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10 September 2019


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Very timely commentary. On small bright note is that Trump fired Bolton last night.

Keith Harbaugh

"We should not want to give the jihadi movements proof of our feckless defeatability."
Gee, like admit to reality?
My view: Acknowledge the U.S. is not omnipotent, and has very limited ability to influence, let alone, control, other parts of the world other than those to which it has extremely close ties, most especially the Five Eyes and other parts of what was once called Western Civilization.



I just want to mention that about once a year I dig the IQ2 debate out and watch it again in full. Call it a sanity check I suppose. It is clear that you were trying to be substantive throughout, which was somewhat hampered by the amorphous premise of "success" undergirding the debate question. The other side (Nagle in particular) was trying to "win" the debate by defining success so broadly as to exclude questions over the "how," and they used that as an excuse to dodge your indictment of COIN. But it is very clear who had the right of it, and it is at least somewhat gratifying to hear that same admission was made to you.

Dave Schuler

I suspect that we will retain our forces in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. To understand why you've got to consider the politics rather than the pragmatics.

No president wants to be the one who "lost Afghanistan" (as though it were ours to lose) or, worse yet, be the president who removed forces from a country from which an attack on the U. S. would emanate afterwards or be staged from or planned from.

The greatest likelihood of our removing our forces from Afghanistan would be towards the end of a president's second term, especially if that president were a Democrat and could expect to take less heat from the media. In other words Obama should have removed our forces from Afghanistan and if he wouldn't Trump won't, especially not before being re-elected.


Afghanistan,the land where other countries go to die.

I know next to nothing about strategy and such but it seemed to me totally stupid to go into Afghanistan to supposedly rout ALQ....they and their cause could move around and pop up anywhere.

blue peacock

Col. Lang

No matter what the US government does or does not do, wouldn't Afghanistan revert to its natural state as you have described it?

It seems Trump's "negotiated" deal with the Taliban would have been a good approach to getting out but that's now no longer a possibility. Would supporting the Tajiks through Russia and India as a counter-balance to the Taliban work to keep them from completely dominating? Russia and India likely have an interest in preventing jihadis from using Taliban dominated territory to infiltrate. Is it even worth any effort on the part of the US government? It would seem Pakistan and China would continue working to influence events there.


My longstanding belief is that Afghanistan to be 'tamed' requires the type of Steel that only existed long ago.

The Modern World has modernized beyond the brutal realities that taming it likely requires, and as such may lose a fraction of the Lives and Treasure as past - but cannot sustain it politically or socially.

The next Question - If Afghanistan is simply a construct, why not forsake most of it and develop the regions of Afghanistan that ARE more amiable and Homogenous?

A lot of the Tadzhiks and Uzbeks (varied Turkmen) I suspect could be far more easily propped up and supported in their own Lands, which back to back with the Central Asian FSU States is a more viable 'Nation Building' Exercise.

What ultimately tamed the 'Wilds'? The Development of strong local States, Force of Arms and ultimately - Demographics.

If you will not do it yourself, pick a unified Team and back them in doing it.

Ironically the means to inflict harm on occupying Militaries seems to go down as those Armies means to stomach it does also.

The next obvious Question. Is it worth considering (not necessarily for the US and Western States - who will appear as desperate Losers) the idea that Afghanistan if allowed to run as strong Armed Islamic State, albeit modernized - might actually one day develop into one more approachable to further modernization?

All just quick Thoughts for me.

The Twisted Genius

I agree we should unilaterally withdraw all our forces from Afghanistan. The military can surely plan and carry out a unilateral withdrawal. Just do it. The Taliban are not al Qaeda or the Islamic State. Their desires don't extend beyond the mountains of Afghanistan. Hell, they're fighting IS. Let them do so and don't give them reason to go over to them.

The rub will be all those Afghanis who tied their futures to us. We should resettle them here or somewhere more familiar to them as part of that withdrawal. The chance of that happening under the Trump administration is nil.

Ray R

A "long, long, time ago" in "a land far away", Najibullah was deposed. Pat, you'll recall that I was then serving as the chair of the Inter-agency Task Force on Afghanistan. Well, we had our regular meeting at which a couple of the folks opined that this was a wonderful development for the country and the folks would now all join hands, dance around the campfire, and sign Kumbaya. To bring the group back to reality, I asked for someone to identify the national sport of Afghanistan. One of the group said that, obviously, it was buzkhasi. So I then asked for someone else to clarify how such a game unfolds and another stalwart did so. This dialogue quickly brought everyone back to reality. For those unfamiliar with the sport, buzkhasi consists of two nominal "teams" on horseback trying to get a headless goat carcass across the opponent's goal line. All goes well at first, but ultimately the teams disintegrate until it's every man for himself in mass mayhem. Thus, IMHO will go Afghanistan.

A. Pols

Sadly enough this old quote seems especially true in the case of the "Afghan War" or whatever it is. Our experts' obdurate insistence on pursuing "peace with honor" or some outcome we can get our heads around and feel good about has become a receding horizon...
The only way we could "win" would be by waging a war of extermination with the goal of totally depopulating the entire territory and building an impenetrable barrier around it. But of course that would be a hard sell for a country with a good guy reputation to protect. And then what would we do with the land? After all, we still haven't been able to settle most of Nevada and Wyoming!

"History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools."

Ambrose Bierce


TTG et al

If Trump wants to abandon those who depend on us rather than arrange for those to wish to leave to do so then resisting that gross behavior is a good way to be fired from his administration. Long ago
we made a deal with the VN communists and then left the country. Two years later the VN communists attacked and much of the VN population fled in anything that would fly or float. Many died in that flight.


I said at the beginning of this mess that the one sure thing was that we would end up with chains of Iraqi and afghan restaurants begun by the refugees who had to leave their countries with us when we left. I just hope we have progressed from leaving behind card indexes of our in-country supporters for the Taliban to discover, as allegedly happened in Vietnam.

Barbara Ann

These kind of wars seem to take 3 presidents to end. Trump is this war's Nixon and was elected on a platform which included 'losing' Afghanistan. The media will howl once the Taliban take over, but it will swiftly pass as they realize Americans have no interest in a place where their countrymen are no longer dying.

Barbara Ann

I enjoyed the IQ2 debate you reference, particularly your coining of the word "Vermontize". Incredible to think this conversation about an 8 year old war was 10 years ago - and we are still having it. Here is the link for anyone interested:



I really enjoy these type of situational overview and analysis posts, thanks!

Although I see your point about Trump's crass business approach, let's face it... the military and various US gov't orgs have had any many years to try various approaches to "solving" (cough, cough) Afghanistan. After all the US has been in Afghanistan since 2001. We had been in Afghanistan for 15 years was Trump was elected. After all those years of failure by the Borg I have no problem whatsoever with Trump taking a shot at the situation in his own way. Trump tried a certain tactic and it didn't work. Oh well, but lessons learned. He'll regroup, get more advice and try something else. He's making more of an effort to resolve things than previous presidents, and willing to think outside of the Borg box.


If the US leaves and I believe it should it doesn't have to mean the end of days. China, Russia, Iran, India and Pakistan have all expressed interest in clearing the area of terrorists. They have all been blocked by the US presence. Preferably the US would work a deal with those players who are far better connected and prepared to clean up the neighbourhood than the US is from the other side of the world. Russia was willing to act as guarantor for the collapsed deal. Work a deal for one or more of them to move in as the US moves out.

My concern is that with all the big players wanting a piece of the pie that it evolves into an even worse proxy war. But China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran are all rowing in more or less the same direction these days and India has bitten off all it can chew in Kashmir so this may be the perfect time. Americans just have to get over that indispensable nation nonsense.

Ya, I know go fuck myself.

Antoinetta III

"The Afghans who tied their future to us."

Do we have some estimate of how many people this involves?

Antoinetta III

Antoinetta III

TTG refers to those Afghans who have "tied their future to us." This would indicate some approximately specific number of individuals.

You refer to "arrange for those who wish to leave." I suspect that the latter number would be far higher than the former. The number of individuals who have reason to fear retaliation by the Taliban is, I suspect, far smaller than those who would wish to leave Afghanistan because the economic grass is greener over here.

Allowing the former group to settle here is one thing, but allowing economic refugees to piggyback on the political refugees is something altogether different. So how to sort this out, especially in light of the fact that most of the Left sees immigration as an unqualified positive and would work to allow everyone in?

Antoinetta III


That is the exact same argument I heard in 72 and again in 75. By early 76 no one cared. There are in every country and in every involvement Quislings and main chancers who find the short term gelt available to be worth the future risk of making the wrong and visible choice.
In the case of most of these Afghanis the tie was a slip knot at best.


Antoinetta III

Do you care nothing for the women and girls who will be forced back into the Middle Ages by the jihadis?


Antoinetta III
you have an accountant's soul.


Afghanistan borders China. For that reason alone, we are never leaving whatever the cost in blood or treasure. The country is a very forward, strategic military base that can be used to launch air attacks on Chinese assets and impede China's Belt and Road initiative.

Despite his bluster, Trump is very weak and knows the Taliban is winning and fears they will try to drive us out before the election, ushering in his defeat. Most of his time is spent cowering in his golf resorts, ranting and raving on a tiny little cellphone.

The Blob will not allow any of his fears to shake the resolve of the Deep State to make Afghanistan a colony for a thousand years.

They have been successful in implanting in the psyche of every American the incorrect notion that the Taliban launched 9/11. That notion alone means there is no support for any truce or treaty with our bete noir.


These lines from Rudyard Kipling immediately came to my mind:

"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
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!"

We are never going to change Afghanistan so getting out and taking those who supported us is appealing to me.


No, all Trump was doing was looking for a re-election publicity stunt and a shot at that elusive Nobel like Obama got....he's done this kind of thing for the last 40 years - he isn't going to change his personality now...



It is not a base. It is a sinkhole.

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