Sixteen Years in Afghanistan

Today’s bombing in Kabul in the Embassy District

We have been sixteen years in Afghanistan.  Sixteen years.

We went there after 9/11 to capture Osama, decimate the Al Qaeda leadership and overthrow the Taliban.  The Afghan war, dating from October 2001, has earned the distinction of having been forgotten while still underway.

President Trump didn’t mention Afghanistan in his Inaugural Address nor in a speech to a joint session of Congress earlier this year.  At the Senate hearings on the nomination of James Mattis as defense secretary, Afghanistan barely came up.

To be fair, Mr. Mattis did acknowledge that “our country is still at war in Afghanistan,” albeit without assessing the war’s prospects. In response to a comment by Senator John McCain, the Armed Services Committee chairman, that “we are in serious trouble in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis merely allowed that the Taliban had “eroded some of our successes.”

Everyone seems surprised that there is now talk that “we need more troops” over there to “complete the mission.”

I guess we have learned nothing from the British and Russian efforts of the past in that god-forsaken place.

Prior to our invasion in 2001, on Christmas Eve, 1979, Soviet tanks rumbled across the Amu Darya River and into Afghanistan, ostensibly to restore stability following a coup that brought to power a pair of Marxist-Leninist political groups—the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party, which eventually merged into the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA applied a Soviet-style program of modernizing reforms.  The Party, realizing the country ranked at the bottom in all measures of human development, identified religion and the feudal structure of Afghan society as the major causes of the country’s ills.

It attempted to sweep them aside the PDPA applied a program of modernizing reforms.  Decrees setting forth radical changes in civil law and marriage customs and land reform were not received well by a population deeply immersed in tradition and Islam, particularly by the powerful landowners who were harmed economically by the abolition of usury (although usury is prohibited in Islam) and the cancellation of farmers’ debts. The new government also enhanced women’s rights, sought a rapid eradication of illiteracy (particularly the education of women) and promoted Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities.

Of course we are not surprised today to learn that these reforms were considered “un-Islamic”  and were effective no further than the major cities.  In the countryside there was serious unrest.  The government, good Leninists that they were met the unrest with violence, arresting and executing some 27,000 of the opposition ring leaders.

The Soviet style government was determined to change Afghanistan and brooked no opposition.  But America, in the context of the Cold War, wanted Afghanistan to be “free” – free to continue stoning women, cutting off hands and selling ten year old girls to old men in the marriage “custom” of the countryside.  So we began selling arms through Pakistan to support the “mujahedeen” – the “freedom fighters.”

Soviet troops were then where we are today – controlling Kabul and major cities while the unable to venture out safely into the vast landscape.  The Russians stayed for a decade until Mikhail Gorbachev finally said “enough!”

No sooner had the Soviets left than the “mujahedeen” sacked Kabul, murdered the godless commies and began shooting at each other.  The winner after years of war was now called the “Taliban” by the Western news media – a Pashtun word borrowed from Arabic for “students” – a plural of the word talib – “student.”  How quaint.  We were thinking that these “students” were bright, learned young men who wanted to “free” their backward country.  Like they came from Berkeley.

These “freedom fighters” immediately re-imposed Sharia law over the entire country, closed any schools for girls, put all women back in burqas, forbade music, dancing and men shaving among other un-Islamic behaviors.

Comes 2001 and the Americans come, dragging along the Brits.  We topple the Taliban but fail to catch Bin Laden at Tora-Bora.  Karzai is elected President and we decide we are going to change and rebuild Afghanistan.

Sixteen years later with maybe 5,000 “advisors” still in country and three quarters of a trillion dollars later we too are stuck in the cities.

And things are getting worse. Although the United States has invested $70 billion in rebuilding Afghan security forces, only 63 percent of the country’s districts are under government control, with significant territory lost to the Taliban over the past year. Though the United States has spent $8.5 billion to battle narcotics in Afghanistan, opium production there has reached an all-time high.  It’s the only thing the country produces.

Large-scale corruption persists, with Afghanistan third from the bottom in international rankings, ahead of only Somalia and North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, American spending to reconstruct Afghanistan now exceeds the total expended to rebuild all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan; yet to have any hope of surviving, the Afghan government will for the foreseeable future remain almost completely dependent on outside support.

Today it was reported that powerful bomb hidden in a sewage tanker exploded in the morning rush hour in the center of the Afghan capital  killing at least 80 people, wounding hundreds and damaging embassy buildings.

The victims appeared mainly to have been Afghan civilians

“The bomb, one of the deadliest in Kabul and coming at the start of tRamadan, exploded close to the fortified entrance to the German embassy, wounding some staff, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. He said that one Afghan security guard was killed and others were likely among the dead.

“Such attacks do not change our resolve in continuing to support the Afghan government in the stabilization of the country,” he said.”

For this, over the past 15 years, nearly 2,400 American soldiers have died and 20,000 more have been wounded.

So now the “mujahedeen” of the countryside who fought for “freedom” and wanted the Soviets to leave are now “terrorists” who want us to leave.  The Taliban denied the bombing and condemned it (there was no legitimate target said the “students”) and blame it on ISIS, another of our creations.

Afghanistan is at the bottom of all listings of human development.  They make nothing. They make no washing machines and certainly do not make weapons in any quantity.  There is no art, music, literature, poetry worthy of the name.  The society is feudal outside of the cities.

The Taliban “students” are devoted to Sharia and their “traditions” of women dressed as shadows, child brides, “dancing boys,”anti-intellectualism, anti-science, religious schools (for boys only), guns, violence and death.

Don’t let former President Karzai’s fine Western accent and his fine green cape fool you.  Without American troops protecting him he would have been a dead man – and probably will be if we ever leave.  Besides, he turned out to be a most ineffective leader.

If these folks want to continue to live in the tenth century I see no reason why we should be trying to “modernize” their views at considerable thankless cost to us in lives and treasure.  Of course there is always the profit motive of those American war profiteers making lots of money on “rebuilding” Afghanistan.

“What are we to make of the chasm between effort expended and results achieved? Why on those increasingly infrequent occasions when Afghanistan attracts notice do half-truths and pettifoggery prevail, rather than hard-nosed assessments? Why has Washington ceased to care about the Afghan war?

The answer is this: As with budget deficits or cost overruns on weapons purchases, members of the national security apparatus — elected and appointed officials, senior military officers and other policy insiders — accept war as a normal condition.

Once, the avoidance of war figured as a national priority. On those occasions when war proved unavoidable, the idea was to end the conflict as expeditiously as possible on favorable terms

These precepts no longer apply. With war transformed into a perpetual endeavor, expectations have changed. In Washington, war has become tolerable, an enterprise to be managed rather than terminated as quickly as possible. Like other large-scale government projects, war now serves as a medium through which favors are bestowed, largess distributed and ambitions satisfied.”

Not one more poor sonofabitch Corporal should be sent to die in that shithole of a country.

Not until Jared Kushner goes.


About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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3 Responses to Sixteen Years in Afghanistan

  1. beetleypete says:

    The lessons from history in Afghanistan continue to be ignored by all involved.
    One thing worth noting, given the recent bomb attack in the UK, is that Muslim militants don’t hesitate to kill their own people in these attacks. It’s not only westerners who suffer, that’s for sure.
    Best wishes, Pete.
    (I didn’t get notification of this post. More WP glitches!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GP Cox says:

    Obama promised we’d be out in 2012, then 2014 – but that never materialized either. It sure must be making someone a lot of money for us to be stubborn enough to stay. Even Russia pulled out of that godless country after 10 years of fighting.


    • toritto says:

      GP – Indeed, Seems no one wants to end wars anymore. Too much money is being made, promotions to Colonel and General, chance to pad the resume with a combat command; not to mention builders, road pavement, private security firms etc. Only the poor bastard who takes a bullet gets it in the neck. Regards

      Liked by 1 person

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