Current Affairs Military Politics

The Afghan Withdrawal – The Inevitable Taliban Victory

I thought I would post this interesting discussion of recent events in Afghanistan published on the American politics’ podcast, The Realignment. Hosted by centre-right journalists Marshall Kosloff and Saagar Enjeti, this episode features a long interview with retired US Army officer Daniel P. Bolger, author of the book Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, a highly critical study of parts of the so-called War on Terror. I say “parts” because some of the writing tends to sanitize or downplay the worse aspects of the US-led campaigns in the Middle East and Asia, while putting an optimistic spin on what might have been achieved if Washington had followed a different path. A path that was, in my opinion, still quite dubious: militarily, politically and – frankly – morally.

Not unsurprisingly, then, I have disagreements with some of the interpretations offered in the debate, notably the focus on local corruption in Kabul while ignoring not too dissimilar levels of malfeasance within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and among pliable Western officials and corporate carpetbaggers. However, overall, the discussion is relatively fair to the Afghan peoples and their unwilling role in the American global psychodrama that followed the shock and horror of 9/11.

At the very least, Bolger provides a welcome antidote to the new axis of left-wing and right-wing armchair generals in the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, who are demanding another twenty years of shouldering the White Man’s Burden in Afghanistan. Highlighting yet again that neoliberalism and neoconservativism are little more than different sides of the same ideological coin.

35 comments on “The Afghan Withdrawal – The Inevitable Taliban Victory

  1. Afghanistan is a independent country many have tried to take it over but all have failed. A former British squaddie was on LBC radio the other day comparing the pro western military in Afghanistan to the RUC and UDR saying they would only enter certain areas of the North with British Army back up. In many ways the defeat of the British Army in Afghanistan is worse than Suez. All that money wasted for nothing and totally humiliated in front of the TV cameras of the entire world. Still having left the EU and the USA distancing itself from UK everyday the UK does not seem to have any future role in the World. That is why you see all these back bench bombardiers hopping up and down on the Tory benches in the House of Commons. Has nobody told them the days of the British Empire are over and are never coming back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is extraordinary stuff. And the arguments that Afghanistan should be the new South Korea, with an open-ended military commitment by the US is mental. Kabul is not Seoul! And the North Koreans are not waging a consistent insurgency against and in the South, mostly made up of South Koreans!

      What is happening to the Afghans is awful. The Taliban are awful. But how is more war gonna help?

      Oh yes. I forgot! The latest wheeze from Westminster and the Beltway. Sanctions against Afghanistan! This is what the hawks are now lobbying for. Instead of bombing the ungrateful Afghans let’s starve them instead. Jesus!

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      • john cronin

        as ever, kipling puts it best

        when they’ve left you for dead on afghanistan’s plains
        and the women come out to pick off what remains
        then you roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
        and go to your god like a soldier

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  2. Yes but is what happening in Afghanistan any worse than what happens everyday in Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States? And we sell arms and ammunition to them for use in Yemen. And isn’t it about time the American public saw the redacted parts of the 9/11 commission report? Apparently the Americans are already lining up there next military defeat by going into Somalia I don’t think the Brits will be involved in that little adventure though. Bill Clinton has been telling anybody who would listen to him was his biggest regret in office was not going into Rwanda to prevent the genocide in the 1990’s. The Chinese and Russians most be laughing there heads off at the leaders of the Western World.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jams O'Donnell

    It is true that, as you say, “neoliberalism and neoconservativism are little more than different sides of the same ideological coin. However, your other thought that there is such a thing as a “new axis of left-wing and right-wing armchair generals” is bordering on Humpty-Dumpty speak. The association of ‘liberalism’ with ‘leftism’ is a distinction which pertains only to the US, and even there it is quite nonsensical, and is merely propagandist. As for the possibility of there being ‘left-wing’ generals in the UK establishment, words fail me. You’d be more likely to find Goldfish in a Piranha tank.
    As for Afghanistan, the US war was and is just another illegal (after Nurnberg) war of aggression, among a string of others such as Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Syria etc., and the whole US establishment over the last 70 odd years should by rights be in the dock in The Hague.
    On the bright side however, this is another body blow to the credibility of the fading US Empire. I don’t see not lasting more than another 20 or 30 years. US infrastructure is becoming more and more decrepit, and the massive corruption and misuse of public money to feed the war machine will lead to collapse sooner probably than later. The poodles in the UK I hope will precede them.

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    • In terms of armchair generals, I was referring to the barrage of supposed leftist journalists and commentators now demanding a continued US military presence, a war-fighting presence, in Afghanistan. Just like their rightist counterparts. That is the unholy axis I was being critical of. With some guests on Fox News and MSNBC sounding the same, the artificiality of some of the right/left divide in the US is obvious.

      Sure we have it here. When the formerly populist centre-right De Gaulists of Fianna Fáil and the formerly right-wing Christian-Democrats of Fine Gael embraced neoliberalism, all the ideological and historical differences of yore went out the door. The supposed centre-leftists of Labour and the Greens took the same path.

      Now they all sit as champagne liberals somewhere just right of centre, loving their multicultural nannies and disdaining the homeless.

      Or something.

      See. This is why I don’t blog anymore. It raises my temperature too much! 😉

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      • Jams O'Donnell

        Yes, I appreciate your clarification. I hope I’m not raising your temperature! It is not easy in written posts to convey that one is being good-humoured about a point, rather than being hostile or antagonistic. I’m just a little allergic to the spreading of the US definition of ‘left’ism – i.e. anyone less bloodthirsty than Chengis Khan.

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        • Not at all, you’re grand. It’s politics that antagonizes me these days. I’ve kinda lost any faith in the whole system. You’re better off with good books and good walks. Better for the brain and the constitution 🤓

          Like

          • Jams O'Donnell

            Yes. I agree. There is a pretty small chance that governments will have the will to tackle global warming effectively. So better just to enjoy the time we have, and hope that re-incarnation is not a ‘thing’.

            But anyway, keep on with the web site. It’s a good one. And here’s to Irish re-unification and Scottish independence – for what they’re worth in the meantime.

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        • notimportant

          Leftists are plenty bloodthirsty.

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      • Once again Mr. Fox, I think you are looking in the wrong places and overly imposing your take on Irish and/or British party politics here.

        For one thing the biggest source of the Hawk vs. Dove divide in the US never really has been along Right vs Left at all. Mostly it has been a North vs. South thing historically and still for the most part is. Leftist Southerners are in the large majority more hawkish than conservative elitist New Englanders. Indeed, when I was an anti-war activist about 40% of the movement (this was in a very liberal but by US standards not-very-churched city) was Church based and a portion of that was rather socially conservative if economically liberal. (De Valera would have loved about 25% of that church based portion!!!). Also the most demented of the counterprotesters we dealt with (in a Pacific city) were Confederate flag flyers slightly over half of whom had an actual Southern accent and/or a present relative with who had an actual Southern accent. (This was not fake. These didn’t sound like Hollywood Southern accents and relatively few American can “do” other accents very convincingly.) So these folks weren’t just carrying that flag as an affectation. And they displayed levels of anger at us that almost had to be seen to be believed.

        Look at Biden. You’ve wanted to label him a “conservative Democrat”. I don’t see that as accurate, but will go with that for argument. He wants out of Afghanistan and long has. However, on top of the inherent difficulty of bringing any war to an end, and opposition in Congress he has a lifelong policy of not wanting to promise that which he can’t deliver. So much so, he often won’t even promise something he is over 99.99% sure he can produce until it’s already in the process of happening (Covid-19 vaccines) or is on his desk to be signed (unprecented public transit funding). In fact, 90% of the reason Biden got that “conservative Democrat” label was his tendency to underpromise so he could overproduce (not a rare strategy for President in the US or any of the other trias politicas out there), while Bernie and AOC were out promising everything and the fucking moon to everyone, without even much of a plan on how it was going to happen.

        I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s pretty clear that Biden’s trying to extract the US from Afghanistan but is running into various obstacles. Obama wanted to end this adventure but not only had similar issues but faced heavier constraints from Congress. Despite what some commentators may.

        However it’s patently not true that “everyone” is a “center right champagne liberal”. You are drawing conclusions waaay to expansive based on a few blogs.

        Champagne liberal has always been a bogus term. The truth is more than wine and cheese have SOME of the democratic nature they do in Italy or France in some parts of the US but not others.

        When they started using the term “champagne liberal” in the 1950’s a family in California might be able to afford nice cheese and wine for an occasional party, but their the woman of the house likely did her own cooking, cleaning, and entertaining even if a working Mom-mostly they didn’t eschew public school or daycares with working class peers either. A economically similar family (at least on paper) might have eaten grits because milk for rice crispies or cornflakes was “too expensive” but have had three African American live-ins servants who got the kind of pay you might expect from a family that “can’t afford” milk for cereal!!! And even worse treatment!!!

        In short be careful of some of those metaphors. What looks like a simple case of class resentment from across the Atlantic is often something quite different. Even actual Americans are often misled because they haven’t lived in different regions of the country themselves.

        Also I don’t know as much about Europe, but I’ve never met an American liberal who openly denigated the homeless as you imply. Never. I’ve met my share of doctrinaire diversity trainers, misguided conspiracy theorists and more. I’m sure there are some people who insulted the homeless out of my earshot. But to suggest that this is condoned or common is just untrue.

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        • Whoops!!! That’s should have been “an economically similar family in Alabama (at least on paper). …might have had the African American full time maids but considered milk for cereal too expensive”.

          My mistake.

          Really class metaphors are tricky across economies. That’s true between countries and sometimes within.

          For example I was once puzzled that people in Ireland considered “bread and butter treats” a working class food. Then I figured out that in Ireland butter is much cheaper and tastier than in The US. Except for “Land O Lakes” (a worker run co-op) most American butter is fit for cooking but not as a spread at all due to the taste or too expensive even for some Californians who adore showing off nice cheeses and wine to party guests.

          Even the cheapest “fit for cooking only” are expensive enough that they wouldn’t make sense as a poor or working class thing in particular.

          Of course the price/quality difference in peanut butters between the US and Ireland (and indeed all Europe) is absolutely reversed. Europeans are routinely sold peanut butters that most Americans view as overpriced and not-very-good.

          Indeed peanuts have been the cheapest source of protein in the US since the 1880’s. As a legume they were one of the crops used to rehab all that soil decimated by slave cotton. So the Feds decided that heavily promoting them as human food was a way to help reduce malnutrition and child stunting and ensure at least one of their soil rehab plants was more lucrative than cattle feed or a rotation plant that would always rely on subsidies.

          I mention that not to digress but to point out that these things often have more behind them than meets the eye. When I found most of my Russian friends couldn’t tolerate peanut butter (one man nearly threw up on a tiny mouse sized glob on a cracker) and wondered at how children grow up eating this, let alone why parents in a rich country would actually do this to their kids. What I should have said but didn’t think to is that the US might not have been rich if the govt hadn’t persuaded people to not just eat the peanut butter but like it. If the Feds hadn’t acted fast to rehab all that cotton wrecked soil and gained experience for the Midwest by the 1930’s the US might have spent much of the 20th century even more famine ridden then Russia.

          Like

        • A significant chunk of the American “liberal” classes, the ones in power in politics and the media, no more care about the homeless or the poor or the employed poor than do most of their conservative peers in similar positions of influence. And it’s not that much better in Europe.

          Biden has been a surprise over Afghanistan. A disappointment over much else. Let’s see what he can do on the domestic front. Maybe he will be a surprise again.

          Though it should be noted that Biden’s determination on the withdrawal from Afghanistan was based on Trump’s previous and uncharacteristically sensible commitments and policy decisions. And the belief that Kabul would hold out against the Taliban for a year or two after the American retreat. Long enough for no one in the US to really kick up too much fuss when the capital eventually fell to the local rednecks.

          I liked Sanders. But now he seems just exhausted, with his hopes pinned on Biden as the best chance he will ever get to see some watered down versions of his policies being implemented. If he plays ball and pisses out the tent and not in.

          AOC and her clique look more like performance artists than politicians. It’s all wokist theatre.

          But hey, I could be wrong. I’m just world-weary and cynical myself these days. Socialism is dead. Social-democracy is dead. All we have left is the thought police and the culture warriors of left and right playing at pretend politics while the elites get it with living the high life. Bread and circuses in the form of Twitter and dog-piles.

          Again, I’d rather sit and read a good book. Which I think I will right now! 🤓

          Like

          • Disappointment?
            You already have been proven wrong!!!
            Have you not seen what Biden has DONE within seven months in office?
            Haven’t you seen the new bill they are about to pass?
            It has voting rights protections, bringing down the age at which children are guaranteed public education to 3 years old from five with means tested childcare help early. The bill has unprecedented spending on public transit that busted a decades old convention that says $4 must go to roads for each $1 on transit (a convention many felt would never be broken, Bernie dismissed the idea of trying as “too divisive”) . This is strictly public transit and doesn’t include a radical increase in intercity rail money as well as the plan to electrify school and municipal buses. It doesn’t include the bill to build up electric vehicle charging all over the country and expand renrewables for that and more.
            You want to talk about the homeless? Biden has ordered an unprecedented moratorium on evictions. Now I guarantee you Bernie does not have the policy acumen, the imagination, or the ability to cultivate and work with a good cabinet to have managed anything like this moratorium, while overseeeing an unprecedented vaccine campaign like this, let alone manage time for the kind of legislation Biden has gotten only a few easy steps (just has to go through a Democratic Housr once more) from his desk.
            I guarantee more people would be homeless now without the moratorium as uncertain as it is how it will end. Also without those voting rights protections many Southern states would be free to do their own thing in terms of voting. Do you dismiss that as identity politics?
            What in the world did you think Bernie Sanders was going to offer that was so much better?
            Any specifics? Or is his damn use of the word socialist so all important in your mind you can see nothing else?
            Bernie only wrote four pieces of legislation despite decades in Congress. The man has no sense of strategy and could never have gotten anything done in a system like ours. Even his bandied policies were very weak on specifics and funding plans. The math for the programs he wanted and taxes he said could pay didn’t seem to add up.
            As for AOC, I’m going to be fair. There are aspects of her philosophy and approach I’m skeptical of but she is a reasonably hard working freshmen MOC, not a “performance artist”. She at least came to a Congress with a certain willingness to build something rather than make a statement.
            I will fill you in on three key reasons the US keeps “failing” to copy European style socialist movements exactly:
            1) Unlike much of Europe (but utterly like most countries that declared independence from a European power during The Age of Enlightenment) the US never tried Laissez Faire capitalism at all, and was never that close to the LaissezFaire end of the Capitalism-Spectrum. It has always been a mixed economy from inception. Only immigrants living in the US or people who lived abroad at some point ever really experienced Laissez-Faire OR Communism personally. Also National realities until about the 1920’s made even thinking about pure Capitalism or Socialism a luxury that the country could not afford.
            2) Social class in the US has always been complicated not only by racism but also by dramatic regional differences in on the ground economic realities.
            3) Because The Democrats were so willing to accommodate avowed socialists like Bernie Sanders. There is no fucking way Angela Merkel’s Party or FinnGael would have accommodated someone like Bernie to the degree the Democrats have and frankly he gave back very little loyalty in return. Don’t even tell me he was cheated out of anything!!!

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            • notimportant

              1.) It’s because the US is the most diverse country in the world by a lot and is a former colony where all of Europe’s dirty little secrets and ills were exported.

              2.) This is at least somewhat more accurate than #1.

              3.) None of those people are socialists. They are privileged frauds using labels to grift and get power for themselves, and AOC might just be the worst of them all. They exist to destroy dissent and transfer wealth from regular Americans to other grifters and power seekers.

              Nobody in government or in power cares about regular people anymore. Period. They don’t have our backs.

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          • notimportant

            Ah I see you’re waking up to what I’ve been saying about these people being fake leftists and virtue signalers using everything as a power grab!

            Now if only my fellow Americans would see.

            Never ever trust somebody who doesn’t live what they preach or want to subject others to. All of these fake “class warriors” exist to destroy true working class movements from people who unlike them have no clue what growing up with a silver spoon is like.

            All of it is children of the upper middle class trying to overthrow the upper class and their parents’ generation and be on top and using every group and cause they can to do it.

            Like

        • notimportant

          I’ve met many liberals who have denigrated the homeless after moving to a city as gentrifiers.

          Like

  4. Maybe the USA could learn from the Chinese and become a economic superpower in the world. Let’s face it being a military superpower just isn’t working out for them. Instead of wrecking other peoples countries why not try and help them build a infrastructure in these countries. You know there is a reason why the EU is so popular in the Republic Of Ireland and has no reasons to leave no matter how many times Kate Hoey might say otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jams O'Donnell

      Yeah. The problem is the huge mass of ‘defence’ companies, who pay for the election expenses of Senators and Congressmen, and who then expect a return for their money in war manufacturing and new and ever more expensive and inefficient weapons projects.

      Like

  5. Maybe if they took the money out of American politics the incentive to go to war would decrease significantly. Make all federal election campaigns funded by the taxpayers. Then the merchants of death could find other ways to make a living instead of a killing.

    Like

  6. Honestly what Afghanistan really needs is a UN Force. It’s certainly true that it could be hard to get such a force past Russia and China. However the Russians in particular would be short-sighted not to support it. With the US and Russia in Afghanistan there’s a relevant Russian saying “Careful about digging a grave for somebody else. You might fall in.”

    Realistically there’s been blame to go around for Afghanistan for centuries….arguably even stretching back to Alexander The Great.

    It would be undesirable to have Afghanistan permanently occupied by any country, but the Taliban can’t be viewed as a normal government. The UN Peacekeepers would have to treat the “different parties” as Kabul and the tribal leaders……they should NOT give any such status to the Taliban.

    It’s always been well know the it is much, much easier to start a war than end one. That’s a big part of the problem that Biden is dealing with besides of course GOP opposition in Congress. Of course, unlike Iraq the Genie was already out of the bottle in Afghanistan by 2001……the USSR’s invasion and fall had uncorked the bottle. Whether the US getting into the fray was ever a viable answer was of course, questionable from the beginning.

    However it remains that currently there’s not really a sustainable Afghan government and it could take awhile to build once. Hence the need for UN Peacekeepers. With a UN Force one hopeful factor is simply that the average Taliban fighter, commander, and member of the leadership is much older today than in the 1990’s. It could be the a UN Force won’t be there “forever” but after some time the Taliban will fade by attrition and the prospects of a sustainable Afghan government will be easier.

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    • notimportant

      Did it ever occur to you that maybe the UN isn’t the benevolent organization you think it is?

      Afghanistan is a diverse, ancient, and very complex country that should have never been made a country in the first place. The Taliban, like them or not, come from some of the oldest and most established ethnic groups in that area. Their way of life dates back many hundreds of years. We need to stop trying to force the rural Middle East to be Western.

      And for the love of god stop blaming everything on the GOP.

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  7. Don’t forget it was Jimmy Carter who started covertly funded the Mujahideen forces in order to fight the Soviets. Every president since then has stuck his oar in since then. Just remember that when someone calls the Taliban religious extremists. It was the CIA who invited these Muslim zealots from all over the globe to go fight the Godless infidels in Afghanistan.

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    • The Mujadeen was not the Taliban. Some former Mujadeen joined the Taliban.

      You could debate forever exactly how much blame goes to the US, USSR, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, The British Empire, Tsarist Russia; Genghis Khan or even Alexander The Great. Before deciding that should settle the question of what should be done now (UN force for example) ask yourself this:: How different are these guys from The Roundheads?

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  8. The Americans exploited there religious extremism in order to get them to fight the Soviets. I’m just waiting for the British press to blame Prince Harry for the defeat in Afghanistan after all he and his better half seem to be getting the blame for everything else.

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    • notimportant

      Let’s not forget about the British promising Arabs the moon to get them to rebel against the Ottomans though, either. Then colonizing them.

      Like

  9. Afghanistan was a pretty secular country until the Mujahideen arrived on the scene. Backed by the USA and UK with funding coming from Saudi Arabia and Brunei. Trained by instructors from the CIA and the British SAS armed with the latest up to date weaponry including Stinger Surface to Air missiles for shooting down Russian helicopters.

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  10. jjohn cronin

    when they’ve left you for dead on afghanistans plains
    and the women come out to pick off what remains
    then you roll to your rifle
    and blow out your brains.

    kipling

    afghanistan has broken the heart of every army since alexander the great.

    Like

  11. The deluded fools that believe the British Army could hold Afghanistan all by itself take some beating. These Tory MP’s who want Biden to resign as President because he is to old to be doing the Job. Yet the same people slobber all over a Queen who is in her 90’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The British Army spent twenty years trying to inflict a military defeat on the IRA and in the end they gave up on that and lowered their sights to regional containment and a military stalemate while the British intelligence services and three prime ministers sought covert and then overt negotiations to end the stalemate. And that was less than 500 miles from London.

      But they think they can take on an insurgent movement multiple sizes of the IRA in a country some 5000 miles away?

      Yeah, right! 🤓

      Like

  12. OK. For thousands of years nobody has been able to colonize Afhganistan? That’s been known before the USSR tried it.

    HOwever, it doesn’t mean a UN Peacekeeping Force-probably the best option at this stage- couldn’t reduce the harm associated with The Taliban.

    The goal probably wouldn’t be full nation building. The goal would be harm reduction until the Taliban -an aging movement numerically speaking- runs its course.

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  13. A UN peace keeping force is to keep two or more factions who want to kill each other apart. Once US/NATO forces have left Afghanistan things will settle down and maybe the Chinese will move into help economically. The best we can hope for is that the Taliban might moderate their behaviour. A UN peacekeeping force would need the backing of the Big 5 on the Security Council that is not going to happen.

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    • Well if by settle down you mean into Taliban rule sure. Also no reason to think China wouldn’t be a source of friction here.

      Obviously the UN backing is tricky but there are no good alternatives.

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  14. I hate to Quote Margaret Thatcher but TINA there is no alternative when it comes to Afghanistan.

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  15. notimportant

    I see Ireland is now the head of the UN security council.

    It is up to you guys to be the anti-inperialist country you were founded as and influence the security council to stop interfering in sovereign nations and doing the bidding of globalists.

    All foreign armies need to leave sovereign countries as well as any NGOs doing anything shady or other covert arms of imperialist globalists. Stop the UN interfering in MENA and Asia and Latin America and even covertly in member countries against their own citizens.

    The fate of the entire world may very well depend upon it.

    Like

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