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Trump Commits to Afghanistan

2017 August 22
by Ian Welsh

Well, this directly violates a core promise and is stupid, besides being a betrayal. But I see various pundits going on about how Presidential he is to “admit” he was wrong to want to leave and to decide to kill lots of people in an unwinnable war. Trump needs and wants approval, and killing foreigners is essentially the only way he gets it from the media these days.

I imagine Putin and various other Russian leaders laugh themselves sick about this regularly, given what happened to the USSR in Afghanistan.

The Mongols conquered Afghanistan without too much difficulty, but short of a truly genocidal strategy (which, no, shouldn’t be done), no one’s winning this war, and everyone’s losing it.

At least he stopped the CIA program supporting Jihadis (er, I mean moderates) in Syria, but this is still a black mark and a tragedy.


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38 Responses
  1. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 22, 2017

    I agree. I remember Quagmire was, once upon a time, a Dirty Word and something to be avoided. Today, the word has been replaced with Rationalizing Euphemisms, but despite those deflections it’s still a Quagmire and it’s not only acceptable now, it appears to be the GOAL.

    Remember Charlie Wilson’s War via Brzezinski? Now it’s Sergey Lavrov’s War via Putin and America is the New Russia in Afghanistan.

    These people aren’t STUPID. They know all of this and yet they persist. Why? That’s The Million Dollar Question and the answer is more than just Politics As Usual.

  2. August 22, 2017

    So now Trump is worried about “the consequences of a rapid exit” from Afghanistan. We’ve been there 16 years, I think we’re long past the point of a “rapid” exit. And we get no details, no hint of what the endgame might be and how we might get there.

    Better minds than Trump’s, by which I mean pretty much everyone on the planet, have also pondered this endgame. There isn’t one. I feel awful for the Afghan people, but if we couldn’t make it work back when they were hopeful (all the way back in 2004 or so), I don’t see how we can make it work now.

  3. Jeff Wegerson permalink
    August 22, 2017

    The U.S. knows they can’t win there or Pakistan. But if they get out then the Chinese will put in a high speed freight rail line to Iran and even Russia/Turkey even Europe. So as long as they make trouble then they stalemate the Chinese. Don’t have to win just make enough chaos.

  4. S Brennan permalink
    August 22, 2017

    “At least he stopped the CIA program supporting Jihadis (er, I mean moderates) in Syria”

    I think the Deep-State [DS] will get him to roll on this too, having managed to backfoot him on an endless AF-PAK war, they’ve started up the Wurlitzer in Syria. A careful read through “Michelle Nichols” piece [see below] reveals there is nothing to this story but nebulous accusations based on conjecture, assumption and disinformation. And so it goes.

    BTW, Michelle Nichols background is pretty well cloaked when it comes to Google searches…does anybody have any CV details on how this little blossom came to dominate NK to Syria stories?

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-syria-un-idUSKCN1B12G2

  5. Bill Hicks permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Trump may need and want approval, but he just proved too cowardly to do one the one major thing that was clearly within his power that would have brought it from many tens of millions of people across the political spectrum. This betrayal is probably more about avoiding impeachment, which won’t happen as long as he continues to play ball with the military-industrial complex.

  6. Ché Pasa permalink
    August 22, 2017

    “At least he stopped the CIA program supporting Jihadis (er, I mean moderates) in Syria”

    He did? Hm.

    He says a lot of things, a lot of it nonsense, much of it lies, plenty of it distractions from something else.

    His control of the CIA and the rest of the Deep State/permanent government is sketchy at best. He’s ceded much of his authority as president already, and what little he has left (the color of the drapes in the Oval Office?) is constrained.

    What the CIA does has largely been independent of electeds for decades.

  7. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Wow, this guy was way ahead of his time. A Trailblazer, of sorts. It took them, the MIC, nearly thirty years to agree, but hey, better late than never.

    Quagmire Is Really Not a Dirty Word

    FYI, it was Russia, in 1988, caught in the Quagmire that is Afghanistan even though it’s effectively a subarctic mountain climate with arid to semi-arid lowlands.

    I was once employed with a woman, Najia, from Afghanistan who escaped with her family through the mountains into Pakistan during The Soviet Occupation. She said they weren’t ALL BAD. She indicated they set about educating ALL of the females and they were in the process of implementing a Healthcare System. Her father only a company that made fine china and The Soviets were summarily jailing and even executing these former Overlords, so he took his family and ran before they got to him.

    I don’t think too many females are being educated in Afghanistan these days, or at least it’s not the Top Priority and as for a Healthcare System, I’m guessing it’s not a priority either. Opium Production is a priority, though. Funny that. Except it isn’t funny, is it? Especially if you live in Afghanistan and you’re one of The Little People caught in The Crossfire.

  8. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    August 22, 2017

    directly violates a core promise

    Well, not really …

    “I’ve never said we made a mistake going into Afghanistan,” Trump said. “Do I love it? No. Do I love anything about it? No. I like — I think it’s important that we, number one, keep a presence there and ideally a presence of pretty much what they’re talking about, 5,000 soldiers.” Trump repeatedly stressed that Afghanistan’s proximity to nuclear-armed Pakistan made an American force necessary.

    Source: Byron York

  9. Synoia permalink
    August 22, 2017

    @Jeff Wegerson

    Please look at a physical map. Any route does not involve Afghanistan, it’s a dead end. All routes go past that difficult terrain, and because Afghanistan is directly east of Iran, bend south into Iran, or go north of the Caspian sea.

  10. someofparts permalink
    August 22, 2017

    I thought spending money had come to be the only point of our global military deployments. We only attack nations that threaten to sell oil in something other than our greenbacks. Beyond that nobody in authority takes winning seriously as anything other than a public relations smokescreen. The real objective is spending tankers of money, just to keep economic churn going. In fact, now that our navy seems increasingly likely to just collide with other ships, it makes me wonder just how vast the sums must be that our “defense” contractors lavish on themselves if even the navy itself is creaking along on crumbs from their tables.

  11. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Byron York can shove that Covering Apologia up his Nasty Ass. I don’t need York to tell me what Trump has told me, and you, many many times. Trump The Waffler makes Kerry’s Waffling look like Pancakes.

    What Trump Said About Afghanistan Before He Became President

    The latter half of that title translates to “Before The Junta Got To Him” which wasn’t difficult for The Generals. All they have to do is stroke his ego and make him feel in charge and he gives them Free Reign to Bomb & Rape The Planet Bloody.

  12. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 22, 2017

    I thought spending money had come to be the only point of our global military deployments.

    It depends on who you are. For some, a select entitled few admittedly, “our global military deployments” are about making money. It’s yet another transfer of wealth from The Little People to The Rich and The Little People’s sons & daughters and a bevy of brown, black & yellow people voluntarily, but mostly involuntarily, sacrifice their lives in the process. We live in a beautiful world, don’t we? What a Great System!!

  13. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Trump’s 180 on Afghanistan isn’t strategically pragmatic. He hasn’t miraculously somehow come to See the Light, but rather, it’s as simple as The Generals telling him how tough he is and what a wonderful head of orange hair he has.

    Bannon was fired because of his comments on North Korea. Never Never Never take sides against The Military again. Never. Or you’re gone, and, if you’re important enough, you’re DEAD.

    Good thing Bannon iasn’t considered too important or else we would be talking about his mysterious death, and not his ouster. If Trump hangs The Junta out to dry, they will bury his ass and I’m not saying that’s a good thing. It’s a Lose/Lose either way. That’s where we are. Lose/Lose until extinction, or so it seems.

    There are no good options from here on out. The Window of Opportunity to rectify matters has closed.

  14. Synoia permalink
    August 22, 2017

    @The Stephen Miller Band

    Here’s an exercise. Print two copies of the outline political map of the world.

    Colour the countries on a map which the US has “helped, with American Troops in active combat.” Include Israel.

    Colour the countries at the west end of the Sill Road.

    Identify the Country at Eastern land end, not ocean, of the Silk road.

    Put one map on top of the other. Write a list of countries coloured on both maps.

    Post the list here.

  15. realitychecker permalink
    August 22, 2017

    @ someofparts

    There are noises to the effect that the electronics of these ships got hacked. I know that everything related to computer chips seems to be hackable.

    When we will take cognizance of our great error in allowing computers to become so ‘indispensable’ that nothing is safe anymore?

    It better be soon, or it will be never.

  16. realitychecker permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Edit: when will we

  17. August 22, 2017

    It is getting diffecult to carry on a conversation around here, what with two or three people shouting over everyone else. Get your own blog.

  18. bruce wilder permalink
    August 22, 2017

    I asked a friend of considerable years, who has had experience of very high military command, why the U.S. fights wars without winning of them, and he said (this is very heavily paraphrased by me, for better and worse) it is the combination of having a military with a large economic overhead (cf “military-industrial complex”) and bad choices regarding which side to fight for. The overhead chooses the who, chooses too much of the how, and chooses badly in both departments was the message I received. (Not sure that’s an entirely fair representation of what he was saying; he has a lot of baggage and a case of Fox News attitude that is hard to get past sometimes, so I’m filtering.)

  19. Ché Pasa permalink
    August 22, 2017

    The groundwork was laid for a military government last night.

    This is where we’ve been heading for quite a while, so it should come as no surprise. Some of us are old enough to remember when troops and national guard were called out to put down unrest in city after city, when martial law was declared more or less routinely.

    Assassination squads took care of the most troublesome, outspoken and uppity agitators.

    We could easily go back to that level of disorder, oppression, and bloody suppression, but I doubt we will.

    More likely, there will be a consensus around a mild military domestic executive committee — a junta, in a word — perhaps to work “with” or “alongside” civil authority, or perhaps ignoring them. The current regime could stay in place — or not.

    With fascists to the right of us, Nazis marching in the streets and Antifa arming up (maybe) what are we to do?

    Surely we don’t want any more disorder, do we?

    

  20. bruce wilder permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Peter Turchin has written some time ago predicting a rising cycle of violence in domestic U.S. politics and he attributes the disorder to “elite overproduction”: too many chiefs demanding too large a share of total available resources and too many chiefs contributing as well to a centrifugal factionalism in intra-elite competition, with a large part of the elite more than willing to damage the society as a whole to get the resources they “need” to maintain their own status (which implies maintaining a society complex enough to need a bloated elite).

    Abstracting in a such a way from personalities is suggestive of many possible insights.

    The eagerness of millionaire pundits to feed nonsense into the public discourse looms larger.

    It also suggests to me at least that an expressed desire for order might be an attempt to sustain this top heavy political order, or an unwillingness to face some necessary demolition work.

    Bannon often framed his views provocatively as a desire to demolish. It does not make him wrong, at least not entirely.

  21. marku52 permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Bannon said the only sane thing I’ve heard re NK: “Any plan that doesn’t result in millions of SK casualties in the first 30 minutes would be acceptable.
    There aren’t any.”

    Talking sanity to the MIC. Guaranteed ticket to the Outer Worlds.

  22. Synoia permalink
    August 22, 2017

    @realitychecker

    What happened to the “Watch” on these navy vessels. You know. the bodge crew using eye to look around.

    Unless its very foggy, it’s not hard to see a supertanker – they don’t use stealth, they are not fast, and not very small.

  23. realitychecker permalink
    August 22, 2017

    @ Synoia

    I guess that is why folks are suspecting hacking. We already know a talented hacker can get into everything else.

    I think tech is leading the human race into the abyss. And I’m not joking when I say that. My early training was in psychology, and I don’t think we can depart so far from our natural state in such a short time, without some horrible unintended consequences.

  24. atcooper permalink
    August 22, 2017

    There had been talk of two electronic periscopes rather than one mechanical / one electronic on the Virginia class boats. Sounded stupid as hell to me – we had the two type config, and guess which was consistently more reliable.

    Hardening electronics is way more difficult than folks really realize maybe? It seems the engineers should know better, but maybe not anymore?

    It’s all expensive junk. So much of the new tech is trash.

  25. realitychecker permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Theses ships get designed years before they get deployed. The hackers are cutting edge actors when the ships get deployed with old ideas built into their design.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  26. atcooper permalink
    August 22, 2017

    Regarding the McCain, hacking is only speculation it seems.

  27. VietnamVet permalink
    August 22, 2017

    “There is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.”
    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2989040
    The only land supply line for American forces is through Pakistan which is “a major haven and sponsor of terrorism in Afghanistan” and possesses nuclear armed mobile ballistic missiles.
    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/

    This a war that cannot be won and is a reason why Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected President. Americans cannot afford the cost in money or blood of the Empire’s forever wars. There will be a drawdown one day caused either by the Deplorable’s revolt or an economic collapse. The only question will it be like the Soviet Union or the British Army who had one survivor of their 1842 incursion.

  28. August 22, 2017

    The concensus, Bruce, amongst archeologists is “elite overproduction” is what did in the Maya.

  29. Hugh permalink
    August 22, 2017

    The essence of policymaking is the same as for any adult decision. Three questions need to be asked and answered. What do you want? What can you do? And what can you live with? For 16 years, nobody has bothered to ask these questions about Afghanistan and they still haven’t. Trump’s new “policy” is pretty much the same as the old nonpolicy. This is hardly surprising since Trump is a notorious ignoramus unable to formulate policy and his senior advisers are mostly retired generals whose careers overlap our country’s policy vacuum with regard to Afghanistan and whose profession was about executing, not making, policy. So we get more of the same, with possibly a new name.

    It is hard to see how Afghanistan can be stabilized in the short term since it is established Pakistani policy to support the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, which the Pakistani military and intelligence services look on as the pro-Pakistani future leaders there. In the slightly longer term, say the next twenty to thirty years, Pakistan itself will fall apart (due to climate change, overpopulation, and weak civil institutions), and it has and is rapidly expanding its supply of nuclear weapons. This increases the likelihood of a nuclear war with India, which is also destabilizing just not as fast as Pakistan.

    So the question comes back to what is or should be American policy toward South Asia in general and what should be its goals. Other than fighting the last war there, which is actually the current one, better, I see nothing, no awareness or even curiosity about how that region is evolving, or more accurately, devolving.

  30. wendy davis permalink
    August 23, 2017

    yes ian, ‘this directly violates a core promise and is stupid besides being a betrayal.’

    yes, but he may be channeling his MAGA core promises, don’t you think? he knows that the *publicly stated* costs for those 16 years of war have been $714 billion according to the pentagon’s inspektor general, and how much more off the books, including estimates of 3 mercenaries for every GI, and so on, and so on.

    but he also is eyeing the reports of vast mineral wealth in afghanistan, estimated to be between $1-3 trillion amerikan dollars. gold, gems, uranium, colbalt, silver, lithium, copper. oh, my, so many contracts to make: roads, railroads, more airports, mines, and good for the locals, to boot! the military has long paid ‘protection money’ to the taliban to guard their supply lines, so it could be a big win for all! and so much lucre to bring home to help pay for the war™, or…to profit his cronies, wall street defense contractors, which would lift all boats in any event, yanno?

  31. Peter permalink
    August 23, 2017

    @VV

    The Afghan war may not be winnable in the flag waving parade sense but it has been downsized dramatically to a mostly training and special ops conflict for the US. Abandoning the Afghans now may make some people think they are wise and just. They could blame Trump for the loss come back and hector him as a war monger when the US had to return as we have already seen happen in Iraq. The Taiban, AQ and the Islamic State all have plans for Afghanistan so our presence there will continue.

    All the news from there isn’t bad news with the Afghan Army growing to over 200,000 volunteers being led by an Indian trained officers corps and they seem to be able to fight. Corruption is still a problem there as it is everywhere just look at Brazil a supposed leader of the new multi-polar world.

    If Trump started a new conflict and shipped a l00,000 troops off to war I think his supporters would revolt but they understand he can’t cut and run from the responsibilities he inherited. Waiting for the economy to collapse again seems futile after the collapse of ’08 that didn’t end the world as we know it. I’m not sure what calamity you see c0ming that could sink this self replicating dreadnaught.

  32. someofparts permalink
    August 23, 2017

    This gets into the weeds on why navy ships have been having accidents –

    https://snarkypenguin.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/no-people-you-cant-hack-an-arleigh-burke-destroyer-and-make-it-collide-with-other-ships/

    That post and the one immediately preceding it as well.

    I can’t understand all of it, but what I do get reminds me why engineers are so indispensable.

  33. realitychecker permalink
    August 23, 2017

    @ someofparts

    And why tech stuff makes my head hurt lol.

  34. August 23, 2017

    If we were willing to think it through far enough, “elite overproduction” can be seen both as where we’re headed and where we”ve come from. We hear a great deal about The Puritans, those pious “Christian” pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay so grateful to the locals for their help they promptly killed them all, we rarely hear about the Cavaliers.

    The another of sixteenth and seventeenth century Britians’ overpopulation problems: the younger sons and occasionally daughters of nobility for whom there were no lands left to inherit, shipped to the “New World” to establish barronial estates in Virginia and the Carolinas, bearing with them the caste mentality prevelant today. And servants. Indentured servants relieving an overpopulated England, and purchased slaves kidnapped from Africa.

    Just another take on our cavalier treatment of “inequality”.

  35. August 23, 2017

    “The President wants to be loved by killing people.”

    That’s the way he always done it – the question is are you inside, or outside?

  36. August 23, 2017

    the above link is to theduran.com. i’m bad at this link stuff.

  37. atcooper permalink
    August 23, 2017

    The long and short of the penguins points above are that everything critical has manual overrides. Hatches, hydraulic valves, that sort of shit. It’s all mechanical, or has mechanical fail overs.

    So hackable in only a really old fashioned sort of way.

    The collisions are likely straight up fatigue in source.

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