During the Afghanistan evacuation, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Pentagon spokesman sang the chorus, “There will be plenty of time after this to ask questions, but now is not the time.”
Well, dear readers, it is now that time — the Question Time to find out what went wrong in Afghanistan, who was holding the steering wheel, and who will be reprimanded and held accountable.
Here are some questions your Big Red Car would like to have answered:
Here are the policy level issues — policy is made in the White House and at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, but it is primarily the White House — I would like some answers on.
1. What was the end game for Afghanistan in each of the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden admins?
2. How did each admin define victory?
3. Did we ever get anywhere close to the end game? Was there ever a whiff of victory after overthrowing the Taliban? Killing Osama Bin Laden?
4. What does the term “Graveyard of Empires” mean to you? Does anybody read history and know the history of Alexander the Great, the Brits, the Russians in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan for centuries has been an ungovernable tribal area of incredible terrain challenges. There has never really been a functioning nation-state.
5. How did you imagine a narco, terror, tribal chaos was going to gel into a nation?
6. Why didn’t you destroy the poppy fields, kill the drug trade in Afghanistan, the world’s supplier of almost all of the heroin and opium?
7. Why did you attempt to build an American style democracy in a country that had no idea of what a democracy entails? Had no experience with personal freedom? Has a tradition of tribal rule?
8. At what point did you realize that the United States was engaged in nation building? Why did you think it would work here?
Didn’t we go into this war with a specific promise not to engage in nation building? Why did we violate that commitment? Who made that decision?
9. Did you ever hold anybody at any level accountable for outcomes?
10. At any time did you give consideration the mounting cost of blood and treasure?
11. Did anyone in the White House ever look at a map of Afghanistan and recognize it is a very mountainous country with some of the fiercest mountains in the world that present one of the worst battlefields for infantry and are totally impassable for armor?
Take your time. These are reasonable questions and deserve reasonable, truthful answers.
Once policy is made, strategy — the view from 30,000 feet of the overall enterprise — is made almost exclusively by the Pentagon and the defense establishment.
1. What was the overall strategy to defeat a third world, lightly armed, poorly led light infantry in the field? Who wrote it? Who approved it? How was it to be scored?
2. Did the Taliban at any time present an air threat or possess credible artillery firepower? Did the US/NATO at all times possess air superiority, a massive firepower advantage, and a smothering intel advantage?
3. How did the Taliban resupply itself with arms and ammunition? Make up battlefield casualties? What did we do to throttle that supply chain?
4. Why did we allow the Taliban to set the “fighting season” and allow them to winter over in Pakistan?
5. Why didn’t we block the mountain passes in the spring (entering Afghanistan) and the fall (exiting Afghanistan) to/from Pakistan? Why didn’t we hunt down the Taliban in Pakistan? [The Taliban was formed in Pakistan.]
6. Once we had a strategy, what KPIs did we employ to track progress?
7. When did we realize the strategy was not working? How did we alter our strategy to accommodate the reality of outcomes?
8. Who are the architects of this strategy and have they been called to account for it?
9. The American general officer corps is composed of fine men educated at places like West Point, who attend their branch basic and advanced courses, a company command course, a battalion command course, the Command & General Staff College, the War College (some branch specific and those of other countries), and have masters degrees (Gen David Petreaus has a doctorate from Princeton and wrote the Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual.), and yet these brilliantly educated, accomplished men were outsmarted and outgeneraled by a Taliban leadership that doesn’t have a semester of community college amongst them? How is this possible?
10. General after general reported to the country, the Congress, the White House that training of the Afghan National Army was going swimmingly — and, yet, it was a total cockup as measured by outcomes on the battlefield. Who is going to be held accountable for this?
Are there any bigger bullshitters on the planet than a bunch of beribboned generals?
Tactics are the view from 10,000 feet that are assigned to larger units such as infantry divisions (both Army and Marine), the Ranger Regiment, the 173rd Abn Brigade, and special operators.
1. Who oversaw the training of the Afghan National Army? What entity? What individuals? What was the training program? Have any of these men been held accountable for this wholesale failure?
2. What was the overall training plan to standup, train, and support in the field a fighting force of 350,000 ANA soldiers? Was there ever really a 350,000 man ANA? I doubt it.
3. How did the American/NATO trainers intend to develop a non-commissioned officer corps? A company grade officer corps? A general office corps?
4. How did the American Army trainers intend to train a generally illiterate body of men to use American weapons, tactics, and leadership style?
5. We supposedly trained more than 350,000 men — how many ghost soldiers? How much corruption was involved? Did the US/NATO do anything to get an accurate count of the actual bayonet strength of the ANA? If not, why not?
6. Why didn’t the ANA fight when it came right down to it? We received glowing reports from a galaxy of generals as to how well the training was going over a 20 year period, but an inferior number of Taliban swept the entire country in two weeks.
How is that possible?
7. Who thought the ANA could fight and win when we pulled American artillery and air support? We trained them to fight with this support and then we were perplexed when they did not fight well — at all — when we pulled it.
Who made those decisions? Why?
8. The ANA was supplied with enough equipment to be the 5th largest army in the world. Who made this decision and did we think this added to their ability to fight and win?
9. Did we think that the President of Afghanistan was committed to freeing his country of the Taliban? Why?
Why didn’t anybody recognize that this grifter was going to run like a thief in the middle of the night?
In the aftermath of the war and the evacuation, there are some particularly hard questions to be answered.
1. Why did the POTUS provide such patently wrong utterances as to the status of the fight as the Taliban swept the country in two weeks?
How can the intel community and the Defense Department look itself in the mirror when they got it so wrong?
These were horrifically wrong statements, dangerously so.
2. The President, Sec Def, and CJCS all said that the US planned for every contingency including the country falling precipitously?
So, what was the plan? Who made it?
Why for God’s sake did we abandon Bagram Airfield a month before the evacuation disaster?
3. Why did the POTUS promise us that he would get all Americans and allies out, that nobody would be left behind, and then abandon hundreds of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans?
Can the world no longer rely on a public promise of an American President?
How long will it be before we are paying ransom to extract our citizens from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s clutches?
4. If the United States can deal with terrorism “over the horizon” why did we go to Afghanistan in the first place?
I personally believe that the “over the horizon” nonsense is just another lie. Once we lose our local eyes and ears, we are literally blind and dumb.
This is a pipedream brought to us by the same intel bunch who didn’t see the Taliban conquering the country in two weeks or the wholesale failure of the ANA. This is malarkey.
5. Did we really rely upon the goodwill of terrorists to extract our people? Are we really negotiating with and doing business with a terror organization to manage the extraction?
Do we or do we not have a national policy of not dealing with terrorists?
6. Are we honestly going to consider recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan? Are we going to allow them to access the cash reserves of the legitimate government frozen in the United States? Are we thereby going to fund the Taliban?
[The Taliban in Pakistan is on the US terror list, but the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was spawned in Pakistan, is not on the terror list.]
7. Given the performance and the wholesale lies, why should anyone in the international community believe they can count on American promises?
How should Ukraine and Taiwan react to this new reality?
8. Are this Sec Def and CJCS the best men for the job? They look like a couple of losers to me, very mediocre men.
Given their performance in this monumental cockup, is it unfair to wipe the slate clean based solely on America’s loss of confidence in these men based on performance?
9. What was the total cost of this ill-advised war? Please account for it down to the last penny.
10. Does our President actually think this fiasco was a “spectacular success?” If so, why?
Now is the time to answer these questions and the POTUS, Sec Def, and CJCS should answer them and then consider tendering their resignations.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car with questions and I want answers. Now is the time.