Graveyard Of Empires

Today we learned that six U.S. soldiers were killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

In today’s NightWatch newsletter, analyst John McCreary wrote:

Afghanistan: The deputy governor of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan said that the Taliban seized the police headquarters in Sangin District center, with fighting continuing.

Deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar warned that the province itself could fall because of a lack of central government support. He said at least 90 soldiers had been killed in the latest fighting.

He said, “Helmand will collapse to the enemies and it’s not like Kunduz, where we could launch an operation from the airport to retake it. That is just impossible and a dream.”

Rasoulyar used a Facebook post to appeal to President Ghani for direct intervention in the province. “Be quick and act on this! Protect Helmand from this life and death situation and distance yourself from the circle of those lawyers who tell you everything is OK and the situation is normal,” he wrote.;

Comment: The provincial authorities have been warning the central government for weeks about the danger. News services reported that Western special forces teams have been deployed to Helmand. They should be capable of preventing the loss of the district offices, but most of Helmand already is under Taliban control.

The Taliban know the Western special forces cannot stay because they will be needed elsewhere. They also know that foreign special forces can win every clash, but cannot defeat the Taliban. They know that the Afghan forces cannot stand on their own.

The Taliban remain patient. They are still following Mullah Omar’s strategy to never make peace with the government; infiltrate and destroy the government from within; and wait for the foreigners to leave.

In 2015, they achieved more success than in any prior year. They are not yet ready and able to govern, but they are getting closer.

Six years ago this month, after Barack Obama made a speech announcing an eighteen-month extension of the American force commitment in Afghanistan, I wrote:

I watched the President’s speech last night. It was not encouraging. It had something for everyone: escalation for the hawks; an exit date for the doves; the usual rot about “distorting and defiling a great religion”, to keep the Muslims off the streets; some bean-counting for the frugal; some American exceptionalism for the true believers; some mulitilateralism for the rest; a little torture-and-Gitmo-loathing for the base; and to wrap up, some right-makes-might for moral uplift.

The problem is that the situation is impossible; there simply are no good options. Never have I felt more pessimistic.

In brief:

If we leave, the Taliban will overrun the country again, al-Qaeda will set up shop as before, and nuclear-armed Pakistan will totter. The world will know, with certainty this time, that America (and the West generally) is a fickle ally that has no real stomach for a fight. As night falls, those in Afghanistan who have put their trust in us will find they have backed the wrong horse, and they will pay. The brave women and girls who have risked all just to go to school, to read a book — and who have been, for their trouble, beaten and murdered and burned with acid — will be ground into dust.

If we stay, we will never “win”. Afghanistan will be our tar-baby forever. We will never install a functioning democracy there, or a government free of corruption, or a reliable military dedicated to its preservation: these things cannot be done, any more than you can teach wolves to knit, or make butter from stones. We will fight and spend and bleed and die there forever.

Recognizing that we are now of modest means, and so cannot afford to hold our tar-baby forever, we have announced that we will begin leaving in the middle of 2011. This makes things easy for the Taliban, who have all the time in the world; they simply need to harass us patiently for 18 months, and then, as we step back, they will step forward.

We fight an enemy that is utterly unafraid to die, but we, good souls that we truly are, are afraid to kill. Our military is by far — by light-years — the strongest, best-trained, best-equipped, most sophisticated fighting force the world has ever seen; no enemy on Earth could hope to face us in full-scale conflict and live. But no army has ever won a war this way. Neither will we.

So: We have three options, none good:

A) We can leave now. B) We can stay and bleed forever. C) We can stay and bleed for 18 months, then leave anyway. (The fourth option, to cry “Havoc!”, and unleash our colossal war machine in all its incandescent fury, is not an option.)

Since I wrote this, over 1,400 more Americans have died in Afghanistan. Many more have been maimed. We have spent the better part of a trillion dollars on the Afghan campaign alone, much of which has gone into the pockets of warlords, politicians, and other profiteers, and another substantial portion of which is simply unaccounted for.

As we look back on all of this, what can we say we have achieved? What have we achieved in Libya? In Syria? In Iraq, which at least was once under our control, but is now fragmented and failing? What has our foreign policy, military or otherwise, achieved in any part of the Muslim world?

What ought we to learn from this?

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  1. What ought we to learn from this?

    This is what I have learned: People are never as good as we hoped nor as bad as we feared. They are always worse.

    I have also learned that I am an optimist.

    Posted December 21, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Permalink
  2. whitewall says

    It seems that the Muslim world is composed of the Middle East, the northern third of Africa, and south central Asia. Asia for now is relatively calm unlike the other two. Same Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia but no turmoil. Both countries are prosperous and travel there is safely done. Africa though has become a sewer since Europeans left there. Maybe the Middle East needs to be isolated so as to let the various factions of Islam slaughter each other so we don’t have to. Meantime, the West should keep migrants from this region out and the ones already here need to be repatriated to their country of origin, unless they are citizens of a Western nation. All Mosques should be monitored in Western countries. Same with all Leftists for that matter. There is no solution to the Middle East as we in the West think of it. Frustrating.

    Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  3. John says

    The solution to terrorism was never dropping bombs and sending occupying forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. As far as there is a solution, it is to keep likely terrorists out of the country.

    It’s time for the globalist dream to die, and for Western elites to accept that many peoples of the world are neither capable, nor willing, to accept their “universal” values.

    Posted December 22, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  4. JK says


    For the Night of 22 December 2015

    Summarizing the outlook for Yemen specifically and the Sunni “Coalition” generally:


    Now for the one ME bright spot – the “You Stink” agitators look to’ve gotten their Representatives’ attention.

    Lebanon: The Lebanese cabinet decided to export Lebanon’s trash, as a way out of the trash crisis.

    The decision authorized the Council of Development and Reconstruction to draw up contracts with two European firms to haul most of Beirut’s and Mount Lebanon’s garbage to another country for disposal during an interim period of 18 months, until a local mechanism for waste management can be found.

    Comment: The cost of exporting the trash is 40 percent per ton more expensive than trash removal by a domestic company. However, the political system is so corrupt that the ministers could agree to end the crisis by exporting the trash, but could not agree on a Lebanese company.

    Parliament accepted the deal with displeasure, but resignation. One town mayor said, “We’ve gotten to the point where we’ll agree to anything…We have no choice but to finish with this garbage, exports or otherwise.” Thus far, ministers have not disclosed the final resting place of the trash.

    Posted December 23, 2015 at 5:29 am | Permalink