Written by Dr. Leon Tressell exclusively for SouthFront
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks American and British politicians rushed their countries into invading Afghanistan. The objective being to topple the Taliban regime and eliminate the Al-Qaeda culprits behind the attacks upon U.S. soil.
President George W. Bush stated that the U.S. had learned the lessons of Vietnam and was not going to become embroiled in yet another long dawn out conflict. Fast forward 18 years and the United States is now involved in long drawn out negotiations with the Taliban over ending America’s longest war.
Recently released documents obtained by the Washington Post, reveal how the U.S. has been fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The Washington Post had to sue the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) twice in federal court to obtain these documents which lay bare the huge extent of the mistakes, lies, corruption and failures of the American occupation in Afghanistan.
Successive governments from George W. Bush through to Obama and now the Trump administration have repeatedly lied to the American public claiming that U.S. forces were making progress in winning the conflict when actually they were sunk neck deep in yet another unwinnable war that has cost the lives of over 147,000 people. Meanwhile, American taxpayers have seen hundreds of billions (actually over $784 billion) being poured into the pockets of the military-industrial complex. It has also had the effect of turning Afghanistan into one of the most corrupt nations on the planet.
Since 2014 the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a series of reports Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan which draw upon interviews with military commanders, diplomats and politicians who have been intimately involved in the American war effort.
They shed a fascinating in-depth light upon America’s longest war and reveal how this conflict has been a failure on every level. This 18 year long war has been sustained by a massive campaign of lying and disinformation spread by successive U.S. governments and the military/intelligence agencies. It has been aided and abetted by allies such as the UK and the rest of the NATO alliance.
U.S. lacked a post-invasion strategy
In this article we shall look at American efforts to “stabilize” Afghanistan following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001.
In December 2002 the U.S. Congress authorized funding for its military occupation of Afghanistan it, “reiterated the U.S. objective of creating a stable society that would remain inhospitable to terrorist networks.”
However, the Neo-Con war hawks led by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had no long term strategy for the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan following the overthrow of the Taliban regime:
This is confirmed by Rumsfeld himself in a letter to Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith:
“The fact that Iran and Russia have plans for Afghanistan and we don’t concerns me. I keep getting an answer that ‘the Deputies are working on it.’ Well, I can’t believe that it takes that many months to figure it out…. We are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless we take care to see that there is something going on that will provide the stability that will be necessary for us to leave.”
According to SIGAR the United Sates was busy with preparations for its illegal invasion of Iraq and the, “deliberate focus in Afghanistan was a light military footprint and limited top-down institutional development that began and ended in Kabul.”
From the outset the American occupation of Afghanistan had no strategic plan for how to create the peace and stability necessary for it puppet government to establish some degree of legitimacy amongst the population. The U.S. government and military resorted to endless lies to justify their failing occupation of Afghanistan. The following excerpt from a report issued by the U.S. embassy in Kabul is a good example of this:
“Improving security and stability is our most important strategic goal. The successful national election, as well as an improved coalition counterinsurgency strategy, has diminished the threat of the Taliban and other extremists. If this trend continues and steps are taken to end sanctuaries in neighbouring countries and to implement a reconciliation and accountability program, the insurgent threat could be effectively eliminated in 2005 and 2006.” (bold text is my emphasis).
Yet it wasn’t until 2009 that the U.S. army formally adopted a counterinsurgency campaign designed to win the support of the population away from the Taliban.
Problems undermining the American occupation
From the outset the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan was best by fundamental problems. Former Trump aide General Michael Flynn, a former director of military intelligence in Afghanistan was interviewed by SIGAR. His interview provides numerous insights as to why the U.S. occupation failed to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat its enemy in one of the poorest countries on the planet.
General Flynn states that the U.S. military blundering into Afghanistan as a reflex response to the 9/11 attacks. American political/military strategy was seriously undermined by its failure to ask basic questions about why it was intervening in Afghanistan? How was it going to achieve its objectives? What were the basic motivations of the Taliban? How did the system of tribal alliances work in a country such as Afghanistan?
This was compounded by the ‘the severity of the corruption in our own system’ and the colossal waste of resources taking place amongst American forces on a daily basis.
The interview with Flynn was conducted during 2015 and the criticisms he makes of the U.S. military intervention bear an uncanny resemblance to the conduct of American forces during the Vietnam War.
In Vietnam and Afghanistan every company, battalion and brigade commander followed the same mission objective of ‘destroy the enemy and protect the population’. In both conflicts at every level of the U.S. army reports were presented to headquarters that lied or exaggerated the progress they were making against the enemy. Flynn notes how widespread this problem was:
“So every operational commander, battalion commander, regimental BTC, RC – every single one came in [to Afghanistan] and said that the situation was not like they thought and when they they left that they had defeated the enemy we have convinced the population and helped the population….Believe me I was looking at them [commanders progress reports -LT] for 10 years. I saw this in Iraq and really dug into it in Afghanistan.”
“They have all these wonderful stats about what they did. I am telling you this is true from 2002 until today.”
Flynn goes on to admit that the this corruption in progress reports from operational commanders and the sense that the U.S. military was doing well in the war,’permeates all the way to the top’.
He admits that intelligence reports made it clear that the war was not going well yet the politicians in Washington had their own clear agenda which was to portray a rosy picture of the war, that America was making progress in stabilizing Afghanistan and defeating the Taliban.
“As a senior Intel officer for many years, my assessments were not good. Things [I wrote said] said it was not at all going well. We were basically fighting the wrong way. We are participating in conflict, we are not here to win. There is corruption in the reporting ….This was irresponsible, to be kind, in reporting operationally that everything was wonderful. That also includes from the State Department. There is no way over the years, to include this year, that we can say things are wonderful.”
Flynn makes the trenchant observation,’From ambassadors down to the lowest level, [they all say] we are doing a great job. Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”
Flynn’s assertion that the United States has failed in yet another war is supported by the conclusion to SIGAR’s 300 page report ‘STABILIZATION: LESSONS FROM THE U.S. EXPERIENCE IN AFGHANISTAN’. It makes the incredible admission that:
“Between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed.”
Why has Afghanistan become America’s longest war?
Early in his interview General Flynn makes his most perceptive and penetrating comment on the Afghan war which has been ignored by the mainstream media. It explains the contradiction between the constant lies peddled by Bush, Obama and Trump that America was making progress in Afghanistan and the intelligence reports that made it clear that the war was not going well on the ground. In fact his brief comment on this issue helps us understand why the political class in America has allowed the Afghan war to become the longest in its history. The military-industrial complex has made hundreds of billions out of America’s longest war with little or no opposition from the public or Congress:
“Never mind not accomplishing our mission, but the severity of the corruption in our own system. I think is just unbelievable. There is a machinary that is behind what we do, and it keeps us participating in the conflict because it generates wealth. (It generates wealth) all round and on both sides – well all sides … there are more than two sides.”
Failures of the American war effort in Afghanistan
The recently released documents obtained by the Washington Post totally undermine the lies used by governments and the corporate media to support this bloody conflict. By 2018 it had cost the lives of over 147,000 people never mind the 4.78 million refugees created by the war. Supporters of the Afghan conflict in both America and the UK have been misled by the unrelenting stream of lies from politicians and military commanders.
In the conclusion to its 300 Lessons Learned page report on ‘Stabilization’ in Afghanistan the Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction admits that the U.S. war has been a failure.
This failure is confirmed further by the decision of the Pentagon to stop publishing its public assessments of how much territory the Kabul government and the Taliban control. These assessments have long been seen as a key indicator of American progress in the war. Bill Roggio, a military analyst who has challenged the Pentagon’s rose tinted assessments of the war, told the New York Times in May of this year, that the military assessments were revealing how the U.S. puppet government in Kabul was losing territory to the Taliban. Roggio told the Times that the:
“The district assessments highlight failure, which is contrary to the U.S. military’s desired message of success. Make no mistake, if these assessments showed the Afghan military retaking lost ground, the U.S. military would continue to publish the information.”
Other metrics such as the historically high levels of opium production, the 20% increase in the number of ‘effective’ attacks by the Taliban since 2018, the rise in civilian casualties this year, and the horrendous casualty rate suffered by the undermanned Afghan army reveal that the war is going very badly. All of these factors are critical in explaining why the U.S. is trying to extricate itself from the Afghan quagmire via ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban. There is an uncanny resemblance to the Paris peace talks in the early 1970s which President Nixon used to extricate America from the war that it was losing in Vietnam.
The American elites have learned nothing from the bloody Afghan war and have repeated the many errors that they made in the Vietnam conflict. Over the last 18 years the American empire has made mistake after mistake and left Afghanistan as yet another failed state that could destabilize central Asia for many years to come.
Trump’s current negotiations with the Taliban are an admission that America’s longest war is yet another bloody failure. Sadly, politicians of all political colours both Democrat and Republican will never admit that the occupation of Afghanistan has been a bloody failure that has inflicted untold suffering on a gigantic scale. You and I dear reader must stand testament to yet another crime against humanity committed by the declining American empire and its puppet allies.