Afghanistan Didn't Have to End This Way, but We Made Sure It Did

Afghanistan Didn't Have to End This Way, but We Made Sure It Did
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

This morning the Taliban announced that contrary to the agreement it had reached, like yesterday, with the Afghan “government” for the “peaceful” transition of power, they are sending their fighters into Kabul to keep things peaceful, see REPORTS: Taliban Entering Kabul, Negotiating Peaceful Transfer to “Transitional” Government.

Everyone is giving their hot takes on the fall, so I’ll chime in with mine.

This is a war that we won and then perversely chose to lose. When the battle for Tora Bora ended in December 2001, we had achieved 100% of the objectives that President Bush laid out in his October 7, 2001, speech to the nation.

§5 More than two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands: Close terrorist training camps; hand over leaders of the al Qaeda network; and return all foreign nationals, including American citizens, unjustly detained in your country. None of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price.

§6 By destroying camps and disrupting communication, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans. Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places. Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice.

§7 At the same time, the oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan.

There was no reason to get involved in Afghanistan. The “tell” was that no one could ever tell you what a win in Afghanistan looked like. It had no national identity, no common language, damned few natural resources, a medieval, at best, road and power grid, no national economy, no history of civil society. It was landlocked, isolated, and impoverished. It seemed to be pretty damned happy with the status quo, if you talked to anyone but Afghan émigrés on the DC cocktail circuit.

The correct solution, the school solution, if you will, would have been to withdraw US military forces less some Special Forces advisers, provide technical assistance to the forces trying to establish a new government, and underscore the warning to the new government that if terrorists again use Afghanistan as a refuge, we will be back to kill people and break things.

That isn’t what happened.

In fact, given the actions of the Bush and Obama administrations, it is difficult to convince me that the Afghan strategy was much more serious than a freshman foreign affairs seminar at a rather inbred Ivy League university.

Consider the case of opium production. How does Habib the Talib earn honest money? He grows opium poppies. What do we do? We send the DEA and contractors in to eradicate opium poppies. What does Habib the Talib do? He picks up his AK and fights the people driving him and his family further into poverty.

One of the most heartbreaking things are stories/videos like this that are beginning to emerge:

What did anyone think was inevitably going to happen when US forces left Afghanistan? What did we think was going to happen when we tried to impose Western norms (and no, miniskirts were no more a part of life in Afghanistan outside Kabul than they were in Iran outside of Tehran) on a very conservative and traditional society?

The first thing we did was alienate tribal leaders who could have helped stabilize Afghanistan and turn them into enemies. The second thing we did was identify US forces as being opposed to Afghan culture and customs. The third thing we did was clearly identify any locals who went along with the changes as enemies of Afghan society.

Now we see crap like this from people — who caused the problem but have no skin in the game — crying crocodile tears over people they betrayed:

What is going to happen to the women who were fooled into thinking that a) they didn’t live in Afghanistan and b) that theoreticians like the writer of the above tweet could provide some protection from their society is tragic. But the tweet talking about “gains we made” and “empowered them to lead” is a sad and pathetic metaphor for our twenty years at war in Afghanistan. “We” made no gains because we had nothing to gain. We could have ended our involvement in 2001 and left Afghanistan as an object lesson to others thinking about pursuing their course of action. We didn’t.

We could never “empower them to lead” because they don’t occupy a space where female leadership is possible and where we had no power beyond the max effective range of 5.56mm M855A1. What they are about to endure is the price of the hubris of a bunch of academics who thought they could change a culture deeply rooted in tradition and religion and hostile foreign influences.

Why crocodile tears? Because the “women and girls” part of the equation was never, ever about human rights and changing the status of Afghan women; it was always about Western feminists getting themselves moist over the idea of what they could do once they had “the power.”

There is easy proof of that. One of the many detestable practices of Afghanistan is that of “bacha bazi.” These were boys kept as concubines by older Afghan men, often senior Afghan commanders on both sides traveled with a retinue of garishly made-up young boys for their enjoyment. The Lincoln Project, I’m told, tried to import the practice to the United States with some degree of success. So what did we do about that flagrant abuse of sex trafficking laws and the Leahy Law? Nothing.

American troops were told to ignore the rape and abuse of children by Afghan security forces they were partnered with, according to a report released Thursday by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

“In some cases, the interviewees explained that they, or someone whom they knew, were told that nothing could be done about child sexual abuse because of Afghanistan’s status as a sovereign nation, that it was not a priority for the command, or that it was best to ignore the situation and to let the local police handle it,” the report reads.

Although the report found that there was no written guidance telling U.S. troops to ignore abuse allegations, cultural-awareness training for U.S. personnel deploying to Afghanistan identified child sexual abuse as a culturally accepted practice in Afghanistan.

“There were a couple cases where service members brought it to commanders’ attention, and they said there’s nothing we can do,” according to an anonymous interviewee quoted in the report. “There’s no recourse to stop them from bacha bazi. Soldiers [were] told to ignore it and drive on.”

Sometimes when soldiers did try to stop the practice, they were punished by the military for doing so.

While Biden has turned a mere defeat into an ignominious rout (see my thoughts on that subject here), the seeds of this goat-rope were sown long ago when someone decided that it was a great idea to expand the mission laid out by President Bush of removing the Taliban government and expelling al-Qaeda was just not enough. We had to reform Afghan society as well.

That reform was imposed upon Afghanistan, and now, as we can see, it has been resoundingly rejected by everyone. The president has fled. The Afghan Army is defecting to the Taliban (see BOMBSHELL: Did Taliban Pay Afghan Military Commanders to Surrender Cities in Advance?) or fleeing to Iran because it has no loyalty to an endemically corrupt and feckless government.

Unfortunately, in military and political channels, I see nothing to indicate that the real lessons of Afghanistan are being considered beyond shifting blame; see Biden Ordered Afghanistan Withdrawal Against Warnings From Top Generals: Report. The mourning you hear and see is not for the twenty years of conflict imposed upon Afghanistan, for dead and maimed American and allied troops, or for the retribution that is already taking place.

The mourning is for the grand experiment in nation-building that has failed so grotesquely that the American public may never let it happen again.

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