I’m obliged to blogger ASM826, writing at Borepatch’s place, for putting the end (?) of our Afghanistan involvement in financial perspective.
The United States spent two trillion dollars in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2019. Troop strength estimates rose and fell. At one point there [were] more than 100,000 troops and an undocumented number of contractors [and] mercenaries. Over 4,500 of those troops died. Tens of thousands more have life changing injuries.
For all that, the U.S. failed to secure a victory, failed to pacify the populace, failed to even establish what victory was supposed to look like.
The United States was successfully vanquished by a collection of tribal people with no organized army.
All the gee whiz armaments, the fighter jets and drones, lasers, and night vision goggles? Toys unless you have the will to win.
We spent $60,000 for every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan and then surrendered the country to darkness.
There’s more at the link.
The USA went into Afghanistan for a good and legitimate reason: to undo Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and the government that had given it shelter, protection and the ability to plan, organize and conduct the 9/11 acts of terror. Nobody can argue that the initial war aim, to destroy Al Qaeda and punish those responsible for 9/11, was reasonable.
However, there appears to have been little or no attention paid to nation-building in the aftermath of that initial war aim. What there was appears to have been predicated on neocon ambitions and talking points, rather than the reality of life in the region. Afghanistan has known many invaders, from the Achaemenid Empire, then Alexander the Great, and onward through the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khaljis, Timurids, Mughals, Hotakis and Durranis. The British Raj tried to assert its will in Afghanistan during the 19th and early 20th centuries through the Anglo-Afghan Wars and the so-called “Great Game“. All failed. The country has endured them all, and its endurance (and that of its peoples) has eventually triumphed over the intruders. All, without exception, have withered and died there. Afghanistan and its people remained.
Tragically, the neocons and their allies failed to understand history and its reality when “rushing in where angels fear to tread”. The results are what we’ve just seen, and yet another vindication of the lessons of history. You can’t help people change, and build a better nation, if they don’t want to. Not enough Afghans did.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, but could not subdue internal opposition to its occupation (bolstered by US aid to insurgents – aid that helped to give rise to the mujahedin, and established Osama bin Laden as a leader among them). By 1989 the Soviets had withdrawn. That left a power vacuum that the Taliban – a movement among the more militant mujahedin – exploited to take over the country. The Taliban believed the US had betrayed Afghanistan by exploiting the mujahedin against the Soviet Union as an outgrowth of the Cold War, then abandoning them and cutting off aid as soon as the latter ended. That led to Osama bin Laden, well known among and respected by the Taliban for his anti-Soviet exploits, receiving their aid and assistance when he formed Al Qaeda and turned his attentions from the Soviet Union to the USA.
Osama bin Laden would not have become the recognized militant Islamic leader he was without training, aid and support from the USA against the Soviets. That backfired when he turned against his former sponsors, and inflicted 9/11 upon us. Our backlash against him and Al Qaeda achieved limited success, but dragged us into the same quicksand of empire that every prior occupier of Afghanistan had experienced – and Afghanistan has now spat us out in the same way it’s spat out every previous intruder. The mountains and the people are very patient there. They know that endurance brings victory as surely as military superiority, given enough time. History has proved them right time after time. It’s just done so yet again.
Tragically, it’s unlikely that those in power in Washington D.C. will learn anything from this disaster. They’re still locked into the paradigm of “America as superpower”, the idea that we should intervene to support democracy and our ideals anywhere on Earth because we can. The only thing that benefits from such attitudes is what President Eisenhower warned us about; the so-called “military-industrial complex“. It, and the politicians it’s bought and sold to ensure its influence, are the only ones who’ve profited from our Afghanistan debacle. Be sure they’ll try to do so again at the next convenient excuse to come along.
As for our 4,500 dead and tens of thousands injured, did they suffer and die in vain? In terms of keeping faith with our country and doing their duty, no, they did not. In terms of their lives and health being wasted by the military-industrial complex and reckless, feckless politicians and their ill-advised doctrines, in an ultimately fruitless, unwinnable war . . . sadly, tragically, the answer is probably yes.
Can we prevent that from happening again? Only, I suggest, by a wholesale clean-out of the Augean Stables that the establishment in Washington D.C. has become.