“You can’t always get what you want”
Wars usually begins in response to an “incident”, in other words, for revenge or restitution. The “incident” typically moves a nation beyond its saturation point of tolerance, or the “incident” becomes a reason for a nation to declare a war that it “wanted”. Whatever the motivation, the scope of the war that follows become unexplainable and is not the war “you want”.
The Spanish-American War started when the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor. The United States’ Civil War began when Confederate forces fired on Union forces at Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. World War 1 began when a Serbian assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. World War 2 was declared after Germany invaded Poland. The Korean War was in response to North Korean troops crossing over the 38th parallel. The Vietnam War began after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The Iraq War was to secure weapons of mass destruction being held by a madman. The Afghanistan War was in response to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The USS Maine explosion turned out to be a spontaneous combustion of coal that ignited the Maine ‘s ammunition stored below deck. This war led to the slaughter, torture and 50-year occupation of the Philippians. The Fort Sumter’s bombardment had no casualties but the Civil War devastated the South. The assassination in Serbia led to 8 million dead in WW1. The invasion of Poland, began the murdering spree of 3% of the world’s population. In Korea, 2.8 million Koreans, Chinese and Americans lost their lives and the 38th parallel still divides Korea. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fabrication that became responsible for the death of 1.35 million real people. In Iraq, the search for WMD came up empty at a cost of $1.7 trillion dollars, as many as 1 million dead, the destruction of a country and a group of head choppers.
Ah, but Afghanistan was the good war. US forces would kill bin Laden and destroy the al-Qaeda camps reeking terrorist attacks all over the globe. bid Laden was killed in 2011 and by 2010 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was being described by the Obama administration and CIA Director Leon Panetta, as “its presence in Afghanistan as minimal”. The Bush War that became the Obama War is now the Trump War.
In the 1980’s the US supported the mujahedeen, (Afghan “freedom fighters”) Osama bin Laden’s and some Arab/Islamic jihadist. In 1980, the jihadists were a little-known group of maybe a few hundred members calling itself al-Qaeda. The mujahedeen were the major resistant force against the Soviets with al-Qaeda providing limited support.
The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979 to prop-up the failing Soviet backed Afghan government. The US supported and supplied the “freedom fighters”. That makes sense, they were anti-communist and engaged in warfare against our Cold War enemy. The mujahedeen were victorious and by February of 1989, send the Soviets packing back to Moscow to discover that their little war in Afghanistan cost them their empire.
The Soviet backed government in Afghanistan failed and a power vacuum ensued. Tribal Warlords, drug kingpins, corruption, violence and chaos emerged from the ashes. A Pashtun-Islamic fundamentalist group calling themselves the Taliban, a name derived from the Pashtun word for student, emerged as the alternative to the corrupt factions.
The Taliban is an Islamic group mostly made up of Pashtun tribal members from the Kandahar Province in Southern Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The Pashtun tribe makes up about 40% of the country’s population. By 1994, the Taliban had become the most powerful opposition group. Their rule would require a strict adherence to a combination of traditional Pashtun culture and Islamic sharia law.
The Taliban expanded their rule from the Kandahar Province toward the governmental capital in Kabul. The Taliban ruthless enforcement of the Pashtun-Sharia Law attracted a lot of negative attention from the Western media. Eventually the Taliban captured Kabul. The seizure of Kabul, combined with the assassination of Ahmad Massoud, an ethnic Tajik from the rival Northern Alliance, the Taliban’s only viable opponent, moved Afghanistan into a fundamentalist Islamic Republic.
The Taliban continued to enforce its brutal rule upon the Afghans. Reports of their extreme and repressive regime, especially towards women, were seen quite often on the US national news. Many of the Taliban laws were considered unjust and in violation of civil and individual rights. The media did a fine job to demonized and expose the Taliban abusive rule while ignoring similar violations in Saudi Arabia.
Osama bin Laden, the terrorist
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia to resume working for his family’s construction firm. During the 1990 Iraq invasion of Kuwait a bin Laden offered the king of Saudi Arabia to mobilize his al-Qaeda warriors and to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The King rejected his offer and turned to the US.
This situation may have launched bin Laden’s radicalization toward world-wide terrorism against the West. Bin Laden directed his outrage at the Saudis that allow US “infidels” into the holy land and the US government for remaining in the Saudi bases well after the war. Bin Laden’s public criticism against the Royal Family would not be tolerated.
The Saudi’s expelled Bin Laden. He relocated to Sudan taking with him as much as $20 million. The Sudan Government hired him to build several infrastructure projects. While in Sudan, he began a web of terrorist plots. Bin Laden’s terrorist network became associated with the training of the Somalian rebels that killed U.S. troops (Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu); the 1993 first bombing of the World Trade Center: an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and suicide bombings at the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan.
The Sudanese officials expelled bin Laden from their country and in 1996 he moved back to Afghanistan. His terrorist activities continued with the bombing of the Khobar military complex: the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; truck bombs at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, in Yemen.
During his “terrorist years” Bin Laden’s declared a holy war against U.S.; endorse a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Americans anywhere in the world. These activities placed him on the FBI’s top 10 Most Wanted Fugitive List.
Bi Laden and the Taliban
In Afghanistan, Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda presence was not fully embraced by the Taliban. Well before the 9/11 attack, the Taliban had thought seriously about expelling al-Qaeda from their country. Many of the Taliban leaders viewed bin Laden’s and his jihadists as a rival foreign force distracting from their political influence and objectives. They were barely tolerated but the Taliban refused the US access to him.
Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization continued their terrorist plots and train terrorist in the camps along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Then in 2001, after 9/11, a trail of evidence indicated that bin Laden was not the architect of the plan but he approved it and that he added financial support for the hijacking terrorist. (the plot was planned in Indonesia, the Philippines, Germany and the United States)
Bush’s Wars on Terror, bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Iraq, Freedom etc.
The trail of the financial aid, directed to the terrorist, also led to Saudi Arabian royal family members and Saudi government associates. The Bush administration choose to fly the Saudi royal family members out of the United States while declaring a war on terrorism and bin Laden.
President Bush demanded that Afghanistan’s Taliban government capture and extradite bin Laden to the United States. The Taliban did not refuse this request but instead asked the United States for proof of bin Laden’s involvement. Bush declined to address the Taliban’s request and issued an ultimatum demanding that they either turn him over or the US forces would take care of it.
Again, the Taliban responded with a “no” but offered to turn bin Laden over to a third county. This counter proposal was unprecedented for a Pashtun group to make. According to Pashtunwali, the ethical code and lifestyle of the indigenous Pashtun people, expelling bin-Laden could be interpreted as a violation of Nanawatai.
Nanawata (asylum) is the code to protect a person against his enemies, protection is required at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified (this tradition saved the life of US Navy Seal, Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell) The counter proposal was rejected by the Bush administration. Bush ordered an invasion to capture bin Laden and destroy the al-Qaeda training camps.
“But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need”
Why was this counter proposal not approved? Would accepting the Taliban’s proposal have prevented this 17-year old war? We will never know and besides the fury of 9/11 and the thrust for revenge would not have been satisfied.
In 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan and allied with the Northern Alliance to swiftly overthrow the Taliban government. The Bonn Conference replaced the Taliban government with Hamid Karzai. Karzai, a Pashtun rival of the Taliban, was selected to head the Afghan Interim Administration and most key positions in the government were given to Tajik members of the Northern Alliance
Karzai’s is rule ushered in a new of government under a new constitution called the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Karzai would later be elected president in 2004 and then re-elected in the 2009 elections. In 2014, Karzai was replaced with the newly elected Ghani, an ex-World Bank economic hitman.
After the Taliban’s 2001 ousting, the Taliban vowed to continue an armed resistance against a “foreign occupation”. Their claim is that the Bonn Conference’s constitution is illegitimate and un-Islamic. They will continue their campaign is against the “puppet government” of the West. Some Taliban remained active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many crossed the border into the safe zones along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There they receive support and supplies from the ISI.
In 2002, the US focused their efforts on al-Qaeda and bin Laden and by the end of 2003 the US forces had moved bin-Laden and the al-Qaeda operatives out of Afghanistan into hideaways in Pakistan. This could have been a good time to withdraw from Afghanistan. Washington passed on this opportunity to and choose to continue with its war and occupation of Afghanistan.
The US’s war strategies have changed over the years; from the invasion to the support of an insurgent force, to a counterinsurgency surge (Obama’s 2009 100,000 troop invasion) to “clear and hold” villages to “nation building” projects to “winning hearts and minds”, to policing and to “training” of Afghans. All initiatives have proven to be fruitless. Could it be the mission?
To answer this question “the mission” must be clearly defined. What is the mission? When the war you get is not the war you “wanted” change the mission. Senator Rand Paul describes this process; “there was significant mission creep in Afghanistan. We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them.”
So, by 2001, the US had overthrown the Talban regime, the government was replaced with a democratically elected president (2004), bin Laden was dead and the al-Qaeda terrorist camps were removed. Mission accomplished! Time to go home. No, mission creep, time to “Nation Build”.
When a foreign military force hangs around to tell, ask, direct, suggest or coerces the citizens it is not a humanitarian effort it becomes an occupying force. The military and economic, infrastructural and humanitarian efforts and personnel become targets. Occupation promotes dissent, dissent metastasizes into violence and the violence of an underdog is terrorism because that is their most powerful weapons.
Afghanistan is an impoverished nation with over half the population illiterate. Rural Afghanistan depends upon its local economy. Most villages are isolated by its mountainous terrain and harsh climate. At the time of the US invasion only 3% of the roads were paved.
Kabul and other major cities were worlds away. Most Afghans had no connection to the international economy nor to the central government, in Kabul. It is landlocked nation mostly comprised of Islamic fundamentalist and members of regional ethnic tribes with very basic needs. The Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, tribes’ have their list of priorities and territories to rule. Being left alone to provide and protect their family is high on the tribal list.
After the Taliban’s regime was removal from Kabul they returned to their power base, the villages of rural Afghanistan and into Pashtun Pakistan. The Taliban in these environments they grew in strength and recruitments. Many Afghans began to prefer the Taliban’s strict requirements over the coercive and corrupt central government that was supported by a foreign super power.
The Taliban lived among the villagers, became active in tribal disputes while carrying out a hit and run type war against the abusive local police, government forces and US occupying forces. The growth in the Taliban’s support and their intimidation of those villages that did not comply, allowed the Taliban to gain control over much of rural Afghanistan.
Obama’s War – The Surge
By 2009, Afghanistan was spiraling out of control. President Obama agreed to a surge in US reinforcements. The “Peace President” believed that a surge was needed to provide security for the Afghan government, military, police and the in country foreign forces. The surge would be a counterinsurgency against the Taliban. This counterinsurgency would be a clear-hold-build strategy.
The clear, hold and build strategy evolved into cycles of, what the Israeli refer to as “mowing the lawn” in which commanders continuously conquered territory only to have their adversaries return. Another problem with the hold and build phase was the who. Who would be doing the hold. The inability to recruit qualified Afghans became problematic. The new security was prone to shakedowns and corruption inflicted upon the locals.
In 2010, the Afghan Local Police formed a Village Stability Organization (VSO) program to provide the stability at the local level. The recruits would be from the village they would later secure. This group was trained by US special forces and provided limited success that allowed the local Afghans to avoid Taliban intimidation.
The US military leaders deceptively reported that the new stabilization effort stemmed the tide of support for the Taliban. Over time, the Taliban benefited by the fact that the people would see the police force as an extension of the predatory Afghan central government. The Taliban promoted this notion and continued their community involvement and random act of violence against the police force.
The escalating battles became a struggle for authority, the Taliban’s versus Kabul’s, local versus international and Islamic idealist warriors versus Western “infidels”.
Beginning in 2011, with the counterinsurgency and the “success” of the surge began a drawdown of troops. The transition of power was scheduled to be completed in 2014. The hold and build phases proved to be a false hope.
The Taliban patiently waited for the completion of the 2014 withdrawal They continued to be successful in their portrayal of the security forces as governmental extortionist sent to bribe the villagers with gifts and promises in return for support, cooperation and loyalty to its illegitimate government.
The withdrawal of combat troops was competed by December of 2014. Since the withdrawal, violence has continued and the Taliban’s rule has expanded. Today, in 2017, the Talban control 40% of the country.
This Taliban is not the same rag tag fighters the US fought against in 2000’s. The Taliban is more veteran, better trained, better supplied and more capable military force. They have learned from the US; they have read the US military books on war strategies; they have the night vision goggle left behind, they know how to use the armament left and they drive around in the Humvees that were once driven by the US and NATO forces.
The Afghan War has some new and some old combatants. Presently include, ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the government forces with Pakistan, ISI and India watching closely. It is a hornet’s nest and is does not make sense to “mow the lawn” when angry hornets are swarming.
Trump’s War (officially entering its 3rd Presidential Regime)
There are a few statements in the Trumps’ War speech that I found most infuriating.
One: The newest deployment of troops will not be number based but it will be condition based.
This is an open check book with no accountability and no limit to lives and spending. Do we the people deserve answers? What are the conditions? What are the numbers? Trump will be sending more troops to Afghanistan but won’t tell the public how many. Just trust me?
Two: The same old false flag waving reason is being used to create a quilt upon our “American Exceptionalism” public and a military mentality. We owe it to those that sacrificed their lives for such a noble cause.
This lie is both deceptive and immoral. The reality is that our sons’ and daughters’ lives are payment for the Generals to have another chance in getting their war “right”; another star; more fruit salad, more scrambled eggs and more notoriety.
It is immoral that Americans lives are spent to perpetuate war crimes; to hone the art of deception so that they will be better qualified for a job in the US government upon retirement. The fact that our taxes will be payment to government cronies that supply and manufacturer the weapons of war. Just Trust me?
The last time I fell for “just trust me” I woke up with my head in the toilet covered in puke. This time it could be the Constitution of the United States.
Conclusion – Let’s declare a “War on Peace”
Sovereignty is the authority of a state to govern itself. A sovereign nation gets to make choices for itself. The Taliban reflect the Pashtun culture. I vehemently disagree with many of their traditions and culture. As citizens of the liberal West, we have the right to speak, assemble, boycott and protest traditions and cultures of an illiberal non-Western country. The Taliban’s actions, customs and control are local to Afghanistan, not to the United States.
Afghanistan has been fractured by internal conflict and foreign intervention for centuries, However, as a sovereign and neutral nation, in the 1950s and 1960s, the biggest strides toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle occurred. The era was a brief and relatively peaceful. The Afghans traded with the Soviet for machinery and weapons, and with U.S. financial aid the Afghans constructed modern buildings in Kabul. Afghanistan appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society, while maintaining, a respect for the more conservative factions and traditional cultures of its multi-tribal population.
The U.S. must admit that the “Good War” turned into an attempt to reshape the structures of Afghan societies, politics, and economies has failed and it is time to leave. Let the people of Afghanistan take ownership of their future, Let the Afghans prepare their defense against the next invading force. (ISIS, AL-Qaeda, ISI, Pakistan, India …)
Hewaad (Pashtun for country) is another Pashtun culture obligation. It is to protect the land of the Pashtuns. To them defense of the nation means the defense of Pashtun culture. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Pakistan, India, will become another victim to add to the pile of previous empires that have expired in Afghanistan. Hopefully, the US will not be in that pile.
The US lost 58,228 lives in Vietnam for entering a civil war against the illiberal Vietcong. Shortly after the last US troops withdrew the civil war ended, Vietnam united and won its sovereignty. Vietnam rebuilt and modernized at a pace that they decided upon.
The US now has a strong diplomatic relation with Vietnam. Vietnam has the 47th highest Gross Domestic Product. (GDP out of 211) It is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world and has become a prime US trading partner that prospers from an increasing US tourist industry. The French and US intervention delayed the ultimate result of Vietnam by 25 years and millions of lives.
Vietnam was for a “War on Communism”, Afghanistan a “War of Terrorism” and the opioid crisis a “War on Drugs.” Declaring war strengthen the “enemy”. I am declaring a “WAR on Peace!”