Afghanistan Today

I think this is a very fair point. Trump left Biden with a problem: He left a status quo that was untenable in the long run. Biden has wanted to get out of Afghanistan for years, and he ran on that. But Presidents run on such things all the time then stall and delay and kick the can down to their predecessor once they learn the facts on the ground and how difficult their campaign promises will be to keep…

In this case, Biden was likely left with a situation where he either had to complete the pullout, or start another ‘surge’ of personnel, which would violate the agreement with the Taliban and possibly trigger fighting before those troops were back in country, putting the 2500 at risk.

Maintaining the status quo was not likely to work, as the only reason the U.S. hasn’t suffered casualties for 17 months is because the Taliban wanted them gone and knew that starting hostilities risked giving the U.S. an ‘out’ to stay. But the second they realized the U.S was building back up, IMO they would have started more attacks, and that also woild have been blamed on Biden.

The way the pullout was handled is the real problem here - from removing the military before getting civilians out, not notifying allies of what was going on, closing Bagram early, leaving the entire mission dependent on a single runway in a hard to protect airport, to refusing to collect citizens and get them safely to the airport (as French and British soldiers are doing), to his bluster about no mistakes being made and his repeated lying about what he had been told and when, the manner in which this was done is just a disaster, and that’s all on Biden.

I’m inclined to agree that the Biden administration and military leadership failed to plan and execute on some key logistics of the pull-out. Biden owns that. But I also believe that the extremely short window of escape for Afghanis wasn’t an oversight. There was no infrastructure in place to handle a mass exodus of Afghani nationals and putting one in place would require much more time and much more administrative personnel than would ever be thinkable or tolerated by the Taliban. I cannot imagine that the Taliban would stand by for another year or more as tens of thousands of citizens emigrated. I think the decision to manage the chaos rather than extend the pullout window by a year or more was the only feasible option.

My apologies.

One can certainly fault misinformation and poor communication. What factors in each administration led to such rosy projections, naive assumptions, suboptimal intelligence and failures to make lasting improvements? What, in retrospect, could be done better next time?

I mean, to be quite honest I actually don’t care if the immediate elements of the withdrawal are a failure. The withdrawal, i.e. the speed and mechanism of getting people out, being a cluster fuck is a very temporary problem. The only way I’d really be super concerned is if a large number of Americans died unnecessarily. That would be upsetting, otherwise it’s whatever, it’s a few week news story.

The more extreme claims being made are that the decision to leave was itself invalid, and undermines America. That’s a totally separate question of whether the mechanics of withdrawal were handled well. And has much longer implications. The withdrawal is a political news story for people that like to talk on Fox News and foam at the mouth, but unless we see a lot of American casualties, we’re really complaining about it “it took 15 days to get Americans out instead of 7”, or whatever. It’s not actually that big of a deal.

I think the decision to leave is basically an unmitigated good decision. The most compelling evidence–that the Afghan National Government collapsed in only 11 days with virtually none of its soldiers being willing to fight to stop the Taliban from controlling their country. I’m sorry, but that proves we should not have been there, should not have been propping this government up. I do not want America helping allies like this, allies like this aren’t worth our effort and aren’t worth our blood.

I also don’t want us to turn any significant amount of financial aid back on for Afghanistan. The Afghan people have broadly shown they hold reprehensible, monstrous views. They can continue to hold them–in abject poverty and misery, which is what they have coming for supporting the Taliban. Something like 80% of the Afghan government’s funding came from foreign dollars, much of it American. That is now basically illegal to directly transfer money to the government since the Taliban is on U.S. terror lists. That should not change. That 80% can just go away and the people who were content to let the Taliban take over can pay the price. You don’t get to adopt Islamic monstrous government and continue to have America fund your government. I also think America should leverage its financial and sanctions regime to make sure NGOs cannot easily send money in either. The only money that should be able to go in is very limited funds to things like the UN Refugee org where we know the money is going to the actual UN operatives on the ground, and not the Taliban. If direct aid of medicine and food is needed, that is fine as well. But they don’t get money from us.

Russia and China want influence in Afghanistan–they can open up their pocket books.

If past is prologue, China will get more involved, which in turn will make Russia nervous.

This sounds a lot like the 1990’s policy, which was a disaster.
The very fact that the Taliban aren’t yet declaring their “Emirate” shows that their hold is much more precarious than might appear. Especially since despite orders to the contrary, some of the and file are busy trying to make the 1996 regime look sane.
Hell if the attempted negotiations succeed, I can see them breaking into Pro and anti settlement factions, the same way as the IRA split into pro and anti-treaty factions post 1922.

I mean we didn’t have much of a policy on the Taliban before 9/11, we were even making feelers to them about building a pipeline in Afghanistan. But the main lesson from our 20 year funding of the Afghan government is all those direct transfer payments have little impact out in the real country, most of the money appears to go to a ruling class that has not converted it into any sort of legitimacy. I certainly can’t abide us resuming transfer payments just to see the same thing happen again, but this time the ruling class is the Taliban, that’s an even worse situation.

There’s a lot of think pieces coming out now about how we need to solve the impending Afghan economic crisis–the answer is, no we do not. It is not our job to solve economic crises in random third world countries. Nor is it our job to fund the government budget needs of other countries.

One of the few positives of so little of the spending impacting the population is that something like 70% of the country live in rural communities that are not part of the formal economy, and barely use currency for daily life at all. Those people frankly are probably going to be fine, they know how to make their own food and aren’t tied in to the government much anyway.

I’ve personally met a couple of Afghans who desperately wanted Afghanistan to be a more modern democratic nation, but I’m under no delusion that these two individuals speak for the vast majority in what is an extremely conservative complicated network of local tribal communities. The few times Afghanistan has tried to transform itself into a modern nation-state, it has failed - they’ve even turned on their own home-grown reformers. Outside of Kabul - and I’m guessing even many within - people seem perfectly content to live as they have for centuries. It seems like they just want to be left alone by the outside world, and anyone who intervenes and crosses the border with good intentions is going to have those good intentions shoved up their asses.

Yeah, my suspicion is that these views are held by more educated people in and around a few of the major cities. Afghanistan remains a very rural country by population, something like 70%. And while I don’t at all want to discount the plight of the small number of Afghan women who have been able to start careers and get educated, out in the rural parts of the country even most of the women are very against violating traditional gender norms. This is something a lot of Westerners “don’t get”, but in many conservative Islamic societies women themselves are some of the most adamantly opposed people to changing the traditional gender norms between men and women.

What we know is that funding the government there, has minimal impact on the rural countryside, and even within the urban areas a large portion of the money appears to “disappear” and go into dubious projects. It’s not a good investment financially any more than it was militarily.

Why would we be engaging the taliban? We supplied air support for the Afghanis. They would be engaging the taliban. It was the whole point of training and equipment them. All we had to do is maintain air support.

I don’t think you understand just how fragile peace and security are in Afghanistan. Contrary to the characterization of the security situation in the media, even when the Taliban was on the ropes, life is not safe in Afghanistan - it never has been. Women who hold an administrative position are regularly threatened simply for holding a job and not necessarily by Taliban soldiers; there are a lot of people in Afghanistan who reject the attempted transformation. The threat isn’t limited to females either – males who play musical instruments or work out at gyms are threatened.

The only thing you and I would likely agree on is that the withdrawal could have been better executed. There’s little doubt in my mind about that. But even if you concede that, there would have been a critical mass, a point at which the Taliban would have felt safe enough to put more pressure on the Afghan army, just as they ultimately have the last few weeks.

Why couldn’t they fight without air support? The Taliban obviously can.

Some places, yes, but, like 1950’s American housewives, few want this enforced by Taliban-style violence.

I’m just not sure.

Suppose, as I’m thinking now, Biden can politically only afford one full withdrawal — Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the two, Iraq has/had a better chance of standing on its own because the insurgency there is in true on-the-ropes condition. Didn’t he, from a humanitarian standpoint, pick the wrong country to get out of?

I realize my premise, that Biden can’t risk loss of two wars, may be wrong. We will see.

Biden was probably right to leave Afghanistan, and he’s probably right to leave Iraq, too. However, the contingency plans for what happens in the face of a resurgence of Al Qaida/Isis/Organization yet to be named is going to be a potentially defining moment for his administration.

Judging from the news feeds they throw more people and weapons at small outposts. It appears the outposts were more spotters than armored soldiers. Also, The size of the army was grossly overstated.

Aside from allowing the US and allies time to escape in more orderly fashion, what was air power going to achieve for the Afghans beyond, say, a few months? Look at what ultimately happened: the President of Afghanistan, a US hand-picked puppet in the eyes of many, leaves the country and ends up living in Dubai while his army’s soldiers go unpaid for months, while Afghan police and government officials bribe citizens, and while there’s still a lot of thuggery and religious violence on an ongoing basis. There were indeed a great number of soldiers in the national army and ordinary citizens who put their stock in a new kind of Afghanistan, but the people who mattered most abused their power. And much of the country just didn’t relate in any way to the kind of new society that reformers wanted to build.


Exactly - nothing. And winning the battle militarily is only one side of war; the political situation is the other, more complicated side of the equation. US airpower wasn’t going to change the ugly reality that the leaders on whom we depended just wanted American money and protection; they were not interested in helping us remake the country in the Western/US image. Apparently, not even our official political “allies” in Afghanistan wanted that - at least not enough of them.

It’s easy to Monday morning QB - easy for you to second guess Biden and the ‘feel good’ libs and easy for me to second guess four administrations, the military, the intel community, and State Dept. In the end, though, taming Afghanistan was always a tall order.