Anthony McIntyre ✒ shares his thoughts on the West's failure in Afghanistan.

The blanket protest was settling down for another Christmas banged up behind the doors, where one day seamlessly and monotonously flowed into the next. The news filtered through that the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. I do not recall anybody claiming to know what or where Afghanistan was. There seemed to be a greater buzz around the subsequent Western led boycott of the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet invasion.

If few of us had ever heard of Afghanistan, we all knew of the Soviets, some of us even believing they stood for a type of progressiveness, including those of us who had read Orwell. I recall telling Pinta McKnight during one of those black-is-white debates the protest was fond of hosting that there might not be any prostitutes in the Soviet Union. He promptly laughed at me, commenting that perhaps there were no sailors either. The silly trivial things long since lost to memory are suddenly triggered back into being by this week's news that the US and NATO had lost their war of terror in the country.

Fast forward twenty years from the blanket protest and there was a fear that the US might nuke Afghanistan out of sheer fury that someone had the temerity to return the war crime serve on the volley. In West Belfast we tried to put together an anti-war group, but the Left were more enamored to the notion of going to war with each other. Ultimately, that particular group's lifespan was unusually short even for the fractious Left. What you learn with the Left, to borrow a quip, is that when all is said and done, more will be said than done. Oblivious to what was going on in West Belfast, The West attacked but stopped short of the nuclear option, opting for torture and murder instead.

Fast forward another twenty years and we find ourselves the grateful recipients of the most biting and incisive comment about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. It was attributed to Norman Finkelstein: If you ever feel useless, remember it took twenty years, trillions of dollars and 4 US Presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban.

That's about the sum of it. There is little room for doubt: it would take the mind of a Young Earth Creationist to pass this off as anything other than a humiliating defeat for the US and NATO. No going down with the ship for President Ashraf Ghani. He abandoned everybody he had asked to stand and fight and duly took himself off to Oman. The US might have got away with its belligerence had it been capable of better strategic management and foresight. Its highpoint came in 2002. With the Taliban in disarray and Pakistan forced to side with the invaders, the time to get out was then.

The scene was set for America to maintain the momentum of its success, install and bankroll a Karzai-led government, hand over aid, development and security responsibility to the United Nations et al, walk away and accept the laurels of victory.

But no. Its militaristic instinct combined with its urge to be daddy on the global block led it to settle in for the planned long haul and the unplanned swift exit. Biden’s credibility fell on the sword of style. He was merely fulfilling an undertaking already put in place by the execrable Trump. Like Lebanon, Somalia and Vietnam there was nothing neat about the exit strategy.

Tariq Ali summed up a tale foretold. 

In a period when the US has wrecked one Arab country after another, no resistance that could challenge the occupiers ever emerged. This defeat may well be a turning point. That is why European politicians are whinging. They backed the US unconditionally in Afghanistan, and they too have suffered a humiliation – none more so than Britain.

Western state building was an abject failure. Afghanistan was a kleptocracy supported by another, Pakistan. The speed of the collapse alone clearly indicates that the Afghan government was an artificial puppet state wholly dependent on external support to survive. It was on an life support machine, all its internal organs failing to function on their own steam. Once the plug was pulled, life was extinct. 

State building amounted to this

In one of the poorest countries of the world, billions were spent annually on air-conditioning the barracks that housed US soldiers and officers, while food and clothing were regularly flown in from bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It was hardly a surprise that a huge slum grew on the fringes of Kabul, as the poor assembled to search for pickings in dustbins.

Sounds like every other country the US has either invaded, subverted or brought regime change to.

Nick Timothy asks of both NATO and the US: Why were we ever there? It certainly was not for the women they promised to free and have now betrayed. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Replacing The Taliban With The Taliban

Anthony McIntyre ✒ shares his thoughts on the West's failure in Afghanistan.

The blanket protest was settling down for another Christmas banged up behind the doors, where one day seamlessly and monotonously flowed into the next. The news filtered through that the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. I do not recall anybody claiming to know what or where Afghanistan was. There seemed to be a greater buzz around the subsequent Western led boycott of the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet invasion.

If few of us had ever heard of Afghanistan, we all knew of the Soviets, some of us even believing they stood for a type of progressiveness, including those of us who had read Orwell. I recall telling Pinta McKnight during one of those black-is-white debates the protest was fond of hosting that there might not be any prostitutes in the Soviet Union. He promptly laughed at me, commenting that perhaps there were no sailors either. The silly trivial things long since lost to memory are suddenly triggered back into being by this week's news that the US and NATO had lost their war of terror in the country.

Fast forward twenty years from the blanket protest and there was a fear that the US might nuke Afghanistan out of sheer fury that someone had the temerity to return the war crime serve on the volley. In West Belfast we tried to put together an anti-war group, but the Left were more enamored to the notion of going to war with each other. Ultimately, that particular group's lifespan was unusually short even for the fractious Left. What you learn with the Left, to borrow a quip, is that when all is said and done, more will be said than done. Oblivious to what was going on in West Belfast, The West attacked but stopped short of the nuclear option, opting for torture and murder instead.

Fast forward another twenty years and we find ourselves the grateful recipients of the most biting and incisive comment about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. It was attributed to Norman Finkelstein: If you ever feel useless, remember it took twenty years, trillions of dollars and 4 US Presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban.

That's about the sum of it. There is little room for doubt: it would take the mind of a Young Earth Creationist to pass this off as anything other than a humiliating defeat for the US and NATO. No going down with the ship for President Ashraf Ghani. He abandoned everybody he had asked to stand and fight and duly took himself off to Oman. The US might have got away with its belligerence had it been capable of better strategic management and foresight. Its highpoint came in 2002. With the Taliban in disarray and Pakistan forced to side with the invaders, the time to get out was then.

The scene was set for America to maintain the momentum of its success, install and bankroll a Karzai-led government, hand over aid, development and security responsibility to the United Nations et al, walk away and accept the laurels of victory.

But no. Its militaristic instinct combined with its urge to be daddy on the global block led it to settle in for the planned long haul and the unplanned swift exit. Biden’s credibility fell on the sword of style. He was merely fulfilling an undertaking already put in place by the execrable Trump. Like Lebanon, Somalia and Vietnam there was nothing neat about the exit strategy.

Tariq Ali summed up a tale foretold. 

In a period when the US has wrecked one Arab country after another, no resistance that could challenge the occupiers ever emerged. This defeat may well be a turning point. That is why European politicians are whinging. They backed the US unconditionally in Afghanistan, and they too have suffered a humiliation – none more so than Britain.

Western state building was an abject failure. Afghanistan was a kleptocracy supported by another, Pakistan. The speed of the collapse alone clearly indicates that the Afghan government was an artificial puppet state wholly dependent on external support to survive. It was on an life support machine, all its internal organs failing to function on their own steam. Once the plug was pulled, life was extinct. 

State building amounted to this

In one of the poorest countries of the world, billions were spent annually on air-conditioning the barracks that housed US soldiers and officers, while food and clothing were regularly flown in from bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It was hardly a surprise that a huge slum grew on the fringes of Kabul, as the poor assembled to search for pickings in dustbins.

Sounds like every other country the US has either invaded, subverted or brought regime change to.

Nick Timothy asks of both NATO and the US: Why were we ever there? It certainly was not for the women they promised to free and have now betrayed. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

17 comments:

  1. In thinking about the short future that awaits women, ethnic minorities, journalists, NGO workers etc. in the terror state that Afghanistan is already becoming. I am reminded of the title of Fergal Keane's book on the Rwandan genocide : "Tomorrow we wish to inform you that we will be killed along with our families" .

    Who will come to the aid of this newly incarcerated and incipiently genocided populace? Certainly not the Russian or Chinese governments. Certainly not the Pakistani government whose military and secret service finger prints are all over the Taliban's latest seizure of power. Certainly not the UN whose Security Council is permanently by the veto power of the two afore mentioned imperial power.

    Certainly not the morally bankrupt, Cold war trapped regressive left as represented by Norman Finklestein whose robotic response to everything bad in the world is Blame the US, Blame the West even when, as in Syria, Rwanda and Darfur e.g. they do sweet bugger all.

    But it did not need to happen this way. Had the Taliban or other Pashtun reps been invited into government in 2001-02 then it may have achieved greater legitimacy and acceptance among the Afghan people. Delay of the US withdrawal by perhaps another month could have enabled a more orderly departure of refugees and a smoother transition in regime.

    Lastly, Anthony I find your "return of the serve" comment about the 9/11 atrocities very distasteful and totally unworthy of you. Were the attacks on Madrid railway station and Bali returns of the serve. Were the ISIS attacks on Paris and many other places and their genocide of the Yazidis also returns of the serve? I think not. That sort of comment to the dark recesses of the far right and far left and of Islamist hate mongers.

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  2. "The return of the serve" comment jars because of its particular provenance concerning the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and its use by a TPQ respondent who thankfully apologised for it and withdrew it.

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    1. The return of serve has a provenance long predating Dublin Monaghan references.
      Steve R withdrew it as I remember because he expressed it awkwardly, creating the impression (an inaccurate one) that he endorsed it. What serve was being returned?
      I will not be withdrawing my comment or apologising for it either. It has been very clear from my discourse over the years and at the time of the attack that I felt it was a war crime. Yet it remains a war crime inflicted against the civilian population of a state which has carried out many war crimes.

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    2. It was David Ervine who coined the phrase "return of serve" in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as Loyalists felt (wrongly) that the Republic of Ireland was a safe haven for IRA members and activists. I am sure we all agree that civilian populations should never be deliberately targeted in any armed action; the targeting of civilians is the MO of jihadists and far right white terrorists and regimes such as those of President Assad and the Myanmar generals which puts them beyond the pale.

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    3. I don't imagine Ervine was the first one to coin that phrase even of he used it for Dublin/Monaghan. It seems such an obvious phrase. But it is hardly worthwhile searching for its origins. Nor was it a return of serve - it was a strategic action designed to intimidate the Dublin government during the Sunningdale PSE and parallel UWC strike. The Greysteel Massacre was a return of serve to the Shankill bombing. Does not make it any more legitimate than Dublin-Monaghan.
      Assad and the Myanmar generals are not targeting the civilians in Gaza. The terror state behind that should join Assad and the Myanmar generals as beyond the pale.

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  3. Many people including myself have the same concerns you have but we do not believe the US military intervention has any role to play in solving these things. It is not the global government. It has supported terror states. It has armed in Iraq and Syria the very same type of people who come to govern these theocracies.

    A minor point - Philip Gourevitch wrote that book. Fergal Keane wrote Seasons Of Blood.

    The Russians or Chinese have done little to protect the people of Palestine from attacks by a terror state. So, like you, I don't expect much from them in terms of assisting the Afghans. And they can use their power of veto at the UN just like the US has used it to protect the terror state that massacres Palestine civilians.

    Finklestein is a person of great conviction who has continuously spoken out at considerable cost to himself against the terror state that persecutes Palestinians. He has also rubbished the Holocaust Industry for its gross manipulation of the historical narrative.

    The return of serve is exactly what it was. It does not mean I agree with it, just that I can identify it for what it was and did so at the time. A war crime inflicted on an adversary which itself had perpetrated numerous war crimes. The US has a history of atrocity and war crimes across the globe. It has massacred more civilians in other countries than the Islamicists have ever massacred in the US. Madrid and Bali are all returns of the serve, as were Paris, London and Brussels. It does not make them any less horrible or any more justified. As was pointed out in response to such attacks, the West is howling because somebody was now taking the war to the West that the West was taking to other countries.

    Just as the IRA action in Kingsmill was a return of the serve - it is hardly less a war crime as a consequence of being identified as such.

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    1. As I have previously said the majority of jihadist victims have been Muslims both Sunni and Shia as well as all sorts of "infidels".

      Yes, the US as well as the USSR and other former colonial powers have a history of war crimes. But Islamist atrocities were not a response to Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador etc, they are part of an impossibilist Thousand Year Reich project to restore the Caliphate. Is selling Yazidi women into sex slavery or throwing gay people from buildings "returning the serve"? Is that taking the war to the West?

      Contrary to your assertions it was jihadis that headed the resistance to the US-led coalition in Iraq. it was the Syrian Free Army who the West gave minimal assistance to; they were to be conveniently outgunned by jihadi forces like the Al-Nusra front backed by Saudi Arabia and UEA.

      I have never argued that the US is the global government. Better that is is integrated into UN forces that for it to revert to isolationism or strike on unilateral missions of the George W. Bush era.

      There are a lot more ethnic and religious groups around the world have suffered worse than the Palestinians. Think of the Baluchis in Pakistan, Bahias in Iran or the afore mentioned Yazidis. But you never see rallies in London, New York or Paris addressing their plight. In fact Stop the war Coalition denies there was ever a genocide of the Yazidis.

      Too many on the left show indulgence to Islamist theocratic fascism because of misplaced colonial guilt and Cold War "themunns" moral calculus and relativism.

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    2. Jihadists have been guilty of numerous atrocities. Nobody here excusing them.
      It is a nonsense to reduce the violent Islamicist response to the one dimensional Caliphate perspective. Just as it was to reduce the IRA campaign to some anachronistic desire for an united Ireland.
      Throwing gay people off buildings or selling women into sex slavery is a religious cultural dimension. But that hardly amounts to the sum of the war against the West. Stop invading their countries and destroying one Arab society after another and they might lessen the anger. Put a no fly zone over Gaza to Prevent war crimes against Palestinian citizens and arrest Netanyahu for war crimes - and then watch the change of attitude towards the West.
      The CIA made common cause with the Islamicists during the Cold war. It used the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a bulwark against the Soviets; it backed extremists against Sukarno in Indonesia, and did the same against Bhutto in Pakistan. Al Qaeda was trained by the CIA and funded by the Saudis during the Afghan war against the Soviets. The senior US diplomat James Jeffrey said that Al Qaeda rebranded was an asset for the US in Syria. Al Nusra was backed by the Saudis with US approval - one of its key commanders said in 2016 the US was backing it indirectly with military hardware.
      So rather than depict the US as some sort of opponent of these people, try showing it in its proper light.
      Too many on the Left do show indulgence to theocratic fascists. But that detracts not in the slightest that the US has long did likewise. We should look no further than the Saudis.

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  4. Every branch of Irish America has backed American imperialism. No support from Noraid for hunger strikers in Guantanomo. British imperialism bad, American imperialism rules okay . ๐Ÿ˜ž

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  5. I'm glad you referred to the Soviet Union Anthony. Too much commentary relating to Afghanistan starts at 9/11. Many people have short memories and they often conveniently forget the sordid role the Britz and Americans had in the shaping, arming and training of the 'mujahideen', leading of course to the formation of many bastard offshoots. I often think that if the west had backed the Soviets in Afghanistan, how much better the world would be today. A hypothetical proposition for sure, but I am convinced of it.

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    1. Skin - PDPA took over in 78 without the input of the Soviets. The Soviets welcomed the move. The PDPA moved to implement separation of Islam and state, banning of sharia law and and the emancipation of women. And who opposed it, involving themselves prior to the Soviets? The US who began furtively backing the mujahedin operating out of Pakistan in July 79.

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  6. If the Palestinians were to be granted full statehood (which of course they should be), that would not make one whit of difference to Al-Qaeda and ISIS as in their opinion the Palestinian leadership are bad Muslims who they, given the opportunity, they would violently oppose and depose these "heretics". Jihadists do not recognise Palestinians as a distinct national or ethnic community; they are regarded as part of the Caliphate just as Arab dictators like Assad see them as part of one undifferentiated Arab mass.

    I am quite well aware of the common cause made by the CIA with Islamists during the Cold war and the monster it created in the pro cess which had to be confronted and faced down later. Just as backing Saddam Hussein against Iran for realpolitik reasons by the West created a monster which had to be confronted after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait Just as appeasement of fascism in the 1930s could never put off the need to confront it in World war II.

    Prior to 9/11, there had been no invasion of Arab or Muslim countries. Degrees of involvement in their affairs but nothing to legitimise the senses of faux victimhood from which jihadism (and past and contemporary European far right movements) emerges.

    The violent misogyny, homophobia and sectarianism of Sunni Jihadism is as integral to it as race hatred and antisemitism was to Nazism and anti-Vietnamese racism was to the Khmer Rouge. it is the "godlessness", "decadence" and sexual permissiveness of the West which really attracts the ire of jihadism just as it does fundamentalist Christianity. Both use false narratives of persecution of their religion as excuses for the bigotry and violence they peddle. Neither victimhood deserves any sort of hearing or rationale.

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  7. A resolution to the Palestinian question would not make a difference to the outlook of the ideologues in Al Qaeda and Isis but it would certainly make a difference to their ability and support. US involvement in the Middle East and its support of brutal regimes has long fueled these movements. If the US was not such a significant sponsor of international terrorism, it is safe to venture that the Caliphate devotees would be much less swollen by grievance culture. As a commentator said around the time of 9/11, they don't bomb the West because they hate it but because they want to be treated the same.
    Prior to 9/11 the burning issue for many people in those countries was the US support for the terror state of Israel and the corrupt oppressive regimes that were keeping them downtrodden. Just imagine a no fly zone over Gaza - just think of how that would have worked on perceptions in the Middle East.
    As for the fundamentalist fanatics - they are from the same litter as the war criminal who previously led the party you are a member of. He proclaimed to the world that god had told him to invade Iraq. They do use false narratives but so did the West. You only seem interested in unpicking one.

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  8. In 2010-11 people across the MENA region rose up against their oppressive regimes to assert their rights to dignity and human rights and democracy. Not a jihadi in sight. Not a mention of the Zionist entity which all Arab regimes of whatever ideological hue use to deflect from their failings.

    Response of the "antiimperialist" left? A CIA plot to ensure the steady flow of hydrocarbons to the West. Response of the isolationist right? Arabs are not temperamentally fit for democracy. Both perspectives come together in Syria to keep the Assad family and so provide another jihadi cause celebre just as Bosnia and the failure of the West to take action radicalised an earlier generation of Muslims in a way that Palestine never could. Russian treatment of Chechnya and Chinese persecution of Uighurs further examples of radicalising potential. Western involvement?

    A no fly zone over Gaza would be a good idea. Would also stop rockets aimed at civilian targets from the opposite direction. Even if the US stopped supporting Israel tomorrow, jihadis would still be affronted by the presence of a Jewish homeland in Muslim lands.

    Finally, it was the UK parliament that made the mistaken decision to invade Iraq not merely Tony Blair just as it was parliament that made the equally mistaken decision not to punish the Assad regime when WMD were used in plain sight in Syria.

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    1. The Arab regimes have always been corrupt and vengeful - and often held in place by the US. Assad was the US go to man for rendition and torture.

      The UK parliament acted on the lies Blair told them. I doubt it would have approved had he told them he was making it up about WMD. And still Der Starmer (the former Director of Prosecutions) has not called for him to be arrested and brought before the Hague. He told the Financial Times Labour should be very proud of the Labour record under Blair. Now, here is a guy who is a huge war criminal being given that kind of accolade. Why is he not in handcuffs? When people in the Middle East see that level of cynicism, small wonder they turn to groups like Al Qaeda and Isis. And of course when the Saudi sponsored High Negotiating Committee was put together for talks in Geneva, the US backed it. And who was nominated as the Syrian opposition for those talks? The Jihadis.

      Here is what Finian Cunningham said about that:

      In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh, the two other major militant groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, are vehemently committed to forming a Caliphate based on Salafi or Wahhabi ideology. That ideology views all other religious faiths, including moderate Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia and Alawites, as “infidels” fit to be persecuted until death.

      Leaders of both Jaysh and Ahrar have publicly declared their repudiation of democracy.


      The rockets that the no fly zone would stop are pretty lame in comparison to the firepower of the terror state. Hamas has the same right to respond to the terror state as the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto had to the vastly superior Nazi forces. When they killed 67 Israeli terrorists during Israel's war of terror in 2014, I certainly did not grieve. I did not approve the deaths of six Israeli civilians. As I wrote in 2006 during the Israeli war of terror in the Lebanon: Civilians have a greater right not to be killed than the military has a right to kill them. That should be the one rule of war, to be trumped by no other.

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  9. Can I recommend an interesting documentary on Labour's war criminal extraordinaire? The Killing$ of Tony Blair. It left me speechless.

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  10. The head of the CIA met with one of the founders of the Taliban on Monday. https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/south-asia/afghanistan-cia-director-taliban-b1907767.html Afghanistan may be an impoverished nation but like so many similar it has an abundance of resources, particularly minerals, and there's the multi-billion dollar opium harvest. From an exploiter's perspective the Taliban can best deliver a stable environment for exploitation. If you listen closely you might just hear the sound of squeaky burqas.

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