Explaining Afghanistan’s Collapse

News reports from Afghanistan on Saturday indicated that Taliban forces had advanced as far as Maidan Shar, a town 40 kilometres from the capital Kabul. On Sunday, they were said to be on the outskirts of Kabul itself. This followed a remarkable week in which the Taliban captured the majority of the nation’s provincial capitals, including the second and third largest cities in the country, Kandahar and Herat. The collapse of the Afghan government has been extraordinarily rapid.

As I point out in an article published yesterday by RT (read here), the government collapse compares very unfavourably with what happened after Soviet forces left Afghanistan in 1989. Then, the government defeated the initial mujahideen offensive and held onto power for a little over 3 years, until the Russian government of Boris Yeltsin cut off the supply of aid. When it comes to building a strong Afghan regime, it seems that after 20 years of effort, America and its allies have managed to do even worse than the Soviets.

How do we explain this?

In part, one must look to the Taliban. They have shown extraordinary resilience and an ability to inspire tens of thousands of Afghans to risk their lives to fight the government. At some point, we in the West will need to do some serious reflection about why the Taliban message resonates so strongly with a segment of the Afghan population, whereas the message of the pro-Western, notionally liberal democratic government has failed to do the same.

But beyond the successes of the Taliban, one must also look to the failings of the Afghan government and its Western backers. The collapse of government forces this week is not due to a lack of training and equipment, both of which they have had in abundance. It’s a collapse of morale, and of leadership. So, let’s examine some of the issues that contributed to this undoubted disaster.

1. Objectives. The first principle of war is ‘Selection and maintenance of the aim.’ Western states failed dismally in this regard. The aims of their operations in Afghanistan were unclear, kept changing, often contradicted one another, and in many cases were totally unsuitable for successful military or political action.

In the first place, it was never fully clear why American and NATO troops were in Afghanistan. Was it just an act of revenge for the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001? Was it, for NATO members, to be good allies to the USA? Was it a matter of prestige (we can’t leave without losing face)? Was it to defeat terrorism? Was it to create a stable government? Was it about democracy? Was it a humanitarian matter – educating girls, and so on? At different times it was all of those and others besides. There was a total lack of focus.

Beyond that, aims were often contradictory. Soldiers sought to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of locals by quick-fix aid projects. Development specialists disliked such projects as not contributing to long term development, and even harming it, and so sought to divert aid in a different direction. The two then argued with each other, with projects swinging first one way then another according to who had the ear of whoever was in charge at the time. It was not a recipe for success.

And even further beyond that, many of the aims chosen were simply non-conducive to success. In Canada, for instance, the country’s involvement was often justified by reference to the need to be friendly with the USA. We were there to show that we were good allies. But think about this for a bit. The aim was achieved just by turning up. What was done after turning up was neither here nor there. The chosen objective therefore lacked any link to what military, political, and development actors might do on the ground. In a sense, it didn’t matter what they did, as far as achieving the aim was concerned. Incentives for sensible policy were therefore absent. Again, it was a recipe for failure.

2. The nature of the Afghan regime. One of the most often cited objectives for Western intervention in Afghanistan was the desire to build a stable Afghan regime. The problem with this was that the people who made up the regime were in too many cases completely unsuited for the role. I don’t want to say that there weren’t, and aren’t, Afghan officials who are honest and well-intentioned, but there were, and are, too many who weren’t and aren’t. Once you got down to the local level where ordinary Afghans confronted state officials face to face, their experiences were all too often pretty awful. Basically, we were backing a regime that was rotten to the core.

Let’s given an example that I cited in my recent talk to the Group of 78 in Ottawa. This is how one British officer, Stephen Grey, described the situation in Helmand province when the British arrived there in 2006:

“The chief of Helmand’s secret police [Dado] … had turned Sangin into his private fiefdom … Dado had started a private jail, was always drunk or stoned, had raped boys and women and was systematically stealing from the population … as far as … most were concerned, the British were there to prop up Dado and his cronies. Many of the fighters were locals.”

Another British officer – Frank Ledwidge – described the situation as follows: “Dado was one of a large network of drug warlords – exactly the sort of individuals that the Taliban had removed only a decade before … Now the British were seen to be supporting these criminals’ return.”

This was a pattern repeated across the country. In Kandahar province, for instance, the Canadian propped up the notorious drug-running warlord Abdul Razik. As Canadian journalist Mathieu Aikins reported:

A grim irony of the rising pro-Taliban sentiments in the south is that the United States and its allies often returned to power the same forces responsible for the worst period in southerners’ memory – the post-Soviet ‘mujahideen nights.’ … By installing these characters and then protecting them by force of arms, the ISAF [i.e. NATO] has come to be associated, in the minds of many Afghans, with their criminality and abuses.

There were other problems as well. A report in The New York Times noted that American soldiers had ‘been instructed not to intervene’ in cases where Afghan soldiers sexually abused children. According to the report:

The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages.

So, these were the people the Americans and their allies were supporting. One should hardly be surprised that the Afghans didn’t like them very much, and that very few people have been willing to risk their lives to defend them.

3. Too much aid. One could argue that the rotten nature of the Afghan regime is simply a product of the local culture and as such beyond America’s control. But one of the reasons that the Taliban are popular among elements of the population is that they are perceived as honest – they don’t run drugs, commit paedophilia, etc. So, you can’t say that it’s some inherent Afghan thing. Rather, I think, the massive corruption that personifies the current Afghan regime is at least in part a product of Western policy. Instead of not aiding Afghanistan enough, the problem is that we have flooded it with a vast excess of aid, creating a perfect basis for massive corruption.

I’ve been saying this for years, but it’s worth saying it again. To reinforce the point, though, I’ll limit myself to quoting an article I wrote for The American Conservative magazine back in 2009. In this I said:

“ In our efforts to fight the Taliban, we are providing Afghanistan with a massive army, a huge police force, and vast numbers of schools, hospitals, roads, and so on. All of this has to be paid for. The Afghan state cannot do so, nor will it ever be able to. … Only if a state relies on taxes levied directly from the citizenry does it have to respond to those citizens’ needs. It is no coincidence that rentier states that rely on oil or gas revenues or on foreign subsidies are associated with autocratic government and corruption. … The country probably needs less aid rather than more. It needs to tax its own people directly. (It scarcely does at the moment, and has little incentive to as long as the foreign checks keep flowing.) It needs a small army, not a big one, and a manageable social infrastructure, one it can afford. As happened in the past, pumping in more aid and sending in more advisers will simply reinforce the institutional barriers to progress. The pursuit of our immediate military goals is condemning Afghanistan to perpetual governmental, and thus economic, failure.”

I think that the events of the past week have shown this analysis to have been correct.

4. Poorly directed aid. It’s not just that the West provided too much aid; it’s also that the aid was often wasted on useless, or counterproductive, projects, and eventually flowed down into the hands of the Taliban.

Again, this is something I’ve banging on about for years, citing the reports of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). It was impossible to read SIGAR’s reports and not view the aid provided to Afghanistan as waste on a most phenomenal scale. As I wrote in 2017 SIGAR

“uncovered the stories of how the US spent $6 million airlifting 9 Italian goats to Afghanistan; spent $486 million buying aircraft for the Afghan airforce which were so dangerous to fly that they were never used and ended up being turned into $32,000 of scrap metal; built an entirely unused 64,000 square foot command centre at a cost of $34 million ; spent $150 million building luxury to lodge staff of its economic development office; and expended $3 million on building a navy for landlocked Afghanistan, but never actually delivered the boats.”

As I said, “Unfortunately, these stories are just the tip of the iceberg, a small part of a chronicle of folly which boggles the mind.” The scale of American, and more generally Western, incompetence in Afghanistan is truly amazing.

5. Arrogance and ignorance. This incompetence didn’t just come out of nowhere. It was a product of arrogance and ignorance – that is to say a firm belief that we knew the answers to what constitutes good governance combined with a total lack of knowledge of local conditions and culture.

Soviet general M.A. Gareev remarked that, “It wasn’t so much the fault as the misfortune of our civilian advisers [in Afghanistan] that they were typical products of our cadre system, trained to be loyal executors, capable only of putting into life the line that the party had given them.” One might say much the same of Westerners. Just as when Soviets were plonked down in Afghanistan, they pulled out the communist handbook and tried to turn the country into the Soviet Union, so too, as Antonio Giustozzi and Artemy Kalinovski have pointed out in their book Missionaries of Modernity, the tendency of Westerners in such circumstances is to whip out the template of liberal democratic reform and apply it regardless of local conditions.

There’s a striking moment in the documentary film Restrepo, when a group of American soldiers enters an Afghan village while red-bearded men look at them like beings from another planet. It’s a wonderful depiction of how the two worlds – American and Afghan – were utterly alien to one another. To imagine that we could somehow understand such a place, let alone bend it to our will, was an act of extraordinary presumption.

6. Deceit. Another reason why the gross incompetence of the US/Allied intervention continued for so long, and for why the regime in Kabul was allowed to rot away in such a terrible fashion, was the unwillingness of Western leaders to face reality or tell their people the truth. It’s not as if there weren’t experts telling them that truth. But they chose to ignore it and to pretend to their publics that all was well. Let me quote SIGAR again. At a Congressional hearing last month, he said the following:

“Every time we went in, the US military changed the goal posts, and made it easier to show success. And then finally, when they couldn’t do even that, they classified the assessment tool. … So, they knew how bad the Afghan military was. And if you had a clearance, you could find out, but the average American, the average taxpayer, the average congressman, the average person working in the embassy wouldn’t know how bad it was.”

I’ve often wondered over the years whether our leaders believed their own propaganda about imminent success in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, or whether they were simply lying. SIGAR suggests an answer.

US president Joe Biden will no doubt get a lot of stick for his decision to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. Some will blame him for what has happened this week. There will be talk of “betrayal.” But Biden was absolutely right. The problem is not that the Americans are withdrawing now from Afghanistan, the problem is that they didn’t withdraw many, many years ago. In an article in Armed Forces Journal in 2010, a US army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis wrote the following:

“Absent a major change in the status quo that currently dominates in Afghanistan, the U.S.-led military effort there will fail to accomplish the president’s objectives and, despite our best effort to spin it otherwise, we will lose the war in Afghanistan.”

How right he was.

56 thoughts on “Explaining Afghanistan’s Collapse”

  1. In part, one must look to the Taliban. They have shown extraordinary resilience and an ability to inspire tens of thousands of Afghans to risk their lives to fight the government. At some point, we in the West will need to do some serious reflection about why the Taliban message resonates so strongly with a segment of the Afghan population, whereas the message of the pro-Western, notionally liberal democratic government has failed to do the same.

    Opinion polls from 2020 suggested only 15% of Afghans sympathized with the Taliban cause (for comparison, that’s lower than the ~30% of people in Al Raqqa who sympathized with Islamic State).

    In fairness, the fact that many people seem to think the Taliban did have broad-based support is a testament to Taliban PR – and also makes the indictment of the American effort (or lack thereof) to train the ANA all the more total.


    1. If the 15% is dedicated, and the 85% isn’t willing to lift a finger, then 15% is enough. Bolsheviks won 23% of vote to Constituent Assembly, so more or less comparable. But whether it’s 15% or something else, we end up with the same problem – Afghans aren’t willing to fight for their government. That’s the basic problem, and it suggests something profoundly wrong with the government.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Make a connection with Kiev regime controlled Ukraine. US supporting some corrupt folks there in conjunction with being lax on the extreme nationalist anti-Russian contingent.

      Simultaneously, polling within Kiev regime controlled Ukraine suggest limits of pro-Russian sentiment.

      Nonetheless, the combination of a corrupt Ukrainian elite element and a minority of repulsive anti-Russian types, leave open the door for a possible change down the line.

      Afghanistan and Ukraine have diversity, which isn’t so easy to manage.

      With Afghanistan in mind, the US laxness on a corrupt situation in 1990s Russia and present day Ukraine is indicative of a country whose foreign policy elites don’t learn well.

      No surprise Michael McFaul uncritically backed Khodorkovsky and carries on similarly with Orange/Euromaidan Ukraine.

      McFaul’s analytical shortcomings haven’t prevented him from being the person he bragged about in a recently since deleted Tweet of his.

      Lukashenko has benefited from this situation.

      Keep up the subtle censorship Paul.


  2. There’s a certain factual error in the article – the Soviet troops had withdrawn in February 1989, and the government of Najibullah fell in April 1992 so it could hold its ground for over three years, not two.


      1. It’s striking that the Soviet leadership of the day for all its supposed ideological rigidity was capable to realize midway that they were heading into a dead end and find an outside-the-box solution that provided a decent chance to succeed while the current Western leadership has just kept beating a dead horse.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Leonid,

        Relative to my initial set of comments at this thread, the neocon/neolib leaning US foreign policy establishment is a codded lot.

        They keep getting utilized as others who’ve been more spot on are muted, as well as written off as crackpots.

        Refer to the broadly inaccurate characterization of Strategic Culture Foundation contributors. At the top of its homepage, JRL recently propped a rehashing of such tripe.


  3. Back in 1980-92, it was really an Afghan civil war. Yes, the shuravi were helping one of the sides, but they weren’t really occupying the country and running it as a colony.

    And that’s the difference, methinks.

    The same thing, running countries as colonies, also seems — more and more — to be the case with Germany vs Eastern Europe; Poland and Hungary being the most problematic at the moment. We’ll see.


  4. Mazar-i-Sharif fell today, adding to the list. According to the BBC: the town ‘ fell largely without a fight. Abas Ebrahimzada, a lawmaker from Balkh province whose capital city is Mazar-e-Sharif, told the Associated Press news agency that the national army were the first to surrender, which then prompted pro-government forces and other militia to give up.’

    Those words ‘largely without a fight’ sum up the problem, it seems to me.


  5. An extensive overview by Anatol Lieven: https://w

    In this view, even in victory, the Taliban face quite daunting tasks:

    “To reconcile rural Pashtuns to the state would be a great achievement in itself, but to achieve a stable and lasting hegemony over Afghanistan as a whole, the Taliban would have to do three things. The first would be to gain sufficient international subsidies, or aid. This it might be able to get (from China, Russia and the European Union, if not from America) in return for suppressing heroin production and fighting against the Islamic State and its international terrorist allies in Afghanistan – as it is indeed already doing.

    The second task would be to make sufficient concessions to cultural modernity, at least in the city of Kabul, to retain enough modern technocrats to make the Afghan state work and to administer international aid. Can the Taliban compromise in this way? The former Taliban leader Mullah Mansour – who was very foolishly and pointlessly killed by the US – could have done so; but as for the present leadership – who can say? Not even themselves, perhaps, before they actually take power.

    Finally, and most importantly of all, the Taliban would have to reach an accommodation with Afghanistan’s other main ethnic groups – Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks – guaranteeing them autonomy and safety in their own areas. Without this, Afghanistan will be doomed to a future of unending civil war fuelled by outside backers; for while China and Russia might abandon these minorities, Iran cannot abandon the Shia Hazara without a serious loss of prestige as leader of the Shia world.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One more factor: Leadership.

    The Soviets picked Najibullah, a guy who could think & fight. So Afghan soldiers would fight for him, until Yeltsin pulled away their support.

    The US usually picks its minions mainly for their compliance with US dictate. The present guy left in 1977, is an academic & worked at the World Bank before returning in 2001. Doesn’t know the first thing about fighting.

    So who can find an Afghan soldier who’ll fight & due for him?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “…whereas the message of the pro-Western, notionally liberal democratic government has failed to do the same.”

    Maestro Robinson can into post-irony?

    “So, let’s examine some of the issues that contributed to this undoubted disaster.”

    Actually – nothing new here, just a rehash of the same old things maestro Robinson have written in his blog previously, i.e. boiling down it all to the military sphere only. SAD. But easy money for our bloghost.

    That’s why we still have to read such egregorious hot-takes as:

    “Soldiers sought to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of locals by quick-fix aid projects.”

    “Hearts’n’Minds” did not even enter the common parlance of the American Hegemony propacondoms in the first years of their Afghanistan occupation. When it did enter, the initiators and proponents were not the “soldiers” (btw, that’s a funny way to spell “MIC connected generals”), but aforementioned think-tank residing propacondoms, who sensed a chance for a once in lifetime opportunity for graft (together with the “development specs” aka “lobbying grifters”) – like it was in Vietnam, btw. Ascribing to incompetence what’s been clearly done due to corruption is either dumb or disingenuous.

    And that’s why the US of A ultimately “lost Afghanistan”. It was a failure to build a functioning national economic system while operating within their usual capitalist framework. Full stop.

    If you think that’s the only “flaw” in this blogpost – no! Another red-hot take INCOMIIIING:

    “The problem with this was that the people who made up the regime were in too many cases completely unsuited for the role. I don’t want to say that there weren’t, and aren’t, Afghan officials who are honest and well-intentioned, but there were, and are, too many who weren’t and aren’t.”

    BS. Utter BS. And this is coming from a person not in the neo-con think-tank! Because in the same paragraph, after all the obligatory “bothsidism” claptrap we have:

    “Basically, we were backing a regime that was rotten to the core.”

    Cognitive dissonance? Nope, never heard about it!

    Instead of boiling it all down into a collection of anecdotes, why there is no deep, systematic analysis? Because then the implications would become… uncomfortable?

    And OF COURSE there was a bit of patronizing orientalist “proper western gentleman” BS near the end of this blogpost:

    “To imagine that we could somehow understand such a place, let alone bend it to our will, was an act of extraordinary presumption.”


    1. Part One.

      Even before starting the Talk about “How America lost Afghanistan”, some obligatory travel down the memory lane, in order to provide all the relevant historical context.

      Point One: The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed by the US Congress a week after 9/11. It gave the POTUS virtually unlimited authority to deploy US military force against anyone in cahoots with the perpetrators of the attack. At the time, the main target was obviously partially recognized “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

      Point Two: Prior to Iraq war USian “best and brightest” Servants of the People got their shit a tiny bit together and passed so-called “2002 AUMF”, which, wonder of wonders, introduced a bit of their vaunted “checks and balances”. Among other things, it only authorised the military option once the diplomatic ones have been exhausted (quote):

      “…reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq”

      It required Dubya to work with the UN and abide by UN dictates of military conduct (quote):

      “…strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq and encourages him in those efforts”

      Perhaps most relevantly, it demanded transparency and accountability through regular reports to the Congress (quote):

      “The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 3 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed”

      Here comes a punchline you all expected – Point One ½ consisted of the US lead coalition invasion of Afghanistan, i.e. prior to any legally binding demands for accountability, responsibility and oversight. Everyone got a laugh? Here’s another one – even with the Congressionally demanded oversight the Iraqi war turned out be a dumBsterfire.

      Here you go. A veritable paradox, yet a yuuuuge propaganda success for the Team America.

      Afghanistan for the West was the “good war”, the one against the “real” bad guys. It never really fell under the same scrutiny while a rotating cast of US generals assured the Congress that they were “turning a corner” despite not being able to even rein in the local “allies” they were supposed to be working with (let alone the Taliban and other anti-government/criminal elements). The US mission to Afghanistan never really felt the urgent pressure to rein in lawless conduct and warlordism within the Afghan government. It never made a real attempt to square things with Pakistan (not that *Biden* was interested in that during his tenure as VP). It never seriously convinced their own people why Afghanistan is worth all this effort other than to get back at the people who did 9/11.

      To put it metaphorically – America’s Afghan war had been ill-conceived . Is it really a wonder that the resultant child had to be held on a life-support?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Part Two

      Let’s make it an official “Hot Takes Day”. Here’s mine – the Regime in the US knew they were loosing the war in Afghanistan nearly from the beginning. They also didn’t care.

      Awesome souce incoming. It’s a bonanza of the quotable materiel. Like this one:

      “In private, the flood of suicide attacks and roadside bombs — insurgent tactics imported from Iraq — stoked fear among U.S. officials in Afghanistan of a potential “Tet Offensive in Kandahar,” an unnamed Bush administration official told government interviewers, referring to the bloody 1968 military campaign by North Vietnamese forces that undermined public support for the Vietnam War.

      “The turning point came at the end of 2005, beginning of 2006 when we finally woke up to the fact that there was an insurgency that could actually make us fail,” the official said. “Everything was turning the wrong way at the end of 2005.”

      Wait – there’s more!

      “In an Army oral-history interview, then-Capt. Shawn Dalrymple, a company commander with the 82nd Airborne Division who was responsible for security at Bagram, confirmed that word had leaked out about Cheney’s presence. The suicide bomber, he added, saw a convoy of vehicles coming out of the front gate and blew himself up because he mistakenly thought Cheney was a passenger.

      The bomber wasn’t far off the mark. The vice president was supposed to depart for Kabul in a different convoy about 30 minutes later, according to Dalrymple, who had worked with the Secret Service to plan Cheney’s movements.


      The 2007 episode marked an escalation in the war on two fronts. By targeting the vice president at the heavily fortified base at Bagram, the Taliban demonstrated an ability to inflict high-profile, mass-casualty attacks far from the insurgents’ strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

      And by lying about how close the insurgents had come to harming Cheney, the U.S. military sank deeper into a pattern of deceiving the public about many facets of the war, from discrete events to the big picture. What began as selective, self-serving disclosures after the 2001 invasion gradually hardened into willful distortions and, eventually, flat-out fabrications.”

      The date was Feb. 27, 2007. Note – the US military were doing “the lying act” here. Funny enough, these were also the golden years of the all-time high trust in the US military as an institution. Next, the article quotes a string of pompous generals saying “We are prevailing” (not gonna quote – you already know that stuff). The meaty thing is further inside:

      “Neumann arrived in Kabul as the top U.S. diplomat in July 2005…

      “By the fall of 2005, I had reported, in combination with General Eikenberry, that we were going to face a vastly increased insurgency in the next year, in *2006*, and that it was going to get much bloodier, much worse,” Neumann said in a diplomatic oral-history interview.

      At first, many officials in Washington found it hard to believe the Taliban could present a strategic danger. Even some military leaders in the field underestimated the Taliban? and thought that, while it might control pockets of rural territory, it posed no threat to the government in Kabul. “We thought the Taliban’s capability was greatly reduced,” then-Brig. Gen. Bernard Champoux, deputy commander of a U.S. military task force from 2004 to 2005, said in an Army oral-history interview.

      Paul Toolan, a Special Forces captain who served in Helmand province in 2005, said senior U.S. officials mistakenly viewed the war as a peacekeeping and reconstruction mission. He tried to explain to anyone who would listen that the fighting had intensified and the Taliban had bolstered its firepower.

      “If we don’t do this right, we’re going to allow these guys to keep us languishing here for a lot of years,” Toolan cautioned in an Army oral-history interview.

      But the Bush administration suppressed the internal warnings and put a shine on the war. In a December 2005 interview with CNN, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said things were going so well that the Pentagon would soon bring home roughly 10 percent of its forces in Afghanistan.

      “It’s a direct result of the progress that’s being made in the country,” Rumsfeld declared.

      Two months later, however, Rumsfeld’s office and other officials in Washington received another classified warning from their ambassador in Kabul. In a gloomy Feb. 21, 2006, cable, Neumann predicted that “violence will rise through the next several months,” with more suicide bombings in Kabul and other major cities.”

      Also, about a myth about “over-supplying the Afghans”, either military or the civilians. As the lewd joke goes “…but here’s a nuance”:

      “[S]omeone did come see for himself. Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey was a hero of the Persian Gulf War. It had been a decade since he had been on active duty, but the U.S. military asked him to visit Afghanistan and Pakistan and conduct an independent assessment. The mission was not publicized.

      McCaffrey interviewed about 50 high-ranking officials over the course of a week. In his nine-page report, he lauded U.S. commanders and highlighted several successes, but he didn’t sugarcoat his verdict: The Taliban was nowhere near defeated, and the war was “deteriorating.”

      He judged the Taliban as well-trained, “very aggressive and smart in their tactics,” as well as armed with “excellent weapons.” Far from panicking or feeling the pressure of time, the insurgents would “soon adopt a strategy of ‘waiting us out,’ ” he added.

      In contrast, McCaffrey said that the Afghan army was “miserably under-resourced” and that its soldiers had little ammunition and shoddier weapons than the Taliban. He blasted the Afghan police as worthless: “They are in a disastrous condition: badly equipped, corrupt, incompetent, poorly led and trained, riddled by drug use.”

      Independent and civilian derived *classified* 40 pages long report published the same year (2006 AD) was even gloomier. The punchline was: “It is not that the enemy is so strong but that the Afghan government is so weak

      “Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul grappled with a fresh wave of internal pessimism. Neumann, the ambassador, sent another dour classified cable to Washington on Aug. 29. “We are not winning in Afghanistan,” it declared.

      Two weeks after the ambassador’s warning, Eikenberry sat down for an interview with ABC News on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and offered the flip version for public consumption.

      We are winning,” the general insisted, adding, “but I also say we have not yet won.” Asked whether the United States could lose, Eikenberry responded, “Losing is not an option in Afghanistan.

      As they say in the Ukraine – ооооотакої!


    3. Part Three

      Really, really funny article… in a hindsight. Promises to stop Talibs delivered by the governor of Kandahar [checks the date] at about August 9, 2021 – that’s too funny, astagfir allāh!

      Skipping obligatory-tearful-yet-grrrl-power-inducing 1/3 of the article, we find the meaty pieces, pertaining to the life as it is:

      “The Afghan traditional patriarchal system is intact in the conservative society, and the life of women in rural areas has changed little since the Taliban era. However, in Kabul and other urban centers, some progress has been made.”

      Our friend doctor Chekhov’s gun is now hanging prominently on the wall.

      “The pandemic put a strain on the center as it was forced to close last year. It is now going through financial turbulence. Many students left the center as their parents couldn’t pay the fees anymore.

      “In the last few years no one has helped us. We need help from the government. Without it we can’t teach the students,” Amiri added. The center charges a monthly fee of 200 Afghani ($2.50 U.S.) for computers, 200 Afghani for English lessons and 300 Afghani for transportation.”

      Note – these place DOES NOT provide free education for these girls. They had to PAY for it. Not much by the Western standards, but… that’s Afghanistan we are talking about here.

      Our wall-hanging gun is definitely loaded.

      “Inside Kandahar, life looks normal: Shops are open, vegetable and fruit markets are running, men drive their bikes, and women ride pillion in blue burqas. But there is a palpable sense of unease. Since the U.S. invasion, the city has been transformed by the inflow of dollars, with new parks, roads, buildings and shopping complexes as well as more cars and cricket tournaments springing up… Eateries and restaurants remain open at night, though armed robberies and other crimes have increased…

      On the outskirts of the city, Aino Mina is a place of leisure for many Kandaharis, a place where they discuss cricket, politics, business, marriage, even conflict and violence. Aino Mina is an affluent housing development built by former President Hamid Karzai’s brother Mahmoud Karzai. The neighborhood is largely built on U.S. contracts, land grabbing and corruption. It is spacious and clean, with tree-lined streets, sidewalks and parks where men gather with their hookah to chat, pray, smoke hash, and play Ludo and chess. Women have separate areas to sit. There are mosques and shopping malls, multimillion-dollar mansions in the background of rocky mountains, huge empty fields, heavily armed National Directorate of Security (NDS) soldiers checking every passing bike or car


      In its birthplace, the Taliban are still more popular among the people, especially men, than the Western-backed Kabul government. Though Nasim [a dried fruit seller from the city] is afraid that the Taliban will take over the city, he doesn’t care who is going to rule over the country anymore. “We are hardworking, poor people; it’s difficult enough for us to run our home. Whoever is beneficial for this country and for us, we will welcome them,” Nasim said.”

      The article states it specifically – Nasim is “a dried fruit seller”. Nasim is member of the urban bourgeoisie. Despite his protestations to be “poor”, he can allow himself a family weekend picnic with friends (i.e. people who can also afford some leisure time) in the city’s elite neighbourhood.

      Asked about the prospects of the Taliban rule, Nasim says “Inshallah”

      Our wall-hanging gun is loaded with something probably military grade, not your usual buckshot.

      “Nasim’s game partner Yaqoub hails from Arghandab, and he is worried about the security situation. But since he doesn’t work for the government or the army, he believes the Taliban won’t harm him. He is not worried about the Taliban’s return to power in Kandahar.

      “At the moment you can’t even park your motorcycle in Kandahar without fear of it being stolen. That would not happen under the Taliban,” said Yaqoub, who is unemployed. He is angry at the Afghan government’s inability to create jobs and eradicate poverty.

      According to the Asian Development Bank’s latest report, in 2020 47% of the Afghan population lived below the national poverty line, compared with 36% in 2007. In its recent report, Oxfam has called Afghanistan one of “the worst hunger hot spots” in the world. Since the pandemic increased unemployment and the prices of basic items, there are more women and children begging in the streets. The pandemic year witnessed a 17% rise in extreme hunger in Afghanistan.

      A third player joined the conversation. Mohammad Rasool, a bulky man in his mid-40s, is a teacher. “Every government has its weaknesses,” he said. However, he added, the security situation was better under the Taliban, and the judicial system was swifter. “Every family dispute, every theft was settled in the Taliban courts,” he explained.

      Today, the judiciary is plagued with corruption, and judges have lost credibility. According to Transparency International, 60% of Afghans consider the judiciary the most corrupt organ of the government. In Afghanistan, 80% of disputes are still resolved outside the formal judicial system by jirgas, shuras and religious leaders. Afghanistan also ranked 165 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index. And, according to the organization, corruption increased during the pandemic.”

      One has to wonder (out loud) whether there is a correlation between the 80% of legal disputes resolved in informal tribal/religious councils and the fact, that 74% of all Afghans live in rural areas. Also, how this correlates with basically no improvements for the “holy-cows” of the Western progressivisms outside of the urban areas. Also, if you add up (internal) refugees, consisting of 3-4 mils to the total… yup, 80%!

      ““Look how many parliamentarians Kandahar has, but none of them have served the people,” Mohammad lamented. “Everyone has witnessed how much foreigners helped us, but all the money was stolen.”

      The U.S. invasion spawned a new class of rich Afghans, the war allies who gained access to contracts with the invading military, embezzled project funds and funneled billions of dollars from illegal mining. They are living high in Dubai or in the West, owning shopping malls, private banks, hotels, wedding halls and real estate businesses. Their money enables them to manipulate elections. They can easily be spotted in Kabul in their heavily armed caravan of vehicles. The Afghan police guard their villas.

      “Despite these things, they want us to vote for them!” Mohammad said.”

      One has to forgive Mohammad. As Everyone Knows ™, the Afghanistan is enjoying a “democracy” (c). It’s his duty to die in its defense [nod-nod].

      “He is exasperated and doesn’t care about the form of government: “We just want peace.”

      Shekiba interjected: “The Taliban era was not a good time. They beat women and cut men’s hair that was too long. Everyone was afraid of them. They could kill everyone if they are ruling over the city or the country. They may take out everyone from their houses and may cut down their throat; it doesn’t matter for them if you are a civilian or not.”


      Shekiba doesn’t want the Taliban to come back to power. But she is afraid that Kandahar could fall back into their hands.

      “We don’t have any choice, we can’t move, we surrender ourselves to God; he will decide whether to keep us alive or dead.””

      Agha Mohammad and his wife Shekiba used to be “farmers” (per article). Now they are refugees, who, per this article “are forced to beg or work for meager wages”. A heavy fall from being a rural petty-bourgeois to the dead end (often lumpen)-proletariat.

      In the end, they say “Inshallah” to the prospect of Taliban’s return to the power.

      Current POTUS threatens to wage a “Middle-class foreign policy” on the unsuspected world. That lame-ass defined “middle-class” has long been held as the “pillar” of the American, and, therefore, global liberal market based capitalist democracy.

      The USians came to Afghanistan. They tried to build the only thing they think they know about – i.e. another America, dear to their hearts. They ended up creating oligarchs and off the scales corruption. They screwed over the locals, making up the real “middle class” on the ground. They created a local service strata (paid for in part by the US taxpayers $) to service their occupational government, but with no job prospects outside of it.

      Now they are pulling out. Afghanistan’s middle-class chooses Taliban.




    4. Part Four: The Meaning of life

      But who cares about them losers anyway? Let’s look at the “success stories”, epitomizing the true entrepreneurial spirit, that Made America Great.

      The international community ™ was so successful in creating a democratic Afghanistan, that it ended up with the feudal warlord aristocracy on the ground. You know – dem oligarchs of different ethnic type, who are more open about it/cannot into PR.

      It seems, April 2021 AD produced an especially large number of half-arsed articles, full of awesome, stunning, breathtaking facts… perverted to draw ideologically correct conclusion.

      “Cities have become deadly stages for cutthroat competition among an array of actors — chiefly, the central government, the Taliban, strongmen and their militias, and criminal networks. They have become a critically important and overlooked dimension of the country’s armed conflict.”

      So far so good, as the things in “state the obvious” department stand. Now, skipping obligatory hand-wringing over the fate of the Western sacred cows – the meat of the article:

      “An ambitious anti-crime plan launched in Kabul in October 2020, headed by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, has not only failed to curb existing crime but has failed to prevent the new spike in targeted killings that is terrorizing the capital. Saleh’s campaign is perhaps most well-known for demolishing a popular burger joint and a beloved old movie theater. While done in the name of cracking down on crime, both actions spurred public outrage and ridicule.

      In fairness to Saleh, any effort to crack down on criminality would likely be undermined, if not wholly defeated, by deeply entrenched nepotism and corruption. In protecting criminals, powerful figures routinely use their influence over the police to undermine investigations or get their allies released. An estimated 40 percent of Afghan parliamentarians have alleged connections to the narcotics trade and smuggling. However, the individuals at the heart of these criminal networks are typically hard to identify, as their influence (and the widespread fear of retribution) tends to deter others from openly naming them or reporting about them in the media.

      Corruption is particularly widespread in the security sector. Many ostensibly responsible for maintaining the rule of law are actively involved in enabling or perpetrating criminal activity. A broader problem is that key security sector officials, including provincial and district police chiefs, are loyal first and foremost to local strongmen rather than to the government. This has not only undermined efforts to crack down on crime, but presents an increasingly grave threat to the central government’s legitimacy and control well beyond Kabul.”

      In listing recent “Troubles”, the article mentions target killings of (female) judges and (female) members of various legislation.

      The same article (and many others) mentions how the common Afghanis don’t trust their corrupt courts (and judges) and how they despise their parliamentarians, who are merely puppets of the local oligarchs.

      Try as I might to recall numerous interviews with the people of Afghanistan, lamenting their lot and recent increase in the “Troubles”, I can’t recall them saying something along the lines “Oh noes, dem Talibs blew our judge to the smithereens!” or “A pack of the insurgents cut down our MPs – the bastards!”. No, they were lamenting their own lot, sparing precious little empathy to their betters – of either gender.

      Hmm… HOW COME?!

      “Take the case of Nizamuddin Qaisari, the former police chief of Qaisar district in Faryab province and head of an anti-Taliban “uprising force.” Like many local militia leaders, Qaisari has friends in high places: He is close to former Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and is affiliated with his Junbesh party. Qaisari has a long history of criminality and abuses against civilians. The list of attempts to arrest him is also long, at one point resulting in a prolonged firefight between government forces and Qaisari’s militia in the streets of Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city, Mazar-i-Sharif. While Qaisari evaded capture in that instance, he and 20 of his militia members were finally arrested in a major operation by the *Afghan Army*. His capture was, however, followed by widespread protests in the north, and he was freed after six months in custody. Renewed efforts to arrest him have failed. He most recently made headlines for attending a government event in Kabul (despite an outstanding arrest warrant), where he advocated the formation of militias to fight the Taliban.”

      You know – THAT Dostum. Bacha-bazi fancying warlord dating back to the previous war in Afghanistan. The one, whose palace now everyone can see:

      Worse than Yanukovich’s one, if you ask me. Total lack of taste. That clumsy, excessive luxury out of the Dark Ages. Think Langobardian stuff. Real (early) feudal warlords:

      “The removal of the governor of Balkh province, Atta Mohammad Noor, in 2018 illustrates this dilemma. Atta, Balkh’s governor since 2004, was arguably the political kingpin of the north. In the mold of many of Afghanistan’s strongman governors, Atta was a Jamiat-i-Islami commander during the civil war. When Ghani fired Atta in late 2017, the governor refused to relinquish his position, and a tense stand-off ensued. Atta finally resigned in March 2018 in what was then seen as a political and economic victory for Ghani. A recent report noted that Balkh province remitted 50 percent more of its customs duties to the central government after Atta’s removal.

      Since Atta’s resignation, however, security across Balkh and in the capital of Mazar-i-Sharif — once seen as a bastion of security — has sharply deteriorated. Lacking enough soldiers and police willing to man the checkpoints around the city, local strongmen and security officials have started recruiting impoverished and untrained civilians, at times under false pretenses, and arming them to protect the remaining checkpoints. While the scheme appears to be unofficially supported by government security officials, it is effectively run by ex-commanders and militia members loyal to Atta.

      Strongmen-types, alongside their militias, have longstanding economic interests in urban areas, such as property, stakes in telecommunications and real estate businesses, (very lucrative) development contracts, and criminal activities. But as national political tensions flare up, cities are now larger and more economically valuable than ever before. While strongmen and their networks have long acted with impunity beyond the capital, this dynamic is increasingly common in Kabul. The International Institute for Strategic Studies reports that although private militias act in a more discreet fashion in the capital, the strongmen paying their salaries control profitable land-grabbing and extortion operations. Many of these strongmen, some of whom occupy influential political posts, maintain heavily armed militias that in turn extort local businesses or illegally seize land. Their links to the government ensure they will be able to act with impunity, even as they actively undermine security and government legitimacy.”

      The US does not mind that. It fact, it’s been encouraging it:

      “International support is essential to making progress in these areas. It is, however, worth emphasizing that the international community’s position on these issues has been deeply problematic and borderline hypocritical. On the one hand, it has long criticized Afghanistan’s central government for corruption and conditioned future aid on anti-corruption reforms. On the other hand, various international actors have long supported these strongmen and have not done enough to address the threat they pose to stability. This pattern continues with efforts around peace talks. The international community has pushed the government to take a more “inclusive” approach to peace, as most recently emphasized in U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s March 2020 letter to Ghani. This means, among other things, shoring up alliances with the very strongmen perpetrating criminality, carrying out violence, and undermining the rule of law.”

      The article (published before Biden’s final adieu to Afghanistan) issues a grim warning in the end: “With the insurgency in control of the majority of Afghanistan’s rural areas, that leaves Afghanistan’s cities as the last and potentially final battleground in the Afghan war.” Ahm, newsflash – they didn’t. Despite all the prophesizing, there were no last stands, extensive Syria-like urban warfare and/or sieges. The article even explained why. These cities, all mentioned in the article, are feudal turfs of the warlords. Who wants to damage ones source of income? No one, really! Them wagaries of war change all the time. So, who knows? Maybe these “inclusive” former mujaheeds will come to administer same old turfs only under a different management, only this time professing equally sincere conviction to (an)other ideology.


    5. Conclusion

      As it’s true throughout space and history, the most willing occupation collaborators are generally also the worst specimens of humanity. The ARVN problem was the same problem the South Korean Army in the ’50’s and the KMT in the ’40’s had: they’re corrupt and backed with US money instead of actual moral fiber. The US (and “The West” in general – recall their support of the Whites) has a strong history of choosing corrupt, nepotistic kleptocracies in its various imperialist misadventures.

      As per Friedrich Engels, the army, first, represents a “cut through” this country’s society and, second, you can’t separate internal policy from the external when it comes to the army matters. Forget all your typical maxims about “aim”, “pressure” and the stuff. The Afghan National Army is a long line in a list of corrupt, broken organizations propped up with “ghost soldiers”, empty armories and stolen money to fund extravagant lifestyles of their corrupt senior officers. The KMT were not much different, and ended up establishing the Golden Triangle in the ’60’s and ’70’s, again with the American support. The subsequent heroin epidemic in the US during the ’80’s was a “collateral damage”.

      Again, as per Engels: “The entire organization of armies and the method of fighting they use, and with it victories and defeats, turn out to be dependent on material, i.e. economic conditions: from human material and from weapons, therefore – from the quality and quantity of the population and from technology.” On paper, the Afghan “state” was the one with more favorable economic conditions, access to the higher tech-level weaponry and the “mass”, required to curb-stomp a mere “insurgency”. The truth, as it turns out, that there were no Afghan state. If you have a feudal confederacy of warlords, each of which forms its own “state”, then not only you don’t have a proper “state of Afghanistan” – you also don’t have “an Afghan nation”.

      Meaning: All these years under the Western occupation Afghanistan was neither a nation, nor a state.

      The US could not even turn it into a “banana republic” (“lithium strip-mining” in this case).

      But returning to the issue of drugs. While the opium trade was a vital source of funding for the mujaheddin and the early Taliban during their first uprising, Mohammed Omar banned opium farming in 2000, and by 2001, it was all but eliminated, going from an annual harvest of 4,600 tons in 1999 to a measly 185 tons. The occupational government, however, ended up making opium Afghanistan’s dominant industry once again. Some of this was due to allying with drug-dealing warlords, some was due to the perverse incentives of their opium elimination strategies (turns out that if you pay people to burn opium fields, they’ll just grow extra opium to burn), and some was due to the America’s lack of interest or ability in establishing a real, diverse national economy. Whatever the case, the modern annual yield is now at 6,300 tons and rising.

      The effects on the neighboring countries was dire and severe. There were not a small measure of gloating from the Americans on its effect on Russia and the Central Asia. But have them think-tankers spare any attention to what it did to Afghanistan itself? From 2005 to 2015, the number of adult drug users almost tripled from 900,000 to 2.4 million, with a total of 9% of the population addicted to heroin and a gruesome spike in HIV cases from widespread needle-sharing. The Taliban have also profited from the resurgent drug trade, but they can fairly point out that this is not chiefly of their making.

      Afghanistan is often described as a ‘rentier state’ , hyper-centralized and near exclusively dependent on foreign aid with a corrosive effect on domestic industry. The state is run on a for-profit model, with politicians seeking to maximize their revenue from their foreign sponsors and from the general public while giving back as little as possible, since their wealth and authority derives from international sources rather than from the industry and support of their own population (gee – does it remind you anything?!).

      The effect on Afghans has been devastating, with the total number in poverty rising from 9.1 million in 2006 to 19.3 million in 2016. An example of the government’s lack of interest in public wellbeing is the COVID-19 pandemic, where the Taliban (rarely a beacon of public healthcare) were able to organise a considerably more robust and effective response in their own territory

      And that’s it. Taliban, internal factionalism nothwistanding, put up a better job of being a state than the occupational government. Their brand of the radical Islam serves as a substitute for a (still very “patriarchal” and feudal) very diverse collection of tribes and peoples.

      Yeah, the Taliban aren’t “nice people”, but it’s worth understanding why so few people in the country are seriously invested in fighting for the alternative – an American attempt to create its own carbon copy out of default stupidity. The attempt is ugly, but tells perceptive people enough about how the US operates both inside and outside of its borders. Epstein’s mistake was getting caught in the wrong geographical locale. Dostum’s too, bit he’s the lucky guy here.

      TL;DR: The US foreign policy since 2001 had been a mega-genius brain decade-long 5-D chess match to secure and expand the nation’s narcotics supply. /s

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow Lit, that looks like comprehensive politico-military fail, pretty much from the get-go!

    And that’s what it was. The US gvt never understood their enemy, and they had an unironical “Team America” understanding of themselves. That combination makes defeat 100% certain.

    The Smart Dead German says that the first and most far reaching decision a government contemplating war must make is on what kind of war its going to be.

    This is so fundamental, that if you get this wrong, nothing subsequently will be right. And due to the USG/NATO comprehensive misunderstandings of themselves and their enemies, any theory of victory they develop will have a foundation of clouds. To develop a theory of victory, one must have an estimate of the value of the object, both for oneself and for ones enemy, for it is in that calculation one develops an estimate of the effort the objective will require, of the resistance to be overcome, and whether the effort required is worthwhile considering the value of the object.

    Finally, the truth evident from the beginning has dawned on the Administration, that Afghanistan is worth more to the Taliban than it is for the United States, which at long last, has decided to cut their losses and cease pursuing objectives in a place of practically no importance to the United States.


    1. The Smart Dead German says that the first and most far reaching decision a government contemplating war must make is on what kind of war its going to be.

      Just in case we do have the same dead German (man of the military) in mind, I was surprised what a philosophical writer he is.


    2. And due to the USG/NATO comprehensive misunderstandings of themselves and their enemies,

      Hard to believe there wasn’t any knowledge in the US. The top question on my mind then, that I recall vividly: Does a terrorist attack justify war against a whole country?

      I guess, I am repeating myself here. Why not attack Germany dominantly Hamburg? After all, the guy we still assume was the leader of the pack planned his act there?* No idea what sources the Spiegel (Hamburg based) authors used at the time used. But I seem to recall Chechnya may have been an option for these mujahedeen fighters.

      * There is a German movie out now playing with the story of one of the other Hamburg students and his girlfriend. Puzzled me too, admittedly.

      Otherwise, yes. Strategy. 😉


    3. And due to the USG/NATO comprehensive misunderstandings of themselves and their enemies,

      Hard to believe there wasn’t any knowledge in the US. The top question on my mind then, that I recall vividly: Does a terrorist attack justify war against a whole country?

      I guess, I am repeating myself here. Why not attack Germany dominantly, Hamburg? After all, the guy we still assume was the ‘leader of the pack’ planned his act there?* No idea what sources the Spiegel (Hamburg based) authors used at the time used. But I seem to recall Chechnya may have been an option for these mujahedeen fighters too.

      * There is a German movie out now, playing with the story of one of the other Hamburg students and his girlfriend. Puzzled me too then, admittedly.

      Otherwise, yes. Strategy. 😉


  9. “In the first place, it was never fully clear why American and NATO troops were in Afghanistan. Was it just an act of revenge for the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001? [etc.]”

    Personally I think it was a bait-and-switch operation, planned well in advance. There was the 9/11 terrorist attack, which was carried out by the Saudi allies. American public was genuinely whipped up into a frenzy of rage and craved revenge. Afghanistan was the revenge, and then seamlessly morphed into Iraq. Which had nothing to do with 9/11, but American rulers counted on the classic American Low IQ, ignorance, and Geographically-Challenged, to carry them through with this colossal misdirect. And it worked! [Of course it worked, it always does.]


  10. This is one of Paul’s posts where the comments were much more enlightening than the article itself. When an empire, joined by its ‘forced’ allies, spends this amount of money in an endeavour that is not well-defined, you do have to conclude that corruption is an industry, not just industrial and military, but also NGO.The resources wasted here are astronomical – they dwarf what the amounts spent in the 80s meant to the USSR. While 1991 should have been the beginning of the end for NATO, I hope there will be sufficient exposes and entire book series written to document the humongous and inhuman folly and war crime which was the American Afghanistan.


  11. Will there be an enquiry into what happened in Afghanistan?

    Where all the 2 trillion dollars went?

    What the 18 USA generals over 20 years did?

    300,000 Afghanistan army did not fight and Taliban just took over cities finally entering Kabul.

    Obviously negotiations were happening behind the scenes for this to happen so quickly –

    I just wonder what will happen now

    Will the USA and its nato allies learn anything from this?

    Will they carry on their destructive behaviour in Syria? Libya ? Ukraine?

    Will they stop funding jihadists and the neo nazis ?

    Of course they will carry on – these wars are for profit not for any other objective


  12. Personally I think it was a bait-and-switch operation, planned well in advance.

    Iraq definitively, not so sure about Pakistan.

    Otherwise, while our dear Lytt has once again successfully cluttered this comment section. Helping you to make your case? Great article by Paul.

    There was the 9/11 terrorist attack, which was carried out by the Saudi allies.

    To the extent I recall my readings in the aftermath, some sponsorship evidence trails pointed to Pakistan too. … For that reason, MILLER’s link to Anatol Lieven’s article is highly appreciated.

    In spite of this?????

    The result for Afghan–Pakistan relations was disastrous. Pakistan is not merely far larger and more powerful than Afghanistan, it sits squarely across Afghanistan’s chief route to the sea. The result of Sardar Daud’s strategy was to bring about a Pakistani blockade of Afghan trade and a dire economic crisis for Afghanistan. This led to Sardar Daud’s removal from office by his cousin, King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Sardar Daud’s return in a coup ten years later undermined dynastic legitimacy and paved the way for the catastrophic communist coup five years later. Moreover, fear of Afghan(and Indian-) backed irredentism among the Pashtuns of Pakistan has led successive Pakistani governments to intervene in Afghanistan by backing various proxies, ending with the Taliban.


    1. Iraq definitively, not so sure about Pakistan.

      Correction Iraq definitively, not so sure about Afghanistan. But yes, it felt silly even then.


  13. Post Scriptum.

    Did you know, that “outgoing” (more accurately – fleeing) president of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani wrote a book:

    He did. Oh, he so did!


  14. What is there to discuss, I wonder, the hand is pulled from the glove and the glove is collapsing under a mere ambient pressure. Any semblance of “democracy”, “independence” and “development” is gone as (if) it was never there. All the “elite” of the higher circles, and all the faithful servants, who has been spawned by this project, are now just a biodegradable material stashed in the airport of Kabul and waiting to be put back into earth for good. For the US they are no more useful than plastic trash, for they don’t communicate their speech, nor their feelings.

    The war has been going for 20 years, so it is rational to conclude that it could have continued for 20 more years and nobody would have seen the difference. How many more of such almost identical situations are scattered around the world as US is ready to pull out its “hands” out to free them for something else? Maybe there’s a round half dozen of them just in the immediate vicinity of Russia and China?

    There’s still a small but very bothering issue about all those troops that were pulled from one theatre, where are they going now? Everybody seem to avoid the issue. Since NATO has not announced any shortage of plans to invade and subdue, one can only wonder which country could be next on the list, especially since in the long line of it’s expansion there’s a noticeable gap, and there hasn’t been any ground gained for almost 7 years.

    I am thoroughly confident that there’s finally no bottom line of stupidity that can be achieved by the “alliance” short of total nuclear annihilation of all intelligent life on a planet. Recent generations of the US has been making and watching way too many apocalyptic dramas to think they can pull through it.


  15. So, officially the Taliban* won the war and gloating about building their new Emirate on Russia’s border. I can’t help my feelings of secret Schadenfreude at watching the American military disaster; but at the same time, I feel some worry about Russia now.

    I note that Russian press finds itself in bit of dilemma here. Every time they mention the Taliban* in any news article, editors are forced (by law, I believe) to put an asterisk and footnote explaining to readers that this organization is considered terrorist and banned in the Russian Federation.

    And yet now Russia must somehow seek to build relations with these Wahhabists? Maybe good neighborship will require the removal of the asterisk? What a world, what a world…


    1. “And yet now Russia must somehow seek to build relations with these Wahhabists?”

      Yalensis, do you honestly know who are “Wahhabists”?


      1. Yeah. If you believe Dmitry Dzhangirov (I do, in this case), Taliban is nothing like ‘Wahhabism’, but rather a combination of 1. Pashtun nationalism and 2. Islam – is this order.


      1. P.P.S. – was just scanning Russian press and devouring more Afghanistan stories (sorry, I just can’t control my appalling Schadenfreude.)
        Anyhow, I notice (the plot thickens, as I burnish my Kremlinology skills) that Russians newspapers have dropped the asterisk when they write the word “Taleban”, but still include the disclaimer adjectival phrase “banned in Russia”. Editors either hedging their bets or received new guidelines from Russian Ministry?

        Just like Achilles is always “swift-footed Achilles”, so Taleban is now banned in Russia Taleban. But without the asterisk. (?)


      2. “if Taleban* so benign, then why banned as terrorist organization in Russia??”

        I think the Chinese government cleared the confusion, sort of, saying that it’ll recognize the Taliban as legitimate authority as soon as they depose the US-backed regime in Kabul and take full control of the country.


      3. Mao: all that makes perfect sense. It reminds me of that scene in Eisenstein’s Ivan the Awesome Part I.
        Ivan has just crowned himself Tsar of all the Russias, and the disgruntled boyars are murmuring among themselves: “The Livonians won’t recognize him… The Pope won’t recognize him… The Roman Emperor won’t recognize him…” etc

        And Efrosinia mutters darkly: “When he becomes strong, they will ALL recognize him!”


  16. As I wrote elsewhere, dropping powdered wigs and quill pens from a high altitude, along with parchment paper, would have brought a better outcome at a much lower cost.


  17. @yalensis,

    For 20 years NATO forces have been trying to defeat them or more likely wished them away. Now, both China and Russia approach this from a more pragmatic angle – if you cannot defeat them try to find a modus vivendi. Time will tell if this works. As for the “greatest democracy” (together with the minor “attachments”) they still do not understand what has knocked them out – still counting.



    1. Thanks, vandermerwe. I used to laugh at people when they employed that old cliche about Afghanistan being “the place where Empires go to die.” But seems, there might be something to that old chestnut after all!


  18. Russia is nothing if not pragmatic. The Taleban will at some point be removed from the terrorist list, probably as a part of a broader deal.

    Russia wants no export of radical islamism into Central Asia, and a clamp down on the drug trade.
    The Talebs dont do all that much drag traffiking, so they can be convinced of the second, the talebs also want to consolidate their rule, which is going to be much easier if Russia does not actively oppose them.

    Furthermore, the Talebs have an interest in Russia as an exile destination for their enemies.


    1. Yes, I believe Russia is acting pragmatically in its foreign policy. Yesterday, while scanning Russian press for latest news, I saw (sorry, forgot to save link) one reporter saying that Taleban, one of the first things they did upon entering Kabul, was to place guards around the Russian Embassy. Assuring Russian diplomats nobody would sack the Embassy.

      So, Taleban also behaving pragmatically. At least for now. And not interested in provoking Russia. Problem with Taleban is they are 100% ideological in their thinking, with the mystification of religion. So, they cannot be trusted not to do something stupid if they think God wants that.


  19. I don’t have much to add to the analysis of the unfolding events, but the words Schadenfreude and blowback come to mind.

    But I have two relevant personal stories. A female acquaintance of mine married a Russian guy in the 1980s, not for love but for the sole purpose of him being able to move to Hungary and thus avoid being sent to fight and die in Afghanistan. She met him during a tourist trip to the USSR and he was desperate to avoid being conscripted into the Red Army.

    An Afghan personal friend, my wife’s former colleague, received her medical degree during the Soviet occupation, which was apparently so evil that women could attend university. When the Western-supported progressive feminist mujahideens, whom Ronnie Raygun called freedom fighters, took over Kabul in 1996, she had to escape to Hungary to avoid having acid thrown into her face. Now the acid throwers or their offspring are back in power. I don’t really understand the agonizing in the West; their buddies the acid throwers rule Kabul again. Isn’t that what they wanted?


    1. Gods, yes. Those acid-throwers are exactly the people whom the Americans supported against the Soviets. Used them as useful idiots to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. But then later, there was some kind of falling out, and suddenly these “freedom-fighters” became the dangerous terrorists who could bring down the World Trade Center.

      Speaking of Schadenfreude, I had a cocktail of possibilities to watch last night on American news (well, youtube mostly). I selected MSNBC coverage, they being the most war-mongering Russia-Gating channel of all; and so it was a real pleasure to watch these maniacs in such disarray. I know it is wrong to derive pleasure from another person’s grief, but (hey, I’m human!) I particularly enjoyed watching Mika Brzezinski choke back tears of bitterness and rage, Mika is, of course, the daughter of the infamous architect of the American-Taleban alliance against the Soviets in the 1980’s. It was a pleasure to watch this Polish-American patriot challenging John Kirby, who seamlessly morphs back and forth as a Defense Department official and a paid MSNBC “contributor”. Kirby was full of excuses and finger-pointing, it goes without saying.

      Yes, watching Mika cry was a bittersweet experience. Sweet because she is a war-mongering maniac. Bitter because her papa was not around to see what he hath wrought: That old war criminal died a few years back, thus sparing himself from witnessing the final collapse of all his evil machinations.


    2. When the Western-supported progressive feminist mujahideens, whom Ronnie Raygun called freedom fighters, took over Kabul in 1996, she had to escape to Hungary to avoid having acid thrown into her face.

      Curious twist you give your second story. I met a couple of Afghani refugees over the decades. Quite a few women among them too. Incidentally, I also met some Afghani feminists before 9/11. They worked underground, educating women. Without their support, no news about the restrictions and horrors women were faced with under the Taliban regime would have seeped out.

      GOP hero, and as Daniel Deudney & G. John Ikenberry* label him*, Libertarian Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have had the least chance to force the Deobandi Pashtun Islamists to accept Afghani female mujahideens among their fighters.


      * hat tip to “MILLER”, the latest issue of IISS publication helped answer one of the questions on my mind in Paul’s recent presentation concerning NATO.


      1. Deobandi Pashtun Islamists to accept Afghani female mujahideens among their fighters.

        or any other religious anti-Soviet fighters?


    3. “…whom Ronnie Raygun called freedom fighters, took over Kabul in 1996.”

      A minor correction here. Between the collapse of the Afghan governrnent and 1996 when the Taliban entered the scene there was another crowd of Islamists, also nasty and intolerant – they were Ronnie’s freedom fighters. It is likely your wife’s Afghan friend was running away from that crowd.



      1. So what was the big difference, in the 80s and 90s, between the Taliban and Ronnie’s freedom fighters, when the former were friends with Bin Laden and the mujahideens? The US and its European satraps probably funded anybody who would ‘kill Russkies’.


  20. In the 1991 coup Yeltsin was on a “three-day drinking binge with multiple attempts to escape to the American embassy.”

    30 years ago today, on August 19, 2021 a communist coup was crushed by Boris Yeltsin.

    Was Boris Yeltsin a puppet of the United States?
    What do you think?

    Soviet Union’s Collapse Gets Revisionist View
    The official story:
    Aug. 19-21, 1991. Resolute action by Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, and by tens of thousands of Muscovites, stopped an attempt by almost the entire Soviet leadership of the time (minus President Mikhail Gorbachev, locked up by the plotters at his villa in Crimea) to seize power and restore a centralized Communist state.
    The unknown story:
    Alexander Rutskoy, a highly decorated air force veteran and Yeltsin’s vice president in 1991, challenged key points of Yeltsin’s story. Rutskoy has long since turned against Yeltsin; he took part in an attempt to depose him in 1993.

    Rutskoy, who was next to Yeltsin throughout the coup, described the president’s behavior as a “three-day drinking binge with multiple attempts to escape to the American embassy.”

    Yeltsin, Rutskoy said, tried to seek protection at the U.S. Embassy every time news spread that the coup plotters were about to storm the parliament building, known as the White House. The former vice president says he prevented Yeltsin’s flight.

    Yeltsin’s story in “The Struggle for Russia” was that he’d nodded off in his office from extreme fatigue in the early hours of Aug. 20, when his aides woke him and led him, still drowsy, to his limousine in the basement. When he asked them where they were taking him and they mentioned the U.S. Embassy, he flatly refused: “People’s reaction, if they learned I was hiding in the U.S. embassy, would be unambiguous. It would be like emigration in miniature.”

    This version is corroborated by Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard at the time, Alexander Korzhakov, who says he hustled Yeltsin to the limo. Korzhakov also ended up on bad terms with his former boss, but his version of what happened during the coup doesn’t veer too far from the official one. But Ruslan Khasbulatov, speaker of the Russian Parliament at the time of the coup and another anti-Yeltsin renegade in 1993, confirmed Rutskoy’s version, claiming it was he who dissuaded Yeltsin from running to the Americans. “He tried to persuade me to escape with him,” Khasbulatov told the Russian news site RBC. “When I refused, he, too, was forced to refuse.”

    After the failed coup, Americans wrote the new constitution of Russia.

    Two years later, in 1993, Yeltsin shelled the Russian White House with Russian parliament inside. Yeltsin then took on dictatorial powers. America cheered. These very same presidential powers that President Putin inherited, are now seen as terrible by America.

    Five years later, in 1996, Yeltsin had a 5% approval rating. Americans were flown in to stage managed the drunkard. Yeltsin would brag that his pockets were full of cash at election stops. Yeltsin won the election.

    In December 1999, as I arrived in Kiev as a Peace Corp Ukraine volunteer, President Putin came to power.
    TWO THIRDS of Russian were in poverty.
    America created President Yeltsin, and, by extension, America created President Putin too.
    Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but the way that America has bullied and lied to Russia, internationally and domestically, the backlash of Russians seems clearly inevitable to me.

    What do you all think?

    Soviet Union’s Collapse Gets Revisionist View
    Yanks to the Rescue
    By Michael Kramer/Moscow Monday, July 15, 1996


  21. Paul, I read a big portion of your article in front of the US embassy in Moscow, the day that Afghanistan fell. I never discuss security at embassies with anyone. I will just say that I am grateful I was allowed to film this.

    Fall of Afghanistan August 16 2021 – American defector in front of the American Embassy in Moscow


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