MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Are the Forever Wars Really Ending? – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on September 15, 2020

George H. W. Bush’s New World Order is ancient history, as are the democracy crusades his son George W. Bush was persuaded to launch.

But what will Trump’s foreign policy legacy be, should he win?

Joe Biden has signaled where he is headed — straight back to Barack Obama:

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/09/patrick-j-buchanan/are-the-forever-wars-really-ending/

By

“There is no… sound reason for the United States to continue sacrificing precious lives and treasure in a conflict not directly connected to our safety or other vital national interests.”

So said William Ruger about Afghanistan, our longest war.

What makes this statement significant is that President Donald Trump has ordered a drawdown by mid-October of half of the 8,600 troops still in the country. And Ruger was just named U.S. ambassador to Kabul.

The selection of Ruger to oversee the U.S. withdrawal came as Gen. Frank McKenzie of Central Command announced plans to cut the U.S. troop presence in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000 by the end of September.

Is America, at long last, really coming home from the forever wars?

A foreign policy analyst at the libertarian Charles Koch Institute and a Naval officer decorated for his service in Afghanistan, Ruger has long championed a noninterventionist foreign policy.

His nomination tends to confirm that, should Trump win a second term, his often-declared goal of extracting America from the forever wars of the Middle East, unachieved in his first term, would become a priority.

Yet, we have been here before, bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send thousands back when our enemies seemed to be gaining the upper hand at the expense of the allies we left behind.

Still, this time, Trump’s withdrawals look to be irreversible. And with the U.S. deal with the Taliban producing peace negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban, America seems to be saying to both sides of this endless civil war:

The destiny of Afghanistan is yours. The choice of war or peace is up to you. If talks collapse and a fight to the finish ensues, we Americans are not coming back, even to prevent a Taliban victory.

Speaking in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Trump made a remarkable declaration:

“We don’t have to be in the Middle East, other than we want to protect Israel. … There was a time we needed desperately oil, we don’t need that anymore.” If Trump means what he says, U.S. forces will be out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan early in his second term.

But how to explain the continued presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Diego Garcia?

Another indication of where a Trump second term is pointing is the naming of retired Col. Douglas Macgregor as ambassador to Germany.

The winner of a Bronze Star for valor in the 1991 Gulf War, Macgregor speaks German and is steeped in that country’s history. He has been highly visible on cable TV, calling for the transfer to our allies of the primary responsibility for their own defenses, and elevating the security of America’s Southern border to a far higher national imperative.

In 2019, Macgregor was quoted: “The only solution is martial law on the border, putting the United States Army in charge of it and closing it off would take about 30, 40,000 troops. We’re talking about the regular army. You need robust rules of engagement. That means that you can shoot people as required if your life is in danger.”

That Macgregor’s priorities may be Trump’s also became evident with the president’s announcement this summer of the withdrawal of 12,000 of the 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.

Yet, at the same time, there is seemingly contradictory evidence to the notion that Donald Trump wants our troops home. Currently, some 2,800 U.S., British, and French troops are conducting “Noble Partner” exercises with Georgian troops in that country in the Caucasus bordering Russia.

In Trump’s first term, his commitment to extricate America from the forever wars went unrealized, due in part to the resistance of hawks Trump himself appointed to carry out his foreign policy agenda.

Clearly, with the cuts in troops in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the appointments of Ruger and Macgregor, Trump has signaled a new resolve to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy in an “America First” direction, if he wins a second term. Will he follow through?

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been in an extended argument with itself over America’s role, America’s mission in the world.

George H. W. Bush’s New World Order is ancient history, as are the democracy crusades his son George W. Bush was persuaded to launch.

But what will Trump’s foreign policy legacy be, should he win?

Joe Biden has signaled where he is headed — straight back to Barack Obama:

“First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

Trump came to office pledging to establish a new relationship with the Kremlin of President Vladimir Putin.

Is that still his goal, or have the Beltway Russophobes prevailed?

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At the RNC, Rand Paul Is Right About the Need To End Wars, but Trump Hasn’t Ended Any – Reason.com

Posted by M. C. on September 4, 2020

Trump even vetoed a bill that would stop him from military action in Iran without congressional approval.

https://reason.com/2020/08/25/at-the-rnc-rand-paul-is-right-about-the-need-to-end-war-but-trump-hasnt-ended-any/

Tonight Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) spoke on behalf of President Donald Trump’s reelection. His remarks were heavily influenced by Paul’s own longstanding positions against excessive foreign military interventions, but only loosely tied to Trump’s actual record.

“I flew with him to Dover Air Force Base to honor two soldiers whose remains were coming home from Afghanistan,” Paul said. “I will never forget that evening. I can tell you the president not only felt the pain of these families but the president is committed to ending this war.

“President Trump is the first president in a generation to seek to end war rather than start one. He intends to end the war in Afghanistan. He is bringing our men and women home.”

You all may remember that Barack Obama ran for president also promising to end our overseas wars, and it did not happen.

As we approach the end of Trump’s first term, we cannot help but notice that the president has not, in fact, ended any wars and has in fact risked escalation of military engagement between the United States and Iran when he approved the drone-strike assassination of an Iranian general.

It’s true that Trump is promising to bring thousands of troops home from Afghanistan, and that’s wonderful, assuming it all happens and he completes the pullout. The Trump administration is, in reality, resisting any and all attempts by Congress to rescind the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that previously gave President George W. Bush permission to wage war against Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his speech, Paul railed against Biden for supporting this war. But when Congress, in a rare act of bipartisanship, passed a resolution stopping the president in engaging in any further military action against Iran without congressional approval, Trump vetoed it. Paul voted for this resolution and has consistently voted to rescind the AUMF.

And despite Paul’s attempts to insist tonight that Biden and the Democrats will continue overseas wars or start new ones, the congressional record shows that in reality, Democrats have been joining with Paul, agreeing with him in votes to bring the troops back home. It’s actually the White House and hawks within the Republican Party who have really been standing in the way.

Now both the Democratic Party 2020 platform and Trump’s 50-point plan for his second term promise, yet again, to end the wars and bring the troops home. For those who truly oppose foreign military intervention, the appropriate way to look at Trump’s first term is not unlike Obama’s. This promise has not been kept.

Watch more about Trump’s failed promises to end war:

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Americans, War – Slow Learners – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on August 27, 2020

Andrei Martyanov has argued that the U.S. military simply has no idea what a really big war is. Its peer wars off stage (since 1812) made it stronger; its home wars were profitable thefts. It believes wars are easy, quick, profitable, successful. Self delusion in war is defeat: post 1945 U.S. wars are failure delusionally entered into. To quote Fred Reed again:

The American military’s normal procedure is to overestimate American power, underestimate the enemy, and misunderstand the kind of war it is getting into.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/08/no_author/americans-war-slow-learners/

By Patrick Armstrong
Strategic Culture

Nothing short of genius can account for losing so consistently given the enormous resources available to American forces. In light of this very low level of military competence, maybe wars are not our best choice of hobby.

– Fred Reed (who probably learned this in Vietnam)

According to a popular Internet calculation, the United States of America has not been at war with somebody for only 21 years since 1776. Or maybe it’s only 17 years. Wikipedia attempts a list. It’s a long one. You’d think that a country that had been at war for that much of its existence, would be pretty good at it.

But you’d be wrong. The “greatest military in the history of the world” has doubled the USSR’s time in Afghanistan and apparently it’s unthinkable that it should not hang in for the triple. Should the President want to pull some troops out of somewhere, there will be a chorus shrieking “dangerous precedent” or losing leadership and months later nothing much will have happened.

One cannot avoid asking when did the USA last win a war. You can argue about what “win” looks like but there’s no argument about a surrender ceremony in the enemy’s capital, whether Tokyo Bay or Berlin. That is victory. Helicopters off the Embassy roof is not, pool parties in a U.S. Embassy is not, “Black Hawk down” is not. Doubling the USSR’s record in Afghanistan is not. Restoring the status quo ante in Korea is not defeat exactly, but it’s pretty far from what MacArthur expected when he moved on the Yalu. When did the USA last win a war? And none of the post-1945 wars have been against first-class opponents.

And few of the pre-1941 wars were either. Which brings me to the point of this essay. The USA has spent much of its existence at war, but very seldom against peers. The peer wars are few: the War of Independence against Britain (but with enormous – and at Yorktown probably decisive – help from France). Britain again in 1812-1814 (but British power was mostly directed against Napoleon). Germany in 1917-1918, Germany and Japan 1941-1945.

Most American opponents have been small fry.

Take, for example, the continual wars against what the Declaration of Independence calls “the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions“. (Starting, incidentally, a long American tradition of depicting enemies as outside the law and therefore deserving of extermination.) The Indians were brave and skilful fighters but there were always too few of them. Furthermore, as every Indian warrior was a free individual, Indian forces melted away when individuals concluded that there was nothing in it for them. Because there were so few warriors in a given nation, Indian war bands would not endure the sort of casualties that European soldiers did. And, always in the background, the carnage from European diseases like the smallpox epidemic of 1837 which killed tens of thousands in the Western nations. Thus, whatever Indian resistance survived could usually be divided, bought off, cheated away and, if it came to a fight, the individual Indian nation was generally so small and so isolated, that victory was assured. The one great attempt to unite all the western nations was Tecumseh’s. He understood that the only chance would come if the Indians, one united force, showed the Americans that they had to be taken seriously. He spent years trying to organise the nations but, in the end, the premature action of his brother Tenskwatawa led to defeat of his headquarters base in 1811. Tecumseh himself was killed two years later fighting a rear-guard action in Ontario. It is because defeats of American forces were so rare that Little Big Horn has passed into legend; but the American casualties of about 250 would have been a minor skirmish a decade earlier. And the victory led to nothing for the Indians anyway; they lost the Black Hills and were forced into reservations. Brave and spirited fighters, but, in the end, no match for industrialised numbers.

The USA fought several wars against Spain and Mexico, gaining territory as it did. Despite the occasional “last stand” like The Alamo, these were also one-sided. The Spanish-American War is the outstanding example: for about 4000 casualties (half from disease), the USA drove Spain completely out of the Americas and took the Philippines, obliterating the Spanish Fleet at Manila Bay. More easy victories over greatly outmatched adversaries.

The other group of wars the U.S. was involved in before 1941 were the empire-gathering wars. One of the first was the takeover of the independent and internationally-recognised Kingdom of Hawaii; the sugar barons organised a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the help of troops from U.S. warships and no shooting was necessary. Not so with the long bloody campaign in the Philippines, forgotten until President Duterte reminded the world of it. And there were many more interventions in small countries; some mentioned by Major General Smedley Butler in his famous book War is a Racket.

Minor opponents indeed.

Andrei Martyanov has argued that the U.S. military simply has no idea what a really big war is. Its peer wars off stage (since 1812) made it stronger; its home wars were profitable thefts. It believes wars are easy, quick, profitable, successful. Self delusion in war is defeat: post 1945 U.S. wars are failure delusionally entered into. To quote Fred Reed again:

The American military’s normal procedure is to overestimate American power, underestimate the enemy, and misunderstand the kind of war it is getting into.

The only exceptions are the Korean War – a draw at best – and trivial successes like Grenada or Panama. As I have argued elsewhere, there is something wrong with American war-fighting doctrine: no one seems to have any idea of what to do after the first few weeks and the wars degenerate into a annual succession of commanders determined not to be the one who lost; each keeping it going until he leaves. The problem is kicked down the road. Resets, three block war fantasieswinning hearts and minds, precision bombing, optimistic pieces saying “this time we’ve got it right“, surges. Imagination replaces the forthright study of warfare. Everybody on the inside knows they’re lost – “Newly released interviews on the U.S. war reveal the coordinated spin effort and dodgy metrics behind a forever war“; that’s Afghanistan, earlier the Pentagon Papers in Vietnam – but further down the road. When they finally end, the excuses begin: “you won every major battle of that war. Every single one”, Obama lost Iraq.

And always bombing. Bombing is the America way in war. Korea received nearly four times as much bomb tonnage as Japan had. On Vietnam the U.S. dropped more than three times the tonnage that it had in the whole of the Second World War. Today’s numbers are staggering: Afghanistan received, between 2013 and 2019, 26 thousand “weapons releases“. 26,171 bombs around the world in 2016 aloneGeological bombingPrecision attacks, they say. But the reality is quite different – not all of the bombs are “smart bombs” and smart bombs are only as smart as the intelligence that directs them. The truth is that, with the enormous amount of bombs and bad intelligence directing the “smart bombs”, the end result is Raqqa – everything destroyed.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble… In addition, to catch the essence of such war in this century, two new words might be useful — rubblize and rubblization.

The U.S. Army once really studied war and produced first-class studies of the Soviet performance in the Second World War. These studies served two purposes: introducing Americans who thought Patton won the war to who and what actually did and showing how the masters of the operational level of war performed. Now it’s just silliness from think tanks. A fine example of fantasy masquerading as serious thought is the “Sulwaki Corridor” industry of which this piece from the “world’s leading experts… cutting-edge research… fresh insight…” may stand as an amusing example. The “corridor” in question is the border between Lithuania and Poland. “Defending Suwalki is therefore important for NATO’s credibility and for Western cohesion” and so on. The authors expect us to believe that, in a war against NATO, Russia would have any concern about the paltry military assets in the Baltics. If Moscow really decided it had to fight NATO, it would strike with everything it had. The war would not start in the “Suwalki Corridor” – there would be salvoes of missiles hitting targets all over Europe, the USA and Canada. The first day would see the destruction of a lot of NATO’s infrastructure: bases, ports, airfields, depots, communications. The second day would see more. (And that’s the “conventional” war.) Far from being the cockpit of war, the “Suwalki Corridor” would be a quiet rest area. As Martyanov loves to say: too much Hollywood, too much Patton, too many academics saying what they’re paid to believe and believe to be paid. The U.S. has no idea.

And today it’s losing its wars against lesser opponents. This essay on how the Houthis are winning – from the Jamestown Foundation, a cheerleader for American wars – could equally well be applied to Vietnam or any of the other “forever wars” of Washington.

The resiliency of the Houthis stems from their leadership’s understanding and consistent application of the algebra of insurgency.

The American way of warfare assumes unchallenged air superiority and reliable communications. What would happen if the complacent U.S. forces meet serious integrated air defence and genuine electronic warfare capabilities? The little they have seen of Russian EW capabilities in Syria and Ukraine has made their “eyes water“; some foresee a “Waterloo” in the South China Sea. Countries on Washington’s target list know its dependence.

The fact is that, over all the years and all its wars the U.S. has rarely had to fight anybody its own size or close to it. This has created an expectation of easy and quick victory. Knowledge of the terrible, full out, stunning destruction and superhuman efforts of a real war against powerful and determined enemies has faded away, if they ever had it. American wars, always somewhere else, have become the easy business of carpet bombing – rubblising – the enemy with little shooting back. Where there is shooting back, on the ground, after the initial quick win, it’s “forever” attrition by IED, ambush, sniping, raids as commanders come and go. The result? Random destruction from the air and forever wars on the ground.

There is of course one other time when the United States fought a first-class opponent and that is when it fought itself. According to these official numbers, the U.S. Civil War killed about 500,000 Americans. Which is about half the deaths from all of the other U.S. wars. Of all the Americans killed in all their wars – Independence, Indians, Mexico, two world wars. Korea, Cold War, GWOT – other Americans killed about a third of them.

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

By 2-1 Margin, House Republicans and Democrats Vote to Stay in Afghanistan | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 26, 2020

War Wins even if the US can’t…again

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/by-2-1-margin-house-republicans-and-democrats-vote-to-stay-in-afghanistan/

by

By a vote of 284-129, the House of Representatives soundly defeated an amendment to establish a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. A slight plurality of Democrats supported the measure, with most of the leadership opposing. All Republicans except two voted in to oppose. Libertarian Justin Amash supported the measure. The amendment to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was offered by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

President Trump declared in late May that he wanted to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan before the November election. Since that time, Democratic leaders have shifted to an even more hawkish position, pulling out all the stops to prevent such a move. Much of the foreign policy of the Democratic leadership has been driven by opposition to Trump’s positions, rather than by what is best for the country or what the American people desire.

American troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for 19 years, with no progress in reducing violence.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com

Be seeing you

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Taliban, Russia and John Dillinger

Posted by M. C. on July 25, 2020

I made a poorly written Facebook comment regarding Russia and the Taliban. My original thought was the CIA/Pentagram faked the statement that the Taliban was paid to kill US soldiers, not that the CIA/Pentagram did the paying.

The point being we must prevent Trump bringing troops home from the other side of the planet.

I felt uncomfortable with my correction as after all this is the CIA/Pentagram we are talking about. Think of lives lost due to Tokin Gulf and agent orange lies.

Russia having to pay Taliban to kill US forces is like having to pay John Dillinger to rob banks. It makes no sense. The Taliban have been happy to do it for free for 20 years.

A few days later the memory bank kicked in. We have paid the Taliban… a lot. We have paid them protection money, often through middlemen and contractors, not attack supply convoys. And who knows what else.

Money is fungible. Funds that don’t have to be used to supply one thing, because someone else supplies funds for that thing, can be used to kill Americans.

We also supply the enemies throughout the world due to gross incompetence and negligence. When US forces leave an area lots of good stuff is just left. It is easier to tap the taxpayer for more.

The US has supplied and trained forces that have taken and sold their equipment or gone over to Al Qaeda.

The black market is overflowing with high tech US equipment.

There are hundreds of billion$ worth of equipment the pentagram can’t account for and lost.

The links and the snippet below describe some of what we know. As Donald Rumsfield once stated “we don’t know what we don’t know”.

https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/how-the-us-is-indirectly-arming-the-taliban/

https://abcnews.go.com/WN/Afghanistan/united-states-military-funding-taliban-afghanistan/story?id=10980527

“The military has turned to private trucking companies to transport the vast majority of materiel it needs to fight the war — everything from bullets to Gatorade, gas to sandbags — and in turn, the companies are using American money to pay, among others, the Taliban to try to guarantee the trucks’ safe passage, the reports charge.

Trucking executives and investigators from the House Subcommittee on National Security say the United States military knew it was helping fund the people it was fighting but did nothing about it, choosing to satisfy short-term delivery requirements and ignore fears that payments to the enemy help perpetuate Afghanistan’s long-term security problems.

In one case, a security company is paying a local commander who funnels American money directly to the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership council based in Pakistan, according to officials in Pakistan. The commander denied the allegation. On a recent day when the commander was told he had lost the security contract, a half dozen trucks were burned on the road between Kabul and Kandahar. The violence stopped a few days later when the contract was given back to him.”

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Why No Deal is Needed with the Taliban | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on July 21, 2020

Advocates of continuing the war in Afghanistan want to make the issue about whether the Taliban can be trusted. But no trust is necessary; all one needs to see the way forward is a clear understanding of American national security interests and the incentives and goals of the militant organization. From that perspective, the best choice for the United States is a clear commitment to withdrawal, regardless of whether or not we are able to achieve a comprehensive deal before doing so.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/why-no-deal-is-needed-with-the-taliban/

The U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan and tend to its own interests. Let local powers worry about theirs.

As President Trump moves forward with his plan to withdraw the United States from Afghanistan, a new talking point has emerged among those who would like the United States to stay.

According to current and former government officials, the Taliban cannot be trusted. The argument is that the militant group has proven over the years that it will break any agreement it has reached if doing so accords with its ideological or political interests. According to one scholar, “what we judge the Taliban on is whether they honor the deal.”

Unfortunately, this argument avoids clear thinking about what the vital American national security interests are in Afghanistan, and how to best achieve them. Nearly two decades ago, the United States invaded that country in response to the 9/11 attacks. There was no evidence that Mullah Omar and his government approved of Bin Laden’s plans, or were even aware of them. It is likely they were not, as it was clear to the entire world that a terrorist strike against the United States would end the regime.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the Taliban expressed a willingness to hand over Bin Laden, but demanded evidence and wanted to negotiate the terms. The Bush administration was in no mood for discussions, and military operations to remove the Taliban began about two weeks later.

The Taliban showed no inclination to attack American territory before 9/11, and it has not done so since. Its goal has always simply been to rule over Afghanistan, a country that means little to American interests. Given that the United States went into the country for the purposes of responding to and fighting terrorism, in principle a deal should have been easy to work out.

As the Afghanistan Papers reveal, however, what began as a counter-terrorism war morphed into nation building. Particularly after the failure to find WMDs in Iraq, the Bush administration began to justify its seemingly pointless wars by framing them as struggles for democracy. President Obama came into office skeptical of an open-ended commitment, but was pressured into adopting the kind of counter-insurgency (COIN) mission favored by top military officials. The increase in funding and American troop commitment to Afghanistan coincided with more violence and the Kabul government losing more territory, discrediting the theory of nation-building underlying COIN.

Just as in fall 2001, today the U.S. has no interest in a long-term occupation of Afghanistan, and the Taliban has no interest in attacking the United States. No deal between the two sides is necessary. President Trump can simply withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, as he has been promising to do for years, and the Taliban’s sense of self-preservation should be enough to prevent it from allowing its country to be used as a base for terrorist attacks. In seeking to come back into political power and while facing rival insurgents, the Taliban will have its plate full at home without picking another fight with the United States.

A more serious concern is that the United States leaving Afghanistan would lead to the Taliban eventually replacing the Kabul government. Indeed, the movement has lasted twenty years under pressure from the most powerful military in the world, taking large swaths of territory from a central government receiving overwhelming military and financial support from abroad. Given the extent to which the Taliban has proved itself as a fighting force over two decades, it looks possible it would be able to take power once the United States withdrew.

Even if this is true, few Americans believe that which government rules Kabul is a vital national security interest of the United States. If, after twenty years, the government we have supported is no closer to complete control over its territory than it has been before, it is time to acknowledge that our experiment in nation building has failed. The current government of Afghanistan rests on the agreement and consent of warlords, the likes of which cut deals with the Taliban before and could do so again.

Many citizens prefer the courts and criminal justice system of the Taliban over the central government, seeing the former as less corrupt, better able to provide security, and more consistent with the people’s conservative religious values. Even by the measure of humanitarian concerns, while the central government is in many ways less brutal than the Taliban was, the U.S. occupation has done little to improve the well-being of the Afghan people.

The U.S. should waste no time in withdrawing all American forces from Afghanistan, acknowledging the Taliban as a legitimate player in the future of that country and establishing open dialogue with the group.

Deluding ourselves into believing the Afghan government can stand on its own simply avoids the much-needed honest assessment of the balance of power on the ground.

Advocates of continuing the war in Afghanistan want to make the issue about whether the Taliban can be trusted. But no trust is necessary; all one needs to see the way forward is a clear understanding of American national security interests and the incentives and goals of the militant organization. From that perspective, the best choice for the United States is a clear commitment to withdrawal, regardless of whether or not we are able to achieve a comprehensive deal before doing so.

 

Richard Hanania is a Research Fellow at Defense Priorities and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One Party State: Washington Unites To Block Trump Afghan Troop Withdrawal

Posted by M. C. on July 16, 2020

When it comes to foreign policy and war (among other things) there are not two opposing political parties in Washington. Both Republicans and Democrats desperately cling to the warfare state as their ideological and economic lifeblood. That is why Congress is using a bizarre trick to attempt to block President Trump’s plan to remove US troops from its longest war in history (Afghanistan). Plus in today’s program: The HUGE scandal in Florida’s Covid testing!!!

War, money, power and keeping the empire.

 

Be seeing you

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How the Pentagon failed to sell Afghan government’s bunk ‘Bountygate’ story to US intelligence agencies  | The Grayzone

Posted by M. C. on July 11, 2020

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/07/pentagon-afghan-bountygate-us-intelligence-agencies/

Another New York Times Russiagate bombshell turns out to be a dud, as dodgy stories spun out by Afghan intelligence and exploited by the Pentagon ultimately failed to convince US intelligence agencies.

By Gareth Porter

The New York Times dropped another Russiagate bombshell on June 26 with a sensational front-page story headlined, “Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.”  A predictable media and political frenzy followed, reviving the anti-Russian hysteria that has excited the Beltway establishment for the past four years.

But a closer look at the reporting by the Times and other mainstream outlets vying to confirm its coverage reveals another scandal not unlike Russiagate itself: the core elements of the story appear to have been fabricated by Afghan government intelligence to derail a potential US troop withdrawal from the country. And they were leaked to the Times and other outlets by US national security state officials who shared an agenda with their Afghan allies.

In the days following the story’s publication, the maneuvers of the Afghan regime and US national security bureaucracy encountered an unexpected political obstacle: US intelligence agencies began offering a series of low confidence assessments in the Afghan government’s self-interested intelligence claims, judging them to be highly suspect at best, and altogether bogus at worst.

In light of this dramatic development, the Times’ initial report appears to have been the product of a sensationalistic disinformation dump aimed at prolonging the failed Afghan war in the face of President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from it.

The Times quietly reveals its own sources’ falsehoods

The Times not only broke the Bountygate story but commissioned squads of reporters comprising nine different correspondents to write eight articles hyping the supposed scandal in the course of eight days. Its coverage displayed the paper’s usual habit of regurgitating bits of dubious information furnished to its correspondents by faceless national security sources. In the days after the Times’ dramatic publication, its correspondent squads were forced to revise the story line to correct an account that ultimately turned out to be false on practically every important point.

The Bountygate saga began on June 26, with a Times report declaring, “The United States concluded months ago” that the Russians “had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.” The report suggested that US intelligence analysts had reached a firm conclusion on Russian bounties as early as January. A follow-up Times report portrayed the shocking discovery of the lurid Russian plot thanks to the recovery of a large amount of U.S. cash from a “raid on a Taliban outpost.” That article sourced its claim to the interrogations of “captured Afghan militants and criminals.”

However, subsequent reporting revealed that the “US intelligence reports” about a Russian plot to distribute bounties through Afghan middlemen were not generated by US intelligence at all.

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot.  But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

The Times also disclosed that the information provided by “captured militants and criminals” under “interrogation” had been the main source of suspicion of a Russian bounty scheme in Afghanistan. But those “militants and criminals” turned out to be thirteen relatives and business associates of the businessman whose house was raided.

The Times reported that those detainees were arrested and interrogated following the January 2020 raids based on suspicions by Afghan intelligence that they belonged to a “ring of middlemen” operating between the Russian GRU and so-called “Taliban-linked militants,” as Afghan sources made clear.

Furthermore, contrary to the initial report by the Times, those raids had actually been carried out exclusively by the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security (NDS). The Times disclosed this on July 1. Indeed, the interrogation of those detained in the raids was carried out by the NDS, which explains why the Times reporting referred repeatedly to “interrogations” without ever explaining who actually did the questioning.

Given the notorious record of the NDS, it must be assumed that its interrogators used torture or at least the threat of it to obtain accounts from the detainees that would support the Afghan government’s narrative. Both the Toronto Globe and Mail and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have documented as recently as 2019 the frequent use of torture by the NDS to obtain information from detainees.  The primary objective of the NDS was to establish an air of plausibility around the claim that the fugitive businessman Azizi was the main “middleman” for a purported GRU scheme to offer bounties for killing Americans.

NDS clearly fashioned its story to suit the sensibilities of the U.S. national security state. The narrative echoed previous intelligence reports about Russian bounties in Afghanistan that circulated in early 2019, and which were even discussed at NSC meetings. Nothing was done about these reports, however, because nothing had been confirmed.

The idea that hardcore Taliban fighters needed or wanted foreign money to kill American invaders could have been dismissed on its face. So Afghan officials spun out claims that Russian bounties were paid to incentivize violence by “militants and criminals” supposedly “linked” to the Taliban.

These elements zeroed in on the April 2019 IED attack on a vehicle near the U.S. military base at Bagram in Parwan province that killed three US Marines, insisting that the Taliban had paid local criminal networks in the region to carry out attacks.

As former Parwan police chief Gen. Zaman Mamozai told the Times, Taliban commanders were based in only two of the province’s ten districts, forcing them to depend on a wider network of non-Taliban killers-for-hire to carry out attacks elsewhere in the province. These areas included the region around Bagram, according to the Afghan government’s argument.

But Dr. Thomas H. Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School, a leading expert on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan who has been researching war in the country for three decades,  dismissed the idea that the Taliban would need a criminal network to operate effectively in Parwan.

“The Taliban are all over Parwan,” Johnson stated in an interview with The Grayzone, observing that its fighters had repeatedly carried out attacks on or near the Bagram base throughout the war.

With withdrawal looming, the national security state plays its Bountygate card

Senior U.S. national security officials had clear ulterior motives for embracing the dubious NDS narrative. More than anything, those officials were determined to scuttle Trump’s push for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. For Pentagon brass and civilian leadership, the fear of withdrawal became more acute in early 2020 as Trump began to demand an even more rapid timetable for a complete pullout than the 12-14 months being negotiated with the Taliban.

It was little surprise then that this element leapt at the opportunity to exploit the self-interested claims by the Afghan NDS to serve its own agenda, especially as the November election loomed. The Times even cited one “senior [US] official” musing that “the evidence about Russia could have threatened that [Afghanistan] deal, because it suggested that after eighteen year of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.”

In fact, the intelligence reporting from the CIA Station in Kabul on the NDS Russia bounty claims was included in the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) on or about February 27 — just as the negotiation of the U.S. peace agreement with the Taliban was about to be signed. That was too late to prevent the signing but timed well enough to ratchet up pressure on Trump to back away from his threat to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.

Trump may have been briefed orally on the issue at the time, but even if he had not been, the presence of a summary description of the intelligence in the PDB could obviously have been used to embarrass him on Afghanistan by leaking it to the media.

According to Ray McGovern, a former CIA official who was responsible for preparing the PDB for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the insertion of raw, unconfirmed intelligence from a self-interested Afghan intelligence agency into the PDB was a departure from normal practice.

Unless it was a two or three-sentence summary of a current intelligence report, McGovern explained, an item in the PDB normally involved only important intelligence that had been confirmed.  Furthermore, according to McGovern, PDB items are normally shorter versions of items prepared the same day as part of the CIA’s “World Intelligence Review” or “WIRe.”

Information about the purported Russian bounty scheme, however, was not part of the WIRe until May 4, well over two months later, according to the Times. That discrepancy added weight to the suggestion that the CIA had political motivations for planting the raw NDS reporting in the PDB before it could be evaluated.

This June, Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) convened a meeting to discuss the intelligence report, officials told the Times. NSC members drew up a range of options in response to the alleged Russian plot, from a diplomatic protest to more forceful responses. Any public indication that US troops in Afghanistan had been targeted by Russian spies would have inevitably threatened Trump’s plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

At some point in the weeks that followed, the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency each undertook evaluations of the Afghan intelligence claims. Once the Times began publishing stories about the issue, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe directed the National Intelligence Council, which is responsible for managing all common intelligence community assessments, to write a memorandum summarizing the intelligence organizations’ conclusions.

The memorandum revealed that the intelligence agencies were not impressed with what they’d seen. The CIA and National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) each gave the NDS intelligence an assessment of “moderate confidence,” according to memorandum.

An official guide to intelligence community terminology used by policymakers to determine how much they should rely on assessments indicates that “moderate confidence” generally indicates that “the information being used in the analysis may be interpreted in various ways….” It was hardly a ringing endorsement of the NDS intelligence when the CIA and NCTC arrived at this finding.

The assessment by the National Security Agency was even more important, given that it had obtained intercepts of electronic data on financial transfers “from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account,” according to the Times’ sources.  But the NSA evidently had no idea what the transfers related to, and essentially disavowed the information from the Afghan intelligence agency.

The NIC memorandum reported that NSA gave the information from Afghan intelligence “low confidence” — the lowest of the three possible levels of confidence used in the intelligence community.  According to the official guide to intelligence community terminology, that meant that “information used in the analysis is scant, questionable, fragmented, or that solid analytical conclusions cannot be inferred from the information.”

Other intelligence agencies reportedly assigned “low confidence” to the information as well, according to the memorandum. Even the Defense Intelligence Agency, known for its tendency to issue alarmist warnings about activities by US adversaries, found no evidence in the material linking the Kremlin to any bounty offers.

Less than two weeks after the Times rolled out its supposed bombshell on Russian bounties, relying entirely on national security officials pushing their own bureaucratic interests on Afghanistan, the story was effectively discredited by the intelligence community itself. In a healthy political climate, this would have produced a major setback for the elements determined to keep US troops entrenched in Afghanistan.

But the political hysteria generated by the Times and the hyper-partisan elements triggered by the appearance of another sordid Trump-Putin connection easily overwhelmed the countervailing facts. It was all the Pentagon and its bureaucratic allies needed to push back on plans for a speedy withdrawal from a long and costly war.

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist who has covered national security policy since 2005 and was the recipient of Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2012.  His most recent book is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis co-authored with John Kiriakou, just published in February.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Congress Plays Hardball to Keep American Troops Overseas | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on July 10, 2020

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) have proposed barring the use of funds to remove any troops. That is, at a time of budget crisis they want to keep more U.S. money flowing into Germany, rewarding a government dedicated to focus on its economy and society while expecting Americans to do the military defending.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/congress-should-serve-americans/

The U.S. should not prop up NATO allies who are unwilling to invest in their own defense.

The Europeans collectively have 11 times the GDP and three times the population of Russia. Germany has the world’s fourth largest economy, alone two and a half times the size of Russia’s.

Yet the Europeans affect to be helpless, vulnerable to attack by a revived Red Army. No European government spends much more than two percent of GDP on the military, not even the Baltic States and Poland, which squeal the most frequently and loudly about evil hordes massing just over the border. At least France and Great Britain have competent forces, though not directed at Moscow. Germany devotes just 1.38 percent of its GDP to a military far from battle-ready. Italy and Spain barely bother to maintain armed forces. And then there are nations like Luxembourg.

So why is it America’s responsibility to protect countries well able to defend themselves but not interested in doing so? Worse, why are U.S. policymakers constantly reassuring the Europeans that no matter how little they do Washington will always be there, ready to save them? Why have lawmakers, elected to represent the American people, turned NATO into a defense dole for what Ronald Reagan today might call foreign welfare queens?

To his credit, President Donald Trump has sharply criticized allies which prefer to leave the heavy lifting to Washington. Alas, his methods are dubious and have had little effect. Their small increases in military spending began before he was elected. His officials have thwarted his policies by increasing U.S. support for NATO, even expanding the alliance to such military behemoths as Montenegro and North Macedonia.

Most bizarre is Congress’s determination to always stand with European officials, who, in sharp contrast, put their own nations first. Legislators constantly ignore the plight of American taxpayers, who are expected to keep funding prosperous, populous allies which believe they have better things to do than enlarging and improving their militaries. Like preserving largescale social welfare programs at U.S. expense.

For instance, the president’s determination to pull 9500 U.S. personnel out of Germany caused congressmen, Republicans and Democrats alike, to go, well, completely nuts. In their view the president was inviting Vladimir Putin to invade Europe and conquer most of the known world. They imagined that a new Dark Ages was descending, the world was about to end, and the lion was poised to eat the lamb.

So, naturally, leading lawmakers are scheming to block the move, in order to ensure that the Europeans need never be bothered to take care of themselves. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) have proposed barring the use of funds to remove any troops. That is, at a time of budget crisis they want to keep more U.S. money flowing into Germany, rewarding a government dedicated to focus on its economy and society while expecting Americans to do the military defending.

Who do Romney and Thornberry believe they are representing? Why do they care more about German than American taxpayers?

Republicans also are taking the lead in the Democratic-controlled House to sacrifice American interests for foreign governments. For instance, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), daughter of “I had other priorities” Dick Cheney, who avoided serving in Vietnam before plotting numerous wars for today’s young, backed a Democratic proposal to limit further withdrawals from Afghanistan, where Americans have been engaged in a nearly 20-year nation-building mission. The measure passed by a 45 to 11 vote: members of both countries seem determined to keep Americans forever fighting in Central Asia. They care more for the corrupt, incompetent regime in Kabul than America service members and taxpayers. In contrast, the president, despite his halting, inconsistent policy, better represents this nation’s interests.

The opposition to the president’s plan for getting out of Afghanistan was modest compared to the hysteria that consumed Washington when he ordered U.S. forces home from Syria. Unsurprisingly, though unfortunately, legislators took the lead in opposing his plan to focus on the interests of Americans.

For instance, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill) complained that Trump’s refusal to keep the U.S. forever entangled in another nation’s civil war, tragic but irrelevant to American security, was “weak.” Sen. Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) pushed a resolution criticizing the president. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued the standard yet mindless response to every proposal to disengage from anywhere: the president should “exercise American leadership.” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, apparently (and thankfully) defeated in the recent primary by a young progressive, similarly complained that “At President Trump’s hands, American leadership has been laid low.” For all of them, “American leadership” apparently requires engaging in perpetual war on behalf of foreign governments and interests, irrespective of the human and financial cost to this nation.

It is hard to imagine a deployment more antithetical to U.S. security. In Syria Americans are occupying a foreign nation, expected to oust the incumbent government, fight jihadists created by Washington’s invasion of the country next door, force out personnel from Iran and Russia invited in by the legitimate government to battle insurgents supported by the U.S., and forever protect ethnic fighters considered to be an existential threat by the neighboring state, a NATO ally. All this is to be done through an illegal intervention, lacking both domestic and international legal authority. Yet the congressmen so determined to block the president are unwilling to commit themselves and vote to authorize the deployment. Apparently they fear having to justify their bizarre behavior to their constituents who are paying the price of their perverted priorities. A cynic might think U.S. legislators to be both policy morons and political cowards.

Congress has similarly sought to inhibit any effort by the president to withdraw troops from South Korea. Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act set a floor for U.S. troop deployments in the Republic of Korea. The 2020 NDAA raised the number, essentially prohibiting any reduction in current deployments. According to Congress, the Pentagon must forever provide a specific level of military welfare for one of the world’s most prosperous and industrialized states.

Americans should ask when legislators will be as solicitous of American military personnel and taxpayers as of the ROK government. The South enjoys roughly 53 times the economic strength and twice the population of North Korea. If Seoul needs more troops for its defense, why doesn’t it raise them? Why are Americans expected to pay for what South Koreans should be doing?

Of course, the president is not innocent of the temptation to do the bidding of foreign leaders instead of the American people. He appears to be in essentially full thrall of several foreign dictators and other master manipulators, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed bin Salman.

In the last case Congress has taken the unusual stance of challenging the president for his unnatural obeisance to a foreign ruler. The U.S. continues to arm and assist the Saudi royals in their murderous campaign of aggression against their neighbor, Yemen, in order to reinstall a pliant regime prepared to carry out Saudi policy. The war has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe in what already was one of the world’s poorest nations. The Saudi intervention also triggered a sectarian war, giving Iran an excellent opportunity to bleed the ineffective Saudi military, which has proved to be competent at little more than bombing weddings and funerals, destroying apartments and markets, and slaughtering civilians. It is difficult to imagine an intervention more antithetical to American interests. Here, unusually, Congress is on the right side.

Candidate George W. Bush advocated a “humble foreign policy,” a position he forgot after 9/11. Instead, he decided to try to reorder the world, determined to create a liberal, modern state in Central Asia and turn Iraq into the sort of de facto colony that Neoconservatives imagined a proper Arab nation should be. The result was little short of a catastrophe.

The next president should turn genuine humility into policy. And challenge Congress to abandon its pretensions of global social engineering, ignoring differences in history, interest, geography, religion, ethnicity, culture, and more. Instead of playacting as 535 secretaries of state, legislators should focus on protecting America, its territory, population, prosperity, and liberties.

A good starting point would be to stop treating the Defense Department as another welfare agency, only for foreign governments. America’s wealthy friends should do what serious nations have down throughout history: defend themselves.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Russian Bounties Hoax | The Libertarian Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 4, 2020

Well the entire country is awash in American cash as well as every
form of black market in drugs, guns, prostitution and the rest. The U.S.
itself has been paying the Taliban since 2005 or 2006 literally
billions of dollars in protection money for convoys of U.S. supplies in
the country. There’s even a whole book devoted to that subject called Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban by
Douglas Wissing. They then spend that money buying American weapons,
night-vision equipment and even Humvees from the Afghan Army the U.S.
has built there.

It is not as though anyone in the ME needs to be bribed to kill Americans.

We invaded the country 20 years ago because Saudi Arabia burned down the world trade center. For some reason the Afghans don’t like 20 years of violent occupation.

Correction: The US used that as an excuse to exercise the plan of control of ME oil and oil pipelines.

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/the-russian-bounties-hoax/

by

Img 8979

There’s no reason for you to accept the story about the Russian military paying Afghan militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan. The New York TimesWall Street Journal and Washington Post all started this controversy late last week with incredibly thin stories. They did not even pretend to claim that it was true the Russians had put bounties on U.S. troops, only that they had anonymous sources who claimed there was a government report somewhere that said that. They were reporting the “fact” that there was a rumor.

They wouldn’t even say which agencies were leaking the story. All we were told was the story came from “intelligence officials” or even “people familiar” with the story.

They did not cite any evidence and did not claim to connect the rumored bounties to the deaths of any particular American soldiers or marines.

All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true. The Times wrote this “would be an escalation,” “officials have said,” “it would be the first time,” and again, “would also be a huge escalation.” [Emphasis added.] (“Escalation” of what? Russia’s global dark arts war against American interests which also happens to only exist in the form of claims of anonymous government officials.)

The New York Times follow-up story was still very thin. Again, the extremely vague “intelligence officials” and now the extremely broad “special operations forces,” who are not intelligence officials, are their claimed sources. They do not cite the CIA, who refused to comment.

The sources claim that the intelligence report says that captured “militants”—again deliberately vague—were caught with some American cash and later admitted to Afghan National Security Force interrogators that they had been paid these Russian bounties.

Well the entire country is awash in American cash as well as every form of black market in drugs, guns, prostitution and the rest. The U.S. itself has been paying the Taliban since 2005 or 2006 literally billions of dollars in protection money for convoys of U.S. supplies in the country. There’s even a whole book devoted to that subject called Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban by Douglas Wissing. They then spend that money buying American weapons, night-vision equipment and even Humvees from the Afghan Army the U.S. has built there.

Of course the Afghan government has a huge interest in perpetuating such tales as these, whether they tortured these statements out of these prisoners or not. They want desperately for U.S. forces to stay to protect their power. If making up a story about Russia and the Taliban could undermine the Trump administration’s peace talks with the Taliban, then they just might do that.

Remember, just in this century, America’s intelligence agencies have lied about Iraq’s unconventional weapons and alliance with Osama bin Laden, Libya’s impending genocide, Syria’s “moderate rebel” bin Ladenite terrorists and false-flag chemical weapons attacks, and most recently the massive hoax that Donald Trump was a brainwashed, blackmailed secret agent of Putin’s Kremlin who had conspired with Russia to usurp Hillary Clinton’s rightful throne in the 2016 election. They’re liars.

After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous “intelligence officials” in the New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so.

The Wall Street Journal conceded yesterday that the National Security Agency is dissenting from the conclusion about the bounties, though of course not saying why. However, just the fact that they put that in the paper seems to signal a very strong dissent from the conclusion and the media and political war that is being waged in the name of it. The Pentagon also said on Monday it has not seen “corroborating evidence” to support the claims.

Current reports are that the supposed events all happened last year. This raises major questions why the story was leaked to the three most important newspapers in the country in the way that it was last week. The national security state has done everything they can to keep the U.S. involved in that war, successfully badgering Obama and Trump both into expanding it against their better judgement. If Trump had listened to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, we’d be on year three of an escalation with plans to begin talks with the Taliban next year. Instead, Trump talked to them for the last year-and-a-half and has already signed a deal to have us out by the end of next May.

The national security state also has a continuing interest in preventing Trump from “getting along with Russia.” Anything they can do to advance the tired debunked old narrative that Trump puts Russian interests before America’s, they will. Of course that is the story TV is pushing again this week. (I am not a Trump supporter. But lies are lies and his position on Afghanistan is now correct.)

Before this supposed story broke last week, Sen. Angus King, the Democrat, was already complaining about Trump’s plans for a “precipitous” and “hasty” withdrawal from Afghanistan, after two decades—a withdrawal planned for completion another year from now. Shocking but not surprising, as they say.

What interest might Russia have in doing this?

It’s America who switched sides in the Afghan war, not Russia. They have supported the U.S. effort and U.S.-created government in Kabul since 2001. In 2012, when the Pakistanis closed the “southern route” from Karachi through the Khyber Pass, Russia re-opened the “northern route” through their country to allow American supplies into Afghanistan for Obama’s “surge.” They have sent arms to the Afghan National Army. To get around their own sanctions, the U.S. has even had India buy helicopters from the Russians to give to the Afghan government.

There’s no question they are talking to the Taliban. But so are we.

There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.

Let’s say hypothetically that the story was true: The simplest explanation for Russia’s motive then would be that they were trying to provoke exactly the reaction they have gotten, which is renewed pressure on Trump to back out of the withdrawal deal with the Taliban since his political enemies will spin it as a “win” for Russia if we leave. But why would Russia want to provoke America to stay in Afghanistan? Could it be for the same reason that Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan backed the mujahideen against the USSR back in the 70s and 80s—to provoke them into committing national suicide by bogging them down in a no-win quagmire, killing hundreds of thousands of people and wasting uncountable billions of dollars?

So what would that say about our policy now?

Of course that’s all nonsense too. The reason the Russians have supported our efforts in Afghanistan for the last 19 years is because we’re protecting their friends in power and at least supposedly have been fighting to keep transnational Islamist terrorism at bay. If they are backing the Taliban at all now it would be just a small version of their own “Awakening” policy of supporting the local mujahideen against the new smaller and more radical groups claiming loyalty to ISIS there, since the Taliban have been their most effective opponents.

This is not much different than the current American policy which prioritizes the Taliban’s keeping ISIS and al Qaeda down and out for us.

Of course it’s America’s (dis)loyal Saudi and Pakistani allies who have been backing the Afghan Taliban insurgency against the U.S. occupation all these years, not the Russians.

Afghanistan will probably be mired in protracted conflict for years after U.S. forces finally leave, though hopefully all sides are tired enough of fighting now that they can negotiate acceptable power-sharing arrangements instead. If the pressure is bad enough that Trump renounces his own deal, the Taliban will almost certainly go back to war against U.S. forces there. That is not likely to happen though.

As far as America’s relationship with Russia—the single most important thing in the world for all people—this is just another setback on the road to a peaceful and acceptable coexistence.

 

Be seeing you

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »