]


Well, has America learned anything from this? The Afghans have now kicked out three empires, each time fantastically damaging to the invader - and arguably a signifier of decline (as if we need one after Jan 6). I read 6 trillion $, for absolutely nothing, no spoils, no glory, no oil - and a regrowing global hazard.
posted by unearthed at 5:47 PM on August 14 [25 favorites]


This is like Vietnam all over again.
posted by Alensin at 5:57 PM on August 14 [12 favorites]




what a big surprise nobody could have foreseen such an outcome how could this possibly have happened etc.
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:15 PM on August 14 [44 favorites]


Well, has America learned anything from this?

Prior to the last three days, America seems not to have noticed. I’m sure a blissful ignorance will kick back in within a month or two.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:17 PM on August 14 [15 favorites]


When our Afghan partners shot at us, killing our comrades in the now infamous “green on blue” incidents, we tightened up our security procedures but didn’t address the hard questions of why they were shooting at us in the first place.

Well, yes.

I mean, there were a whole host of obvious questions, like "who are the people we are talking to?", "what capacity are they acting in?", and "what right do they have to talk for others?" It doesn't matter how good an outside power's intentions are, or how horrible the alternative is: appointing governors to rule over a divided society is a colonialist tactic and, like colonialism generally, is doomed to fail. I can think of a few occasions when outside powers successfully assisted the establishment of successor states, e.g., in what was formerly Yugoslavia; but I can't actually think of any occasion where outside powers successfully restored government to a failed state in its existing form.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:19 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


mission accomplished
posted by 20 year lurk at 6:26 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


I don't want forever war but JFC we didn't have the shit the bed and then cut and run.


Would the Afghan military have been better prepared with another year of training? Two years? Would another two, five years of American occupation have built a stable Afghan civil society?
posted by mr_roboto at 6:28 PM on August 14 [33 favorites]


Like anyone with half a brain could have written this whole thing word for word 20 years ago.
posted by bleep at 6:31 PM on August 14 [29 favorites]


Obviously, the answer is we should've never gone there in the beginning. It was like burning down a hotel because a client robbed a bank. We had no quarrel with the Taliban, they only reacted when we invaded. In fact, we funded the creation of the Taliban. They were just another insignificant nutty outlier until Uncle Reagan funded his "Freedom Fighters" and Pakistan diverted some of the money to the Madrases (sp?). See Steven Colle's Ghost Wars.
posted by shnarg at 6:31 PM on August 14 [22 favorites]


Afghanistan might have had a snowball's chance had the W administration not decided to split its attention by adventurism in Iraq.
posted by tclark at 6:33 PM on August 14 [24 favorites]


About the view that maybe America shouldn't have gone to war with the Taliban, I think there might not have been another palatable option. Long post ahead, apologies...

Mostly from a Malaysian perspective: how 9/11 touched us was the Kuala Lumpur al Qaeda Summit, a 3 day meeting of high level AQ operatives, of which 2 of them eventually became hijackers in the 9/11 attacks. The meeting was hosted by Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain, who had a degree in biochemistry. He was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah, which perpetrated the Bali Bombings, causing 202 fatalities, mostly targeted at holidaying Australians and other westerners. They partnered up with AQ, with Yazid brought in as the bioweapons expert. Among his contributions was a lab to weaponize anthrax set up in Afghanistan, and the procurement of explosives for a bombing spree in Singapore similar to the Bali Bombings.

Malaysian police were alerted to the meeting by US intelligence, and they managed to videotape the meeting as well as obtain photographs of the operatives entering and leaving.

Here are the fates of the operatives identified in the video and photos

Nawaf al-Hazmi - hijacker on Flight 77
Khalid al-Mihdhar - hijacker on Flight 77
Walid bin Attash - captured in Pakistan, tortured in a CIA black site in Poland, then detained indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo Bay
Ramzi bin al-Shibh - captured in Pakistan, tortured in a CIA black site in Morocco, then detained indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo Bay
Riduan Isamuddin - captured in Thailand, tortured in an unknown CIA black site, then detained indefinitely without trial in Guantanamo Bay
Yazid Sufaat - was in Afghanistan at the time of the 9/11 attacks, decided he would rather be detained by Malaysian authorities rather than the US so he returned home. Malaysia arrested him under the Internal Security Act which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Basically, the US asks for your help in monitoring and capturing AQ operatives. Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan all said yes. The Taliban said no...

The US more or less "did" dismantle the AQ organization. How much of that required the Taliban's cooperation or destruction is debateable. AQ was an incredibly sophisticated organization - crippling a US warship (USS Cole, 17 killed, 37 injured) and the 9/11 attacks required a level of institutional management, global logistics, trust, and discipline, orders of magnitude of complexity above simply recruiting locals and handing them a gun or suicide vest.

The US (and its allies) could rightly be concerned about the escalation in scale and complexity of these attacks. After the USS Cole came 9/11. Do they wait and see if there's an even bigger attack coming? What comes next? AQ acquires hypersonic missiles and destroys a US aircraft carrier? Another simultaneous hijacking in Europe at a larger scale involving 10 passenger planes instead? And when? Next year? Next month? AQ's nascent alliance with JI was also concerning, creating a truly global terror network.

That the Taliban actively sheltered elements of such an organization was deemed unacceptable, and the US committed resources to destroying them.

---

The whole thing in Afghanistan reminds me of the Israeli-Lebanon war in 2006, where Hezbollah ambushed an Israeli patrol and captured 2 soldiers. Israel "went hard" to punish Hezbollah and invaded Lebanon to get those two soldiers back, and it ended with a complete strategic loss for Israel: they failed to diminish or dislodge the Hezbollah in any way, instead of rescuing 2 soldiers they ended up with 121 more IDF soldiers dead - and after the UN brokered ceasefire, the Hezbollah continued to fire rockets and mortars into Israel, which they did not respond to - because there was no point. After 34 days of war, in which Israel fired 170,000 artillery shells and launched 11,000 air sorties - which almost depleted their armaments, leaving them vulnerable to an attack from another aggressor - and finding that it did nothing to weaken Hezbollah - what could any further response from Israel achieve? When you've played your strongest card and it does nothing, you're in an even worse position. So Hezbollah continued firing rockets and mortars into Israel after the ceasefire, and Israel did nothing. The Israeli IDF supreme commander had to resign for his failure over this debacle.

In a final act of anger - just as each government was signing the peace treaty - Israel fired almost its entire stockpile of aging cluster munitions (dating back to the 1970s) into Lebanon, saturating it with 4.6 million cluster submunitions. The older cluster bombs allegedly had a 20% failure rate -they often didn't explode on impact, literally turning entire areas of the country into minefields. Nearly 30% of the civilian population of Lebanon was displaced because of the fighting: now many could never return "home" because unexploded bombs littered their land, maiming and killing people for years after the ceasefire.

The US could just render Afghanistan uninhabitable for the Taliban by carpeting it with mines before they pulled out, but even the US isn't as outright spiteful as Israel is.
posted by xdvesper at 6:36 PM on August 14 [63 favorites]


What I want to know is, to what extent is the Taliban supported in Afghanistan? The best polls I could find pegged their popular support falling from around 50% in 2009 to only 13% in 2019, with a majority favoring women's rights and freedom of speech under the current constitution in 2021. But those polls are all cited by the Council on Foreign Relations, and I can't imagine polling is all that reliable there, anyway.

Afghanistan has 38 million people and is less than 25% urban. Is the Taliban a hated faction bullying the rest of the country through violence and fear? Or is there widespread support for their harsh fundamentalism once you get outside Kabul and other large cities? If most of the population supports or at least doesn't care about them taking power, there isn't going to be any way to stop them short of boots on the ground, especially not with the sorry state of the current military and government.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:53 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


In fact, we funded the creation of the Taliban. They were just another insignificant nutty outlier until Uncle Reagan funded his "Freedom Fighters" and Pakistan diverted some of the money to the Madrases (sp?). See Steven Colle's Ghost Wars.

See also: Charlie Wilson's War.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:57 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


So who gets access to the opium and rare earth minerals because those are the real crowd pleasers.
posted by clavdivs at 6:58 PM on August 14 [11 favorites]


According to the article, Pentagon procedures including rotating units out of Afghanistan after one year, and requiring officers to move up or out after every year of service caused this debacle. Commanders spent their entire tour starting to understand the local situation, and the locals were expected to build a rapport with a new commander every year.

This is eerily similar to the Navy's unfortunate habit of crashing destroyers into civilian ships because Pentagon procedures reward officers who moved up and out after being a Sea Captain for one year, instead of developing a corps of experienced Sea Captains.

In both cases the incentives imposed by Pentagon prevent a successful outcome for the United States. This would be a good time to clean house in the Pentagon!
posted by monotreme at 7:00 PM on August 14 [25 favorites]


In both cases the incentives imposed by Pentagon prevent a successful outcome for the United States
I think this depends on your perspective.
For many Americans this was tremendously lucrative.
posted by fullerine at 7:08 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


Like anyone with half a brain could have written this whole thing word for word 20 years ago.

I imagined the piece was sitting in a drawer for at least a few years waiting for the inevitable. Like celebrity obituaries.

who was making money from this venture?

Besides the Military Industralist Complex (sounds so old-timey), there's always been a quiet dream of mineral extraction. Actually pulling it off, between the landscape and lack of infrastructure and such, that's another story. Perhaps China would like to take a whack at it next.
posted by BWA at 7:19 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


The Washington Post has been running excerpts from a new book by one of their reporters, The Afghanistan Papers. It's enlightening and well written - worth the read. Here is one piece. In short, the libs were right - we were being lied to. Forever.
posted by Toddles at 7:21 PM on August 14 [15 favorites]


never trust americans
posted by - at 7:22 PM on August 14 [14 favorites]


A diplomatic source told CNN that one intelligence assessment indicated that Kabul could be isolated by the Taliban within the week, possibly within the next 72 hours, but stressed that does not mean the militant group would enter the capital.
Link


Hard to park an aircraft carrier off the coast of Afghanistan when it's a landlocked country. This has all been such a waste.
posted by wuwei at 7:26 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


We only failed because we couldn’t be bothered to stick it out. We should not have proceeded with Trump’s stupid plan. We’re just going to end up back there again and have to start all over again. This is like letting the Khmer Rouge take Cambodia.
posted by interogative mood at 7:31 PM on August 14


Wesley Morgan's recent book "The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift" in Afghanistan's Pech Valley is all about the systemic problems that prevented success.

It really is worth reading.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:34 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


The US public has not been given the full truth about Afghanistan for the past 15 years. Now, the bankruptcy of US policies is plain to see
posted by adamvasco at 7:35 PM on August 14 [6 favorites]


What I want to know is, to what extent is the Taliban supported in Afghanistan?

That isn't a substantially useful question in this context. Lots of governments rule without real popular support. The Taliban possibly have the power to dominate or even rule the country, and they clearly do have the power to stymie any more liberal liberal administration.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:38 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


We only failed because we couldn’t be bothered to stick it out.

How much longer should we have kept going? There was never a viable plan or approach in place, so it was just a question of how many years the US was willing to accept dead soldiers and wasted money.

I feel terrible for the people being left in the lurch, though. That was preventable and should have been part of the planning, rather than the simplistic "pull out the troops and let them sort it out" that Trump's morons negotiated.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:44 PM on August 14 [26 favorites]


Opium
In 2020, the area under opium cultivation had expanded to 224,000 hectares from 163,000 hectares, overwhelmingly in areas under Taliban control. The dramatic expansion in the Taliban’s territorial control is likely to see further institutionalisation of these operations, as the Emirate seeks to contain the likely cutbacks in foreign aid and trade.

Rare Earths & Beijing’s Strategic Concerns
However the country with the most influence over the Taliban is arguably Pakistan which is China’s closest and most reliable ally. Both sides describe their alliance as an “all weather relationship”. China counts on its loyal ally to keep the Taliban friendly towards China.
posted by adamvasco at 7:57 PM on August 14 [5 favorites]


mission accomplished
posted by 20 year lurk


Epony... nah, y'know what, this just makes my heart hurt.
posted by aws17576 at 8:07 PM on August 14 [22 favorites]


It should be noted that David Frum edits the Atlantic. Frum was a prominent member of the Bush II administration.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 8:16 PM on August 14 [28 favorites]


Opium and China are both red herrings in my opinion. China in particular has been used as a scapegoat to justify any defense spending despite there being little to no evidence they're anywhere near us from a military perspective (their latest jet plane is optimistically a generation-behind knock-off of our Raptor from stolen information), and even if they were anything besides an existential threat their country hasn't fought in a foreign war in how long? There's little evidence their interests in foreign countries ever leads to anything of fruition so the idea that the Chinese are investing and increasing their soft power while not a lie, has lead to enormous failures and hasn't seen anymore success than the US has seen in exerting soft power. Namely if you go into highly corrupt countries and throw around money you don't leave with friends, you leave with a few nationals you enriched and some enemies you previously didn't have.

As far as opium is concerned, Mexican cartels have gone to producing synthetic opiates that are for more potent and without needing actual opium unless the government is lying about that too, it makes no sense to smuggle opium or heroin from Afghanistan with notoriously poor infrastructure to do so when you can make it right in your backyard. Even neighboring countries like China and India are manufacturing fentanyl underground so that's an argument that never really held and I doubt will hold anymore.
posted by geoff. at 8:18 PM on August 14 [8 favorites]


Would the Afghan military have been better prepared with another year of training? Two years? Would another two, five years of American occupation have built a stable Afghan civil society?

I don't even know. But I believe the phrase "you break it, you bought it" applies here.

I was 100% against the war. Didn't want it. Saw this coming. But I think once the commitment to war has been made it's our responsibility to stay until that stable Afghan civil society has been achieved. If nothing else, not leaving a country in a smoldering pile of rubble about to be taken over by a violent and repressive regime is just good manners.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:19 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


How much longer should we have kept going? There was never a viable plan or approach in place, so it was just a question of how many years the US was willing to accept dead soldiers and wasted money.

The latest reports suggest that we are going back in.
posted by interogative mood at 8:28 PM on August 14


I remember reading in Time magazine that the big reason to support the mujahideen was because Soviet backfire bombers could reach the Persian Gulf from bases in Afghanistan. That was 1979 or 80.

I graduated high school in 82. There weren't too many jobs so I took the one preventing Soviet bombers from reaching the Persian Gulf. It was a success I tell you, a success. A bright and shining ... (vomits).

Anyway when 9/11 happened everyone wanted to know what I thought and I said it was a logical consequence of our foreign policy. Nobody wanted to hear that from me.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 8:34 PM on August 14 [39 favorites]


Leslie Gelb did an interview with On the Media a while back. It was about how the point of the Pentagon Papers got missed in all the excitement of their actually existing. One of the points is about how sending a military expedition into a place where we have no real understanding of the people, politics, or purpose for our incursion is just a recipe for this kind of result.

Given that the USA has basically dismantled its diplomatic corps through a combination of neglect and intent over the last few decades (depending on the various administrations and legislatures at various times), and they were the ones with the nation building skills and experience that might have allowed for the reestablishment of a stable Afghani government what else was going to happen?

We were never going to commit to a full conquest, our allies would not have supported it and the American people would not have understood it. It was the only possible way of using the American military to achieve the goal of eliminating the Taliban and stabilizing Afghanistan to the American interest. But none of that should have ever been a goal to begin with.

We never had a clear and distinct goal. No one was willing to say that all we wanted was Bin Laden and his ilk. We would tear through to take him and leave when it was done. Either the Northern Alliance would be able to use the opportunity we presented or not. We would not be there any longer than necessary for our purpose. Likewise no one was willing to commit to the full and unvarying path of rebuilding Afghanistan to our liking. Everything we did was half-vast ideas without clear follow through and splitting our attention by invading Iraq was just the height of stupid and wasteful.

Twenty year of dead troops, civilians, and wasted treasure. Our position in Afghanistan is going to be worse than before we went in and we may have to go back if it turns into another terrorist training ground.

For an excellent primer on the USA, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan let me recommend Adam Curtis' excellent documentary Bitter Lake.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 8:48 PM on August 14 [19 favorites]


*seems like the US should've assigned the task of building up an afghan army to an allied country with a smaller, cheaper military that the afghans could emulate.*

Because then we couldn't sell the Afghan gov US military hardware, especially the expensive stuff. There is probably someone trying to work a deal where the Afghans buy F-35s (at, what, US$450M each). Well, that deal is probably off the table.

*I don't want forever war but JFC we didn't have the shit the bed and then cut and run.*

But we did shit the bed, just like we did in Iraq. No plan for what-comes-after. And it's *all* about what-comes-after, if you don't want things to swirl around the bowl. So it's either forever war or cut and run. The latter means (probably) less dead people. At least less US casualties. So...

China: As soon as the Taliban sew up control of the country, Chinese companies (aka Chinese government) will stroll in with "so how big a check do I need to write to access your resources if I agree to turn a blind eye to any atrocities you might want to commit against your own people? To sweeten the deal, we promise to vehemently oppose any international sanction you might face for those atrocities." I will be fascinated as to how the chickenhawks spin that one.

*The latest reports suggest that we are going back in.*

To protect the withdrawal. The optics of Saigon haven't been forgotten. I can't imagine we're going to try to prop up the Afgan gov at this point.
posted by kjs3 at 9:03 PM on August 14 [9 favorites]


The optics of Saigon haven't been forgotten.

I expect this is more about Benghazi than Saigon.
posted by Candleman at 9:36 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


This seems like an opportune place to drop a link to No One Left Behind, which has been doing very effective advocacy to compel the US government to honor its moral obligation to Afghan and Iraqi interpreters.

To help out, here is a link to the donation page.

OTOH, if you just want to be filled with helpless rage and disgust, you may wish to view the flowchart of "How To Get To the U.S." (total US government processing time: 357 business days). Paul Campos had some appropriate words on this topic today.

Side note: obligatory reminder that an afghani is a unit of currency. A person from Afghanistan is an Afghan.
posted by Not A Thing at 9:43 PM on August 14 [27 favorites]


Joe in Australia: but I can't actually think of any occasion where outside powers successfully restored government to a failed state in its existing form.

The USA keeps hoping to replicate the relatively successful occupations of Japan and Germany after WWII and keeps failing.
posted by clawsoon at 9:55 PM on August 14 [10 favorites]


Rhaomi: What I want to know is, to what extent is the Taliban supported in Afghanistan?

My (not very well informed) impression is that the Taliban is primarily based in (and most supported among) the Pashtun, who make up about half of Afghanistan's population. Beyond that I don't know.
posted by clawsoon at 10:07 PM on August 14




The USA keeps hoping to replicate the relatively successful occupations of Japan and Germany after WWII and keeps failing.

This is in no small part because it never committed the personnel that it took to relatively successfully occupy Japan and Germany -- occupations that, from a certain point of view, persist to this day. One might ask General Eric Shinseki what it would take to do that... oh, but he got sidelined in the lead-up to Iraq for saying it would take several hundred thousand troops.
posted by tclark at 10:41 PM on August 14 [16 favorites]


This is like Vietnam all over again.

We wish.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:51 PM on August 14 [1 favorite]


Anderson makes some reasonable points in the article, but fundamentally I don't see either Afghanistan or Iraq as a military failure. They were definitely failures, but in both cases the military did its job. And then, in both cases, the military was tasked with doing some decidedly non-military stuff, and the results were... not great.

What the US—in general—failed to do was build up a functioning liberal, democratic government and professional, modern military, one that was simultaneously an effective fighting force but also subservient to the civilian government. That is, to put it lightly, a really difficult task.

It's certainly possible that if we hadn't gotten distracted by Iraq and had stayed solely focused on Afghanistan, and accepted right from the very beginning that we were embarking on a 20-year project, that perhaps things would have gone better. I am skeptical.

Truly "winning the peace" in Afghanistan would likely have meant a multi-generational project of education, economic development, and top-to-bottom governmental reform, unlike anything the US has ever done. (The US's greatest success stories in post-war reconstruction efforts, Germany and Japan, offer very little in the way of parallels. Both had homegrown parliamentary governments and independent judiciaries before being overrun by fascists, for one.) At no time in the last 20 years has any US administration showed that level of interest, nor does such a commitment seem like it would have ever been politically feasible.

Nor was it really politically feasible to not do something about the Taliban; simply allowing Al Qaeda to operate with impunity from Afghanistan, waiting for the next escalation after 9/11, was not in the cards.

Between those two constraints lies the question of what the US should have done. I'm sure that in the coming decades, barrels of ink and forests of trees will be spent trying to answer it.

Personally, I have spent a lot of time over the years wondering about how the region and the would would look, if the First Battle of Tora Bora had gone a little differently. If the Bush administration hadn't relied so heavily on local mercenaries, if CENTCOM hadn't been so stingy with resources, if Bin Laden had gotten trenchfoot in his cave and not been able to run for the Pakistan border as quickly... there are any number of things that could have gone differently and changed the outcome. But supposing we had nailed OBL in late 2001... then what? Who knows. Maybe we would have just declared victory and left. Maybe we would have mostly left, but continued to support the Northern Alliance. Maybe we wouldn't have done much differently after all.

All that said, the Biden administration's decision to finally withdraw was probably the correct, albeit inevitable, one. Though I can't wrap my head around why it couldn't have been done in a more careful, controlled way. How is it possible that we're at this point, and don't even have what appears to be a clear plan for evacuating Afghan interpreters who've been working with US units for years? Moreover: after 20 years, what's the fucking rush? Adding a few more months to the retrograde in order to set up a viable exit strategy for allied personnel doesn't seem like it should have been impossible.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:52 PM on August 14 [16 favorites]


Afghan friends and colleagues began asking for help leaving the country in June

Australian photojournalist Andrew Quilty has lived and worked in Afghanistan since 2013. The linked essay covers what's been happening in the country recently but also how things have differed for rural Afghans in relationship to the Taliban vs urban Afghans all along.

It's very clear that the evacuating Americans and Europeans are knowingly abandoning the people that have helped them to an at best precarious fate.

Some of his photos and articles (various publications) throughout the years can be seen at his site: https://www.andrewquilty.com [includes photos of the injured and the dead]
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 10:54 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


This is like letting the Khmer Rouge take Cambodia.

No, the U.S. gave mod so the reformed KR
could rejoin the Cambodian parliament to garner Anti Vietnam policies, some, old leaders but there gone, also Samdech Hun Sen was former KR then was leader of the anti KR movement after he left for Vietnam and is leader today and with adecent relationship with the west.

27. "Just as a target is not set up to be missed, in the same way nothing bad by nature happens in the world."

-Epictetus.
posted by clavdivs at 11:02 PM on August 14 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048: "All that said, the Biden administration's decision to finally withdraw was probably the correct, albeit inevitable, one. Though I can't wrap my head around why it couldn't have been done in a more careful, controlled way. How is it possible that we're at this point, and don't even have what appears to be a clear plan for evacuating Afghan interpreters who've been working with US units for years? Moreover: after 20 years, what's the fucking rush? Adding a few more months to the retrograde in order to set up a viable exit strategy for allied personnel doesn't seem like it should have been impossible."

The agreement Trump signed set a withdrawal date of May 1st; Biden already pushed that back several months to give the drawdown process more time (likely the max amount that wouldn't extend it past the 20th anniversary of 9/11). As for why it feels so rushed now, I don't think anyone expected the Afghan military to crumble so quickly -- even the most pessimistic forecasts were closer to six months before the Taliban marched on Kabul. Now it's not just a military withdrawal, but an emergency evacuation of embassy staff, sensitive equipment and material, and countless Afghans who assisted the war effort.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:12 PM on August 14 [7 favorites]


But I think once the commitment to war has been made it's our responsibility to stay until that stable Afghan civil society has been achieved.

So, forever, then?

Whether we stayed another year, or another 5 years, or another 10 years, or another 50 years, it was always going to end like this.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:40 PM on August 14 [10 favorites]


Can we at least try to understand the local politics?

After twenty years, the Afghan government had not "built up a functioning liberal, democratic government and professional, modern military". The government in Kabul had no legitimacy with anyone except America.

Afghanistan remains run at a local level by local warlords. Those warlords enjoyed American cash while Americans turned a blind eye to the rampant corruption, so those warlords professed their loyalty to the American-backed regime in Kabul.

Now the American money is gone, the warlords are switching their professions of loyalty to the Taliban.

The same people are still in charge, across the majority of the country. They're going to behave just as badly. What's different now is that the money is coming from other nations.

This was never winnable.
posted by happyinmotion at 11:57 PM on August 14 [25 favorites]


I admit I had no idea what the Afghan war was about until I read a summary at NYT the other day. I'm now fascinated and terrified about what's happening there and especially the news that the last president did this.

"The agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, which followed more than a year of stop-and-start negotiations and conspicuously excluded the American-backed Afghanistan government, is not a final peace deal, is filled with ambiguity, and could still unravel."

There was no inclusion of the Afghanistan government about the role the Taliban would play in their country going forward, and only a handshake agreement that the Taliban would adhere to any of its promises. Which it did not.
posted by bendy at 12:42 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


part of the deal with Germany and Japan was that their militarist cliques who had brought their respective nations into the conflict with what became the United Nations had in the post-war utterly lost credibility and "face" with their compatriots by writing checks their hypernationalism of the heady days of 1933-41 couldn't cash in the brutal culmination of conflict 1942-45.

Japan and Germany were essentially hijacked in the 1930s by militarists who discarded the pre-existing pluralistic constitutional order -- sacrificed in the mobilizing for war.

These militarists 'f----ed around and found out' as they say, and the survivors, under relatively enlightened and eventually generous United States' tutelage and sponsorship, re-establised these nations' pre-war liberal orders -- again, with the nationalists utterly discredited in the eyes of the general population, who had been forced to sacrifice so much only to be failed so hard.

The Allied postwar occupations were not nation-building exercises, they were security deployments aimed at opposing Soviet expansionism in Europe, and further instability in East Asia once the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts got roiling.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:54 AM on August 15 [26 favorites]


"Why Afghanistan is Impossible to conquer" is a good primer - accurate today and also something that could have been put together by the Russians (one painful defeat) and the British (three ). What is interesting is that so much of this depends on the peculiar geography of the country alone. An invading force can arguably get its its political and cultural analysis perfect, excel in its intelligence gathering, have the best military hardware available and put all the right people in the right place for the right durations of time - and still be undone by the terrain, the limited supply routes, the porous borders....
posted by rongorongo at 12:58 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


>There was no inclusion of the Afghanistan government about the role the Taliban would play in their country going forward

Nixon did the same to Thieu in '73. The Paris Accords was just an armistice and 'decent interval' to allow the US to compete our withdrawal, which started in '69 and was largely complete by '72.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 1:01 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]






And look, the US can't stay, AND can't go. To go is to yield to a horrible regime. But to stay is pure imperialism... you're going to remake the whole place in your image in perpetuity against the will of a significant number of inhabitants.

Germany and Japan worked after total defeat, full spectrum dominance, and a willingness to spend whatever it took. So the US is going to leave, because this situation has none of those things. The cost of being there in the first place, to Afghan people and the US is awful, but staying is sunk cost fallacy.

Imagine if this had never happened, after decades of Taliban there might be a local insurgent liberalisation movement. We'll never know.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:40 AM on August 15 [5 favorites]


Multiple news outlets are reporting that Taliban are "at the gates" of Kabul and have the city completely surrounded.

Edit: Scratch that, multiple sources reporting they've entered Kabul. Kabul University professors said goodbye to female students, Saigon style Chinook evacuations taking place. Looks like it is just a matter of hours.
posted by geoff. at 2:29 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Jimmy Carter intelligence advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski put together something designed to provoke the USSR , July 3 1979," we have a chance of giving them a viet nam of their own" ulceration cyclone ended Democratic Republic of Afghanistan created the Islamic State.using imported talent from Egypt(mujahideen) freedom fighters ,White House guests some we're involved in the assassination of Anwar Sadat ,and wear not exactly popular with the locals in Afghanistan. The resistance to the mujahideen were students (talib) the native Taliban remains the enemy of the United States... sow operation cyclone,reap the whirl wind..indeed. the American War South East Asia demoralized my country .it shows , Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould , invisible history. We are strangling democracy and shooting students 40 years on.
posted by hortense at 2:37 AM on August 15 [5 favorites]


Moreover: after 20 years, what's the fucking rush?

there's another country that's bitterly divided, increasingly chaotic, and in danger of going down the road to social collapse

ours

we're done with trying to sort out places like afghanistan
posted by pyramid termite at 2:41 AM on August 15 [8 favorites]


Another comment piece I got something out of.

The author (Paul Buchanan) is an American by heritage, raised in South America, returned to the US and taught international relations to CIA staff, now an NZ resident. He has a pretty broad if ultimately Marxist perspective.

Conclusion (and I leave you to read the many paras of supporting argument):

What this means is that indeed, there is a tragedy at play in the return of the Taliban. But it may not be the calamity that many in the West think that it will be because the circumstances surrounding the return mitigates against rather than in favour of wanton destruction and mass blood-letting. The Taliban need to demonstrate that they can rule over a society that is in significant ways different than the one they governed two decades ago, and they need to engage with an international community that also is different than the one that blamed them for harbouring al-Qaeda. The Taliban themselves are different in many ways, as are the foreign interests willing to engage with them on economic and diplomatic matters. Their domestic threat environment now includes co-religionists in the form of al-Qaeda and Daesh, to which can be added splinter groups from adjoining countries and local warlords and militias with foreign ties. It will not be easy for them to re-impose the status quo ante 2002 even if that is their unified desire (which it does not appear to be judging from the political leadership’s statements).

This is the basis for a glimmer of hope in the Afghanistan regime transition now underway. If not born of compromise, Taliban rule will likely be different out of necessity. It is important that the international community do all that is possible to ensure that the political necessity of the moment becomes long-term governance fact not only for the good of the Afghan people but in order to pay the fair price of making amends for what ultimately is the result of Western neo-imperialist hubris.

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:55 AM on August 15 [11 favorites]


"I admit I had no idea what the Afghan war was about until I read a summary at NYT the other day. I'm now fascinated and terrified about what's happening there and especially the news that the last president did this."

This is not directed at you personally, but wow that sums up so much about what is wrong with the US from my outsider perspective. A 20 year war and ordinary citizens have no idea about why or what. That surely is what it is to be empire.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:58 AM on August 15 [68 favorites]


This is heartbreaking. Sorry I don’t have an articulate opinion on what should or should not have been done or whose responsibility it was or how far back the root causes go, but seeing this happen this way is terrible and sad and as another outsider I just wish American commenters could be a tiny bit more careful with the takes about inevitability or implying some kind of "America first" version of anti-imperialism because that just sounds callous now. That’s all.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:10 AM on August 15 [4 favorites]


If the government and the US were unprepared, the Taleban were not. They seem to have been planning for this for months, making both deals and threats, using networks they had built over the years. What initially looked like a lucky case of dominoes falling exceptionally fast because of an unprepared government seems to have been a case of sustained preparation.
posted by adamvasco at 3:56 AM on August 15 [6 favorites]


Mission Accomplished
posted by Beholder at 3:57 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


The Canadian government is promising to resettle hundreds of former interpreters, cultural advisers, drivers, cleaners and others who helped Canada and are now in danger, but it seems a little late to still be processing applications.
posted by clawsoon at 4:13 AM on August 15 [5 favorites]


hortense: Jimmy Carter intelligence advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski put together something designed to provoke the USSR , July 3 1979," we have a chance of giving them a viet nam of their own"

Has anything caused (and does anything continue to cause) more misery over the past 70 years than the American Cold War policy of "we don't care if you're democratic at all as long as you say you're anti-Communist"?
posted by clawsoon at 4:22 AM on August 15 [19 favorites]


In one of the articles linked here, the author pointed out that, in addition to all of the corruption and warlordism, the Americans were training the Afghan army to fight as a modern American-style army, i.e. one which relied on aerial dominance. Remote bases that can only be resupplied by air, the ability to call in airstrikes at any time, that sort of thing. Not a viable force once American air support is withdrawn.
posted by clawsoon at 4:30 AM on August 15 [6 favorites]


Where the Taliban get their money
Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.
posted by adamvasco at 4:58 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


It is an especially bad time to be a woman in Afghanistan.
posted by tommasz at 5:00 AM on August 15 [11 favorites]


If the government and the US were unprepared, the Taleban were not. They seem to have been planning for this for months, making both deals and threats, using networks they had built over the years. What initially looked like a lucky case of dominoes falling exceptionally fast because of an unprepared government seems to have been a case of sustained preparation.

That type of checkbook diplomacy/deal/threats blend was similar to the 2001 CIA work that made Afghanistan fall so fast. It's just how business is done locally.
posted by jaduncan at 5:01 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Has anything caused (and does anything continue to cause) more misery over the past 70 years than the American Cold War policy of "we don't care if you're democratic at all as long as you say you're anti-Communist"?

...

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

The War on Drugs comes in a respectable second place as a source of worldwide misery.
posted by clawsoon at 5:16 AM on August 15 [8 favorites]


China counts on its loyal ally [Pakistan] to keep the Taliban friendly towards China.

Seems that both the Taliban and Pakistan can live with Chinese treatment of Uighers.
posted by BWA at 5:22 AM on August 15 [4 favorites]


Moreover: after 20 years, what's the fucking rush?

The US entered into an agreement to leave by last May.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:34 AM on August 15


I haven't really seen any viable alternatives between doing what Biden is doing right now and just staying forever.
posted by octothorpe at 5:48 AM on August 15 [12 favorites]


But I think once the commitment to war has been made it's our responsibility to stay until that stable Afghan civil society has been achieved.

I don't think you would support the levels of atrocity and cultural genocide that would likely be necessary to achieve that.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:54 AM on August 15 [11 favorites]


Sometimes I forget Metafilter is as old as it is. Posts at the start of the war (Afghanistan tag around 14 pages deep) can be found here

Including this one. Why America would lose a ground war. To be fair clarity on anything post 9/11 was even more difficult than normal, but the first comment in that post is both wildly off and wildly accurate..

I think it depends on our goals (which are as yet unknown, despite many claims to the contrary). I've heard very knowledgeable people suggest that the US has no interest in repeating the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, since our goals will be totally different. Specifically, we could care less about obtaining territory and overtaking cities, as long as we put an end to the terrorist network. If that's the case, I don't think the Soviets' history is a good predictor.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:09 AM on August 15 [11 favorites]


> Japan and Germany were essentially hijacked in the 1930s by militarists who discarded the pre-existing pluralistic constitutional order -- sacrificed in the mobilizing for war.

Not that I want to derail too much, but that's not really true of Japan. Japan's response to the Perry expedition, where the U.S. basically sent a bunch of well armed warships over to isolationist Japan and did some target practice saying, "See what'll happen if you don't open your borders?" was to restore an autocratic emperor in the Meiji restoration. Japan wanted a seat at the table with the big militaristic Western imperial powers, so they became a Western imperial power, and until they tangled with the US, they were good at it. They stomped the Russians, colonized Korea, and generally set themselves up with their own imperial sphere of influence. This, from what I understand, by and large had popular support, as long as they were winning.

From that standpoint, being invited, albeit at gunpoint, to join the new, less militarized liberal world order along with all the great Western powers wasn't actually a huge defeat. It wasn't as much an embarrassment to have to shed all their imperial possessions if the biggest empire in history, the British, were doing the same despite winning. Sure the military leadership who screwed up and lost didn't like it, but it was plain to everyone, probably even themselves that that was all on them.

After all that, I'll agree with your general point, though: large parts of Germany and Japan's populace got to feel like they were winning from the occupations, despite a military loss.

The Taliban, needless to say, do not want a seat at the table with Western powers. The rural leaders in Afghanistan I'm guessing, want to be left to their own devices, and are probably more comfortable with conservative Islam becoming more strict than having to figure out how to change society to embrace liberal, pluralistic values. And I don't think many people felt they were winning by having a bunch of heavily armed, trigger happy 20-somethings with poor impulse control and no ties to the country running around with no accountability to the local people.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:43 AM on August 15 [14 favorites]


We wanted regime change in a radical way from their existing order to liberal democracy and we wanted it done inside five years without the massive convulsion of death such revolutions have always required. This was brought to us by the folks that let eastern europe flail around via shock doctrine at the end of the cold war and no one's turfed them out of civil society so their fantasy thinking will return next "adventure".

We could get our own fucking country to "behave" during reconstruction via magical thinking and compromises.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:20 AM on August 15


Whoops, that should read "couldn't get"
posted by Slackermagee at 7:32 AM on August 15


Canada ended combat operations in 2011
At that time they resettled over 800 Afghan nationals who had assisted the Canadian government.

it seems a little late to still be processing applications. clawsoon

In response to public pressure, including a letter from 3 Major Generals dated Jul 8 calling for a program to bring
"these brave and loyal Afghans to Canada "
a program to Resettling Afghans who assisted Canada was enacted.

It's unbelievably bureaucratic. They cannot apply at the embassy. They must apply by email including copies of their passport.

The story linked by clawsoon is a different program just announced Friday Aug 13

It will accept an additional 20,000

It is designed to help vulnerable Afghans , womens leaders, LGBTQ, etc,

But it's already a cockup

posted by yyz at 7:35 AM on August 15 [6 favorites]


I don't think you would support the levels of atrocity and cultural genocide that would likely be necessary to achieve that.

No I probably wouldn't. I don't know or even think there is a right answer. I just feel bad because both my homes (US and Australia) came in, shat up the place, and are now leaving the populace to the wolves. We can't even get our allies on the ground out and I feel so disgusted.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:14 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


yyz: But it's already a cockup
The Afghans are being told they must undergo a PCR test at their own expense and bring a copy of their negative results to the airport.
Jesus fuck, my dear country of Canada.
posted by clawsoon at 8:34 AM on August 15


We cannot fail Afghanistan because we could not have helped Afghanistan, because we are the problem. A 20-year neocolonialist war that only served to profit the Military-Industrial Complex cannot serve the country it invades, it can only create a sort of endless superficial stability, maintained by constant, hidden, grueling violence, until the moment it decides the war costs more than it benefits.

Afghanistan deserves self-determination, but that's not what the US military does, nor ever has.
posted by maxsparber at 8:52 AM on August 15 [18 favorites]



We cannot fail Afghanistan because we could not have helped Afghanistan, because we are the problem. A 20-year neocolonialist war that only served to profit the Military-Industrial Complex cannot serve the country it invades, it can only create a sort of endless superficial stability, maintained by constant, hidden, grueling violence, until the moment it decides the war costs more than it benefits.


you can be angry and correct about all of the above and also angry and correct about the afghanis we've left in the lurch, the women and girls whose bodily and cultural autonomy are about to be trashed, the people who made terrible choices to save their families, all of whom will feel the end of "superficial stability" in ways much more profound, torturous and horrifying than that banal phrase encodes.
posted by lalochezia at 9:26 AM on August 15 [34 favorites]


Just to be crystal clear
(maciej's take, which is mine too)
posted by lalochezia at 9:33 AM on August 15 [5 favorites]


My son spent 2012 in Afghanistan in the US Army, returning physicically intact, mentally changed forever. By then, most Americans forgot we were in a war, news was scarce. It was clear, early on, that we could not make much headway. We barely made a dent in heroin production, despite massive payments to farmers.

Provisions should have been made for the many who will be tortured and/or killed because of their association with the US. Otherwise, we should never have gotten in to war in Afghanistan (/waves at Iraq), and certainly not with no understanding whatsoever of what ending was envisioned. The trillions of dollars spent went to war profiteers; that's usually the way, in the US this is a massive siphon off the economy.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on August 15 [22 favorites]


I was one of the feminists in the 1990s who wished our country would do something to help the women and girls of Afghanistan. I opposed the invasion in 2001 because I didn't trust that it was going to actually do anything but provide an outlet for US vengeance, and the following 20 years have borne that out.

It's hard to believe that we're just leaving behind a country where girls will again not be educated, where women will not work outside the home, where women and girls won't even be allowed to leave their homes, where they will live under constant threats of kidnapping and rape.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:00 AM on August 15 [28 favorites]


From Afghan Canadian and UNESCO Youth Ambassador Bushra Ebadi:

Looking for ways to support Afghanistan and Afghan people? Here's a list of actions that you can take and avoid. A twitter thread that includes accounts to follow.

- Same list of actions as above but as a single page unroll on threadreader
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 10:39 AM on August 15 [8 favorites]


also angry and correct about the afghanis we've left in the lurch

Our presence has been horrific:

-- 71,000 Afghan and Pakistani civilians are estimated to have died as a direct result of the war.
-- The CIA has armed and funded Afghan militia groups who have been implicated in grave human rights abuses and killings of civilians.
-- Afghan land is contaminated with unexploded ordnance, which kills and injures tens of thousands of Afghans, especially children, as they travel and go about their daily chores.

I am furious about the experience of Afghanistan, but do not believe we are leaving them in the lurch, because I do not, for a second, believe that we were getting them out of the lurch.
posted by maxsparber at 10:46 AM on August 15 [15 favorites]


Just to be crystal clear here—the decision to end the American military occupation of Afghanistan is laudable, the failure to send C-130's filled with green cards and arrange to evacuate the vulnerable before evacuating our troops is what fills me with shame. (link but not text above)

Staying wasn't viable and we should have left a long time ago, but the fact that we didn't do this is evil.
posted by Mavri at 10:47 AM on August 15 [7 favorites]


Historian Laleh Khalili (Professor of International Politics, University of London) on Twitter:

As everyone talks about Afghan corruption, brutality and ineptitude, can i remind you the country has been invaded by 2 superpowers in my life time, the last of whose intel services thought it wise to drop off millions of dollars in cash 1/

to buy the acquiescence of a client who was selected because US magazines thought him stylish. A country where posh British "adventurers" and macho US self-aggrandizers (plus countless white women saviours)... 2/

set up "altruistic" ventures which wete nothing but solipsistic imperial projects; a country where a future National Security advisor's brother was responsible for flattening villages in bombings; 3/

where torture black sites lived cheek by jowl with detention pipelines to Guantanamo and god knows where else; AND this is not to talk about what the other superpower wrought a couple of decades before that. 4/

So, seriously, if you are commenting on Afghanistan, some respect for the enormous fortitude and courage of Afghan people and some fucking humility on your/our part is in order. /fin
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:08 AM on August 15 [27 favorites]


Mohammed El-Kurd @m7mdkurd
You don’t get to stage coups, invade, occupy, fund extremist militias, kill thousands & *literally* collect their skulls as souvenirs, then cry about women’s rights as if you care. You don’t get to be an American politician & make an impassioned moral statement about Afghanistan.
7:51 AM · Aug 15, 2021·Twitter for iPhone
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:09 AM on August 15 [14 favorites]


"evacuate the vulnerable" is a nice idea but in practice its feasibility depends entirely on a very narrow definition of "the vulnerable" here

from this Guardian article - US races against time to save Afghan helpers
Those eligible for SIVs [special immigration visas] account for just part of the Afghan population that is now acutely vulnerable because they joined western-backed journalism ventures, or women’s rights groups, worked to promote girls’ education or any number of social or economic projects. Also excluded are former employees who did not work for the US for long enough (one or two years depending on the role) to qualify for a SIV.

There are already reports from Taliban-conquered areas of reprisal killings, summary executions, tight restrictions on women’s work and cases of forced marriage.

Earlier this month, the US announced that those who had worked for US-funded NGOs or media organisations would be eligible for another type of visa, a P2. But in order to apply, candidates would have to be outside Afghanistan.
posted by bitteschoen at 11:10 AM on August 15 [3 favorites]


.
posted by mumimor at 11:24 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


It's over.
posted by storybored at 12:13 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


Nasrin Nawa @NawaNasrin
Regular flights for the public are canceled from Kabul’s airport because #US staff are departing! Even amid the chaos for Afghans, foreigners' lives are a priority, while Afgs are more exposed to danger since the Taliban ceased fire long before with the world but not #Afghanistan
11:44 AM · Aug 15, 2021·Twitter for iPhone
446 Retweets 38 Quote Tweets 1,090 Likes
posted by Ahmad Khani at 12:50 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


Seeing a lot of Biden bashing going on in Social media. Not so much mention of Trump's amanuensis Mike Pompeo who 'negotiated' the shit show.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was released from jail in Pakistan in October 2018 at the direct request of the US special representative the very dodgy Zalmay Khalilzad
posted by adamvasco at 3:18 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


There's an important and challenging tension here that we should acknowledge explicitly. Before the American invasion, Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban, whose values are very very far from those of anyone here on MetaFilter. For all that we loath American imperialism, after the Taliban were forced out of power the women of Afghanistan were living immeasurably better than they were under Taliban rule, and reports indicate that already in the past few days things have gotten much much worse.

I don't have any answer to the question, but it is important to acknowledge and confront it: which do we prefer, that America stay home and not step into other countries' affairs, or that we honor the human rights agenda first made an explicit part of U.S. foreign affairs thinking by President Carter, and try to make other countries better places for their own citizens?
posted by PhineasGage at 3:23 PM on August 15 [11 favorites]


"Trying" isn't good enough. Extending US imperial might to improve other places should require a credible plan to succeed. That was not the case here.

To the extent there was an intent to honour a human rights agenda and improve the place, that was not the motivator for US intervention in this case.

In my half-century lifetime, (with a possible exception for the interventions in the Balkans which honestly I don't understand very well), every US intervention has been an imperial exercise in securing resources and crushing aspiring powers/governments seen as harmful to US interests.

Finally I doubt (and this is related to my first point) that military interventions alone can ever further a human rights improvement in a lasting way. The post-war interventions in Germany and Japan required full-scale teardown and reconstruction and investment that went way beyond troops on the ground. (And then, those interventions served US strategic interests and were not primarily motivated by human rights or improving conditions for locals, other than that those things served strategic interests...).

You're an empire doing empire things. Don't sugarcoat it with "but what if we used our powers for good." The best you can manage, once you are an empire and determined to remain one, is being a bit less brutal than alternative empires. Stop pretending to be the Good Guys and move to being The Less Bad Guys.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:51 PM on August 15 [22 favorites]


I don't have any answer to the question, but it is important to acknowledge and confront it: which do we prefer, that America stay home and not step into other countries' affairs, or that we honor the human rights agenda first made an explicit part of U.S. foreign affairs thinking by President Carter, and try to make other countries better places for their own citizens?

You're assuming that "making other countries better" was the reason we went to Afghanistan in the first place. It was not. The whole reason we went to Afghanistan was 100% "we're gonna kick the ass of Bin Laden and those Ay-rabs who blowed up the Twin Towers and the Pentagon."

This was a revenge mission that had some "oh yeah, we should probably also do some humanitarian work so we look good" side effects.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on August 15 [20 favorites]


which do we prefer, that America stay home and not step into other countries' affairs, or that we honor the human rights agenda first made an explicit part of U.S. foreign affairs thinking by President Carter, and try to make other countries better places for their own citizens?

This assumes that simply trying is meaningful. Or that trying involves the military. Maybe we could try by supporting free and fair elections, even if the winner is likely to be a communist. Maybe trying will make things worse. And as for Afghanistan, were we trying? The words were there (sometimes), but they weren't backed up by planning or resources. If the choices are try (with full knowledge of the terrible history of American foreign intervention) or stay home, then stay home.
posted by Mavri at 4:40 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


$6 trillion well spent, Clint Eastwood will get at least nine films out of this, all of them bookended by bugles playing over an erect American flag.

But don't fret, every child wins a prize!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:46 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


which do we prefer, that America stay home and not step into other countries' affairs, or that we honor the human rights agenda first made an explicit part of U.S. foreign affairs thinking by President Carter, and try to make other countries better places for their own citizens?


i think it's time for other countries to come here and straighten US out
posted by pyramid termite at 4:58 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


It’s funny that all these pundits are now talking about all the things we did wrong. Where were they when we were doing it wrong?
posted by njohnson23 at 5:02 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


Yes, I agree - the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was misguided, dishonest, absurd, and doomed from the start.

I am wrestling with and asking about the larger question of what the U.S. can and should do in other countries where we see systemic human rights abuses.

The U.S. intervened only reluctantly or late or not at all when we saw the murder of Jews and others in Germany, the horrors in Angola and Uganda, the current bloodshed in Somalia and Yemen, etc. etc.

There is a tension between believing in anti-imperialism and believing in universal human rights which makes my heart ache and my brain hurt.
posted by PhineasGage at 5:06 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


I coulda wrote this on Usenet ~20 years ago, pretty sure I did, but the US Army is the wrong policy implement to "try" to make other nations less illiberal.

So you've got a massive "false dilemma" logical fallacy in your question above.

This was, in the end, the central dichotomy of the American involvement in the Vietnam War 1962 - 1972; the good-doing civil affairs units had to be protected from the VC terrorists by US troops whose jobs #1, #2, and #3 were looking after their own survival for their year in the barrel, the larger nation-building mission be damned.

The US Marine Corps' experimental "Combined Action Program" was one serious attempt to bridge the divide and provide both on-the-ground permanent security and material improvement in Saigon's authority in what were hotbeds of communist support . . . but when the Marines were finally rotated out, so went the security.

posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:15 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


So what do you propose?
posted by PhineasGage at 5:19 PM on August 15


Watching the effortless ‘victory’ of the Taliban as the Afghan government and army disappear (or flee in the case of Mr. Ghani) and the Taliban fighters enter Kabul essentially without a fight shows that withdrawal is the right move. After 20 years and untold billions, the American nation building effort and training of the Afghan security forces was just - what? A failure, an extended grift, theater, incompetence, or all of the above. Those billions are gone with nothing to show for it.

Withdrawal, on any terms was unquestionably the correct move. What it has exposed is not Taliban strength but the weakness of the erstwhile Afghan government and security forces. That would not be salvaged by a few more years, a few more soldiers, a few more bombs, or a few more deaths. The fact that it took 20 years to realize it and stop the bleeding is the real tragedy.
posted by sudogeek at 5:21 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


Some of US closest allies are also some of the worst human rights abusers. That tells one how much human rights matter when it comes to foreign policy making.
posted by asra at 5:21 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


>So what do you propose?

focus on making the USA a society worth emulating. We're pretty f---in' far from that right now.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 5:24 PM on August 15 [31 favorites]


Meanwhile -- China is already a major part of the Taliban's funding, through mining exports which have grown ten-fold over the past 5 years. They have Belt and Road plans underway.
posted by joeyh at 5:59 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


njohnson23: It’s funny that all these pundits are now talking about all the things we did wrong. Where were they when we were doing it wrong?

It's possible that they were saying this the whole time but nobody wanted to publish them until it was clear a) that they were right, and b) the US administration wouldn't push back and say they were wrong.
posted by clawsoon at 6:13 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


PhineasGage: normatively, yes the US should intervene to improve the lives of people in other countries. But, owing to the famous military-industrial complex etc etc, I don't think it can, because the people in charge always and forever prioritise their own interests and the interests of their institutions, which rarely if ever align with the interests of foreigners from the foreigners' point of view. Decades of propaganda has justified US military actions and presence with claims of spreading democracy, fostering development, yadda yadda, but it is important to see it for what it is. An empire that pursued moral causes over strategic ones would not be an empire long.

The best way forward that is achievable is resisting intervention wherever possible on grounds of cost and unexpected consequences, and looking for opportunities to moderate the impact or sneak in some upside where resistance fails. I'm sorry, it's a pessimistic view.

For the avoidance of doubt, as person raised in the Anglosphere who sincerely believes in human rights, I prefer a US empire to alternatives on offer. I think it can be a nicer, better empire with sustained campaigning from its own citizens. It can't be good because empires just don't roll that way.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:28 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


Watching the effortless ‘victory’ of the Taliban as the Afghan government and army disappear (or flee in the case of Mr. Ghani) and the Taliban fighters enter Kabul essentially without a fight shows that withdrawal is the right move.

It wasn't effortless -- it represented months and years of planning and negotiating (as well as arranging payments and other agreements to avoid violence) by the Taliban. That the Taliban were able to arrange all of this and set it in motion without the US even noticing says a lot about the US involvement and the low quality of the Afghan administrations we backed with so many billions of dollars.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


I’m not happy about this outcome; but I respect Biden for being willing to make a decision that enough is enough. America brought in lots of smart people to fix the mess in Afghanistan and nothing they did worked.

Iraq by comparison was a raging success. The government there is still around.
posted by interogative mood at 6:37 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


which do we prefer, that America stay home and not step into other countries' affairs, or that we honor the human rights agenda

This and the many (good-spirited) calls to naturalize those we made vulnerable are making a category error. We aren't capable of doing this, of doing good in this way.

If we were capable of it, we'd be doing it. But we aren't, so we won't. This is how it was always going to be from the moment we entered.

"Is it more ethical for me to get to Japan by flapping my arms like a bird or swimming like a fish?"
posted by CrystalDave at 7:19 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


After 20 years and untold billions, the American nation building effort and training of the Afghan security forces was just - what? A failure, an extended grift, theater, incompetence, or all of the above. Those billions are gone with nothing to show for it

Millions and millions of Afghani women were educated and had the opportunity to pursue careers. That’s over now, but the occupation bought them a couple of decades of freedom.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:42 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


Their domestic threat environment now includes co-religionists in the form of al-Qaeda and Daesh, to which can be added splinter groups from adjoining countries and local warlords and militias with foreign ties.

Because we should all be heartened by the Taliban needing to negotiate power with fucking Isis and al-Qaeda. Nothing could be better for the Afghan people.
posted by schroedinger at 7:47 PM on August 15


A 20 year war and ordinary citizens have no idea about why or what. That surely is what it is to be empire.

I am a US citizen and find that statement shocking too. Then I remember that 20 years is long enough for someone to be born and become an adult, and between that and the shit state of our news and education system . . . well, the power of empire indeed.
posted by schroedinger at 7:51 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]




This and the many (good-spirited) calls to naturalize those we made vulnerable

One of these things is not like the other. Even people who have fully bought in to American imperialist dogma and our racist and unconstitutional immigration system still recognize the duty the US government owes to the Afghan interpreters that it is now deliberately abandoning after having spent, in some cases, literal decades stonewalling them.

The US is absolutely capable of not walling people out of the US. All it requires is, you know, not doing the terrible thing that everybody knows is wrong. To say that we are "incapable of doing good in this way" is to say that the US (in additional to all its other problems) is irretrievably in the grip of people who are incapable of anything but the vilest treachery toward their allies.

Bottomless American perfidy is just the way things are, by golly. Obviously there's nothing Americans could be expected to do about it.
posted by Not A Thing at 8:22 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


it's our responsibility to stay until that stable Afghan civil society has been achieved

I've heard several people say things like this, and while it may seem well-intentioned "you break it you buy it," it ignores the simple fact that the USA cannot do this, and no one in any position to even conceive of such an idea has any intention of ever doing it, and how even would they, it would involve a fundamental restructuring of the USA, not just Afghanistan. It's really time for people to drop the idea that the US military is ever going to, like, improve the lives of people. Their job is to kill and to take.
posted by chaz at 8:32 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Do we / have we had any active MeFi users in Afghanistan? (without wanting to name them or otherwise put them in danger in anyway).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:33 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]




Before the American invasion, Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban

With a few notable exceptions a lot of people here are talking about "A 20 year war" and seem to be completely oblivious to that fact that it goes back another 20 years and the covert U.S. response to the Soviet-Afgan war, and especially the complete failure of the U.S. to do anything about the aftermath and the consequences of supplying arms to the mujahideen.

Once the Soviets pulled out, the U.S. lost interest, for them it was just another proxy war.

"By the end of 1993, in Afghanistan itself there were no roads, no schools, just a destroyed country—and the United States was washing its hands of any responsibility. It was in this vacuum that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden would emerge as the dominant players." - George Crile III

Yes, Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban - but the Taliban was created by the actions of the U.S.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:39 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


It's interesting that one of the triggers for all of this, as per an early memo from bin Laden, was the American occupation military bases in Saudi Arabia, which remains a strong American ally and one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

I suspect that if the Taliban had declared themselves to be pro-American, they probably would've been in power for the last 20 years with American support.
posted by clawsoon at 8:48 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


It’s funny that all these pundits are now talking about all the things we did wrong. Where were they when we were doing it wrong?

Here is an article from the Economist in 2017 describing how Afghanistan was rapidly becoming a failed state.

So yes, the pundits who were in the know were already well aware of the possibility of imminent failure. The mainstream press however ignored it because...well, twenty years of continuing bad news?

It speaks to our short attention spans that we only sit up and take note when things shatter in front of our faces. The piano was thrown out of the window a while ago, and it only just now hit the ground.

Incidentally, the article points out one way that well-intentioned aid agencies made things worse. They paid Afghans 20x the average salary to be translators and drivers. The ones who ended up taking those jobs? Key civil servants. Those aid agencies ended up hollowing the institutions that were supposed to be the foundation of the new society.
posted by storybored at 9:10 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Iraq by comparison was a raging success

lol, is the memory of ISIS (that, btw, the Talibans helped to fight, also backed by americans) already gone?

Iraq is another time bomb.
Link
posted by - at 9:16 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I am wrestling with and asking about the larger question of what the U.S. can and should do in other countries where we see systemic human rights abuses.

Well, I'm sure there's some way to address e.g. systematised child imprisonment and the death penalty without needing to involve other countries. Maybe start there.
posted by Dysk at 10:23 PM on August 15 [12 favorites]


What's happening in Afghanistan right now was always going to happen and has been inevitable since the George W. Bush administration fucked it up.

Bush accomplished our major goals of disrupting al-Qaida and punishing the Taliban by March 2002, but fucked up and let Osama bin Laden get away.

Then Bush changed the mission to nation building, but didn't send enough people and resources to secure and stabilize the entire country. Like we did in Vietnam, we installed a corrupt government led by English-speaking nationals that were culturally out of step with most of the country.

He could've chosen to lead a multinational coalition to rebuild Afghanistan, but well, he's a Republican. (Other countries sent troops, but we needed a State Department-led effort with a broader range of support.)
His administration started planning to invade Iraq immediately after the 9/11 attacks, and dropped the ball on Afghanistan and bin Laden.

Then the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations lied to us about the situation in Afghanistan.

This was always going to happen.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:52 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Why is Afghanistan falling to the Taliban so fast?
Behind the scenes America’s senior leaders have known, almost from the beginning, that the war was unwinnable, that the Afghan government was fatally corrupt, and that the Afghan security forces would never be up to the task. Instead of acknowledging reality, instead of coming clean to the American people, they hid the truth or outright lied about it. The result?

The mendacity deepened and expanded the US failure. The lying pointlessly increased the number of American casualties the US suffered, resulted in spending hundreds of billions that never had any chance of accomplishing a positive outcome, and, by covering up excessive corruption among Afghan leaders, gave tacit approval of them.

As awful as the security situation in Afghanistan is today, it was a disaster almost two decades in the making. The US should have admitted the truth long ago and ended the war even before the conclusion of the Bush administration. Above all, America must permanently cease waging 'nation-building' wars, restricting deployments abroad only to fights directly related to US national security.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:53 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


I was 100% against the war. Didn't want it. Saw this coming. But I think once the commitment to war has been made it's our responsibility to stay until that stable Afghan civil society has been achieved.

This is the supposed justification for basically not ending every imperialist and/or colonialist adventure ever. "Of course it was wrong to occupy (insert country here) originally, but we now have a white man's burden to civilize the place."

It was wrong when the British said it, it was wrong when the French said it, it was wrong when every imperialist power said it, and it's wrong today. Our responsibility was not to engage in an attempt at nation building among people who didn't ask for it and didn't want it and the only solution now is to GTFO out.

There's certainly some criticism to be laid about how unprepared and flatfooted the administration appears to have been caught by Taliban's inevitable and obvious rapid takeover but that's different from "we should stay forever."
posted by Justinian at 11:00 PM on August 15 [18 favorites]


There's certainly some criticism to be laid about how unprepared and flatfooted the administration appears to have been caught by Taliban's inevitable and obvious rapid takeover but that's different from "we should stay forever."

It would be a tiny bump in the balance of our accounts to stay forever, but if we were to stay forever, Afghani women would be free. Now they will be chattel. We should have stayed forever. Wouldn't have been a big deal.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:07 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


The US more or less "did" dismantle the AQ organization. How much of that required the Taliban's cooperation or destruction is debateable.

We did that by March 2002. Why were we still there 18 years later?

After the USS Cole came 9/11.

And before the attack on the Cole, the bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi on August 7, 1998 that killed over 200 people and wounded over 4,000.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:11 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


I can't figure out how to begin to address the idea that maintaining an overseas imperialist colony in Afghanistan forever wouldn't be a big deal... and that's before even getting to whether or not its a good idea(!)... so I guess I just won't? I'll simply say I think the vast majority of people would think it a big deal.
posted by Justinian at 11:12 PM on August 15 [12 favorites]


I am wrestling with and asking about the larger question of what the U.S. can and should do in other countries where we see systemic human rights abuses.

That's not the job of the United States, it's the job of the United Nations.

Ha ha ha ha sigh. Isn't it pretty to think so?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:13 PM on August 15 [11 favorites]


Of course it was wrong to occupy (insert country here) originally, but we now have a white man's burden to civilize the place.

My favorite example of this is President McKinley's rationale for annexing the Philippines after the Spanish-American War:
... there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them...
Spain colonized the Philippines in 1565 and they had been Catholic for over 330 years.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:25 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]




I’m sure a blissful ignorance will kick back in within a month or two.

If Vietnam's anything to go by, somewhere around 2031 we'll see be a Rambo-style Hollywood movie which somehow recasts the whole episode as an American victory. Most Americans' perception will then shift seamlessly from simply not knowing much about what happened in Afghanistan to a wholesale acceptance of the movie's comforting fiction. With that process complete, whichever party's in power can blithely start making the same mistakes all over again.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:09 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Wasn't there already a Rambo-style Hollywood movie casting Afghanistan as an American victory? Namely, uh, Rambo part something?
posted by Justinian at 2:14 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


clawsoon: It's interesting that one of the triggers for all of this, as per an early memo from bin Laden, was the American occupation military bases in Saudi Arabia, which remains a strong American ally and one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.

Exactly! Right from the outset all the talk of liberating women was BS. If the US want to do something for women, why not start with allies KSA and Pakistan? It's true that some Afghan women and girls have had the opportunity to get educations, but I've heard several veterans tell that when you get outside the biggest cities, everything is like is was before. The suppression of women in Afghanistan is not just about the Taliban, it is a part of the wider culture in the region.

The article describes very well why the US troops were no good at "nation-building", but maybe not so clear about how this was evident from day one. What was really striking about the Bush administration was how incredibly bad they were at processing intelligence. I'm sure there are smart people in the US agencies, but Bush, Cheney and the other idiots were not interested in any knowledge that went against their fantasy world, starting with the dismissal of intelligence about the 9/11 attack. The Trump administration was not uniquely stupid, just uniquely corrupt. That said, I think that specially Cheney pulled a lot of money out of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, by privatizing a lot of the functions of the military and then profiting from that. I should be working, so no links just now.
posted by mumimor at 2:40 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Isn't the problem with Afghanistan that after about 10km outside major cities the government ceases to exist and that the reason the Taliban were at the gates of Kabul in a week is that they were always there.
posted by PenDevil at 3:24 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


We should have stayed forever. Wouldn't have been a big deal.

Sure. Wouldn't have been a big deal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:55 AM on August 16


For an interesting (and depressing) read, go back and look at posts tagged with “Afghanistan” going back to 2001. A lot of familiar themes being discussed, even before the events of September 11.
posted by TedW at 4:15 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


I have a very close family member who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan ten years ago, primarily near Kandahar. While fortunately he returned physically unharmed, he suffers from PTSD to this day and the impact significantly affected his personality and relationships.

Not long after he returned, he told me he was deeply embittered and cynical of the usefulness of the military occupation there. The common attitude outside of the cities was that the Americans were only there for a short time, and then they'd go back to the "normal" pattern of Taliban or Taliban-like rule. Many people viewed the Taliban as harsh and disliked them, but at least they were Muslim and understood the people rather than the alien foreigners with suits and cellphones.

He also said the every military officer over the rank of colonel was full of horse excrement and deliberately lying to their superiors, Congress, and the media about what was really happening there. They are political creatures first and soldiers second. Thanks to that, I will never trust a single thing said by a military officer in uniform again.

He texted me yesterday to basically say, I told you so.
posted by fortitude25 at 4:46 AM on August 16 [12 favorites]


We neglected Afghanistan, then we went all in, then we went back to neglecting it. Trump left Biden with a skeleton crew, a non-negotiable timeline, and few reasonable options to improve our exit or bolster the existing government. Biden perhaps could have done better, but Trump was the one who really set up the exit to be a disaster.
posted by xammerboy at 6:08 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


America brought in lots of smart people to fix the mess in Afghanistan and nothing they did worked.

You might even call them the best and the brightest.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:08 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


...Bush, Cheney and the other idiots were not interested in any knowledge that went against their fantasy world, starting with the dismissal of intelligence about the 9/11 attack. The Trump administration was not uniquely stupid, just uniquely corrupt.

You can't just skip eight years of Obama. US troop levels skyrocketed in 2009, peaked in 2011. Ditto money spent. Ditto dead and wounded. (Nevermind the effects on the Afghans themselves.) This after he promised to finesse the matter; even his point man said he failed. Stupid, corrupt, or possibly both.
posted by BWA at 6:09 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]




You can't just skip eight years of Obama.
Of course not, Obama was absolutely clueless when it came to the forever wars and he let himself be dragged around by the big brass. Very disappointing. But he didn't start the war with no preparation and no plan.

As we see now, getting out of wars gracefully is not easy. The images we see now from Afghanistan will stain Biden's legacy for ever, even though he had no other choice.
posted by mumimor at 6:32 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


It's no surprise that the US has made little provision for Afghan translators, NGO workers, etc, because we did the same in Iraq. Lots of people were left behind there to be killed, I remember it clearly. And the US treats many of its ex-soldiers badly too, promising college tuition and benefits and then providing as little as they possibly can.

I'm sure that lots of US staff in Afghanistan/recently in Afghanistan will work as hard as they can to get their individual contacts and colleagues out, since I've already seen that happening on twitter. Many perfectly good, sincere people were obviously over there working in support of the imperial project, and presumably because they seemed good and sincere they were able to recruit Afghan people to work with them, even with the evidence of Iraq in the background.

Probably a lot of perfectly good people were recruited from the US and to work for the US by the whole "let's empower women" thing, which is of course functionally bullshit if your plan is to spend twenty years painting targets on a bunch of women and then leave them to be shot.

This is all just textbook. "Don't work directly for imperial projects even if you are a good person with valuable skills" is like "don't talk to the cops even if you are innocent". Half my twitter is full of diplomatic/NGO/state department/adjacent people watching in horror as their colleagues, friends and employees desperately try to escape Kabul. These are all individually good, intelligent people who none the less spent years propping up an imperial project that could only end in disaster. I mean, they are pretty much all smarter, better educated and more capable people than me, and all that intelligence and capacity was used to snow a bunch of Afghans into thinking that this could end in some way besides disaster.
posted by Frowner at 6:37 AM on August 16 [23 favorites]


We were naive and thought if we set up something resembling democracy and showered the place with money for rebuilding it would all work out. With Iraq, you can look back and see if mistakes were rectified the outcome may have been different. I'm not sure what scenario would have let to a successful venture in Afghanistan.
posted by xammerboy at 6:41 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there already a Rambo-style Hollywood movie casting Afghanistan as an American victory? Namely, uh, Rambo part something?

Thoroughgoing tangent that I will understand completely if it goes, uh, missing in action. But the Rambo films have always been a remarkable window right into the American mind.

Everyone knows the whiplash pivot from First Blood to Rambo 2. First movie's a broken, haunted young man, totally adrift and alienated from society, and the action's not an action movie but more of a supernatural slasher (with movie contortions to not involve a body count). Selective cultural memory vaguely recalls his sobbing monologue as his commanding officer finally talks him down mentioning returning (the cultural myth of) veterans being spit at...but it's notable that the violence all came about from clashing with toxic conservatism itself--if the sheriff had been able to not swing his dick around all muh authoritah and muh territory, and just let the poor man get some lunch, maybe work some odd jobs, and drift on, all the violence would have been avoided. But nope, he was an outsider with long hair.

That whiplash turn into Rambo 2 where actually the violence is good, and really, we could have won in Vietnam, and in fact, look just one green beret could do when we let him off the chain! Not only is that violence is good, you don't and shouldn't think about it! That'd be unamerican, like those card-carrying liberals and politicians who kept us from winning Vietnam in the first place!

Rambo 3 is the casting Afghanistan as American victory, involving as it does our hero there to inspire and show the brave, freedom-loving taliban (they're fighting against communists! that means they love freedom! that's just science!) how to git er done. This is the point of the cocaine binge where the high is getting very shaky and you're aware there's a lot of sickness and regret right beneath it; "this is your Vietnam!" gets crowed nanny-nanny-boo-boo at an evil russian officer of exactly the sort preventing the brave freedom-loving Afghanis from having brave freedom; despite Rambo finally winning Vietnam for us in the second movie, the culture's still aware, underneath all the manly bluster, that things aren't right, and aren't going to be right.

So it's no surprise that Rambo then basically vanished for a big stretch of time.

Then there's Rambo 4, which is a pivot that really should get as much cultural attention as 1's to 2's. He's a hermit, and he's nothing to do with nations anymore. He's nothing to do with any vision of making the world better anymore; he sneers at missionaries trying to do some misguided but golden-intentioned good (they of course get captured and brutalized, because this is still Rambo, and pacifists, amirite? Pfft). The montage of him forging a good killin' machete has a mumbleover monologue about how he never killed for country or freedom; he killed for killing, it's in his blood. It's nihilistic despair, and to the extent that cultural memory will ever retain any bit of it (not very much because Rambo is simply not a cultural stream in the way it used to be) there'll be some similar selective retention of only the bit where he inspires flagging mercenary morale by telling them to live for nothing or die for something. (It's sort of telling that Rambo lives in the end, but the movie's not self-aware about that, as that'd be a bit offbrand.)

Rambo 5 is further contraction into small and mean. He tries a rescue mission into scary foreign territory but it really does not go well; things are already too far gone by the time he even starts, and the latter portion of the movie is him bunkering into nested deathtraps that's more Saw than action movie. It left even less impact than 4, but really it's very fitting for modern American times. Its message is anything beyond the local is fucked; venturing beyond is tragedy and loss and suffering, and the cathartic response is making the local lethal.

Character-Rambo is probably done absent recasting, but I absolutely do expect a spiritual successor that's a pivot back into another Actually We Won In A Spiritual Sense.
posted by Drastic at 6:44 AM on August 16 [45 favorites]


Directly topical: I'm of course in the choir that all this was inevitable and obvious pretty much immediately, the only exceptions to which were people whose paydays depended on pretending it wasn't, and various gulls taken in by that con. There's an old saw for business wisdom that goes "fast, cheap, good: choose two" that's about a hyperbolic simplification of all work being tradeoffs between time, quality, and expense, with the further lesson that anyone promising all three simultaneously is either being consciously deceitful or unconsciously foolish. Trying to do all three at once leads right to having none of them...and of course: here the world is.
posted by Drastic at 6:59 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


And on top of everything else, I’m terrified that this is going to be the “stab in the back” narrative that brings fascism roaring back for a complete takeover in the US. WaPo and NYT were already rolling yesterday with headlines that imply this happened because Biden lacks resolve or had a failure of will, and I don’t even want to think about what’s being said on Fox News.

Because I’m sure someone will misinterpret: I certainly do not think we should have continued the war for domestic political gain. That is not the point I’m trying to make. It’s just another shit aspect of the whole no-win situation.
posted by snowmentality at 7:01 AM on August 16 [16 favorites]


Flashback from almost 20 years ago: Get Your War On
posted by allegedly at 7:24 AM on August 16 [14 favorites]


@hugolowell: New: Republican Party has removed a page from their website bragging about Trump’s deal with the Taliban that committed Biden to withdraw 5,000 US troops from Afghanistan — and led to the fall of Kabul today.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:28 AM on August 16 [18 favorites]


Wow that's even more shameless than all the right wingers blaming Biden for the withdrawal, do they think people have the memory span of a goldfish?

Here's a video clip of Trump a month ago (full video here on YT), boasting about starting the process of withdrawal and saying that Biden wanted to stop it but couldn't
posted by bitteschoen at 7:38 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


“I started the process, all the troops are coming home, they (Biden) couldn’t stop the process. 21 years is enough. They (Biden) couldn’t stop the process, they (Biden) wanted to but couldn’t stop the process.”

- Trump, 1 month ago
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:40 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Wasn't there already a Rambo-style Hollywood movie casting Afghanistan as an American victory? Namely, uh, Rambo part something?

James Bond buddied up with the Mujahideen, too.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:41 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


A depressing vacuum in Afghanistan coverage, as Kabul falls (Columbia Journalism Review)
posted by bitteschoen at 7:53 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


and a short summary of the above-linked article here from the author, CJR’s Jon Allsop:
As Kabul fell, the images of a US helicopter at the embassy got a lot of media attention, and drew comparisons to Saigon. The best of these teased out echoes of imperial arrogance, and what's different now. Others were optics-driven gotcha journalism. /1

Some of yday's coverage also felt untethered from the more recent history of the war in Afghanistan. Biden got a lot of blame; Trump got some. The word "Bush" wasn't mentioned once on the Sunday shows yday—not even during an interview with Liz Cheney. /2

Not that blame—or US domestic politics—should be the priority in coverage right now. That should be the Afghan people in great danger. They need our empathy, and our questions.
posted by bitteschoen at 7:58 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]




"Opposing Afghan factions have long negotiated arrangements to stop fighting — something the U.S. either failed to understand or chose to ignore." Anatol Lieven, Why Afghan Forces So Quickly Laid Down Their Arms.
In the winter of 1989, as a journalist for the Times of London, I accompanied a group of mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. At one point, a fortified military post became visible on the other side of a valley. As we got closer, the flag flying above it also became visible — the flag of the Afghan Communist state, which the mujahedeen were fighting to overthrow.

“Isn’t that a government post?” I asked my interpreter. “Yes,” he replied. “Can’t they see us?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “Shouldn’t we hide?” I squeaked. “No, no, don’t worry,” he replied reassuringly. “We have an arrangement.”

I remembered this episode three years later, when the Communist state eventually fell to the mujahedeen; six years later, as the Taliban swept across much of Afghanistan; and again this week, as the country collapses in the face of another Taliban assault. Such “arrangements” — in which opposing factions agree not to fight, or even to trade soldiers in exchange for safe passage — are critical to understanding why the Afghan army today has collapsed so quickly (and, for the most part, without violence). The same was true when the Communist state collapsed in 1992, and the practice persisted in many places as the Taliban advanced later in the 1990s.
A lot of the discussion about Afghanistan (not just in this thread, but in the US media) seems to be focusing on what it means for US domestic politics (is it the fault of Biden? Bush?), without much knowledge of Afghanistan.

A Twitter thread:
@mattyglesias Q. So do Afghanistan-knowers think the Taliban will be able to impose a stable centralized regime or will the underlying linguistic diversity, rough terrain, etc also bedevil them?

Do they have some kind of solution to the usually cited difficulties of governing Afghanistan?

@dnaseemullah A. Huge differences between then and now — then they were an umbrella coalition; Karzai wanted to work with them! Greatest strength is very light-touch, non-corrupt vision of government, appealing to rural areas. Also expanded movement beyond pushtun areas, but v unpopular in cities

In other words, this is as much an urban-rural problem as it is an ethnic one. The tragedies of 1990s were Talibs applying conservative Islam of the villages to cosmopolitan, secularized Kabul.

@Shirokazesan Q. Understanding the Taliban as an outgrowth of the countryside and its issues as stemming from conflicts with the cities is a very interesting perspective. Was that the issue with the Tajiks and the Northern Alliance then?

@dnaseemullah A. Good q: northern alliance came out of older generation of mujahiddin, whose leaders were mostly urban — mehsud was a university student, rabbani a professor. And Tajiks are mostly Dari-speaking urbanites.
posted by russilwvong at 12:10 PM on August 16 [8 favorites]




I was vaguely supportive of the war in Afghanistan up until I read Malala Yousefzai's book, I am Malala. She was not and is not supportive of the American efforts against the Taliban despite the fact that the Taliban shot her in the face when she was 15 for the crime of trying to go to school. I was going to paste some excerpts from my Kindle copy of her book here, but it got long enough that I made a page for it on my website instead, to avoid making this comment a wall of text. The history lesson she provides was eye opening for me.

I think her conclusion is a bit "a pox on both your houses" towards the US and the Taliban. She doesn't seem to see ANY good guys in the complicated story she tells.

Of course, that book was written in 2013, and a lot more terrible things have happened since then. I found this recent article in Just Security strongly supported her point, with some more gory and more recent examples of ways in which the US supported corrupt players in the region, killed civilians, and turned a blind eye toward human rights abuses by our allies, even while the Taliban was also doing terrible things.

Could the war have served some noble purpose? In theory, maybe. "Helping women" "supporting a free society" and "denying terrorists a safe haven" are all nice ideas, and maybe some of that was even achieved within the limited temporal and geographical boundaries of our occupation -- though I don't see how any of those achievements could ever have outlasted our presence. Some people will certainly suffer terribly from the way the occupation is ending. I don't have much patience for the hot takes which refuse to account for that suffering. But people certainly suffered from its continuation as well. And having collapse of the government we were propping up come so quickly may just get us to the inevitable outcome of our departure with LESS blood spilled, overall.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:28 PM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Biden's speech is 100% worth watching or reading. A sample:
Biden: How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan's civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth, how many endless rows of headstones at Arlington national cemetery? [...] I'm now the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan. Two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president.
posted by Justinian at 1:34 PM on August 16 [17 favorites]


I'm sure that lots of US staff in Afghanistan/recently in Afghanistan will work as hard as they can to get their individual contacts and colleagues out, since I've already seen that happening on twitter. Many perfectly good, sincere people were obviously over there working in support of the imperial project, and presumably because they seemed good and sincere they were able to recruit Afghan people to work with them, even with the evidence of Iraq in the background.

Probably a lot of perfectly good people were recruited from the US and to work for the US by the whole "let's empower women" thing, which is of course functionally bullshit if your plan is to spend twenty years painting targets on a bunch of women and then leave them to be shot.

This is all just textbook. "Don't work directly for imperial projects even if you are a good person with valuable skills" is like "don't talk to the cops even if you are innocent". Half my twitter is full of diplomatic/NGO/state department/adjacent people watching in horror as their colleagues, friends and employees desperately try to escape Kabul. These are all individually good, intelligent people who none the less spent years propping up an imperial project that could only end in disaster.


I've written about it on here before but I have a lot of experience in those diplomatic/state/foreign affairs-adjacent circles (technically in a support role - I'm an engineer/tech type not a diplomat, and I've never set foot in Afghanistan) and that is absolutely the response I'm seeing from former colleagues. Many have done multiple tours in Kabul both as military and as civilians and they are positively appalled at what is happening (as am I, of course). I can also say on good authority that the embassy has been working their butts off for a while now to get as many of the local staff out as possible, and the very few diplomats still in country are continuing to process those visas as fast as possible.

"Don't work directly for imperial projects" - easier said than done. Many of us cannot afford to be choosy about who they work for, and if your experience is mostly government-centric then you're going to have a hell of a time finding work elsewhere - the federal government is a BIG customer, and a large portion of the economy orbits around them, for better or worse. Even FSOs who are otherwise very bright and dedicated are ultimately career bureaucrats who can't just walk away over an ideological disagreement and rock up to a cushy private-sector job (with very, very few exceptions). Ditto for the military. Blame the architects who thought this whole invasion was such a good idea in the first place and the beltway bandits getting rich off the arms sales, not the rank-and-file who are just trying to make a living.
posted by photo guy at 1:53 PM on August 16 [14 favorites]


Here's the 2020 peace agreement (PDF) we signed with the Taliban, posted on state.gov. The top bullet point is the desire to keep terrorists out of Afghanistan -- there's nothing about democracy or protected groups or anything, except to say that the U.S. will stay out of their internal affairs, and anyone that threatens the U.S. will be denied asylum.

The document repeats that "the Taliban is not a real country, actually" but that's as far as it goes to de-legitimize them -- I mean, it says "don't give passports to terrorists" which is kinda the function of a state.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:12 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]




We should have stayed forever. Wouldn't have been a big deal.

Oh, bless your heart. But you are not wanted there.

As Munazza Ebtikar wrote on Twitter six hours ago, "We want our own country, we want to elect our own representatives, we DO NOT want the Taliban, they have not taken power through legitimate means, how dare the world impose them on us!!!! This is not just about women and children this is about ALL afghans we don’t want oppression."
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:42 PM on August 16 [6 favorites]


Some recent, related, insightful commentary on Afghanistan, from Newlines magazine:

After America: Inside the Taliban’s New Emirate
By Fazelminallah Qazizai

Afghanistan’s Post-NATO Battle Lines
By Filippo Rossi and Emanuele Satolli

What the CIA Did (and Didn’t Do) in Soviet-Occupied Afghanistan
By Emran Feroz

The Treacherous Frontier
By Laura Cesaretti and Fazelminallah Qazizai

Hope and Fear Alternate as Kandahar Braces for the Taliban’s Return
By Aaquib Khan

In a Former al Qaeda Redoubt, Afghans Take On the Taliban and ISIS
By Shelly Kittleson
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:46 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


Have we tried not being an Empire?

Can we not be one? Empires have Emperors don't they? Can a Republic be an Empire?

I know we've been an Empire for a while. I just re-read the Wallace Shawn "Developments Since My Birth" essay discussed on MeFi previously. Didn't George Washington warn again "foreign entanglements"?

People are saying our troops couldn't get much traction out in the Afghani countryside. Is what's happening in Afghanistan a little like if in the US the Red States took over the Blue States? You know what I mean though, the QAnon dominionists turning us into Gilead.

Such a huge tragedy. Resisting the "I told you so" impulse, but more that 20 years ago I saw multiple disasters on the horizon from our overconfident mindset, all coming to fruition now, disastrous war, global warming, culture of ignorance and sealed-off alternative news ecosystems. Will anything cause the US to look in a mirror and adjust our ways of thinking?

Sometimes I repeat to myself my slogan that "evolution is more powerful than revolution because it is more stable." Sometimes a terrible regime will just cause a new normal and narrow everyone's horizon, but cracks open up... (I know I'm alternating between concern for the US and Afghanistan here, both have come out worse for this war.)
posted by Schmucko at 4:09 PM on August 16


Schmucko: Can a Republic be an Empire?

The Roman empire did almost all of its imperial expansion while it was a republic.
posted by clawsoon at 4:20 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


We were naive

No. I'm sorry, but no.

What we were was fucking arrogant.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:33 PM on August 16 [20 favorites]


How many more generations of America's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan's civil war when Afghan troops will not?

I could be getting my sources wrong, but I had thought Afghanistan's civil war was a direct consequence of America's Cold War ambitions, so it seems like mental gymnastics to now frame it as Afghanistan's war having nothing whatsoever to do with original American interference and hegemony. America originally went to Afghanistan under the guise of anticommunism, so to say that the aftermath is Afghanistan's is pretty rich rhetoric.
posted by polymodus at 4:53 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


@aahmady: "The collapse of the Government in Afghanistan this past week was so swift and complete - it was disorienting and difficult to comprehend. This is how the events seemed to proceed from my perspective as Central Bank Governor."

@pseudoerasmus: "Afghanistan enters the news cycle, and there are always people rehashing the 1980s. Periodic reminder: Taliban ≠ the mujahiddin of the 1980s. If anything, the Taliban have just driven from power the remnants/descendants of the mujahiddin/ex-communist coalition of the 1990s."

How the 20-year war changed Afghanistan - "An Afghan photojournalist, former politician, young musician, Nato interpreter, female filmmaker, and a student whose mother was assassinated, reveal the impact of war... as US troops pull out and the Taliban gains ground."
posted by kliuless at 5:38 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah Biden's speech is mendacious as anything. High-minded we-were-only-there-to-help stuff. I presume this is because of the usual kabuki about supporting the troops, not being unamerican, weak, blah blah. It's offensive to truth and history though.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:39 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah Biden's speech is mendacious as anything. High-minded we-were-only-there-to-help stuff.

How did you get this from his speech? He was explicit about American objectives in Afghanistan, and they had nothing to do about “helping”:
As I said in April, the United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States. We achieved those objectives. That’s why we went.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:48 PM on August 16 [9 favorites]


I was reacting specifically to excerpts I have seen quoted about "We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future" and "another country's civil war" and kneejerked. Having just had the chance to read the whole thing, yes the opening paras are spot on about the narrow mission vs the actual conduct.

I'd actually be happy to have my previous comment deleted to avoid a derail.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:40 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


I could be getting my sources wrong, but I had thought Afghanistan's civil war was a direct consequence of America's Cold War ambitions
The tribal conflicts of Afghanistan have certainly been amplified and excacerbated by America's presence, and by American/Soviet machinations (along with Russian/British machinations in their chapter of "The Great Game") but these conflicts are older than America itself.

The 5 Wars in Afghanistan (written by a Pakistani political analyst) does a decent job of summarizing:
  1. there's a long running series of conflicts and maneuvers between the Pashtuns and the various other ethnic groups that make up Afghanistan. The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, but don't hold a plurality of its population, so have long had to maintain rule by playing factions off each other or straight up committing genocide against groups like the Hazaras
  2. However, it's also inaccurate to say that the Taliban/Afghan government conflict is a reskin of anti-Pashtun resistance, since Pashtuns also make up a significant number of Taliban forces, and the Taliban received a great deal of support from Pashtun communities in Pakistan, as described in Malala's book earlier. There are also conflicts amongst powerful dynasties within the Pashtun community. These rivalries date back to the founding of Afghanistan
  3. then, you also have the age-old rivalry of cosmopolitan cities against conservative rural communities, and efforts in the late 19th and mid 20th century to modernize that were often met with hostile opposition from religious figures who stood to lose power in a more secular state. russilvwong posted some tweets to this effect upthread
  4. and then there's the local continuation of The Great Game, where India and Pakistan continue to use Afghanistan as a chess piece in their maneuvers against each other.
  5. and then you have the Soviet backed coup that ousted the Republic of Afghanistan and set in motion the American/Soviet proxy war, the creation of the mujahideen, and all of our current unpleasantness.
which is all to say, yes, America has some fingerprints on the current conflict. There's a bunch of atrocities that American backed warlords committed against rival ethnic groups that have fueled this war, but the civil war is not America's creation. If America refrained from creating the mujahideen and just left Afghanistan as a client state, it would've continued to drain Soviet resources and there would still be Pashtuns fighting Uzbeks and each other over the heroin territory. There would still be religious clerics making life terrible for women in a bid to continue to exercise power. Life would still be miserable, but I guess at least in that scenario, America could feel less guilt about contributing to the situation and can feel ok with ignoring it like it does, say, Sudan.
posted by bl1nk at 6:48 PM on August 16 [11 favorites]


If you wanr what is probably the definitive book on the Russian occupation of Afghanistan try Afgansty
posted by adamvasco at 7:12 PM on August 16


I just need to say out loud somewhere…I’ve had it with our warrior worship in America. Front row parking spots at grocery stores reserved for veterans. Airline pilots asking everyone to “remain seated so we can let our soldiers deplane first”.

Fuck. That.

I’m sorry they got hoodwinked into serving the oligarchs but they don’t deserve my respect. They didn’t sacrifice for me. They didn’t keep me safe.

Our “heroes” haven’t won a war in 80 years. They’ve burned through trillions of dollars…at a critical time in our planets climate…money that could’ve been spent for green new deal projects. American adventurism foreign policy run amok…and I’m expected to honor them?

No.
posted by karst at 8:13 PM on August 16 [20 favorites]


I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth president.
And yet of course he will, whatever happens next.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:20 PM on August 16


My current ratio of U.S. administration blame for this specific situation is 60% Bush/Cheney, 20% Obama/Biden, 15% Trump/Pence and 5% Biden/Harris. This is unscientific, and certainly subject to change as I learn more about the individual actions.

I feel that this was started in an incompetent manner by a Republican administration, continued due to the inertia of a Democratic administration and finally ruinously ended by a hideously arrogant and corrupt Republican administration. This set the stage for an ignominious failure that was left for the incoming Biden/Harris administration, originally scheduled for four months after the 2021 inauguration.

I hope that the Biden administration can evacuate as many people as possible to avoid execution by the Taliban.
posted by JDC8 at 9:43 PM on August 16 [5 favorites]


The tribal conflicts of Afghanistan have certainly been amplified and excacerbated by America's presence

But the pre-existing conflicts are a given; what Biden's speech is insinuating that after American involvement, that this can still be conceptualized as "Afghanistan's civil war" without deconstructing the whole rhetoric of "how can we continue when Afghan troops will not?" (and what is exactly is "Afghan troops", right?), which only highlights America's pathology. No amount of technically pointing out that war preexisted excuses Biden's rhetoric here.
posted by polymodus at 12:04 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


kliuless: @pseudoerasmus: "Afghanistan enters the news cycle, and there are always people rehashing the 1980s. Periodic reminder: Taliban ≠ the mujahiddin of the 1980s. If anything, the Taliban have just driven from power the remnants/descendants of the mujahiddin/ex-communist coalition of the 1990s."

Thanks, that was a very informative thread. Twitter wouldn't let me see it all for some reason, but I was able to find the threadreader version:
I can't remember who said this, but it's appropriate to repeat: equating the 1980s mujahiddin with the Taliban, or reducing the former to them, or to overemphasising the connection between two, surely qualifies as ORIENTALISM !
posted by clawsoon at 4:58 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


ThankS, that was a very informative thread. Twitter wouldn't let me see it all for some reason, but I was able to find the threadreader version...

That was very interesting, though the writer is focusing on the ethnography, which is fair. However, it's also true that the millions of dollars pumped into arms in Afghanistan didn't have ethnic binding. They may have started with one group and moved elsewhere as who had money and power changed.

Even now, arms we left for the "legitimate government" are moving into the hands of the Taliban.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:20 AM on August 17


karst, it should make you happy to know, nice parking spots and airplane disembarkment privileges aside, our "heroes" get very little of substance for their troubles and often end up with grievous psychological problems, broken families, an inability to work a civilian job, homelessness, addictions and more. Any shits appeared to be given about our "warriors" are mostly performative. And I can guarantee that hardly any of them expect any "honoring" from you or anybody else.
posted by Jess the Mess at 8:20 AM on August 17 [16 favorites]


Civil war will soon resume. An anti-Taliban front forming in Panjshir as India and Pakistan continue their proxy war.
posted by adamvasco at 9:48 AM on August 17


Mod note: One deleted. Let's stick to the posted topic rather than general / other complaints about Biden.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:58 AM on August 17


The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created in 2008 to oversee the use of American funds for that purpose, has released its report regarding the last twenty years in the country [PDF], and it is not complementary toward the US military presence:
It’s a big picture report with specific anecdotes that explain how terrible America’s efforts were. Facing a shortage of cops to train local civilian forces, America hired helicopter pilots to do the job. Helicopter pilots knew little about policing and had to be trained themselves. “The training many military advisors did receive was not even Afghanistan-specific,” the report said. “With such a training deficiency, some policy advisors turned in desperation to television shows like Cops and NCIS to become more familiar with policing.”
The above is from a Vice article on the agency.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 AM on August 17 [5 favorites]


“With such a training deficiency, some policy advisors turned in desperation to television shows like Cops and NCIS to become more familiar with policing.”

That reminds me of a story I read about an American soldier teaching some Vietnamese villagers about hygiene while they looked on in horror because he was washing a dirty baby in the vegetable-cleaning bowl. (Or maybe it was the other way around and it was vegetables in the baby-washing bowl. Either way, the attitude that any random American soldier will be more of an expert in any given topic than everyone in a developing country doesn't seem to have changed much.)
posted by clawsoon at 11:11 AM on August 17 [3 favorites]


I hate to say it, but the most practical thing the US can do now is engage directly with the Taliban diplomatically. Like it or not (not!), they are now in charge and even minor influence on their policies could have a huge impact on how the regime impacts Afghans. Unfortunately, US diplomacy is generally:

1) Talk to the governments we are already in agreement with
2) Stonewall the governments we don't like or call illegitimate

IMO #2 is the really hard kind of diplomacy and the most important. What are some things we can agree on?
posted by freecellwizard at 11:13 AM on August 17


This sentence in Biden's speech is what pissed me off the most. Really? You want to blame them? That there weren't clear plans and logistics lined up to do this sooner and quicker is a goddamned disgrace. Makes me sick to my stomach.

"I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country. And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”"
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:23 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


Someone I know on Facebook just posted a rant that began this way, and I asked him to make it shareable because it echoes my sentiments exactly.
Seriously though, the entire Bush Administration can go to hell for every godawful crime it committed in the name of New Yorkers who were actively protesting against the ill-fated, blood-thirsty, completely fucking stupid wars and torture sites and the whole War on Terror.

Don’t buy the self-justifying mission creep lie that we were trying to spread Democracy and help women and children in Afghanistan. That’s some heartbreaking bullshit cooked up after Americans had fun bombing shit and drone striking and spending trillions on a war we knew in 2002 was a bad idea. The fact that we used people’s faith in us to prop up our own mistake, and then abandoned them, only makes the whole thing uglier.

What irony that the same generation that spent half my childhood making me watch self-aggrandizing movies about Vietnam decided “You know what? More of that please!” and sent volunteers to die and kill people just to have their action movie. I guess if there’s no draft and the rich kids don’t have to go, then all bets are off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:43 AM on August 17 [12 favorites]


Yes -- struggling to envision a situation where that is true. There may have been a small fraction saying something like that, but clearly wouldn't be a majority view -- using that, then, as the excuse for not having done more is just super unbecoming.
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:44 AM on August 17


Has anything caused (and does anything continue to cause) more misery over the past 70 years than the American Cold War policy of "we don't care if you're democratic at all as long as you say you're anti-Communist"?

At the risk of giving a facile answer to a rhetorical question: the Soviet Cold War policy of "we don't care if you're progressive at all as long as you say you're pro-Communist" has to be up there. Both sides took part in propping up horrifying authoritarian proxies to the detriment of the developing world, and for every Francois Duvalier, Augusto Pinochet, or Anastasio Somoza there was a Francisco Macías Nguema, Ahmed Sékou Touré, or Nicolae Ceaușescu.

When the history of the 21st century is written, the polities which the superpowers of the twentieth century used and then threw away are definitely going to play a major role.
posted by jackbishop at 12:17 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]


India, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran also played a role in this fiasco. Pakistan / India have a kind of proxy war going on and the Pakistani ISI has deep connections to the Taliban. China, Russia and Iran were hoping to keep America bogged down and bleeding in Afghanistan -- they played the same role we played in the 1980s, funding militants they didn't like because they were attacking their strategic competitors /enemies.
posted by interogative mood at 12:44 PM on August 17 [4 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. Same as above, let's not turn this thread into complaints about Biden, and also, cursing at people/name calling is against the Content Policy.
posted by loup (staff) at 12:53 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]


I found this blog post by Sarah Chayes to be a well-written summary of some of the factors that led to this weekend's chaos. She's spent many years in Afghanistan in several different roles that inform her perspective. I think it's a worthwhile addition to the discussion.
posted by JDC8 at 1:04 PM on August 17 [11 favorites]


That Chayes post is fascinating, and her summation rings true: "The two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high."

This doesn't answer the question of 'what do we do about places that are being used as major terrorist training facilities,' but of course that is a label that could be applied to Pakistan as well as Afghanistan, and doesn't make a compelling case for wholesale invasion of either one.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:12 PM on August 17


What can we do to support good governance in countries that struggle with corruption? Honest question.
posted by mumimor at 1:28 PM on August 17 [3 favorites]


Corruption is driven by foreign engagement. That is, aid, military incursion, external administration, and tourism. What we call corruption is mostly people advancing their own interests rather than doing their duty; but duty is something that arises from society and mutual obligation, not something that attaches to foreign intervention. We don't expect shopkeepers to give their wares out for free: why should we expect that from someone charged with distributing aid packages?

You can have corruption without foreigners coming in and splashing money around, but foreign engagement replaces indigenous social structures with a new set of priorities: keeping foreigners happy. As long as the foreigners are happy the marvellous money machine keeps running, so that becomes the most important thing there is. That's their duty, right there, and the punishment for breaking it is direct. Once the foreigners are happy — or at least inattentive — the indigenous social obligations reassert themselves and people behave the way they would under other circumstances. We call it corrupt, but it's really people declining to adopt our own priorities.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:32 PM on August 17 [3 favorites]


Corruption doesn't necessarily stop industrial development -- see Japan, Korea, China, and the US during the steam age through at least the 1930s.

Regarding the women's struggle in Afghanistan, an interview with a member of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), is the oldest women’s organization in Afghanistan that fights for freedom, democracy, social justice, and secularism. RAWA’s founder was Meena who formed this group at a young age in 1977, with the help of some other female university students in Kabul. Meena was assassinated in Quetta, Pakistan in 1987 by agents of KHAD (Afghanistan branch of KGB) with the help of the bloodthirsty fundamentalist gang of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. She was only 30-years-old. What distinguishes RAWA from other associations is the fact that we are a political organization. When RAWA was found, Afghanistan was under the oppression of the USSR puppet government and later Russian invasion, and Meena felt that the struggle for independence, freedom, and justice was inseparable from the struggle for women’s rights. After Meena’s martyrdom, RAWA continued fighting against the Afghan Islamic fundamentalists and their international backers till today.

...

Afghan women’s rights have been instrumentalized especially by US imperialism to justify and legitimize the invasion of Afghanistan. In what ways did this narrative undermine your women’s activism on the ground?

The US is a master at diverting revolutionary and political struggle of people, especially women. In the past eighteen years, in addition to supporting the most anti-women elements all over Afghanistan and ensuring that these elements remain untouchable, the US has introduced a stream of educated women into the government and other institutions, NGOs, civil society, and women’s networks. This has a dual purpose. First, it uses these women to deceive the world about the real situation of Afghan women and presents them as its achievement in its tiring war. Second, by taking such educated women under its wing, it makes sure that they don’t join the revolutionary struggle, thus depriving the women’s movement of valuable people. Recently, a group of sell-out, power hungry women from ‘Women’s Network’ met with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as ‘representatives’ of Afghan women. Gulbuddin is one of the most bloodthirsty misogynist criminals who is well-known for throwing acid on the faces of women in his younger days and these women went to meet him to whitewash his misogynist Islamist party, all for fame, power and money. Women like Fawzia Koofi, Habiba Sarabi, Sima Samar, and others sit with Jihadi and Taliban criminals every other in exchange for money and power, and treacherously introduce themselves as representatives of the oppressed women of Afghanistan. These women ignore the flogging and stoning of women by the Taliban and point to their ‘good’ programs for women if they join the government! These women stand next to the ruling powers as traitors to our suffering women and have no ties or sympathies to the Afghanistan women.

Why did RAWA decide to stay in Afghanistan or in the region, instead of moving its activities to Europe/Western countries? What do you think about the increasing NGO-ization in Afghanistan and other countries in the Global South, sponsored by western institutions?

RAWA believes that it can only turn into a powerful movement with the backing of the masses, and this backing comes by staying and working in Afghanistan, even if the situation is hell-like. People only trust revolutionary organizations that stand by them in practice and are active inside the country. Our experience has shown that organizations that have clipped their roots from Afghanistan and moved to Europe and other countries have been dissolved shamefully. One of the reasons RAWA has lived for this long and continues its struggle is because we chose to stay in Afghanistan despite the bloody situation.

NGOs are a major part of the backbone of imperialism in our country. NGO-ization, we believe, is almost as dangerous as the formation of the puppet government of Afghanistan. The NGOs formed in Afghanistan are almost all through the funding of the US and other Western powers. They are a hotbed for recruiting youth to form the future puppet governments of Afghanistan which will have the appearance of a modern, democratic government, but whose heads will be brainwashed to serve as much more loyal lackeys of these powers. NGOs are also used to suck out nationalism and revolutionary struggle out of the heads of our youth by giving them huge salaries and lives abroad. It is well-established that none of these NGOs serve the people and women and are simply giving out slogans of ‘reconstruction’ and ‘aid for people’ to hide their true purposes.
Link
posted by wuwei at 2:38 PM on August 17 [6 favorites]


Yes, corruption exists in many places - there is even an index for that. To mumimor's question, perhaps the answer is "nothing." That human rights-focused, anti-corruption, world-saving impulse - which became a formal part of U.S. foreign policy under Pres. Carter - may have had its day.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:40 PM on August 17


Some reporting from inside Kabul. Francesca Mannocchi and Alessio Romenzi, Inside the Dizzying Fall of Kabul to the Taliban: Afghans scrambled from all corners of the country to their capital as a superpower quit the scene. Inside the weeks of chaos and fear before America’s disastrous departure
Last week in Wardak, we witnessed a funeral for two soldiers killed in a nighttime ambush by the Taliban. The two coffins were laid out in a room adjacent to the Afghan army special forces base. About 50 men prayed on their knees. The sight of two Westerners who arrived in Afghanistan to tell the consequences of the withdrawal of U.S. troops caused unconcealed hostility among Afghans. “You invaded us, you gave us the illusion of freedom, you left and now you have resumed bombarding us with your B-52s. Go away, you are no longer welcome,” shouted a man from the back of the room. The others, first silent, echoed “go away.”
posted by Ahmad Khani at 4:00 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


America is going to reap the produce of the seeds sewn over the past two decades, one day, and it will be bitter.
posted by dazed_one at 4:34 PM on August 17 [2 favorites]


I predict Afghanistan will be an American tourist destination for veterans and a global manufacturing center for Nike in 20 years. Consider what happened with Vietnam.
posted by interogative mood at 4:57 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


i was reasonably impressed with the speech notwithstanding some bits that were cold and others that were chilling, and some omissions and apparent misleading bits. it was a sternness i neither expected in this president nor am accustomed to, but that highlights the bipartisan consensus on exceptional american imperialism by force. not super bideny tone; not the same voice that feels our covid pain and wants us to get vaccinated. maybe it is just a relief to have more or less normal adult delivering the words. in sentences. the cold: the whole you can lead a horse to water but can't make him drink, "white man's burden"-y (CW: kipling/imperialism) blaming the persons in afghanistan for their failure to pluck the sweet plug & play fruit of liberty from the gently proffering hands of our soldiers and contractors or when launched from our drones. the chilling: we'll mess you up if you hurt our people. our people are the americans, not the allies, not those afghan persons who worked with us. if you don't know now you know. i noted a moment when he referred to afghanistan as the graveyard of empires and thought he might go somewhere philosophical and introspective with it. but it just hung there indiscriminately implying stuff and begging development at the end of that paragraph.
posted by 20 year lurk at 5:29 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


The Taliban offered peace deals in 2001 and 2003 and the Bushies said no:
They offered to surrender Kandahar and demobilize, relegating their five-year rule to a few northern and eastern pockets where fighting persisted.
...
They had a condition. Omar had to remain in Kandahar, albeit under mutually acceptable supervision. Hamid Karzai, head of the new internationally backed Afghan government, was open to it, provided Omar “distance himself completely from terrorism.”
...
Karzai’s American patrons had other ideas. "I do not think there will be a negotiated end to the situation that's unacceptable to the United States," said Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. secretary of defense.
...
... in 2003, the Taliban raised the price for a deal. They wanted immunity from prosecution and coalition attack, something hardly assured in U.S.-patrolled, Northern Alliance-dominated Afghanistan. If so, they would give up their insurgency and become something like a political party in the new internationally-guaranteed regime.

At the Afghan national security council, several figures, including Jalali, argued it was worth exploring. “Their demands were simple and reasonable, but lacked details,” he remembered. But the officials who had spent years fighting the Taliban were no more interested in peace than Rumsfeld was. If Taliban fighters wanted to surrender as individuals, that was to be embraced. Those who didn’t would be crushed by the U.S.-Kabul alliance. After all, they were winning.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:55 PM on August 17 [10 favorites]


When we go to war we send young men and women to see and do terrible things, without preparing them for it or taking care of them when we get home. I'm often reminded of what Michael Moore said at the end of Fahrenheit 9/11:
I've always been amazed that the very people forced to live in the worst parts of town, go to the worst schools, and who have it the hardest are always the first to step up, to defend that very system. They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkably their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?
I'm too much of a pessimist about human nature to believe there will never be war, but we haven't fought a war since the end of World War II that was necessary.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:02 PM on August 17 [3 favorites]


The Taliban and the US have an opportunity to make a real peace here and I hope Biden and the Taliban leaders find a way. I was joking about Nike factories above; but the fact that we didn’t really end the Vietnam conflict until the middle of the Clinton Presidency in terms of actually having normal relations was terrible. I hope we don’t repeat that here.
posted by interogative mood at 8:33 PM on August 17 [1 favorite]


“What About My Dreams?”: How the U.S. Abandoned Women in Afghanistan (Vanity Fair) by Amie Ferris-Rotman, who has run a program to train women journalists in Afghanistan
posted by hydropsyche at 4:30 AM on August 18


Azmat Khan: Deadly U.S. Air War in Afghanistan Helped Taliban Gain New Recruits Who Wanted Revenge
But I think another omission that really needs to be highlighted is the fact that President Biden took this negative view of Afghan security forces for, quote, “not fighting,” and that’s not accurate. You know, as the earlier speaker was describing, many Afghan soldiers have died fighting the Taliban over the last 20 years, countless, whereas American soldiers, since Operation Freedom’s Sentinel began in 2015, you know, we’ve lost 64 American soldiers in hostile deaths in Afghanistan. So there is a real disparity about who was paying that human costs of that fight, at least from the side that’s fighting the Taliban.

But at the same time, what he didn’t acknowledge was the fact that the entire way that those soldiers were doing that fight was with the support of U.S. air power. So, the United States was bombing heavily parts of that country where there were fights against the Taliban raging. So, just to give some context, in 2019, the United States dropped more bombs in Afghanistan than in any previous year of the war. So, I think it was something close to — more than 6,200 bombs that year, as they were trying to negotiate. So, even with incredible bombs dropping, you know, this was the deal they were able to get. And even then, look at how many Afghan soldiers were dying. Now, once you take that level of air power out of the mix, who would expect any Afghan soldiers to continue to fight? If that many Afghan soldiers died with the support of air power, what happens when you take that out of the mix?

Now, on top of that, I just need to say that that air power may have helped keep this tenuous hold that the Afghan government had on the country, but it also killed scores of civilians in rural areas, areas that don’t often get talked about. Nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan is rural countryside. The majority of the population comes from these kinds of areas, populations that have seen the brunt of the war and we rarely hear about. And they’ve suffered not just bombings, airstrikes and night raids, but also Taliban attacks. And many of them wanted this war to end. And you can’t really talk about that air power and the tenuous grip that the government had without also acknowledging the ways in which that has created space for the Taliban, where even civilians who didn’t like the Taliban just wanted the war to end.

So it kind of makes sense, once you take air power out of the mix, that sort of tenuous hold falls, but at the same time, at this point, the Taliban has resuscitated itself and grown. You know, many of its more recent recruits were people who did lose loved ones and really wanted revenge for those casualties. So, in many ways, as surprising the swiftness of it was, it also makes sense, what we see happening right now.
Research by Brown University estimates losses in the Afghan security forces at 69,000. It puts the number of civilians and militants killed at about 51,000 each. More than 3,500 coalition soldiers have died since 2001 - about two-thirds of them Americans.
posted by clawsoon at 5:52 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I'm often reminded of what Michael Moore said at the end of Fahrenheit 9/11:

I've always been amazed that the very people forced to live in the worst parts of town, go to the worst schools, and who have it the hardest are always the first to step up, to defend that very system. They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkably their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?


What a bizarre quote from Michael Moore. What on Earth is he on about?

In my experience, the reason that young Americans are forced into military service are precisely because they live in the "worst" parts of town, lack access to good education, and live in poverty.

Military service is coerced through promises of access to better education and healthcare (in the case of my poor white friends) or as a last resort to avoid prison time for minor offenses (as in the case of my poor black friends) and in both situations it's done as young as age 14 with poor school ROTC programs getting the pipeline going in late middle school / early high school.

Disadvantaged people serve in militaries because an incredibly powerful system of economic and social forces conspire to convince them that invading another country and killing strangers is their (often only) hope of either getting a better life or avoiding a worse one in jail. That's not a "gift to us" (and who is us?) or whatever gross shit Michael Moore is on about. It's a twisted regressive system that just didn't snare Moore as a kid. Big Yikes.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:09 AM on August 18 [10 favorites]


Gordon Adams - Professor Emeritus of International Relations at American University's School of International Service.
Afghanistan only the latest US war to be driven by deceit and delusion
Three times now this country has been lied to and the media deluded as America marched stolidly over the cliff into failure.
posted by adamvasco at 6:16 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


As many as 10,000 U.S. nationals and their family members are still in Afghanistan.

i'm afraid the government has totally blown this and the political price will be awful
posted by pyramid termite at 3:40 PM on August 18


Not to be uncharacteristically optimistic but I feel like they've at least started stabilizing and proactively doing stuff again instead of lying on the mat stunned from the Taliban's blitz. My guess, if you forced me, would be that they'll get the US nationals out. But I'm not so optimistic about non-US-nationals.
posted by Justinian at 4:56 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Opinion: The mujahideen resistance to the Taliban begins now. But we need help.

History of the Taliban

The past and a possible path forward—I’m glad to see there is at least one form of resistance to the Taliban.
posted by ichomp at 9:21 PM on August 18


Nobody knows what's going on with Zalman Simantov, the last Jew in Afghanistan. [previously]
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:27 AM on August 19


Also, the surprisingly long history of Jews in Afghanistan, in a series of Tweeted newspaper clippings, by James Vaughan.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:31 AM on August 19




Disadvantaged people serve in militaries because an incredibly powerful system of economic and social forces conspire to convince them that invading another country and killing strangers is their (often only) hope of either getting a better life or avoiding a worse one in jail. That's not a "gift to us" (and who is us?) or whatever gross shit Michael Moore is on about. It's a twisted regressive system that just didn't snare Moore as a kid. Big Yikes.

He phrased it that way so he could reach the people who do perceive it as a gift. And you seem to be overlooking the most relevant part of his message:
And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary.
"What Michael Moore is on about" is trying to alert those people who are less enlightened than you that this is a twisted regressive system which is betraying those who participate in it. Bully for you for figuring it out already - he's trying to get other people to realize this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on August 19 [4 favorites]


I think you are giving Michael Moore a bit much credit with that reading, but even stipulating that his message is trying to convince people that our predatory military recruitment system is twisted and regressive (and I really don't think it is, but okay):

Framing the problem as an Us vs Them narrative with Them being Noble Warriors Sacrificing For Us and Us being people with the agency to "send Them" into battle is pretty fucking bonkers.

"We" don't make the decisions to send "Them" to go kill people. And "They" don't ask "Us" for favors (??) about...where the US goes to war. The whole thing is a fairy tale narrative predicated on some really weird conceptualizations of agency among population groups that Moore doesn't actually define. None of the quote is how the world actually works, so I'm not sure why convincing people that the world works in a way that it doesn't is supposed to be helpful.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:52 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


None of the quote is how the world actually works, so I'm not sure why convincing people that the world works in a way that it doesn't is supposed to be helpful.

Because it is speaking the language of the people who believe it is the way the world works. It's meeting people where they are.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on August 19 [5 favorites]


Sure. I think we have different value systems for assessing the appropriateness of rhetorical tactics when applied to the US military. That's okay with me.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:01 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]




Relative of DW journalist killed by the Taliban
Journalists and their families are in grave danger in Afghanistan. The Taliban have no compunction about carrying out targeted killings as the case of a DW journalist shows.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:46 PM on August 19


> This thread is to clarify the location of DAB (Central Bank of Afghanistan) international reserves

"Taliban won militarily - but now have to govern. It is not easy."

some reuters reporting from the last couple days...
Leaders of Afghan Taliban will not stay in 'shadow of secrecy' - group official - "'Slowly, gradually, the world will see all our leaders, there will be no shadow of secrecy', the senior Taliban official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters."

Exclusive: Council may rule Afghanistan, Taliban to reach out to soldiers, pilots - "The power structure that Hashimi outlined would bear similarities to how Afghanistan was run the last time the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001. Then, supreme leader Mullah Omar remained in the shadows and left the day-to-day running of the country to a council."
The Taliban's supreme leader has three deputies: Mawlavi Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful militant Haqqani network, and Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the Taliban's political office in Doha and is one of the founding members of the group.

Many issues regarding how the Taliban would run Afghanistan have yet to be finalised, Hashimi explained, but Afghanistan would not be a democracy...

Hashimi said the Taliban especially needed pilots because they had none, while they had seized helicopters and other aircraft in various Afghan airfields during their lightning conquest of the country after foreign troops withdrew.
Islamic scholars to decide role of women in Afghanistan-senior Taliban member - "On Tuesday, the Taliban's main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told a news conference in Kabul that women would be allowed to work and study and 'will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam.'"
During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by Islamic law, the Taliban stopped women from working. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear burqas to go out, and then only when accompanied by a male relative.

Those who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban's religious police.
Sleepless 'mother of a thousand' worries for Afghan orphans - "Besides the four orphanages, her group also runs a medical clinic and five schools for children and widows in Afghanistan."
The Taliban's rapid conquest of Afghanistan that followed U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw American forces after 20 years of war has raised questions about the future of her work.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were common.

"I work very, very hard and I want to continue my work until the day I die, and hopefully they (the Taliban) will respect that," Rawi said.

While the Taliban have been putting on a moderate face, promising no retribution against opponents and respect for the rights of women, minorities and foreigners, many Afghans are sceptical and still fear round-ups of old enemies and activists.
International community 'deeply worried' about Afghan women, ready to assist -statement - "The United States, European Union and 19 other countries on Wednesday released a statement calling on people in authority in Afghanistan to guarantee the protection of women and girls in the country, as fears mount that the Taliban will use its recently won power to disempower thousands."[*]

'Times have changed': some Afghan women defiant as Taliban return - "The Taliban are aware they can't silence us, and if they shut down the internet the world will know in less than 5 minutes. They will have to accept who we are and what we have become."
Afghan girls' education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, was wary of Taliban promises.

"They have to walk the talk. Right now they're not doing that," she told Reuters, referring to assurances that girls would be allowed to attend schools.

"If they limit the curriculum, I am going to upload more books to (an) online library. If they limit the internet ... I will send books to homes. If they limit teachers I will start an underground school, so I have an answer for their solutions."
Afghan envoy says hold-out Panjshir province can resist Taliban rule - "The Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan on Wednesday rejected Taliban rule of his country and said Panjshir province, north of Kabul, would serve as a stronghold for resistance led by self-proclaimed acting president Amrullah Saleh."
Afghan First Vice-President Saleh said on Tuesday he was the "legitimate caretaker president" of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban insurgents took the capital Kabul. read more

Saleh's whereabouts were unknown... Massoud's 32-year-old son Ahmad Massoud is believed to be in Panjshir with his supporters. It was not immediately possible to reach a spokesperson for his movement.

Unconfirmed reports also suggest that remnants of some of the elite Special Forces units trained by the United States have retreated to the area following the Taliban's lightning campaign that led to the fall of Kabul on Sunday.
Son of slain Afghan hero Massoud vows resistance, seeks support - "He said his forces would not be able to hold out without help from the West and he appealed for support and logistical help from the United States, Britain and France."

Taliban urge Afghan unity as protests spread to Kabul - "The Taliban called on Afghanistan's imams to urge unity when they hold their first Friday prayers since the Islamist group seized control of the country, as protests against the takeover spread to more cities on Thursday, including the capital, Kabul."
At some protests elsewhere, media reported people tearing down the Taliban's white flag.

A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Some demonstrations were small, but combined with the desperate scramble of thousands of people seeking to flee the country they underline the challenge the Taliban face in governing...

A report by a Norwegian intelligence group said the Taliban had begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people linked to Afghanistan's previous administration or U.S.-led forces that supported it. Complaints by some Afghan journalists have cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.
posted by kliuless at 9:41 PM on August 19 [7 favorites]




Taliban: Tapi gas pipeline is a priority project
Between 1994 and 96 the US supported the Taliban politically through its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, essentially because Washington viewed the Taliban as anti-Iranian, anti-Shia and pro-western,” Ahmed Rashid told Radio Azadi, the Afghan branch of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on 15 April 2000. “Between 1995 and 97, US support was driven by the UNOCAL oil/gas pipeline project.”
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) trans-Afghan pipeline has received support from every US administration, including that of Donald Trump and Joe Biden
posted by adamvasco at 12:50 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Does anyone here know why US policies in Muslim countries is so Sunni-biased? I know Sunni-Muslims are the majority globally, but regionally there are huge differences. And I know from friends and aquaintances that the Sunni/Shia divide wasn't much of an issue before the US intervened.

Whatever the answer to the above question may be -- and I have no clue, it may point to why intelligence has failed so dramatically when it comes to the Taliban takeover in these recent months, in the sense that US intellegence and their allies don't listen to shia sources.

Disclaimer: my keyboard won't do what I waht it to do.. I hope you get the sense of the question
posted by mumimor at 1:46 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Does anyone here know why US policies in Muslim countries is so Sunni-biased?

I am not an expert at all, but my impression is that it mostly comes from the combination of a long, solid alliance with the Saudi regime and a long, persistent conflict with the Iranian regime.
posted by clawsoon at 3:03 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Yes, pretty much that. I don't think it was evident before the Iranian revolution.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:28 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]








A Twitter thread calling out something that should probably be marked:
The end of Sikhs in Afghanistan? Some of the last remaining Afghan Sikhs leave Kabul carrying with them holy Sikh scriptures (Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji) from different Gurudwaras in Afghanistan. Now heading for India. Sikhs have a mighty and proud history in Afghanistan… pic.twitter.com/8UpattrOIY— Jay Singh-Sohal VR (@JSinghSohal) August 23, 2021

posted by Joe in Australia at 6:02 AM on August 23 [10 favorites]


Trump's US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban’s rise
Khalilzad was investigated in 2014 for
possible tax evasion and money laundering.
Always the grift.
posted by adamvasco at 5:34 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Politico national security reporter Alex Ward (@alexbward) claims to have received a leaked State Department cable detailing the progress of the evacuation effort from Afghanistan, as of Monday 23 Aug.
NEW: Leaked State cable to me with specific evacuation numbers:

Total manifested since midnight, Aug 23 in Kabul: 369 AMCITS, 5,048 Afghans natls, 8 3rd country or unknown. Total = 5,425

Total manifested since op began: 4,293 AMCITS, 20,156 Afghans, 642 TCNs. Total = 25,091
Some replies suggested there may be as many as 11,000 US citizens remaining, and 60,000 Afghan nationals (unclear how many already have Special Immigrant Visas or pending applications).

On Tuesday (24 Aug) afternoon, Biden mentioned a higher number, 70,700, as having been evacuated from the country since mid-August. He also said the US was on course to “finish” the evacuation by 31 Aug, a claim which has been disputed.

WaPo reports that in a briefing early Wednesday 25 Aug, the WH said 19,000 additional people had been evacuated from Kabul in 24 hours.

Maybe there is some 11-dimensional chess going on by the Biden administration, but I'm just not seeing how the renewed commitment to the 31 Aug deadline is compatible with Biden's previous public promise—the one from just a handful of days ago—to find a way out for both Afghan allies and US citizens.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:53 AM on August 25


Again Pinboard: "Pentagon explaining that Taliban outside the airport are enforcing American admissions policy and being given lists of names(!) by the military. As I've said several times before, the Taliban is being used by US occupation forces as a de facto fundamentalist wing of ICE."
posted by - at 10:39 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


I wondered when he would show up.
Defense contractor Erik Prince charges $6,500 a person, other groups’ planes leave Kabul empty
posted by adamvasco at 10:57 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


A sobering article from George Monbiot
Who’s to blame for the Afghanistan chaos? Remember the war’s cheerleaders.
Oct 2001
Folly of aid and bombs
The result was furious denunciations across the billionaire press, and inclusion on the Telegraph's list of "Osama Bin Laden's useful idiots".
Related twitter thread.
"The then US secretary of state, Colin Powell, sought to persuade the emir of Qatar to censor Al Jazeera, one of the few outlets that consistently challenged the rush to war. After he failed, the US bombed Al Jazeera’s office in Kabul".
posted by adamvasco at 3:13 PM on August 25 [7 favorites]


Afghanistan live news: children reportedly among those killed after two explosions outside Kabul airport
US officials have said they are concerned that further attacks could occur at Kabul airport following earlier twin blasts by suspected suicide bombers, Reuters is reporting.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 9:30 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]




I’m surprised there’s not more discussion on today’s attack and its consequences. I don’t have it in me to make a FPP at the moment either
posted by Ahmad Khani at 3:57 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


Apparently this is not satire: Afghanistan: Pen Farthing and animals 'safe' after leaving Kabul
The founder of an animal shelter in Afghanistan is "safe" after leaving the country, his charity has said.
Paul "Pen" Farthing was attempting to get his staff and rescue animals out of Kabul when they became caught up in Thursday's airport bomb blasts.
Mr Farthing's charity Nowzad confirmed he and his animals left the country on Saturday without his staff.
Dr Iain McGill, the vet in the team, confirmed Mr Farthing's plane arrived at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning.
He was on the plane back with Mr Farthing, which made a stop-off in another country before returning to the UK, and said there were also between 90 to 100 dogs and 60 to 70 cats on the flight. […]
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:38 AM on August 29


Wow, that article is crazy.

But speaking to LBC on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair Tom Tugendhat said: "The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport and we've just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs, meanwhile my interpreter's family are likely to be killed.

"As one interpreter asked me a few days ago 'why is my five-year-old worth less than your dog?'," the Conservative MP added.


I love dogs as much as or more than the next person, but I really wish they could have found a way to prioritize getting the staff and their families onto an airplane in place of the animals.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 AM on August 29


The active military role of the United States in the Afghanistan war is now over.
posted by JDC8 at 3:57 PM on August 30


Final-ish total: 120,000 evacuated in two and a half weeks.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 PM on August 30




Afghanistan's terrain is usually held to be a major reason why Afghanistan has been so hard to conquer. I don't think Africa has anything comparable, any more than it has the Russian winters that defeated Napoleon. That's not to say that the Islamists won't win, just that they may be looking for inspiration in the wrong place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:29 AM on September 9


I like Ali Soufan, but I'm pretty sure withstanding and defeating superior military forces is a repeating feature of civilization on Earth for thousands+ of years. The implication of mystery just irks me.
posted by rhizome at 12:36 PM on September 9 [1 favorite]


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