Afghanistan defeats America


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.



  1. "Nation building"

    It's almost as if nations are related to cultures, and cultures flow from peoples. If your peoples are tribes, you can't really build nations.

  2. James Michener's book, Caravans, gives a good understanding of Afghanistan and its people. It should be required reading for anyone involved with dealing with that country.

  3. We all break down to tribes. It was more obvious when kids did not travel like they do now. Our freedom of movement has splintered us into a million pieces. As long as most people get there news from the news media they can be herded as they no longer have an elder. Government replaces extended family and it goes from there.

    I hate to type so I will not ever fully expand on those theories. But the outline is there.

    In my backyard we have one of the major arteries in this town of 60,000. Better than 10,000 cars a day go by and I will not know any of them. Some days I would like less traffic, some days I do not care.

    I do not see this ending well. But I do not see many ways to weld us back together.

  4. Supposedly the Taliban is famous for saying something like "You have the watches, we have the time".

    The time, and the faith to dig in and fight and wait until people with long supply lines and less faith in their mission decide to leave.

  5. From my perspective, the only thing we accomplished was to side with certain factions to decide who supplies the illegal heroin trade. In the end, the most ruthless of cartels (tribes) wins with patience, and is better armed with what we leave. To those that fought, or had loved-ones die, it's a bitter pill, and a terrible waste.

  6. Afghanistan- where Empires go to die…When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.- Rudyard Kipling

  7. "You can't help people change, and build a better nation, if they don't want to. Not enough Afghans did."

    My God, BRM! You've given us all a solid line of hope to hang onto in America. If the US couldn't make Afghans into a better nation there's no reason to think the Regime will do any better with us deplorables.

  8. I think you are a bit mistaken, B. The neocons and libs et al don't go into these wars and misadventures for democracy or any such nonsense. They don't believe in any such nonsense. They are all collectivists. Authoritarians masquerading as democratic leaders. We went into Astan for revenge for 9.11, yes, but we *stayed* (and worse intentionally dithered) for MONEY. Plain and simple. There were billions to be made by the politicians, the contractors, the upper military, and various criminal orgs. And, yes, officers who needed a nice combat tour to burnish their career. That's it. That's the whole ugly truth. Good men died to fatten the bank accounts of the Gangsters that masquerade as an elected government. And now we know they aren't even really elected. Americans are sheep. Subjects. Feudal serfs. But at least we know it now and that's a start.

  9. I've always been of the tribe of go, kill who you have to kill, destroy what needs destroying, lay waste to the target and get the hell out. The Swamp doesn't think that way. It shows.

  10. Can we all say 'Vietnam'. I thought we could. We, as a nation, didn't learn a damn thing in the aftermath of Vietnam…and we should have! The military/political tactics didn't work there and they sure as hell didn't work in Afghanistan, either. We killed and maimed a bunch of our own, for what? Greed, on the part of the military/industrial complex. I called it that day as I listening to Shrub, Jr. And if some uneducated-hick from Kansas can call it, so can the graduates of various war colleges that walk the halls of the Pentagon.

  11. For over 2300 years Afghanistan has been doing what they did to us to the other invaders. I'm sure no one was really surprised.

    I agree with the writer who said we were there for the money, always follow the money when dealing with America!
    $2T was spent on this generation war, I'll bet the lions share when to where it always goes.
    Follow the money…

  12. 95th time:

    The afghan debacle was wholly the fruit of the jackassical affirmative-action SecState Colon Powell policy of "You break it, you bought it".

    Wrong, bucko.

    We broke it because you crossed us.
    We'll break it again if we have to come back.

    And next time, we'll be glassing whole valleys at a stroke.

    And the next knucklehead anywhere in the world screaming "Aloha Snackbar!" means the first two pop off over Mecca and Medina, at sunset on a Friday.

    "Now, Hadji, do we have an understanding? Either you stay here, and screw with just yourselves, or we put you on the extinct species list for all time, and parents will tell stories about what happened to you for the next 10,000 years, to frighten their children into obedience."

    You cannot deal with the world's retarded children and treat them like entitled royalty. Occasionally, lessons via corporal punishment are all that avail.

    Whether they chose to grow out of that state of affairs is their own concern.

  13. Did we learn from Viet Nam? Sure doesn't look like it does it?
    Unless there was no end game, just something to do and a way to make money.. I'd hate to think that's true…

  14. No, these uSA did not "went into Afghanistan for a good and legitimate reason."

    Taliban asked for evidence of Bin Laden guilt/complicity. uSA told them to go an F-themselves.

    The only reasonable action would have been for the POTUS to ask for a declaration of war by the Congress and for Congress to debate and vote on a Declaration Of War.

    The next step depending on the outcome on the resolution.

    What can I say. The Constitution Of These uSA is a dead letter and has been dead for a long time. Death on the certificate varies according to person's level of history knowledge.

  15. I guess no one at the Pentagon ever read The Bear Went Over The Mountain to see what a bad idea it was to invade Afghanistan. They didn't want Liberal Democracy and they didn't want a Socialist Soviet Paradise. They wanted to be left alone to make love to their wives and beat their livestock or vice versa when the mood hit.

  16. Religion is a shield against cultural change. That can be good and bad.

    Islam helps insulate the Afghans from outside invaders, but it leaves them trapped in an awful culture (at least for women).

    But Catholicism helps insulate eastern Europe against communism and illegal immigration/invasion from Muslims.

    Western Europe has lost its religions, and it is being overrun and islamicized.

    The US has also lost its religious basis among the ruling coastal elites, and they are now betrying American culture.

  17. Afghans will always win in the long game. They are home and eventually every invader will want to go back to their home too.

    I agree with what Ms. Keel wrote:

    "Personally, I don't think Iraq should have ever happened and Afghanistan should have been a punitive expedition where we toppled the Taliban, shot up the countryside, and tossed the keys to the country to whoever wanted them, along with a note that said "Don't make us come back here."

  18. I hate, hate, hate the phrase and idea of "exporting our Democracy" to third-world nations. It's BS.
    What makes America good and special is not democractic elections, it is having a stable system of laws, property, and public finance in a high-trust, non-tribal society. (All of these we have either lost or are losing now).
    Afghanistan is none of that, and our .gov tried to wave a magic voting wand and make tribes into a civil society, with predictable results.
    John in Indy

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