On the Fall of Saigon, er, Kabul

First off, Happy Reinstatement Day, everybody. I’m sure the festivities will begin any minute now.

Tomorrow is a travel day for me, and today is a packing day, so I don’t have a lot of writing time. I just want to say something briefly about Afghanistan. This will not be an in-depth analysis, and if anyone wants to fill in the blanks, be my guest.

The Taliban are taking Afghanistan with astonishing speed. I get the impression that even the U.S. military brass are stunned by how quickly the Afghan military is crumbling. U.S. officials predict Kabul will fall within 30 days. I suspect it will be sooner. President biden still says we are leaving, bye. Naturally, President Biden is being pounded for his decision to pull troops of Afghanistan.

There is probably an argument to be made that this withdrawal could have been better planned and more skillfully executed. If someone wants to make that argument, I would not argue.

However, the failure of the Afghan millitary to defend Afghanistan is, to me, a big flashing neon sign saying that there was no point to the U.S. being there. Our troops have been there just short of 20 years, and most of that time we were supposed to be preparing the Afghan government to defend itself from militant terrorists on its own. It’s pretty clear now that this was never going to happen. Whenever the U.S. withdrew, this would be the result.

The Taliban is a regional threat, not a global one. Our troops were in Afghanistan because of a decision made 20 years ago, and then the target was al Qaeda. And whatever good we did in Afghanistan initially was thrown away because the focus shifted to Iraq, which was very stupid. President Obama refocused on Afghanistan, but by then IMO it was too late to do the right thing, and we should have bgone into damage control/withdrawal mode immediately, in 2009. Juan Cole believes we should have left Afghanistan in 2003, and he’s probably right.

Instead, the Afghanistan issue was handed off to that Great Incompetent Blob known as Donald Trump. Trump made noises about getting out of the region altogether, but notice he didn’t actually do it, and between his “policies” and Jared Kushner’s meddling the U.S. position in the region was even more befuddled than it was already. I wonder if Trump’s blunders in Syria might well have just emboldened all the extremists in the region.

Just read The Great Washington Ponzi Scheme in Afghanistan comes Crashing Down by Juan Cole. Explains it all better than I can. And let me also say I am very sorry for the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban are monsters. This is a genuine tragedy. But the fault of that is with the Taliban and the regional culture that grew them. There is only so much anyone else can do.

Will Biden pay a political price? I doubt it, since most Americans weren’t all that interested in staying in Afghanistan. Domestic issues will likely be front and center in the campaign next year.

I’ve been asking myself if anyone paid a price for the Fall of Saigon. Did they, really? Americans were much more emotionally invested in Vietnam than they ever were in Afghanistan, so you would think the infamous Fall of Saigon would have been a political watershed, but I don’t remember that it was.  President Ford lost his election in 1976, but I don’t recall that vast numbers of people were angry at him about Saigon. It probably did cost him some votes, but the sluggish economy and the pardon of Nixon were bigger issues. Likewise, I think next year Afghanistan will not be on people’s “top five issues of concern” lists.

In 1975 most Americans didn’t want to know anything about Vietnam; they were exhausted with it. I suspect all but the most hawkish feel about the same about Afghanistan now. We shouldn’t have stayed so long.

Taliban fighters in Afghanistan


20 thoughts on “On the Fall of Saigon, er, Kabul

  1. Moscow Mitch is throwing a fit, as I would guess fellow R's are having concerns about their business interests getting out before the Taliban takes over completely.  

    \Twenty years, a large fortune, and the result has been an anti-westernization of Afghanistan in a large part.  Sigmund Freud might contend that they should have identified with the aggressor by this time.  As with a lot of Freudian Theory it tends not to be supported by the evidence.  Still, Freud was a big step in the secularization of the study of human behavior.  Prior to that devils and angels filled the intellectual void.  That sort of thinking may still prevail at the grass roots level in Afghanistan.  If so, it appears, with the mighty ones there, we Americans are certainly the devils.  

    When will we learn to understand the humans we wish to control by military force.  Was this not our biggest mistake in Viet Nam?

  2. Why is the speedy reconquest of the country by the Taliban such a surprise? The government forces where never more than a front for grifting, and the Taliban have had years to plan this. My guess is that the only reason Kabul has not fallen yet is that they are willing to wait until all US civilian and diplomatic personnel have been evacuated; not worth the complication of having to deal with them. 

  3. Thank God for that^ Juan Cole article:

    …There was no mission. There was a morass of corruption and incompetence. Many of the regional warlords under the new government were not easier on women or minorities than the Taliban had been, and were fundamentalists of a different stripe.

    Joe Biden knew all this. He is the consummate insider. He was the one who decided to blow the whistle on the Ponzi scheme. Of course, when such a scheme is revealed, a lot of institutions collapse and a lot of people get hurt. But actually the institutions were already in collapse, they just didn’t know it, and the people had already lost all their investments, they just hadn’t yet come to that realization.

    Now if Biden can kill that flying turkey, the F-35, he’ll really be a hero by once again cutting our losses. I read that the F-35 was “politically engineered”, its parts/components come from most of the 50 United States, so it was designed from the go to be extremely hard to kill.

    • the first problem is multi-role.

      the second problem is that it almost actually works as described now.

      the third problem is that we have less that 175 operational f-22's and we can't build any more.

  4. Dammit. This was the lesson Vietnam supposedly branded on the US political and military leadership. NEVER, NEVER, (did I say never?) start a conflict without an exit strategy. 'Nam became a quagmire with the S. Vietnamese government scamming the US at every turn. Afghanistan did the same thing.

    Just like 'Nam, the justification for a conflict with no way to victory and no way out became to vindicate the deaths of US soldiers. This is circular logic where the ever-widening circle is drawn in blood. We lost hundreds of soldiers so we must stay to honor them. We've lost a thousand so we have ten times the reason to stay. 

    And it never ends… We're at over 2K dead and 20K injured. Without estimating psychological trauma.

    I guess we sent some troops back to cover our retreat because the collapse is so rapid. But I think Joe has called it quits. I agree there's gonna be a lot of trauma for civilians there. "Trauma" = hell on earth. People will be butchered. 


  5. My heart really goes out to the women there. 

    And if there are any future positive changes to be had in that loose amalgamation of tribes and religious zealots  known as the country of Afghanistan, it'll come from the women. 

    But twenty years of Westernization will be tough to eradicate.  Even for the single-minded religious brutes and thugs of the Taliban.  The forbidden and the future keep calling – whether you have a cellphone or not.

    Outside of that, I'm not unhappy that we're leaving there.  I think it's about time we left. 

    I think I remember one of my first comments here, maha, was about going into Afghanistan with a Marshall Plan to modernize that country. We wouldn't need that in Iraq, largely thanks to Saddam, who, like Stalin, terrorized his people through several centuries of change in only a few decades.

    But sadly, we didn't have a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan.  And we didn't, because instead, Cheney and Dumbaya had their Rumsfeld Unplan: Use Afghanistan as a rallying cry and jumping-off point for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  They were jonesing for Iraq's oil.

    Outside of the women left behind, my problem with our getting out of there is that we're going to be leaving behind way too many people who helped us.   The Taliban of Afghanistan wants to jump back several centuries.

     I cry when I think of the likely fates of those who helped us.

    Why didn't Biden, in his first days as POTUS, and knowing that he wanted to get out of there, have our military and diplomatic corps' come up with an evacuation plan that allowed for us to have most of those ten of thousands of people out before we publicly announced it?

    And if that wasn't possible, still make sure we got out all of the people who wanted to be got, got, before we got ourselves the hell outta there?!?

    Afghanistan is now poised to rejoin the 12th Century.

  6. Once Bush blew it by switching from taking down al Qaeda and the Taliban to inventing a reason to go after Iraq, there was never going to be a "good time"  to leave Afghanistan. Though any time prior to now would have been a better time by virtue of being sooner

    I registered for the draft in 1970. Like most of my friends, I saw no justification for our involvement in Vietnam. I certainly had no desire to die there, for nothing. In college I got to know a lot of guys in Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In fact I did a lot of guerilla theatre with VVAW, and spent a fair number of nights drinking with them. And none of them, I'll wager, would have approved of our involvement  in Afghanistan.

    So no, it's not a "good time" to withdraw from Afghanistan. Yesterday would have been better. And every day preceding yesterday. I agreed with the initial strikes on the country, but we should have never have gone in on the ground. The British Empire and Russia made no dent there, and we didn't either, and never would. You cannot effectively wage war in a country you don't understand. And you will never successfully wage one in Afghanistan.

  7. What, no hat tip to Pakistan. The Taliban has been based in Pakistan since the 1980s. This is Pakistani government policy. When things get rough in Afghanistan or they need recruits or supplies, Pakistan is the Taliban's safe refuge.

    I could argue that Pakistan can't get rid of the Taliban, and that may be true, but Pakistan wasn't going to let anyone else get rid of the Taliban either.

    P.S. There was a funny book put out by Fodor's in the 1990s, a travel guide to the most dangerous places in the world. In Canada, the risk was the high rate of bank robberies. In Pakistan, it was the Taliban.

  8. did you mean "iraq"? because you wrote "iran" in the line, "and whatever good we did in afghanistan initially was thrown away because the focus shifted to iran"

    i mean, we all know, "real men go to tehran," but the W people pushed all the men, money and material that was focused on afghanistan to iraq, because i hear saddam tried to kill W's dad.

    • There were multiple reasons that the Little George / Darth Cheney started the war against Iraq.

      For Little George, it was to prove that he could finish what his daddy left unfinished.

      For Karl Rove, it was the 'wartime presidents always get reelected'.

      For Darth Cheney, it was oil and grift.

      • Indeed, and for mitch and his little R's, it's gotta be profit.

        Dare I mention the American Taliban?

  9. "white people are neanderthals" ignorant fuck check the science. White people didn't even exist in Europe until 5 thousand years ago  from the yamnaya people. All Africans are mixed with neanderthals, the mixing period is just further back in time. Over time the genetic info becomes distorted and fragments. Neanderthals were black and brown. 

  10. So it seems that Trump/Pompeo "negotiated" with the Taliban and for an agreement on a cease fire while we evacuate and in turn we released 3000 Taliban we had in jail. And guess what? the Taliban leader and his top military leaders were in that release! That picture of the Taliban in the Presidental Palace in Kabul? That's him. Pompeo let him out of prision.


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