Notes on the ‘Loss’ of Afghanistan

Yves here. This post by Tom Neuburger mentions the treatment of women in Afghanistan, a pet issue in some circles here. I was remiss in not hoisting this section of a fine piece by Tariq Ali in the New Left Review when we linked to it earlier this month:

As for the status of women, nothing much has changed. There has been little social progress outside the NGO-infested Green Zone. One of the country’s leading feminists in exile remarked that Afghan women had three enemies: the Western occupation, the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. With the departure of the United States, she said, they will have two. (At the time of writing this can perhaps be amended to one, as the Taliban’s advances in the north saw off key factions of the Alliance before Kabul was captured). Despite repeated requests from journalists and campaigners, no reliable figures have been released on the sex-work industry that grew to service the occupying armies. Nor are there credible rape statistics – although US soldiers frequently used sexual violence against ‘terror suspects’, raped Afghan civilians and green-lighted child abuse by allied militias. During the Yugoslav civil war, prostitution multiplied and the region became a centre for sex trafficking. UN involvement in this profitable business was well-documented. In Afghanistan, the full details are yet to emerge.

And as for our treatment of Afghanistan as a country, as opposed to regions controlled by separate warlords, Americans are largely ignorant of what it took to unify Germany and Italy (and the ways it still hasn’t fully taken).

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

Tearsheet of a 2013 New York Times article on Afghan corruption and its cause

“At that [1969] wedding I went to, after the men ate off the giant platters of food, dogs and slaves ate, and what was left was brought to the women who had prepared the feast.”

—Howie Klein

The ‘loss’ of Afghanistan to the Taliban — if you can lose a nation you never controlled in the first place — has stolen the news cycle as pro-war Pentagon-influenced propagandists made sure to excoriate President Biden for his “failure.”

Lurking beneath this story, though, are a number of other, much more important stories involving this debacle and its end. These are a few of them.

First, the U.S. military command, all the way up to President Biden, appeared to have had no idea Afghanistan would collapse this quickly. None. Courtesy of Matt Taibbi and a public post at his Substack site, we find this:

And Joe Biden had this to say to Jake Tapper on July 8:

Q: Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse. BIDEN: That is not true, they did not reach that conclusion… There is going to be no circumstance where you see people lifted off the roof of an embassy… The likelihood that you’re going to see the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.

A large part of the responsibility for the events we are witnessing belongs to the military establishment and its inexplicable blindness. Did they really not know that their puppet government would fall as soon as we left? Seems everyone else did.

Second, another reason for the events we are witnessing is that Afghanistan just isn’t a country in any of the traditional senses. Here’s Howie Klein, describing an extended trip he took to Afghanistan in 1969, one of several:

That’s where I learned that Afghanistan wasn’t a country the way we think of a country. The king, one of the prominent citizens told me while I sat around smoking hash with a dozen other prominent citizens, was the king of Kabul. He wasn’t the king of Kandahar. I experienced that sentiment almost everywhere I went in the country, but it was most pronounced in Kandahar. Later Kandahar became the spiritual home of the Taliban. Last night when Yarolslav Trofimov, writing for the Wall Street Journal, reportedthat “the Taliban pressed their rapid advance across Afghanistan with the capture of Kandahar,” he was really just expressing the inevitable, something I hope to God American war planners already understood was going to happen.

The “King of Afghanistan” is just the King of Kabul. This has been true for centuries.

The “nation” of Afghanistan is a 19th century British construct, meaningless lines on a Whitehall map. The Pashtun areas of Afghanistan have more in common with the Pashtun region Pakistan than they do with the rest of their so-called “country.”

These are not nations. They became “nations” only under British imperial rule and the subsequent breakup of that brutal empire. (John Oliver, for most of his professional life, has been quite eloquent on that brutality.)

Third, the violence and retribution certain to be inflicted by the Taliban are not unique to the Taliban. Violence, including violence against women, is normal in Afghanistan, and further, also normal in every nation liberated from an invader.

Howie Klein again:

After the British were defeated by the patriots in 1783, the third of colonists– according to John Adams– who favored the British (the “loyalists”), were disgruntled. Some were so disgruntled that, at least 80,000 of them– many wealthy– packed up and left, fleeing to Britain, Canada and British colonies in the Caribbean. Here they were traitors especially those who had actively collaborated with the British, spying on and killing patriots and joining British military units. Think about the local European fascists in France, Norway, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Holland, etc who collaborated with the Nazis against their own countries during World War II. A few lucky ones managed to flee to the Western Hemisphere. The U.S., Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil were especially happy to welcome fascists and Nazis. Others were punished– anything from firing squads to social castigation. …

You would be extraordinarily naive if you think there isn’t going to be retribution from the Taliban in Afghanistan now against collaborators. Fox and the GOP will blow it up as a way to smear Biden but if there was no retribution, it would be the first time in history people who collaborated with an occupying power got off scot free. Afs know it, of course, which is way so many are absolutely panic-stricken at what is still the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

About the Afghans’ historic mistreatment of women, Klein writes:

[Guardian writer Peter] Beaumont wrote [here] that women were [“]pushed from public life, [which] mostly barred them from working or studying and confined them to their homes unless accompanied by a male guardian.” I was in Afghanistan for extended periods of time in 1969 and 1971 and that’s the way it was then too. The Afs are pretty primitive. When I was there I kept thinking how I was back in Biblical times. I lived with a family in a tiny hamlet in the Hindu Kush for a winter– after breaking my ankle when I fell off my horse. My close pal got married while I was living with them. I never saw his wife (or mother or sisters– or any other women); I went to the wedding. They didn’t. When the Russians took over the country, things lightened up for women. Then what we in the U.S. called the “freedom fighters”– including bin Laden– pushed them out with U.S. help, women went back to being treated the [way] Taliban believes women should be treated… third class citizens.

The following is especially striking:

At that wedding I went to, after the men ate off the giant platters of food, dogs and slaves (technically “servants”) ate and what was left was brought in to the women at the back of the house who, had, prepared the feast all day and certainly knew what they were missing out on. I recall wondering more than once why don’t the women kill the men in their sleep?

Through that whole period, “public executions and floggings were common” according to Beaumont. The Afghans were “pretty primitive” already. Not stupid, of course, but ruled by customs largely unmodified by what we in the West call “civilized life.” It’s a (propagandistic) mistake to attribute that culture to those evil Taliban. They merely continue it.

Fourth, massive theft, especially of American money delivered on pallets from our country to theirs, has been seamlessly woven into the fabric of elite Afghan life. Klein:

We keep hearing how Afghanistan, the most institutionally corrupt place on a corrupt planet, has a trained military force of over 300,000. Is that so? There is no effective Afghan army, at least in part because the U.S. dollars that pay them is siphoned away into the pockets of government officials and the 300,000 don’t get much, if anything– not even rations or ammunition. Why should they fight? For most of them, there isn’t any reason to.

When “President” Ghani fled, he took four cars and as much American moneyas he could fit into his personal helicopter. What he couldn’t take was reportedly left on the tarmac.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

Ghani, whose current whereabouts are unknown, said he left Afghanistan on Sunday as the Taliban entered Kabul virtually unopposed. He said he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

The bloodshed he wanted to avoid was his own. The amount he managed to escape with was not a small amount:

It’s easy to point to the greed of their elites as the reason “why we failed.” But if you contrast the continent-sized corruption of our elites (see below) with the relatively regional theft of the Afghan lords, you’ll see why we have precious little to criticize them for.

Fifth, the pattern in all this has been the same for decades. From Taibbi’s piece:

We go to places we’re not welcome, tell the public a confounding political problem can be solved militarily, and lie about our motives in occupying the country to boot. Then we pick a local civilian political authority to back that inevitably proves to be corrupt and repressive, increasing local antagonism toward the American presence.

In response to those increasing levels of antagonism, we then ramp up our financial, political, and military commitment to the mission, which in turn heightens the level of resistance, leading to greater losses in lives and treasure. As the cycle worsens, the government systematically accelerates the lies to the public about our level of “progress.”

Throughout, we make false assurances of security that are believed by significant numbers of local civilians, guaranteeing they will later either become refugees or targets for retribution as collaborators. Meanwhile, financial incentives for contractors, along with political disincentives to admission of failure, prolong the mission.

Near the end this process “the lies become institutionalized” — perhaps the reason that Binken and Biden were so blind to easy-to-predicted events.

Or perhaps not the reason. Because, remember…

Sixth, at the bottom, each of these war-making projects is a con, a wealth transfer run by an eager Congress at the more eager urging of the big-money Military Machine — the Pentagon, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing (yes, them), and the rest.

Hundreds of billions per year flow from the U.S. government into the purses of our military suppliers. Lockheed vacuums up $45 billion per year all on its own.

They then take a massive profit, turbo-charged by overruns and failures-to-deliver (we pay more for failed projects that successful ones) and return the rest as materiel to the Pentagon chiefs, who ship it to other countries to … there’s no polite way to say this … blow stuff up. “Stuff” in this case includes millions of foreign lives — innocent fathers and mothers, helpless children, and all the soldiers and insurgents who, like every person in the United States itself, would prefer not to be invaded.

Once that money is spent, squandered, or “lost,” the Machine goes to Congress for more, and it’s never disappointed. Rinse and repeat forever. Half the federal budget is used this way. Half.

The estimated cost of the Afghan War through 2020 is $2 trillion. The estimated cost of the Afghan War through 2050 is $6.5 trillion, assuming we honor our obligation to the maimed and ruined soldiers we deployed there.

All the money we didn’t blow up went into the pockets of the Machine — of Raytheon, your Congressional representative, former Pentagon generals and admirals, of Ashraf Ghani, Hamid Karzai, and the purse of every petty warlord we bribed and paid to pretend to want us there.

All this should be told when telling the U.S.-Afghanistan story. Perhaps in the future, when the Pentagon isn’t driving what can’t be said, it will be.

Bottom Lines

There are two for this piece:

  1. If Blinken and Biden were as blind as they claimed to be to this monstrous systemic theft, one that has stretched unchanged through all the decades they spent enabling it, they’re as deluded as the stumbling drunk who swears he “never touches the stuff.”They’re fit for the loony bin and unfit for office.
  2. This is the first and only act Joe Biden has performed in the whole of his public life that I consider admirable — and given the lockstep universal elite opposition he faces, it’s admirable indeed.

(This is an updated version of a piece published earlier.)

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  1. Converger

    Here’s a thought:

    Crops failed this year. The country is in chaos. Tens of millions of people in Afghanistan are in danger of starvation this fall and winter.

    What if all of those empty planes arriving at Kabul airport every day to evacuate people were full of food and COVID vaccine? What if the US and Europe offered to help the UN coordinate a civilian humanitarian airlift to the spiffy airport at Bagram? What if we walked our talk and acted like we genuinely care about the people of Afghanistan, more than we care about punishing the Taliban?

    1. Darthbobber

      And note that coverage of this situation only begins AFTER the Taliban takeover. As long as it was on our watch it was of no import. And now it’s seen largely in terms of leverage.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Maybe there was never was a chance that Afghanistan could ever be won over as they had their own culture and their own values. And after twenty years, the country is being ruled by Afghans once again. Maybe ones that we do not like but that is up for the Afghans to decide. But the clash came with the money-based culture of western nations when we went in twenty years ago. So what was our solutions to occupying Afghanistan? You solve problems by throwing money at it until it goes away because what other alternative is there? So yeah, we went with corruption. I understand that it is a tenet that if you want to bride a group of people, you bribe the leaders and then they keep their on people in line. What that meant in Afghanistan is bribing the war-lords who were hated and feared by the Afghans as that was the easiest thing to do. So we picked a side that was worse that the Taliban and backed it up with military power. Long term that did not work out but we kept it up because we thought we had the military power to force the Afghans to accept those war-lords.

    In a lot of ways this worked out to doing an occupation on the cheap. It was all a big money machine with most money staying in the country of origin and some for bribing the locals. If they wanted to really reform Afghanistan, it would have to have been right down to the local level with the best people that the west had to offer taking up posts all across that territory. And the army. You would have to have western officers right down to the lieutenants and maybe a few sergeants. At that level the companies could be trained which then worked with the battalions and right up to the chain and they would be eventually replaced by Afghan officers after they had been thoroughly trained. Same with civil posts but I doubt that you could find enough honest people to do such jobs. What would have happened was that this would have been outsourced to contractors with bribes being taken right down the chain until at the local level you would have had god knows who recruited with no vetting whatsoever.

    But I came across an article which really says what it was all about-

    1. James Simpson

      If they wanted to really reform Afghanistan

      In what way is it the role of the USA to engage in reforming other countries? Imagine if President Maduro of Venezuela declared that it was his country’s historic purpose to bring true democracy, socialism and liberty to the capitalism-oppressed workers of the USA, and that to do this it would start bombing California. That’s what the USA was doing to Afghanistan.

  3. Liu Zeyuan

    I would like to take issue with one small part of the above:

    When the Russians took over the country, things lightened up for women. Then what we in the U.S. called the “freedom fighters”– including bin Laden– pushed them out with U.S. help, women went back to being treated the [way] Taliban believes women should be treated… third class citizens.

    Actually this quote gets the history a bit wrong. The socialist Taraki government of Afghanistan predated Russian intervention. The Russians intervened only after the Americans (as the author quoted in the above rightfully points out) starting bunging millions to extremist, retrograde Jihadis to make trouble for the government. I feel this is important to point out to counter the impression that Afghans are nothing but primitives- no. They had their own indigenous government (albeit a rather authoritarian one lacking a strong power base outside of Kabul) that was set on pushing forward women’s liberation, universal education and progressive development.

    Then the Americans spied an opportunity to make trouble for Russkies by destabilizing a neighbouring client, and the rest is history. Everything we see now is the result of the American military and intelligence making the conscious decision to stamp out a progressive government by supporting brutal, reactionary conservatism.

    1. James Simpson

      It was apparently the supposed peacenik President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser the Polish-American Russophobe Zbigniew Brzezinski who was determined to destroy the Soviet Union by dragging it into Afghanistan as its own Vietnam. The well-being of Afghan people was utterly irrelevant to these practitioners of realpolitik and revanchism.

      1. Carolinian

        Carter really was a terrible president and retrospect can be seen as the template for the turncoat Dems who succeeded him. Like the current Dems he cloaked a vicious and mostly incompetent foreign policy with a smokescreen of sanctimony. And Yves has pointed out the many ways his economic policies were a disaster.

        1. George Phillies

          From the time of the first resistance to the central government: “We discovered they wanted to teach girls how to read. Then we knew…they were Communists. So we killed all of them.” I am reasonably sure that was in the New York Times, but I am not positive as to the decade.

      2. Duke of Prunes

        In recent days, I’ve seen some Carter hagiography being spun as a defense of Biden’s Afghanistan “loss”. There were some, probably R, talking points about how this was Biden’s “Jimmy Carter moment”, and this was met with a squad posting historically ignorant comments saying “hey, we’ll take that, Jimmy was the “last honorable president”. I made me nauseous. Don’t these people know that he was the guy that started this all?

        1. Tom Bradford

          Are we not required to keep two things separate in assessing this moment in history: 1. America’s ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan, and 2, the bungled pull-out.

          Can Biden be criticised for the first? Is the ‘defeat’ down to him? Seems to me he merely acknowledged reality. He could have avoided being tarred by the association with ‘defeat’ by merely continuing the status quo and leaving it for his successor to deal with. Instead he bit the bullet and did what had to be done.

          Did he bungle the pull-out? I don’t know. His job is to decide strategy. The tactics of executing that strategy are down to the military general staff and its intelligence resources. Their job was to plan and effect the detail on the ground and either do it competently with what they have in terms of time and resources, or go back to the strategists and say ‘we can’t do that with what we have. This is what we need’. So the three scenarios are that the military chose to do its best with what it had knowing how it would pan out, could have done it effectively but bungled it, or went back to Biden to tell him what they would need in order to pull out with minimal ‘blow-back’ and he refused to give them it. Only in the last case can you legitimately castigate Biden for what actually happened.

          1. James Simpson

            Did he bungle the pull-out?

            He certainly broke the agreement that Trump’s team successfully negotiated with the Taliban, for all US forces to leave by 1 May 2021. For that he had no excuse. Then he bombed them with B52s.

      3. Grateful Dude

        DIdn’t we sponsor and arm the Taliban to fight the Russians? Am I the only one who remembers Najibullah? I had heard that his regime was a lot more liberal than the Taliban. Just Kabul? A girlfriend from 1975 had visited there shortly before we met. And traveled around. By herself. No problems. Enter the mujahaddin Taliban with out support.

        Don’t know about feeding the dogs and slaves first, but that’s our Taliban.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          No. We sponsored a bunch of mujahideen and warlords to fight the Soviets. When the Soviets gave up and left, we left too, while the various warlords and mujahideens ran amok and fought over which ones would rule a post Najibullah Afghanistan.

          ISI Pakistan organized and trained the Talibans, I think. Maybe Saudi Arabia helped finance them. But to the best of my memory, the Taliban was a later invention than the mujahideens and warlords we sponsored.

  4. Tom Pfotzer

    I agree that:

    “This is the first and only act Joe Biden has performed in the whole of his public life that I consider admirable”.

    It was an important act. It signifies, acknowledges, and accepts a Major Defeat.

    It’s political kryptonite, and Biden embraced it.

    Did you remember to provide positive reinforcement for desired behavior?

    I can’t tell yet if President Biden did this entirely on his own, or whether it is the product of an emergent consensus among our “elite”.

    Apparently there’s quite a bit of the “elite” that are unhappy with the end of the Afghanistan con. (there are several others, of course). Look at the media coverage – never mind the partisan barking, that can be safely ignored.

    But the media – our beloved Fourth Estate. Piling on, pretty much across the board. I’m seeing some modest support for Pres. Biden emerging, but it took quite a while.

    If it is an emergent consensus, is the consensus that “the Afghanistan con is toast, now let’s find a new one” or “the war profiteering con is toast, let’s find a new one”, or “cons are toast, let’s try to actually build something useful”.

    Which one do you think it it is?

    Thank you, Yves, for calling it a “con”.


    As an aside, some of you may recall that I sent my Congressional reps a note in support of Pres. Biden’s decision to withdraw. I got two replies, and each letter stressed the rep’s concern for the people caught in up in the evacuation, and how the American people deserve to know why things “went awry”.

    Not one word about support for Biden’s long-delayed and courageous decision. These reps are in the same party as the President.

    I found that rather startling. And that’s one reason I used the word “courageous”. It _might_ be accurate.

    1. James Simpson

      Do bear in mind that it was Donald Trump and his team who negotiated the withdrawal agreement, promising to leave Afghanistan by 1st May, an agreement that Biden broke for no reason other than domestic politics. He ought to be pilloried for that, and then arrested and charged for his use of B52 bombers:

      In what can only be called a criminal and murderous tantrum by a loser, the United States, on the order of President Joe Biden, has begun dispatching B-52 Stratofortress bombers and AC-130 fixed-wing gunships equipped with large Gatling machine guns and a cannon to carpet-bomb and perpetrate mass killing on Taliban forces surging to victory across Afghanistan.

      1. Copeland

        So after an admittedly political delay, Biden allowed Trumps withdrawal to proceed…but he should be pilloried and arrested?

        I seem to recall several “criminal/murderous” military tantrums under Trumps watch.

        Why is it so hard to admit that both sides of the current political coin are largely the same, and equally responsible for this mess?

        1. James Simpson

          he should be pilloried and arrested

          – pilloried for pointlessly delaying the end
          – arrested for killing people. Would you be allowed to walk free after killing people for political reasons?

          Trump should be praised when he did something praiseworthy. Most of his time in the Oval Office was a catastrophe, as it was for his predecessors and, so far, his successor.

    2. Big River Bandido

      I have to agree that this is the first admirable thing Joe Biden has ever done in a public life filled with gross, self-serving, offensive, and reactionary behavior. Dude fails on multiple tries for the presidency because he’s basically not presidential timber — finally attains it through intraparty skullduggery and chicanery after he’s, shall we say, well beyond his prime. After a rigged primary in which “our party” was “saved” (according to Bill Clinton), it’s deliciously ironic that Biden is being pilloried for this by the same interests who most backed him against Bernie Sanders (and who, not coincidentally, lied us into the war in the first place).

      I hope that the phony criticism of Biden on this issue continues to mount until it becomes a firestorm. If the senile old man can be provoked into some firings, prosecutions, investigations and a binge of wing-clipping against the National Security State, it would be exceptionally salutary for what little remains of the Republic.

      And thank you, James Simpson, for pointing out that Trump made the correct call, and that Biden was very late to the bus.

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        Big River Bandido:

        Lest you interpret my saying something positive about President Biden as “I’m a partisan and my team benefits if I say something good about him”…

        Here’s the logic that’s animating me. Among many other skills she has, my wife is quite skilled at training animals. Over the past few decades, I’ve noticed that she’s way better than I am getting them to do things they don’t natively want to do.

        No doubt you can guess .. but I’ll say it: “positive reinforcement”. Boring and simplistic as it is, it works. Amazingly well.

        And to James – indeed I did forget to mention that former President Trump negotiated the withdrawal. Good on him, too.

  5. Synoia

    You would have to have western officers right down to the lieutenants and maybe a few sergeants.

    You just described the British Indian, and other British colonies armed forces.

        1. The Rev Kev

          If I recall correctly, the Sepoy rebellion was mostly troops from the East India Company so were corporate troops. The regular Indian formation that were part of the British Army stayed loyal to them and took part in the fight against the rebels.

  6. Thomas P

    It’s possible that some people in the US leadership understood more or less what was going to happen, but also that getting out was necessary and that there was no pretty way of doing it. So they lied to get the ball moving. Can’t say I blame them if they did. Would a withdrawal even have been possble if it had been openly stated how fast the Talibans would take over?

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      From one Thomas P to another, I say “you’ve hit it”. It had to get done, there isn’t a pretty way to do it, and Biden embraced the hag. Good on him.

  7. ex_zakly

    I haven’t seen this idea i’ve been reasoning out appear anywhere, but to me, part of the calculation for withdrawal almost certainly was that our military is actually not the preeminent war fighting force in the region. By this I mean that it may very well be the case that the Taliban had developed the capability to take on the US military using conventional means, and deliver a true battlefield defeat to US forces. Our policy makers and planners gradually became aware that this was a distinct possibility and would, more than a ‘withdrawal’, actually be a shattering shot of clarity to world, and thus the elites had to put the ANA out front while the CIA/SOF hit squads played whack-a-muslim (killing the children seems like a desperate ploy more than a strategy) not as a low footprint approach but as a literal shield against straight US-Taliban battles. Even our alleged air supremacy might be a myth, as there would be very little stopping a regional power from equipping the Taliban with anti-air manpads or even more advanced gear.

  8. KK

    I’m sure those women scoffed as much as they liked before they fed the men. Afghan women may not be allowed in public places but they rule the home with a rod of iron.

    1. marym

      Do you have further information on the domestic status of women? The link below presents a mixed view of women’s rights in some respects (evolution of Taliban willingness to accept some degree of education for girls, for example) but certainly not a picture favorable to the status of women. As in past attempts to expand women’s rights in the 1920’s and 1970’s the tensions are complex among proponents of reform, organized resistance, and pervasive conservative attitudes about governance and social norms.

      “The [2019] UN study also revealed that 80 percent of Afghan women experience domestic violence. Some 50 percent of women in Afghan prisons and 95 percent of such girls have been jailed for “moral crimes” such as having sex outside of marriage. Others have been prosecuted for killing their brutally abusive husbands, including in self-defense. Distressingly, not only the Taliban but important segments of Afghan society appear to be growing more conservative, embracing doctrinaire versions of sharia that call for reducing women’s rights and freedoms.”

      The link is from Brookings, and includes links and footnotes to other sources. It appears to be a work of the establishment and barely touches on the impact on women of the US-inflicted destruction, loss of life, and displacement. Other perspectives would be interesting.

      1. Felix_47

        I was there for three deployments totalling 2 years….one in 2005 and one in 2012 and one in 2017. I was south of J Bad, Kandahar, and Bagram and Ghazni among other places.
        There was polygamy among the better off. Professionals and business people and government officials commonly had three or four wives since they were well paid. Translators were well paid by the Army and often they had two or three wives. Even laborers that were working under Army contractors on our bases would have multiple wives. I remember one in particular since I had to deal with one of his four wives. She was in Ghazni and he was working in Kandahar. They generally bring a new one in after the first one has had children and on and on. There was something in the Koran or something about sex every day or something. That means that large numbers of Afghan men had no women and no chance of marriage. Yet the average woman has five children. Obviously that includes those that don’t have any and those that have many more. Desptie that what struck me over the close to 15 years of follow up was the massive increase in population. Back when we invaded the population was 20 million. Now it is 40 million and the masses are now dependent on imported everything. The country is largely desert and with that sort of population it cannot be self sufficient. I see no comments by the experts here on the polygamy. I saw it with professionals as well as in the villages. But the polygamy leads to very unstable societies since there is a large sexually frustrated high testosterone cohort of poorer young men who then are ripe for recruitment for warlords etc. The results of this are seen in northern Europe in a dramatic manner with sexual aggression towards European women…..often leading to rape, violence and fatalities…..and I see no discussion of this issue in the press. Again marym seems informed. I wonder what women’s rights people thing of this situation. It is curious that it is never discussed. Aghanistan without birth control will be a continuing and worsening disaster. Biden’s and the world bank’s current plan to starve them into submission by cutting off the money is a recipe for unending disaster. And had we simply given every Afghan man woman and child a check for 300000 back in 2001 combined with a tubal ligation after two babies the country would have thrived and we would be far better off and it would have cost the same. A typical family of a man, three wives and 12 children would get about 5 million dollars back then. Invested in the SPY I would guess it would be in the range of 20 to 30 million today. Afghanistan would be as rich as countries like Norway. Instead the money will go into high end real estate in New York, London, Hope Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe, Atherton the refugees spend their US taxpayer money. We treat Afghan kleptocrats better than our own children in the US. And unlike the author here I cannot compliment Biden on this. We went in and made the mess. All we had to do was hold Bagram…..which was easy since it always had been supplied from the outside. Even chain link fence was flown in from the US. We would just pay the lease to the Taliban and leave tham alone. Simply the fact we were there with a few thousand troops would put the lid on the excesses that Taliban might contemplate because the threat was always that we could come back. The generals told Biden the truth which was that we were locked in at least with some sort of low level garrison for a long long time unless we wanted to just blow the whole thing up. And Biden could not accept the truth and he blamed the messengers. As a senile old man he did not have the patience or capacity to understand. We often see very old men make impatient poorly thought out decisions and they can be stubborn and self righteous. This mess sits on Biden’s plate……and he has been in it for decades as head of the Senate foreign relations committee for years, vice president for eight years and on and on. He voted for this mess. He could have joined Barbara Lee in opposition and there were hundreds of other decision points where he could have stood up and been a mensch…..sorry….did not happen. And this decision was senile frustration.

  9. James Simpson

    It is an indictment of my own society here in the UK that anyone who knowingly works for a weapons company is not stigmatised to the ultimate degree. The former singer Gary Glitter is in prison for sexually abusing some girls who are, at least, still living, and he is probably the most hated man in Britain. Yet workers for arms companies supplying Saudi Arabia are assisting in the deliberate killing of vast numbers of poor Yemeni children and their families. In August 2018, a laser-guided missile was used by the Saudis to target a school bus carrying children on a school outing. 40 boys were killed. Few in the UK cared.

    PRESTON, UK – Jack sits down with his pint in the Fielden Arms in Mellor and contemplates his latest shift making Typhoon warplanes for the Saudi air force. Tucking into steak and chips, the 25-year-old talks of moving in with his girlfriend, his good pay at the nearby BAE factory – £40,000, almost twice the local average – and the security it brings.

    And then he thinks of the people those planes will be sent to kill.

    “You see the children in Yemen starving on the 10 o’clock news,” he tells Middle East Eye. “But you try to not pay attention and just get on with it.”

    His friend, Harry, interjects: “It’s really weird and there is no way to describe it, because you are in essence building a weapon of mass destruction.”

    So why don’t they quit? “Good pay and job security,” Jack responds, taking another sip of his beer. “If the military contracts go, 7,000 people go with them.”

    Jack is like thousands of others who works at the BAE Systems factory in nearby Samlesbury, outside Preston in Lancashire, making parts that will be assembled in nearby Warton to create Typhoons, the most advanced jet fighters operated by the Saudis over Yemen. There, the Saudis have contributed to a civil war with the most terrible violence: bombing civilians, blowing up hospitals and imposing a siege that has condemned millions of Yemenis to slow starvation and poverty.

    UK readers should support

    1. Ian Perkins

      I don’t see how Middle East Eye, or anyone else, can reasonably call the Saudi and UAE war on Yemen, armed and backed by the US, UK and France, a civil war.

  10. Pat

    Whenever conditions for women are brought out you can be sure a number is being run on you. Funnily enough it can be worked both ways. We need to invade to make things better for women, we need to stay to keep things better for women, etc. it rarely has even a passing resemblance to truth and priorities.
    It is however a pretty effective heart tugging propaganda operation which elicits a significant level of public support.

    1. Oh

      Yup. It’s always trotted out as the prime reason in each war. These crooks don’t care about the women or their rights in the country that they invade let alone in their home country. Another smokescreen.

  11. Brooklin Bridge

    Krystal Ball had an interesting take on Biden’s motives and state of mind in getting us out of Afghanistan.

    Brief: Biden was treated poorly by the Obama admin. Even then, he argued for less involvement and for getting out but was ignored and treated as naive; the duffer. This doesn’t explain why he didn’t take a more cautious approach in his public address about “getting out,” (why, for instance, he wasn’t more leery of military positivist intel – which he already didn’t trust during the Obama administration – regarding evacuation), but it is, on the human side, a rather plausible theory of one-upmanship, explaining why he has been willing to do what no other President, even the “great Obama,” dared.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Adding, fwiw, that Crystal, correctly I think, still gives enormous credit to Biden for the courage to stick it out.

  12. Eclair

    ” The Afghans were “pretty primitive” already. Not stupid, of course, but ruled by customs largely unmodified by what we in the West call “civilized life.”

    And we brought them civilization, flying in Burger King trailer trucks! (Check out the photo of one such, debarking from the belly of a C-17 at Bagram airbase, at the Michael Moore article in today’s links.)

  13. George Phillies

    Readers fonder than I am of finding sources may be able to locate the very recent article by a senior military officer asserting that the Afghan army was not a military force, it was a welfare/public works project to bribe people to behave themselves.

    6.5 trillion? I believe that number does not include interest on the public debt, which cranks the total up to ten trillion or so. Recall the ancient Athenians, who randomly went to war with Syracuse when then were already at war with Sparta. They lost everything they threw into that war, and paid the price.

  14. Duke of Prunes

    Here’s a theory that’s not getting much play (forgot where I heard it, but it seems plausible to me, but I haven’t researched any of this):

    The Taliban is supported by Pakistan, especially the Pakistan ISI. The CIA funds the Paki ISI. Therefore, none of this is a surprise to those actually in charge, and somebody(s) in the West decided this result is fine as all money comes with strings attached. Why? To provide cover for Pfizer as the vaccines aren’t working out? (perhaps the military industrial complex and the pharma industrial complex are now working toward common goals?) To take out Biden? (Kamala was made VP for a reason) To create chaos to clean up some of the damning evidence of our involvement in the drug trade? To sow chaos in the region to?

    Who knows, but there’s so much evidence (years and years) about the crap-show in Afghanistan that the “Who could’a knowned?” line is really weak.

    1. PKMKII

      I think the last two are the most likely options. The pandemic theory is too weak, and Kamala’s people were pushing stories in the press about how she was heavily involved in the decision-making to pull out, so they’re not trying to distance her from the mess.

      The chaos factor makes sense, as the Taliban isn’t looking to pick a fight with the US right now, and even if they did try to claim some dirt on the US operations, the Western press would dismiss it as jihadi libel. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some bureaucrats in the Pentagon and the CIA see this as a 5D chess move to potentially undermine certain interests in the region (China, Russia) while bolstering others (India).

  15. Wukchumni

    There’s another loss compounding our loss in the ‘stanbox, in that the hero worship for our military in the MSM pretty much ended when Covid came calling, as if somebody turned off a switch and the lights went out on the charade of every enlisted person in our vaunted military being a hero.

    A couple years ago an English friend told me he was gobsmacked when the domestic flight he was about to embark on in Atlanta, it was announced over the P.A. that military in uniform would be boarded first.

    We take our leads from the MSM, and its as if they were preparing us to not care anymore, with a huge assist from the pandemic.

  16. WhatdoIknow

    But we did manage to get the first graduates in gender studies from the university of Kabul last year and organize pride month in Kabul. That should be worth a trillion in itself.

  17. PKMKII

    I don’t believe for a moment that Biden and Blinken were unaware of what was going to go down once the US pulled out. At best, they may have underestimated the speed of the Taliban takeover. They looked at the options of either, say everything will be fine in Afghanistan and then look flat-footed when the Taliban takes over, or admit it outright before the withdrawal started and look like they’re throwing the occupation-era government under the bus, and decided to gamble on the former doing less PR damage.

  18. Poul

    Worth noticing:

    Afghan women’s right before president Carter chose to support a rural/religious conservative rebellion against the Communist government i Kabul and after. You Americans decided to put the yoke on Afghan women.

    The same with Iraq. Iraqi women are the biggest losers in the new regime you installed in Baghdad. Religion and sectarian background once again rule supreme. Don’t forget the role of socialist, for all they many, many flaws, in creating equal rights for women around the world (at least on paper).

  19. Mike Elwin

    On the “nation” thing, it has significant failings even in Western Europe, the heart of nationalism. I watched a French TV series that changed locale in every episode; none of which were located in a major city. As I watched, I began to realize that the actors weren’t always speaking French. Then, in one episode set in Brittany, a character complained, “We’re not French. We’re Bretons!”

    My amazement led me to do a little research. I discovered that whole regions of France use French for official purposes, as required by the national laws, while at home and in day-to-day conversations, they often speak a variety of romance and even pre-romance languages. Breton, Alsatian, Basque, Occitan and others are not dialects of French; they are separate languages surviving in a putatively French-speaking nation. See, for instance,

    Languages are rooted in cultures, so it doesn’t take much imagination to intuit that nations are less cohesive, less unified, than the mainstream idée of “nation” would have us believe. If we look, we can see the weakness of the national idea everywhere, including in France, Afghanistan, and here, where it is surely a core component of Trumpism.

  20. Drake

    Now that we have “withdrawn” from Afghanistan and from Iraq, there’s plenty of money for M4A, and if not, then it’s time to lower income taxes.

  21. Roland

    A few random observations:

    1. Amazing how few of the Western invaders “went native” during such a long occupation, how few “war brides” there were, and how few Westerners became fluent in any of Afghanistan’s languages. Strange to say, it does seem that the Western imperialists of the 19th cent., for all their racial, religious, and cultural bigotries, nevertheless showed more examples of genuine curiosity about other tongues, other faiths, other ways.

    2. Amazing how after 20 years of Western occupation, even the Northern Alliance, who had long fought the Taliban on their own, seem to have given up. i.e. the Westerners not only failed to make good allies in Afghanistan, we even lost the ones we had.

    Many expected the Taliban to out-last their foreign enemies. But how many expected them to out-negotiate us? We in the contemporary West pride ourselves on our inclusiveness, creativity, and flexibility. But in the result, it was the religious fundamentalist rural militias who proved to be the more resourceful and dynamic diplomats.

    Truly, War is Politics. Politically, the West got skunked in Afghanistan. The enemy not only beat us at the things we knew they were good at, they beat us at the things we thought we were good at!

    3. I alluded to Clausewitz above. Turning to Sun Tzu, the emphasis is on spies, spies, spies. “Know the enemy, know yourself.” We knew neither! It is astonishing just how little idea we had of the fighting power of Afghan forces we ourselves had trained and equipped, and whose leaders we had chosen. And how can a side that spends that much money suborn so few of their opponents? Ask yourself: is Afghanistan really all that corrupt a country?

    4. It is worth bearing in mind that, at least in the first five years of the war, the Pakistanis took heavier losses than all of the Western forces put together. What the West was asking the Pakistani gov’t to do was to start a serious civil war in their own country, all for the sake of easing our occupation of Afghanistan. Was that a reasonable or honourable request on our part? Is it surprising that they ducked the assignment we gave them?

    5. Regarding the Taliban’s dramatic sweep in ’21, what impresses is the logistics, and command-and-control. Military history is full of examples of offensives that, even when facing negligible opposition, nevertheless ground to a halt, or fell apart in confusion. But not this one!

    6. It has long been thought that that Western troops in Afghanistan would be vulnerable in the event of war with RF or PRC. Does the speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan betoken a more confrontational policy elsewhere? Even the mere signal has its uses.

  22. Tom Stone

    The borders of Afghanistan were drawn after WW!, like the borders of many mideast Countries.
    And they were drawn very carefully.
    That ethnic mix is not an accident.

    I first really noticed this about 30 years ago in regard to the Kurds, they do not have a homeland, instead they became a large minority in several countries…
    ISTM they were too likely to become a regional force to be allowed a homeland.
    Overlay an ethnic map over a map showing national boundaries and it becomes crystal clear why those boundaries are where they are.

  23. Christopher Horne

    Worth pointing out that in ten years the whole of Southern Russia will
    be a Muslim population. What interests me is-who’s next? Afghanistan has
    pretty good copper reserves. Don’t believe the Chinese will go in.
    They’re hell bent for leather over Taiwan, and whatever else they can take
    over in that part of the world. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a power struggle
    -hearts and minds, you know, between radical muslim groups in Pakistan
    and Afgan.

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