The Peace Talks With the Taliban and Secretary Pompeo’s Statement That US Forces Have Killed 1,000 Taliban In the Past Ten Days

Shortly after BettyC put up her post yesterday about the President announcing by tweet that he had first invited the Taliban to a final round peace agreement negotiation and signing ceremony at Camp David and subsequently cancelled the invitation because the Taliban killed several US military personnel last week, I texted* the following to her:

I give it 50/50 odds that there was no actual, formal Camp David invite. The Afghan president was supposed to visit the US this week to meet with the President at the White House, but cancelled that trip on Friday. The Taliban’s spokesperson tweeted out yesterday that there are lots of potential next steps, but never mentioned this at all.

Pompeo’s statement that we’ve killed 1,000 Taliban in the past week makes no sense either. There would have been wall to wall coverage and Brian Williams would’ve been airdropped into Nangahar if we’d mounted an offensive large enough to net 1,000 enemy KIA. We’d also have taken our own share of casualties. None of which has been reported.

My guess is that by Wednesday will have several articles, from WaPo, the Times, Politico, Daily Beast, and Axios, that basically shred both of these assertions. The President’s invite and Pompeo’s assertion about killing 1,000 Taliban.

We now know, thanks to reporting by The New York Times, that there was a formal invite to the Taliban, but that the entire plan for the Camp David trip had been hastily created because the President decided on an impulse or whim on Labor Day weekend that if he could get the Taliban to Camp David he could seal the deal. And while the reporting doesn’t really delve into whether this would be a good thing for Afghanistan or Afghans, it does make clear that the President thought this would be good for his campaign for reelection. Given that the negotiations are not complete, the Taliban are clearly not completely on board (more on this in a paragraph), the Afghan president and government isn’t actually involved, this wasn’t a fully baked idea.

Secretary Pompeo then went on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday show and in an attempt to demonstrate how tough the administration is being on the Taliban and announced, without any corroborating evidence, that the US has killed 1,000 Taliban (fighters?) in the past 10 days. To be very blunt, if we had, as Secretary Pompeo announced on Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday show, killed 1,000 Taliban in the past ten days it would have made news. Even if the Commanding General of Operation Resolute Support or the Commanding General of CENTCOM wanted to keep this as locked down as possible, there would have been, as I texted BettyC, wall to wall coverage and Brian Williams would’ve been airdropped into Nangahar if we’d mounted an offensive large enough to net 1,000 enemy KIA. We’d also have taken our own share of casualties. None of which has been reported in addition to the KIAs we took in the attacks on Kabul last week.

All of this sturm and drang and equine and canine extravaganza is obscuring something even more important. That as bad as it is that the US is still conducting combat operations in Afghanistan after almost 18 years, ending this part of America’s forever war preemptively will make things worse, not better. Unless the US can reach a negotiated settlement that is able to secure the Afghan government and the Afghan citizenry, reaching a deal with the Taliban just so someone can tout “promise made, promise kept” during the 2020 campaign the US will have failed to secure the peace. The sole point of modern interstate conflict, as well as modern 3rd party participant low intensity warfare**, which is what the Afghan war against al Qaeda and the Taliban have been, is to use conventional and unconventional military power to establish the conditions to secure the peace post cessation of battlefield hostilities. Reaching an agreement with the Taliban that is solely about reaching an agreement with the Taliban, even if it returns several thousand American troops home in short order does not do meet this requirement.

The Taliban have made it very clear that they believe the Afghan government is a “stooge government”. This Taliban position has made completing the negotiations with them very difficult for Ambassador Khalilzad. The Taliban, as well as others in Afghanistan, have often remarked to US military personnel that “you have the watches, we have the time”. They know that eventually we, as well as our NATO coalition partners in NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTMA-A) have to come home. And they are simply waiting for that to happen. This is part of the reason that they’ve escalated their offensive activities over the past several weeks. Both because they perceive that the President wants out – despite assertions made about them, they’re not stupid, they read our newspapers and watch our news programs – and because it allows them to increase the pressure on Khalilzad and his negotiators. The Taliban’s recent offensive escalation is part of their negotiation strategy, not something being done in spite of it.

Any agreement we reach must include the Afghan government, not be the precursor to the Taliban negotiating with that government. A government they consider to be illegitimate. A government that they will escalate their war with as soon as we have too few troops in theater to do anything but hunker down in our fortified bases. This will not make Afghanistan safer, it will not make the region safer, and it will not make the US and our allies and partners safer. I am not arguing for the forever war. I am arguing for a strategy that uses our and our coalition allies’ combat, training, and advise and assist missions in Afghanistan to set the conditions to secure the peace. We have, several times, made progress towards doing this. Unfortunately that progress never stuck for a variety of reasons. The whole point of invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and root out al Qaeda was to change the dynamic. Signing a peace agreement with the Taliban simply to be able to check a box for a reelection campaign that ignores that the dynamic hasn’t been shifted, that we have not established the conditions to secure the peace, is a peace agreement that isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

Open thread.

* We do not have a slack channel.

** I am using low intensity warfare to refer to two related types of war. The first is all forms of war short of interstate war. The first usage, all forms of war short of interstate war, refers to revolution, rebellion, civil war, insurgency, and terrorism. The second refers to types of war: irregular, asymmetric, unconventional, and guerrilla warfare (a type of irregular warfare). Insurgency and terrorism are both forms and types of ear and belong in both categories.






58 replies
  1. 1
    Chetan Murthy says:

    Adam,

    While I agree with some of what you write, it seems to me that we (America and our Western allies) are mostly powerless to affect the final settlement in Afghanistan, as we were in Iraq. In what I write below, I’m just relating what I see and read from the media. Perhaps this is incorrect, but gee, I’d like to see that argument made carefully.

    In both countries, we tried (and try) hard to stand up armies and police forces in support of our preferred government (or parties). And in both countries, those armies and police forces are shown (after a few years’ investment) to be rotten to the core, with front-line troops who simply don’t want to fight, and can’t seem to learn anything. And at the same time, our enemies seem to have no trouble, using the same manpower, in fielding effective fighting forces. So we change our military leaders, and lather, rinse, repeat, a few more years, and we’re back in the same spot. Nothing gets better. Nothing has for, as you note, 18 years. And just blaming the Taliban’s patience isn’t sufficient, I think. As I noted, it’s a perennial staple of the reporting on Afghanistan and Iraq, that some military force we’ve set up, ends up being paper-thin (perhaps, built out of hundred-dollar-bills, b/c it’s always extremely expensive).

    [now switching to Iraq, b/c I think it’s a relevant comparative example] And even more insultingly, when our high-ranking officials visit Iraq, it’s under the tightest security possible, with as little prior knowledge as possible to Iraqi officials. Whereas when Iranian officials visit, it seems like they get a hero’s welcome, the sort of thing that just speaks -volumes- about our actual influence in Iraq.

    I’ts a great aspirational goal, to want a durable peace in Afghanistan that doesn’t end with the Taliban in control. Sure looks like wishful thinking.

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  2. 2
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chetan Murthy: So there’s two distinct issues here, but your assertions are correct. The first problem we have is that instead of setting up a government and advising it regardless of who the host country citizenry places in it, we too often place several fingers on the scale for preferred host country individuals we’ve empowered. Regardless of whether empowering them makes sense. The second problem is that our training mission approached is seriously fucked up and is in dire need of revision. From understanding exactly what the host country military and police forces actually need within their own context; to how they learn, communicate, manage time, understand organization; to how we actually prepare our own personnel to do the training.

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  3. 3
    Mike in NC says:

    There was never a real meeting scheduled at Camp David with the Taliban or anybody else. Just another dumb PR stunt from the reality TV moron/drama queen who Putin installed in the Oval Office. Desperate for a win at any cost.

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  4. 4
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The second problem is that our training mission approached is seriously fucked up and is in dire need of revision. From understanding exactly what the host country military and police forces actually need within their own context; to how they learn, communicate, manage time, understand organization; to how we actually prepare our own personnel to do the training.

    Obviously this is the part I’m most skeptical about. To dispel with [sic] the other part: of course we want to do a better job than “he may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard”, and if we do so, that’s good. But it sure isn’t enough.

    So back to the training thing. I guess (as a layman) I look at what we’ve done in both countries, and it sure doesn’t seem like we’re training for diddly-squat. And then I look at the history of our military training partnerships in Latin America, and it seems like again, we don’t train worth shit, except when it comes to torture and death squads. I mean, it’s really, really hard to see how we’re supposed to “do better”. Just saying “we need to totally revamp things” doesn’t really cut it, when our adversaries are recruiting from the same pool, and field effective military forces.

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  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chetan Murthy: Our adversaries are from within the host country culture and society. Their default starting point is way ahead of ours as outside 3rd party partners.

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  6. 6
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I fell like I should add: It seems like you’re really saying Americans should believe in “Hope as a Plan”. B/c that’s all I can see.

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  7. 7
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I am not.

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  8. 8
    hells littlest angel says:

    Clearly Trump felt like 1,000 Taliban had been killed.

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  9. 9
    Raoul says:

    The same freakin’ idiots who have put Jared’s college BFF Avi Berkowitz, the 30 year old newly minted lawyer and avid Kush retweeter, as the lead in working out the Israel-Palestine ‘peace process’ are also terrible at sorting out an end to an 18 year war in a country that previously kicked Russia’s ass?

    Unpossible.

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  10. 10
    Another Scott says:

    I agree with most of what you write here. Thanks.

    I am arguing for a strategy that uses our and our coalition allies’ combat, training, and advise and assist missions in Afghanistan to set the conditions to secure the peace. We have, several times, made progress towards doing this.

    It would be good if you could flesh this out more.

    I said a day or so ago, and believe, that Obama made a big mistake (and made it for far too long) by continuing to use W’s language about “defeating the Taliban”. (I was thankful when he eventually dropped it.) I do not think that defeating the Taliban is in the cards unless we’re willing to go to war with Pakistan – and we’re rightly not willing to do that.

    I am curious to hear your thoughts on how we made progress toward securing the peace, given the “corruption” of the previous Karzai government, the “war-lords” that (rightly or wrongly) have so much sway in much of the country/government, the porous border with Pakistan, the tribal culture that (supposedly) does not recognize country borders, the (supposed) big-power rivalry between India and Pakistan that underlies some/much/most of the conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and all the rest.

    I agree that leaving in a rush now would make things worse (at least until the Afghanistan government falls and the situation falls out of the western press and we no longer hear about it). But I don’t see how us continuing to stay there will end the war, and I don’t see a path forward to getting out and leaving something stable behind. Apparently the Afghanistan military has made progress in the last 18 years, but if the people there and in the region still cannot find a way to work out their differences in the nearly 40 years since the Russians left, then honestly what can we do? Why aren’t the regional neighbors more interested in figuring out a solution? Why is it up to the US and NATO?

    I don’t accept that because 19 angry young men people killed thousands on 9/11/2001 that means that we have to occupy that country until the end of time, as some (not you) seem to argue.

    My $0.02.

    Thanks again.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

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  11. 11
    West of the Rockies says:

    Just imagine if an Obama top official spewed such a lie about 1,000 enemy combatants killed in a week’s time. Wingers everywhere would be shitting rainbow bricks.

    Pompeo and Ross must be frog marched to prison.

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  12. 12
    Duane says:

    Just like everything this administration does this will accomplish nothing. If we’re lucky it won’t be a disaster.

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  13. 13
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Another Scott:

    I don’t accept that because 19 angry young men people killed thousands on 9/11/2001 that means that we have to occupy that country until the end of time, as some (not you) seem to argue.

    two thoughts: [and just to be clear, I agree wit you]

    (1) [tongue-in-cheek] We picked the wrong damn country to bomb back into the fuckin’ Stone Age, after 9/11. If we’d taken out Abqaiq and the damn royal palaces in Fucking Riyadh that might have done some good. [ok, ok, I’m done now]

    (2) It sure feels like we’re not actually approaching the Taliban with a proper sense of self-interest. Yes, it’s terrible what they’ll do to women in Afghanistan. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s KILL ALL THE MEN! Oh, we can’t do that? Then maybe, just maybe we should admit that we can’t change Afghan society, and just focus on making sure they don’t host international terrorists the next time? And for that, I don’t see why stepping back and letting them take over the country is a bad thing. I mean, it sure looks like actually having to govern, makes radicals start to think about staying alive and staying in power. Maybe we can impress upon the Taliban that we can kill them all, carpet-bomb them back to the Stone Age (again) if they host international terrorists?

    It sure seems more achievable than standing up an Afghan army. B/c I sure don’t see us doing that. Unless Adam can point at real evidence that there’s something sure-fire and new that hasn’t been tried the last N times.

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  14. 14
    Brachiator says:

    Part of my post in an earlier thread…

    And it’s clear that Trump is scrambling to make good on various promises and semi-promises to burnish his re-election bona fides. He’s hot to show how much he (and only he) has accomplished. And one big accomplishment would be to finally remove all, or most, troops from Afghanistan.

    Bringing the Taliban to the USA would have been great had it worked out. Despite all the talk about people working on this deal for a year, I think that Trump, being incompetent, did not listen to his best foreign policy advisors. He was hot to have a big reality show type surprise announcement. But he is incapable of weighing advice and only wants to hear shit that will make him look good.

    I think this is consistent with the idea that the Camp David meeting was an impromptu attempt to add sizzle to any supposed peace talks.

    Pompeo’s statement that we’ve killed 1,000 Taliban in the past week makes no sense either

    Somehow I can’t imagine the Taliban being eager to continue peace talks if they had recently been involved in attacks that resulted in high levels of casualties. I also wonder why US officials are making shit up. Does everyone in the administration have Trump Mendacity fever?

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  15. 15
    Ruckus says:

    is a peace agreement that isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

    Is there any piece of paper that is made more valuable by anyone in the trump maladministration writing on it?
    trump and all his enablers are delusional. Massively delusional. trump thinks that anything that comes out of his mouth is not only true but is truer than anything said by anyone else. He truly believes he is an actual president in the same way that a 4 yr old thinks they are an astronaut. And yet he knows nothing about how or what to do in the job, just like that 4 yr old. He is, in every sense of the word, faking it. How many more instances of this type of crap do we have to endure to be able to deal with this in a responsible manner?
    I understand how impeachment could quite possibly do more harm than it should, all because of two men, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, who are holding a good portion of the worlds population in a massive fraud. Two men. So venial and power hungry that they will risk so much, harm so much, just to serve what end, a failed political concept? Is this what never having been actually successful and so doubling down over and over on the same failed concepts looks like? Do we have to go through this ever escalating insanity until what?

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  16. 16
    Ruckus says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    It seems to me that when we go in to another country we seldom if ever actually understand what that country wants and needs. We go in, set up military strongholds and expect our might to be enough. It’s almost as if we’ve become the redcoats, fighting the war that gentlemen sitting in bleachers want to watch others die in, all orchestrated and organized, never realizing that they don’t give a good goddamn about any of that. We tried that in Vietnam, it didn’t work at all, we’ve tried it in the middle east, it hasn’t worked at all. We are pompous, arrogant losers. A good amount of our population hates half the world’s population for not being as arrogant and childish as they are. Fixing this is going to take more than one election, if it can be fixed at all.

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  17. 17
    Calouste says:

    Sir Kim Darroch, UK ambassador to the US, well known for making an accurate assessment of the shitgibbon, is going to be made a Lord. Consider it Theresa May’s parting “fuck you”.

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  18. 18
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Calouste:

    Consider it Theresa May’s parting “fuck you”.

    That it might be. Or it might just be the Brit establishment ensuring that their diplomatic corps gets the message that “we have your back”. I mean, BoJo may be a buffoon and a walking farce, but I think May actually did [rightly] care about her country.

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  19. 19
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I feel like somehow this has a parallel with Valerie Plame’s candidacy. I think I’ll be donating, not merely because she’s a Dem, but also because, well, she risked her life for our country, and was badly treated [understatement, I know] for it. She deserved and deserves better than that. And sure, donating to her campaign isn’t enough, but at least, it’s something.

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  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Then maybe, just maybe we should admit that we can’t change Afghan society, and just focus on making sure they don’t host international terrorists the next time?

    The Taliban is not representative of all of Afghan society. Also, I am not sure that we can make sure that they don’t host terrorists in the future. But here, I m not sure. Were there stories about the Taliban being willing to give up bin Laden?

    And for that, I don’t see why stepping back and letting them take over the country is a bad thing. I mean, it sure looks like actually having to govern, makes radicals start to think about staying alive and staying in power.

    Islamic fundamentalism is as stupid, primitive and atavistic as Marxist fundamentalism or any other murderous ideology. These ideologies are infected with a kind of political bulimia. Adherents look in the mirror and cannot see error or suicidal solipsism. If the Taliban take over, they will return to their old depravity and atrocities. It is how they interpret their mission.

    Maybe we can impress upon the Taliban that we can kill them all, carpet-bomb them back to the Stone Age (again) if they host international terrorists?

    You are going to scare fanatics who see suicide bombs as express trains to heaven with the threat of carpet bombing? They also see modern society as apostasy. Rebuilding from the Stone Age might be seen as a good thing.

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  21. 21
    Kattails says:

    @Chetan Murthy: “I don’t see why steeping back and letting them take over the country is a bad thing.” Then I despair for the women and girls in that country, because it is most likely HIDEOUS what they’ll do to those women in Afghanistan who have been fighting for their voices. I’m not quite sure why one would have to kill all the men. Perhaps we give them space to continue to move forward.
    I think one of the reasons women have been able to make actual progress in this country–and we don’t have any bragging rights here– is that it’s become obvious to the younger generations that we have problems that we need 100% of the population’s brains to solve. Brains that are up, running, and given credence to. We can’t afford to have half the intelligence locked in and limited to one function in life, and I’m not dissing motherhood. I grew up in a very different male-female dynamic and the evolution is taking hold in, really, a relatively short historical time, however frustrated we may get with the claw-like grip of the old misogynistic and racist system.
    We’re working on our own evolution and it’s hard even under our first-world conditions, while trying to hold back forces in other countries that are just as regressive as here but more overtly vicious about it, to give those other countries some room to join in the evolution in their own way. Maybe I’m wildly naive to think they can’t do it.

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  22. 22
    West of the Rockies says:

    @Brachiator:

    May I add that from my point of view, all these isms stink of toxic patriarchy.

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  23. 23
    Cacti says:

    @Brachiator:

    Does everyone in the administration have Trump Mendacity fever?

    Yes.

    SATSQ

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  24. 24
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Brachiator:

    Islamic fundamentalism is as stupid, primitive and atavistic as Marxist fundamentalism or any other murderous ideology.

    Doesn’t prevent the Saudis from running a state, does it? And Wahhabism is pretty damn fundamentalist. And furthermore, of what strategic or tactical interest is it to us, whether the Taliban decide to oppress their women? We sure as hell don’t care when KSA or Dubai or the Emirates do it. Hell, we condone them snatching back their female nationals who’ve fled. But suddenly when it’s the Taliban, we get squeamish? Also, isn’t it a little simplistic to equate AQ (or ISIS) and the Taliban? The Taliban wanted to -govern- Afghanistan. The former two have/had much more grandiose goals.

    You are going to scare fanatics who see suicide bombs as express trains to heaven with the threat of carpet bombing?

    It’s pretty clear that the reason armed groups resort to suicide bombing, is that they don’t see any other way to win. And further, I think the Taliban are very different from ISIS. Or even Al Qaeda. Heh, it was recently reported that the Taliban is getting into armed conflict with ISIS, b/c ISIS thinks they can take over.

    But here, I m not sure. Were there stories about the Taliban being willing to give up bin Laden?

    Bush rejects Taliban offer to hand Bin Laden over

    President George Bush rejected as “non-negotiable” an offer by the Taliban to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States ended the bombing in Afghanistan.
    Returning to the White House after a weekend at Camp David, the president said the bombing would not stop, unless the ruling Taliban “turn [bin Laden] over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over.” He added, “There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”. In Jalalabad, deputy prime minister Haji Abdul Kabir – the third most powerful figure in the ruling Taliban regime – told reporters that the Taliban would require evidence that Bin Laden was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US, but added: “we would be ready to hand him over to a third country”.

    With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Dubya was never going to even attempt a negotiation to get AQ handed-over, was he? And sure, maybe the Taliban weren’t going to give ’em up either. But (again in hindsight) many people have noted that we could have gone in, gotten bin Laden, and then just -left- and left the Taliban to lick their wounds, and understand why they shouldn’t host international terrorists.

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  25. 25
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Brachiator:

    Islamic fundamentalism is as stupid, primitive and atavistic as Marxist fundamentalism or any other murderous ideology.

    Many respectable commentators have pointed out that the Islamic fundamentalists who took over Iran are quite stable, and have a very disciplined approach to foreign policy. That their paramount goal is regime continuity/survival. That they are anything but crazed nuts.

    Just because they’re our enemies, doesn’t mean they’re madmen. Their goals are simply incompatible with our own.

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  26. 26
    Kattails says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Several of these comments reminded me of Dubya’s statement “I don’t do nuance”. One of his more stupidly arrogant statements from a man with his educational opportunities. So, Adam, do you think there are people out there in our current military who are understanding that we need to do better with nuance to get better results in these situations? What I’m gathering from the comments is a sense that we are arrogant, simplistic, and intransigent in both those things.
    One thing I learned years ago was that you really can’t change others, you can only change yourself, & that it’s enough of a struggle just to do that. BUT support in doing so is always appreciated.

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  27. 27
    Ruckus says:

    @Kattails:

    Maybe I’m wildly naive to think they can’t do it.

    It isn’t that they can’t do it, it’s that they think their way is the only one true way. This is what conservatives everywhere think, that the world was better whenever. It isn’t at all true but that’s what comes from dogma rather than critical thinking. A prime example of that is trump. He always looks at, thinks that, his way is the one true way. Evangelicals are the same, the Taliban is the same. Facts and reality do not back up these backwards views, resetting time and fables do not in any way make life better. The world is not the same as it was 70 yrs ago, it will not be the same 70 yrs from now. Add zeros to that number and it just changes more. And the world that was there is not even necessarily or probably better than it is today nor will it be better than the world of tomorrow. Thing is we can see this if we just look, but if we stick our heads in the sands of time, (or up our own asses) then we see nothing. Conservatives world wide want the world they think existed long before they were born because that had to be better. But it isn’t in any way better or simpler, it was different. It is better now because not so many people are starving, although way too many still are. It’s better now because we can fix many health issues and make living even possible and better for so many, and we can do better. We can do this for a lot more people than we do, if so many weren’t fixated on storing wealth, conserving it. We make wealth by the things we do, sharing that wealth helps us make more wealth and improve life even more. And there will be limits but these are mostly imposed by the fact that we have a beginning, a middle and an end, as all life does. But we can leave this earth better than we found it by helping to actually make it better, rather than trying to make it go backwards.

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  28. 28
    smike says:

    @Calouste:

    Consider it Theresa May’s parting “fuck you”.
    Reply

    Agreed! Fucking great “fuck you”.

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  29. 29
    NobodySpecial says:

    I simply don’t see a good exit given our force readiness, posture, leadership, allies, and the current government we’re propping up. Sunk cost fallacy is how we never leave.

    It seems to me the logic is similar to the new climate denial expert advice: It’s already broken, therefore we must keep going because it will break worse if we try to fix it. I’m not a big military strategic type guy, but I remember a hazy quote about how men fight wars like they tend crops: They want to see a decent chance it pays off. Eternal bases in Afghanistan is not going to pay off, any more than it did for us in Vietnam or for the Soviets in Afghanistan.

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  30. 30
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    When Iran realized that their religious gender segregation meant that women could no longer see male doctors, they set up medical schools for women so there would be female doctors available.

    When the Taliban realized that their religious gender segregation meant that women could no longer see male doctors, they banned women from seeing doctors.

    There’s a bit of a difference between a repressive but functional society and a group of fanatics who decide that half of their population just doesn’t need medical care anymore.

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  31. 31
    frosty says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    And in both countries, those armies and police forces are shown (after a few years’ investment) to be rotten to the core, with front-line troops who simply don’t want to fight, and can’t seem to learn anything.

    Vietnam.

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  32. 32
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    There’s a bit of a difference between a repressive but functional society and a group of fanatics who decide that half of their population just doesn’t need medical care anymore.

    Unless we’re actually ready to “kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out”, I don’t quite see how this is relevant. Look: I also find it horrifying what the Taliban (and KSA, and other places) do to women. But I don’t see how our presence there changes that, unless we’re literally going to stay *forever*.

    How the Taliban treat women, how they treat Shiites, is simply irrelevant to the reality that we cannot “win” in any sense without committing genocide. I mean, even the “good guys” we support are raving misogynists who also rape little boys (the “dancing boys” horrorshow has been written about a number of times, and we’ve turned a blind eye to it, b/c “allies”).

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  33. 33
    Mike in DC says:

    We were never going to definitively defeat the Taliban militarily, simply because they have a safe haven in neighboring Pakistan, in the Waziristan region. Short of invading Waziristan, encircling them and forcing a surrender, it’s not gonna happen. At best we can/could stand up an Afghan army strong enough to resist the Taliban and force them into power sharing. But that, realistically, takes time that doesn’t conveniently fit the timetables of American domestic politics. For that we’d probably be talking about getting out before the end of 2032.

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  34. 34
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Mike in DC:

    At best we can/could stand up an Afghan army strong enough to resist the Taliban

    Can we? Really? You’ve read the articles over the years, detailing our repeated failure at this very task, I hope? It’s not at all evident that we *can*.

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  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    I don’t actually think we should stay in Afghanistan, but my thinking is more, “If we haven’t fixed it by now, we ain’t ever going to be able to fix it.”

    We did have a small window of opportunity immediately after 9/11 when Iran made their first formal diplomatic overture to us since the revolution, but the Bush assholes squandered it and there’s no way to get back to that. It’s time to cut our losses and leave.

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  36. 36
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    “If we haven’t fixed it by now, we ain’t ever going to be able to fix it.”

    OK, same here.

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  37. 37
    Brachiator says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    Doesn’t prevent the Saudis from running a state, does it? And Wahhabism is pretty damn fundamentalist. And furthermore, of what strategic or tactical interest is it to us, whether the Taliban decide to oppress their women? We sure as hell don’t care when KSA or Dubai or the Emirates do it. Hell, we condone them snatching back their female nationals who’ve fled. But suddenly when it’s the Taliban, we get squeamish?

    All Marxism is backwards. The Khmer Rouge were exceptionally evil. There are obviously levels to Islamic fundamentalism.

    And yes, the Saudis run a state. And their leaders participate in exceptionally vile murder. The Saudis and the Iranians engage in muderous proxy wars to pursue their foreign policy and religious goals. The current war in Yemen is brutal. But the world is complicated and I do not advocate that we get involved.

    And sadly, if the Taliban come to power again in Afghanistan, they will bring back all their terror. Their version of fundamentalism has not evolved. Men will be beaten for minor religious infractions and women will be terrorized. The Taliban will probably support international terrorism again. The problem they represent will not go away.

    But he’ll, if Christian fundamentalists ran this country, America would be a hell hole for many people. And yet, the fundies might be able to run a state more or less successfully.

    I don’t have an easy answer for the Taliban. But leave or stay, they will be a problem.

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  38. 38
    Mike in DC says:

    @Chetan Murthy: It’s not something that can be done in a matter of a few years, since you have to build morale, instill a sense of greater duty to country rather than simply family/tribe/ethnicity, and have a democratic government that isn’t hopelessly corrupt. The Iraqi army eventually firmed up sufficiently for us to get out without the country immediately collapsing. Counterinsurgency campaigns can take up to 30 years to be successful. Perhaps, had we not diverted so much of our resources to the Iraq thing in 2003, we’d be having a different conversation about Afghanistan now.

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  39. 39
    PeakVT says:

    The whole point of invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and root out al Qaeda was to change the dynamic. Signing a peace agreement with the Taliban simply to be able to check a box for a reelection campaign that ignores that the dynamic hasn’t been shifted

    The dynamic was shifted in the direction you describe back in 2002. Then the Bush Maladministration decided to invade Iraq. Since then, the dynamic has shifted in the opposite direction and that won’t change without a new US invasion.

    @NobodySpecial:

    Sunk cost fallacy is how we never leave.

    This is the root of the problem, though I would be a little harsher and say that we just don’t have the courage to admit defeat.

    The Taliban are going to take over most of the area on the map labeled Afghanistan. We can mitigate that horror a bit empowering minority regions to withstand them, fund expat NGOs to work in Taliban-controlled areas, fund Pashtun language media services to reach into Taliban-controlled areas, even work with Shia Iran to contain the Sunni Taliban – not that Saudi and Israel lobbies would allow that to happen. But they’re going to take over, and trying to stop that will just yield more dead.

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  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    @Brachiator:

    And yet, the fundies might be able to run a state more or less successfully.

    I think that depends a lot on your definitions of run a state, more and less.
    Also the size of the state. On states and populations that start getting over the size of a smallish county and without a way of escape, I don’t see it because they are all too repressive/restrictive that people have to live a certain way and that some can not live at all. The world as it is getting to be can not sustain the level of repression that restrictive societies impose. Take Hong Kong, the entire middle east, our own south of the last 400 yrs, even large segments of our country over the last 3 yrs…….

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  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chetan Murthy:

    I think our main point of disagreement is that I think there actually was a small window of opportunity to put a real coalition together to defeat the Taliban that Pakistan would have been forced to go along with, but the US fucked it up and now it’s just a slow-rolling failure.

    Adam’s perspective is that he traveled there, met the people, did the research, and came up with what he thought were workable plans that got ignored by the higher-ups. He’s annoyed that all of his hard work was wasted, and I can’t really blame him. 🤷‍♀️

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  42. 42
    Cleardale says:

    You cannot have a stable and effective military and police force without a stable and effective government. We can train them and they can learn and then once two months have gone by without pay they leave and go home.

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  43. 43
    Kattails says:

    @Ruckus: I agree with you 100%+ about the Taliban and like-minded conservatives. I was more considering the people of Afghanistan who may be no more represented by the ultra-right wing conservatives than we are by our home-grown sorts. I did not see Adam arguing for just leaving the situation, but saw a lot of commenters saying we should just dump the whole thing, it’s hopeless, they’re hopeless.
    As a woman I’m aware of the struggles of other women in under the thumb of toxic masculinity, as noted by West of the Rockies and Mnemosyne above. I’m also seeing far too many parallels and have no illusions that there are many here who’d be delighted to get us all back under their boots. Pretty sure I would be dead pretty quickly and unpleasantly under the Taliban. Therefore I hope that our presence is such that we can buy time for the more benign forces within that country to shift things. It may not be feasible.
    Off to bed. Random thought completely OT, if cats had opposable thumbs they’d probably rule the world.

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  44. 44
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Mike in DC:

    The Iraqi army eventually firmed up sufficiently for us to get out without the country immediately collapsing.

    How much of that is our doing, and how much is Iran’s? Because sure we supplied a lot of materiel, but that seemed to do a fat lot of good when ISIS came along. Where Iran and their proxies seem to have actually done the deed [arguably with US air support, but still].

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  45. 45
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I think there actually was a small window of opportunity to put a real coalition together to defeat the Taliban

    We don’t disagree about that, either. At the beginning of the Afghan war, when we had the Northern Alliance on our side completely, and they hadn’t started dividing the spoils, running opium networks, etc, etc, and were really focused on the Taliban, it looked like maybe we could really destroy ’em, didn’t it? And yeah, then we backed-off and let ’em grow back. But also, our allies got fat and corrupt and now we’ve basically lost ’em.

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  46. 46
    bad Jim says:

    Maybe the fact that this is our longest-running war isn’t a scandal. Sure, we shouldn’t have jumped in and busted up the place, but it doesn’t follow that the best thing we can do is to leave. It’s nothing like Vietnam; there are far fewer people, nearly no economical potential, a long history of internecine violence. We really shouldn’t consider it a war; a better comparison is Britain’s long occupation.

    Couldn’t we just partition the joint? It’s unnecessarily large. They speak a variety of languages, and don’t always regard their neighbors as kin. Afghanistan has never, I think, been a coherent state. We ought to get back to the project of turning vast expanses of imperially defined territory into compact self-governing countries.

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  47. 47
    Ruckus says:

    @Chetan Murthy:
    Iran knew how to run a country. Maybe not to our liking but they had experience and knowledge. And we’d screwed that up for them as well, what with the shah. Iran was a functioning country long before we were.
    Afghanistan had tribes who knew how to run their tribe. Working together didn’t seem to be a priority to them until we made it so. The Taliban isn’t our cup of tea to say the least but they at least know how to run tribes and have brought more of them together. I use the word tribes as smaller groupings than a nation, especially one that has to somewhat fit into the bigger world. That is one thing that conservatives don’t do well at all, ours or anyone else’s. To any group of conservatives, (in the strictest use of the word, wanting to go back to another time and structure) working with other groups is all but impossible because another aspect is that they think their version of back is better than anyone else’s and actually didn’t exist the way they think it did, or at least didn’t actually work well. Which is the reason why they think when something doesn’t work it isn’t the idea or the methodology, it is that they didn’t try hard enough to impose the concept. They then keep doubling down and failing worse and worse, but of course the concept is never the problem.

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  48. 48
    Sally says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I don’t agree that Afghan soldiers don’t want to fight. I’ve watched/listened to interviews with young men passionate about fighting for freedom and democracy in their country. Soldiers who want education, health care, and other western style freedoms for everyone including their sisters, mothers and daughters. When you consider the very high casualty rates in the army and the police forces, they have to be committed to join up in the first place. It breaks my heart that we will abandon those people striving for a better life in their own country. Even though I have family at risk, and can see no resolution to this quagmire, graveyard of empires. I do wonder if eventually the Russians will discover they’ve been too clever by half, supporting the wrong side, so close to their own borders. The enemy of your enemy is not your friend.

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  49. 49
    Ruckus says:

    @Kattails:
    In any conservative state there will always be out groups, it’s the nature of the game and politics. Conservatives are exclusive, not inclusive. It is a defining trait. In most religious conservatism women are an out group. In any conservative political entity there is a definite hierarchy and most often strength and killing potential are part of that hierarchy. Conservatives in our country at least attempt this to a degree, the racism, misogyny are all part of that along with the gun culture, which gives very weak members far more power than they obviously can handle. And if you look at our politics we have women conservatives, Megan McCain is a prime example of someone who goes overboard on all conservative traits to gain power given her gender and who she is trying to impress. She’d get no where if she didn’t.

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  50. 50
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Chetan Murthy: Sadly, you’re probably right. The Taliban hasn’t been defeated and will simply resume its domination of Afghanistan when western troops leave. There’s little that can be done now that hasn’t been done in the last nineteen years.

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  51. 51
    evodevo says:

    @Ruckus: See Barbara Tuchman – March of Folly

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  52. 52
    PJ says:

    @Chetan Murthy: I’m late to the conversation here, but:
    Years ago, I read a book called “No Good Men Among the Living”, which described the conditions in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, then the conditions under US rule (and the rule of our proxies). Most Afghanis did not like the Taliban, but one thing they did provide after years of fighting among lawless warlords (along with lots of murder, rape, and theft), was law and order, even if it was very oppressive. When the US came in, there was a lot of hope among the citizens that we would set up an actual civil state, with rule of law and civil rights, but we had no interest in doing that. We were only interested in “interrogating” (torturing) “terrorists” (whomever their neighbors had a grudge against), and left the ruling to warlords, and after the US was done with torturing Afghani citizens to find out, lo and behold, they were not, in fact, terrorists, we turned them over to be prisoners of warlords, who would then extort land or money from their families for their release. So it was no surprise that people saw the return of the Taliban as not such a bad thing. But there was an opportunity at the beginning, if the US had cared, to work to establish an actual civil society. There’s no telling if that would have lasted against a return of the Taliban, but the fact is, we never tried.

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  53. 53
    Joey Maloney says:

    I mean, if we’re going to arm someone, arm the women.

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  54. 54
    Betty says:

    @Chetan Murthy: You are describing the Vietnam scenario to a t. We don’t seem to learn from past mistakes. Cultural arrogance is certainly part of the problem. Afghanistan has a very long history that the US leadership seems to know nothing about.

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  55. 55
    Procopius says:

    @Mike in NC: I agree the idea that there was a meeting set for Camp David is risible. I wish I’d bookmarked it, but somewhere in the last day or two I saw a comment that people in the small town nearest Camp David say when there’s a meeting scheduled there’s a noticeable increase in helicopter traffic, and none of that was seen. The leaders of the Taliban have not survived 18 years of war by being stupid. There is no way you can make me believe they would agree to come to the U.S. The helicopter supposed to take them to Camp David would be more likely to take them to Guantanamo, and they know that. Trump has made the entire world aware that the United States cannot be trusted to honor promises, or even treaties, even when breaking them is obviously against our national interests.

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  56. 56
    Procopius says:

    The whole point of invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and root out al Qaeda was to change the dynamic.

    I’m sorry to have to disagree with you. You certainly have far more knowledge of how the apparatus works than I do, but based on publicly available information I do not believe your assertion is correct. I believe from published reports in 2001 that sending a couple hundred Special Operators and large quantities of weapons, ammunition, food, and money to the Northern Alliance was a mindless spasm of anger and frustration. I do not believe an end state was defined at the time, and the idea of “making sure Al Qaeda does not return to use Afghanistan for a training ground” was absurd. Based on the Program for a New American Century, published in 1996, it seems the neocons believe we need to establish permanent bases in the region to protect our access to the oil. Why we haven’t succeeded in doing so is puzzling. We certainly built them in Iraq, at the cost of many billions of dollars, and then abandoned them because Obama honored the agreement Bush made. Perhaps someday historians will be able to access truthful records that explain what happened. In any case, it has been clear since the middle of 2002 that we have no idea why we are in Afghanistan, what we hope(d) to accomplish there, how we would know when we had accomplished that, or how we could determine that the goal was infeasible and must be abandoned.

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  57. 57
    The Moar You Know says:

    If anyone in the Bush admin, or the Obama admin, had bothered to read up on the history of the British in Afghanistan, we wouldn’t be there now.

    The British beat on those people for decades and in the end, when they thought they’d gotten it all sorted, got slaughtered.

    The story of William Brydon is instructional.

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  58. 58
    JustRuss says:

    JFC, if the only thing you have to show for 18 years of occupation and almost a trillion dollars shredded is a royal, first-class clusterfuck, pull your head out of your ass and get out. Sorry folks, but victory is not just around the corner.

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