The United States has been engaged in a war in Afghanistan since 7 October 2001 on the heels of 9-11, the attack on the World Trade Towers in Manhattan.
The US justified its invasion because the Twin Towers raiders, under the direction of Osama bin Laden, had trained their terrorists in Afghanistan. In addition, the Taliban refused to extradite OBL to the United States when we charged him with masterminding the 9-11 attacks. He was then living in Afghanistan.
We have been continuously at war during Operation Enduring Freedom – Afghanistan (2001-2014) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015-present). This has spanned the presidencies of George W Bush, Barack H Obama, and Donald J Trump.
George W Bush started it. Barack H Obama sustained it — sometime, reluctantly. Donald J Trump is trying to end it even if it means taking a huge blow to American prestige.
Initially a US operation (joined by the United Kindgom), the war became a NATO operation in 2003. Almost immediately, the US defeated the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda hosts using a coalition of Afghan warlords that became known as the Northern Alliance. The US provided leadership, Special Forces, and firepower in the form of artillery and air support.
In 2004, the Afghan people held an election which resulted in Hamid Karzai being anointed as President. Afghanistan was and is a narco-corrupt country.
The Taliban and other affiliated groups, operating from rebel strongholds and Pakistan, engaged in fierce guerrilla warfare that motivated the NATO allies to send as many as 140,000 troops (100,000 American included). This insurgency continued unabated with a crescendo in 2009. In 2009, clearly the Allies were winning, but hadn’t yet delivered a knock out punch. Pakistan was sheltering the Taliban during the winters, something that should never have been tolerated.
Then, the United States (President Obama) announced that its military commitment would end in December 2014 though it would maintain some military presence thereafter. [I consider this announcement to have been one of the worst public utterances by any warring nation in the history of warfare. The US, in effect, told the Taliban, “Uhhh, we are going home in December 2014,” to which the Taliban said to themselves, “What say you we spend the time between now and December 2014 in the south of France working on our tans?”]
In 2009, during the Obama administration, the US sent out the first peace feelers indicating the US would consider a negotiated settlement. Here is a pic of a loya jirga, the local deliberative body of tribal Afghanistan.
In May 2011, American Navy SEALs found and killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. Note — the Paks have been allies of Al Qaeda and the Taliban for decades. The Paks never were our friends or allies. We were too bone headed to admit what everybody knew. WTF was Osama bin Laden doing in Pakistan? They were safeguarding him.
In October 2014, the Brits pulled out. In December 2014, NATO declared the end of their operations in Afghanistan leaving the US holding the bag with 13,000 troops and a resurgent, well-tanned Taliban to raise Hell.
We pretended to turn the war over to the Afghans — sort of the same way we turned that other war in Vietnam over to the Vietnamese. That turned out great, no?
To date, we are looking at more than 4,000 coalition force deaths both KIA and killed by the war in other locations. Our Afghan allies suffered 62,000 military deaths and 31,000 civilians. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda suffered upwards of 100,000 deaths though these numbers are very difficult to verify.
The United States often says, “We do not negotiate with terrorists.” But, since 2009, we have, in fact, been negotiating with the Taliban.
The Taliban have insisted on negotiating only with the United States and not the Afghan government as they consider the Afghan government to be a puppet state propped up by the US.
This is the Taliban. Not very impressive in my book. Poorly armed, sockless, light infantry guerrillas.
In 2017, the Trump admin took charge of the negotiations and attempted to re-invigorate them with an eye toward seeing if a peace could be hammered out.
The head of the Taliban — missing from the negotiations until then — began to negotiate directly with the US representative.
The US negotiator is Zalmay Khalilzad while the Taliban chieftain and head negotiator is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The Mullah is a tough old bastard who believes time is on his side.
Status of negotiations
The US and the Taliban met in Doha in January 2019 for a total of five days. This was not widely reported, but it was also not kept secret.
As one can imagine, the Taliban are not very trusting of US intentions made worse by their sense they are winning on the battlefield.
During the five days of negotiations the following core issues bubbled to the surface.
1. The Taliban wants all foreign troops out of Afghanistan.
2. The US demands that the Taliban ensure that no terrorist act is launched from Afghan soil against the Americans and its allies.
3. The US wants an immediate cease fire.
4. The US wants the Taliban to finalize the negotiations with the Afghan government. The Taliban considers the Afghan government to be a puppet government under the control of the US.
The current President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, sent representatives to Moscow for direct talks with the Taliban under the sponsorship of Russia. Ghani’s political opponents were also invited and attended the talks.
The Russians have their own Afghan baggage having left with their tail between their legs. Inviting a government and its opposition is a sure fire formula for a jug fuck.
While this contact continues, the Afghan civilian population suffered more than 3,800 murders making 2018 the deadliest year for civilians ever.
The Taliban continues to press against the Americans and the Afghans having killed 45,000 Afghan security forces since September 2014.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
The end of the Afghan war is not going to be precise. The Taliban, having been alerted by the previous regime that 2014 was the beginning of the end, believes they have outwaited the Americans and that they are winning on the battlefield. Shades of Vietnam, anybody?
The Afghans cannot defeat the Taliban.
Pakistan is an enemy of the United States though we have poured billions of dollars into their coffers. They played us for the chumps we allowed ourselves to be.
We cannot force our will on the Taliban. We do not have the political will — reminiscent of the end of the Vietnam War. We have had enough.
Our aspirations are rock bottom. What could be lower than “no terrorist act is launched from Afghan soil?” That is laughable.
This will not end well.
Last thoughts, Big Red Car?
Yes, dear reader. I am thoroughly pissed off at the American military establishment. We have had tons of brilliant Generals leading this effort and nobody has ever come up with a winning strategy to defeat a rag tag, light infantry bunch of guerrillas.
Shame on the American military establishment. Let me be clear — even if the USA was not prepared to invest the resources, somebody needed to tell us what it would take to win.
It is clear that the current admin — that inherited this problem — will try to dispatch the problem before the advent of the 2020 Presidential elections. Want to bet on it?
Since 2014 when the US began to pull the plug, the Afghans have suffered 45,000 KIA. This is not a sustainable rate of losses. It is a war of attrition they cannot win.
Afghanistan is and continues to be a narco-terror state. We have done nothing to diminish the production of poppy based illegal drugs. Nothing.
Do not go to war in countries called the Graveyard of Empires.
Here’s a picture of Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in Afghanistan for a surprise visit.