Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Why Afghanistan was Lost: US (and NATO) Created the Wrong Sort of Afghan Army–and Then Left it in the Lurch

This is the fundamental mistake the US military almost always makes in major support missions; when will they ever learn? Quote is from p. 2 PDF of SIGAR report discussed below:

…the United States designed the ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] as a mirror image of U.S. forces. This created long-term ANDSF dependencies. The United States created a combined arms military structure that required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership.

From a story at Politico by an excellent reporter:

‘A red light blinking’: Watchdog thrashes Trump, Biden administrations for Afghanistan failures

Once the decision was made to pull the last Americans from Afghanistan, collapse was “inevitable,” the special inspector general said.

By Lara Seligman

John Sopko has been the bearer of bad news in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years. So when President Ashraf Ghani’s government collapsed in August 2021, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction was not surprised, he told POLITICO in an interview.

Sopko’s team, charged by Congress with providing independent oversight of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, repeatedly warned in quarterly reports leading up to Kabul’s fall of significant challenges facing the Afghan national defense and security forces. Due to its dependence on the U.S. military and contractors, the decision to withdraw this support destroyed the Afghan military’s morale.

Once the decision was made to pull the last Americans from Afghanistan, collapse was “inevitable,” Sopko said.

“There was a red light blinking on Afghanistan for years saying ‘watch out,’” Sopko said. “Once the morale collapsed, that was it.”

Sopko’s latest interim report, out Wednesday, is the first U.S. government report on how and why the Afghan security force crumbled — and it pulls no punches. The report unequivocally calls out former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden for their decisions to withdraw U.S. military and critical contractor support from Afghanistan, calling this “the single most important factor” in the military’s collapse [emphasis added].

“We built that army to run on contractor support. Without it, it can’t function. Game over,” one former U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Sopko’s office, according to the report. “When the contractors pulled out, it was like we pulled all the sticks out of the Jenga pile and expected it to stay up.”..

The U.S.-Taliban agreement under Trump and subsequent announcement that the U.S. military would withdraw by May 2021 had a devastating effect on the Afghan military’s morale and was a “catalyst” for its collapse, the report states. One former Afghan commander told the IG that the agreement’s “psychological impact” was such that many soldiers “switched to survival mode.”

The release of 5,000 Taliban fighters in the summer and fall of 2020 further demoralized the Afghan military and helped regenerate the Taliban’s combat power, according to the report.

“We tend to think of the Afghan military as, ‘Oh, they didn’t do any fighting,’” Sopko told POLITICO. “No — a lot of them fought and died.”

The withdrawal agreement, parts of which “are believed to be contained in secret written and verbal agreements between U.S. and Taliban envoys,” introduced “tremendous uncertainty” into the U.S.-Afghan relationship, the report states. Afghan government officials were largely removed from the negotiations and struggled to understand its stipulations [emphasis added]. The U.S. military never clearly communicated the specifics of its policy changes to the Ghani administration or army leadership, Afghan officials told Sopko’s office…

The Taliban “weaponized” the vacuum created by the lack of information, claiming they had a secret deal with the United States “for certain districts or provinces to be surrendered to them,” according to the report. This led many police officers, who had not been paid for months, to abandon their posts, which started “a cascading effect” and led to soldiers fleeing as well.

“As much as I hate giving the Taliban any credit for anything … they did a fantastic psychological operation against the poor soldiers who are out there in the field, who haven’t seen their pay, haven’t seen any weapons or air support for weeks,” Sopko said.

Another crucial factor that contributed to low morale was the decision to suddenly reduce the number of U.S. airstrikes supporting the Afghan military [emphasis added], the report says. The United States conducted 7,423 airstrikes in 2019 — the most since at least 2009. But the next year the number of airstrikes dropped to 1,631, with almost half occurring in the two months before the U.S.-Taliban agreement…On the ground, Afghan troops never knew if or when U.S. forces would come to their defense. One former Afghan general told the IG that the U.S. military “took on the role of a referee and watched” the fight, something the general referred to as “a sick game.”

Low salaries, poor logistics that led to food, water and ammunition shortages, corrupt commanders who “colluded with contractors to skim off food and fuel contracts,” and “lack of ANDSF buy-in with the Afghan central government” all contributed to the “morale crisis,” according to the report.

The report also highlights the effect of Biden’s April 2021 withdrawal announcement on Ghani’s government. One senior Afghan official told the IG that it was not until that declaration that Ghani’s inner circle realized the army “had no supply and logistics capability [emphasis added].”

The decision to withdraw on-site contract maintenance beginning in May 2021 led to a cascade of problems, including reducing aircraft availability. The Afghan security forces had stockpiles of U.S.-provided weapons and supplies “but did not have the logistics capability” to quickly move them…

“The quest to withdraw from Afghanistan dominated the United States’ military strategy, but the U.S. wanted to ensure the ANDSF had the appearance of success,” the report concludes. “In essence, the U.S. created a false reality with the ANDSF.”..Overall, Sopko’s office concluded that the U.S. did not have a “realistic understanding” of the time required to build a “self-sustaining security sector,” something that took decades to develop in South Korea.

“Constantly changing and politically driven milestones for U.S. engagement undermined its ability to set realistic goals for building a capable and self-sustaining military and police force,” the report says. “Adapting a decades-long process to an unrealistically short timeline was reminiscent of the U.S. experiences in Vietnam.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.

No kidding. Sigh. If one gives up, even if not defeated oneself, before achieving an end state that is even minimally satisfying then one loses. And the US cannot expect to win creating forces that are essentially replica models of their own in countries with no capacity to sustain such forces. Foolish, foolish, foolish.

UPDATE: Another major problem with the American (and Canadian and many other militaries’) way of expeditionary war: officers and commanders serve short tours of a few months or a year. This means that the main interest for a great number of them is to punch career tickets to get along and get up the greasy promotion pole. They certainly have little incentive to point out what they consider failings in policy or practice. And short tours give them nowhere near enough time or motivation really to understand the country and people where they serve–much less to learn local languages with any degree of fluency.

Relevant 2021 posts, along similar lines to the SIGAR study:

Pity the Poor Afghans, or, Who Lost Afghanistan (note UPDATE at end)?

How the US Military (and other Western ones) Blew it in Afghanistan (with UPDATE)

The One Thing to Read on the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

“Podcast #162: Journalist and Book Author Terry Glavin on the Fall of Kabul and the Fate of Afghanistan”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Afghanistan: Pak Military vs Pak Taliban Across the Durand Line (plus UPDATE on murderous ISIS attacks in Afghanistan)

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Twenty-seven members of one family were buried in a mass grave in Mandatah. It was marked with white flags and 27 piles of stones.”)

Now that the (for years heavily Pakistan-backed) Afghan Taliban are firmly (sort of) back in power, the Pak military are increasingly exasperated with their protégé’s’ tolerance/protection of their Pak brethren in Afghanistan.

First two tweets,

and now from a NY Times report vividly describing the aftermath of the strikes mentioned just above (and the background to them)–can’t say Kabul wasn’t warned:

More personal accounts of the attacks and their aftermath conclude the story.

That tweet, from Terrific Terry Glavin:

Plus these earlier ones. Bloody ISIS:

UPDATE: More on ISIS’s muderous attacks at Defense One’s “D Brief“:

Another explosion at a mosque in Kabul killed at least 66 people on Friday. A suicide bomber struck as “worshippers at the Sunni mosque gathered after Friday prayers for a congregation known as Zikr—an act of religious remembrance practised by some Muslims but seen as heretical by some hardline Sunni groups,” Reuters reported from the Afghan capital.
UN offers sympathy and condemnation. “Attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including mosques, are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. “It was not immediately clear who was responsible,” Reuters continued. “Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in recent weeks in blasts, some of which have been claimed by Islamic State.”
ICYMI:Islamic State claims deadly bomb blasts on minibuses in Afghan city,” via Agence France-Presse, reporting Thursday from Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north. ..

And a related recent post:

Pakistan’s Violent Islamic Fundamentalism

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

The Dragon’s Growing Embrace of the Taliban–and the Poor Uyghurs (what East Turkestan Independence Movement anyway?)

It certainly looks like the PRC is working to become at least close to the paramount power in Afghanistan–and that the Talibs are willing to turn a blind eye, in return for Chinese backing, to what is happening in Xinjiang (known by many Uyghurs as “East Turkestan”). Also, what might the Taliban do with Uyghurs in Afghanistan to keep Beijing happy? Then there’s the Islamic State Khorasan factor, in Afghanistan itself vs the Talibs and perhaps trying the reach into Xinjiang. Several moving parts at play. At the Globe and Mail:

Chinese Foreign Minister meets Taliban officials as Afghan Islamic State affiliate appears to adopt Uyghur cause

James Griffiths

Asia correspondent Hong Kong

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up a series of meetings with top Taliban officials in Doha this week, as the militants continue to court Beijing for assistance in rebuilding Afghanistan.

A video posted Tuesday [Oct. 26] by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid showed Mr. Wang receiving a gift from his Taliban counterpart, Amir Khan Muttaqi, in the Qatari capital. On Monday, the Chinese official met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban deputy prime minister.

According to Chinese state media, Mr. Wang pressed both men for assurances the Taliban were “making a clean break” with the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Beijing has long blamed the ETIM for terrorist attacks and unrest in China, particularly in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, though independent analysts are skeptical of Chinese claims about the group’s size and capabilities [emphasis added].

State media quoted Mr. Baradar as saying the Taliban “attaches great importance to China’s security concerns and will resolutely honour its promise and never allow any forces to use Afghan territory to harm China.” Taliban statements did not mention the terrorism issue, focusing instead on economic co-operation.

Beijing has been tentatively supportive of the new Afghan government since the Taliban swept to power in August…

…Prior to their takeover, Afghanistan was dependent on international aid for about 40 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank, and the country’s economy has been in free fall since August.

China has appeared willing to step in and fill this gap, though not nearly as fast as the Taliban would like. In Doha, Mr. Wang urged the U.S. and other Western countries to lift sanctions on the group and “engage with the Afghan Taliban in a rational and pragmatic manner to help Afghanistan embark on a path of healthy development,” according to state media.

He also called on the Taliban to “effectively protect the rights and interests of women and children,” a key sticking point for the international community [one doubts the PRC is at all serious about this, just playing to that–mythical–“international community“].

But Chinese officials remain wary of a potential security vacuum on the border of Xinjiang, where Beijing has been accused of interning millions of Uyghurs…One of its justifications for the crackdown in the region is the alleged threat of terrorism, which China has mostly linked to ETIM [emphasis added].

Most public information about ETIM comes from Chinese sources, and Beijing has blamed the group for protests and other unrest in Xinjiang to which it has no apparent link, including incidents China has previously laid at the feet of other Uyghur groups.

According to Sean Roberts, author of The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign Against a Muslim Minority, even ETIM’s name itself deserves skepticism.

“As far as I can tell, no group has ever called itself the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement or ETIM,” he writes. “However, the group of Uyghurs that is usually associated with the ETIM label did exist and did establish a community in Afghanistan between 1998 and 2001 with the intent of initiating an insurgency inside China, a goal it never came close to attaining [emphasis added].”

Mr. Roberts and other experts argue China has used the ETIM label to conflate a number of mostly tiny militant groups or extremists – some Uyghur separatists, some Islamists – in order to justify the crackdown in Xinjiang.

ETIM was designated a terror group by the U.S. during the George W. Bush administration, when Washington was cultivating Chinese support for the “war on terror.” But last year, the State Department delisted the group, saying that “for more than a decade, there has been no credible evidence that ETIM continues to exist [emphasis added].

…both the main Islamic State organization and its Afghan affiliate [IS-K] have largely avoided targeting China or even using the plight of the Uyghurs in their propaganda. This may be changing, according to Nodirbek Soliev, a senior analyst with the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

[The group has a] growing disappointment with Beijing’s evolving diplomatic and economic engagement with the Taliban,” he wrote this week, using an alternative acronym for the group. “For ISK, a stronger Taliban state means more serious challenges to its ambitions and survival in Afghanistan. Increased Chinese involvement in the post-Taliban Afghanistan will further antagonize IS and ISK.”

Mr. Soliev added that ISIS-K may see the Taliban’s apparent willingness to deport Uyghurs as an opportunity to “position itself as a new protector,” increasing its opportunities for recruitment [emphasis added].

The Uyghurs just keep getting squeezed.:

Researchers Say Islamic World ‘Actively Collaborating’ With China’s Global Campaign Against Uyghurs

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The Remnants of Canadian Diplomacy in Kabul (with video)

What a sad pity, especially regarding the Gurkhas. There is a personal aside at the end of the post–brief excerpts from a story at the Globe and Mail :

The video:

The personal aside. From 1975 to 1977 I was a very junior diplomat, on my first posting at the Canadian embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan (our mission was an embassy, not a high commission, as Pakistan had left the Commonwealth at the time). We also covered Afghanistan from Pakistan, with the Canadian embassy, Afghanistan, consisting of one room on the first (ground) floor of the British embassy chancery. The chancery itself was set in a grand, walled residential compound, built in the 1920s, at the northern end of Kabul. The compound, as with our own embassy much later downtown, was guarded by a detachment of Gurkhas from Nepal. A photo of the chancery building:

And a house on the compound (I stayed at the Hotel Kabul, downtown, redone in the early 2000s as the much fancier Kabul Serena Hotel):

There is a brief history of the compound here. Within our one-room embassy we had a Canadian safe and our own office materials including a stamp saying “Embassy of Canada, Afghanistan/Ambassade du Canada, Afghanistan”. Stored in the safe were a few blank Canadian passports; I probably issued the last hand-written Canadian passport (in green ink, take that “C”) as we had yet to furnish the office with a passport typewriter (soon done).

I would come up to Kabul from Islamabad with an embassy car and driver three or four times a year for a visit of around ten days. The car would be a honking great V-8 Ford Torino station wagon that I would drive myself in the evening when having supper at a restaurant.

I must say I had, and still have, a great affection for the peoples of Afghanistan, initially formed when a few years earlier as a traveller I had passed through the country on local buses. The route was Khyber Pass, Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, spending some time in Kabul, on my way west to Europe. Good old days and all that.

I should also note that my best friend while I was in Islamabad was a young Pathan around my age.

For images of Kabul, a few other parts of the country and of some Afghans then and earlier have a look here:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Time for Canada to get Tough on Pakistan for its Support of Talibs and Terrorism

That’s the thrust of a new “Commentary” at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute–here’s the covering news release from the MLI–an excellent, conservative-leaning (and hence rare here) Canadian think tank:


OTTAWA, ON (September 9, 2021): Following the departure of American troops, Afghanistan rapidly fell to the Taliban and virtually overnight, the hard-won gains that Canadians and the international coalition had made over the past two decades were quickly reversed. While some attribute this failure to the West’s alleged “imperialistic ambitions,” and others point to the cultural mismatch between the West and Afghanistan, author Akhil Ramesh places the blame squarely on the critical role played by Pakistan.

In a new MLI commentary titled “Pakistan’s use of terror as a tool of statecraft,” Ramesh examines how Pakistan has sponsored, trained, sheltered and supported the Taliban. According to Ramesh, this is all part of Pakistan’s military doctrine of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan. In other words, Pakistan has used groups like the Taliban as proxies in an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, which, in its view, was allied with Pakistan’s adversary, India.

“To many victims of Pakistan’s terror campaign in Afghanistan and India, the overarching questions have centred on the relative silence of Western media outlets and on the absence of any decisive and corrective action against Pakistan as punishment for its many aggressive activities,” notes Ramesh.

To confront the reality the world faces in Afghanistan, Ramesh urges Ottawa to deviate from Washington and chart its own independent foreign policy for South Asia. He offers the following policy recommendations for Canadian decision-makers:

*List Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism and add it to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist;

*Impose targeted economic sanctions on Pakistani generals, businessmen, and security contractors involved in supporting the Taliban and other proxy forces;

*Support the Afghan diaspora and democratic activists in the West speaking out against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror; and

*Adopt the French model over the American one to address “Islamo-Leftism,” that is, the alignment of interests and goals between the most radical elements of the far left and Islamist radicals.

“In order to support the Afghans and the other victims of Pakistan’s proxy war, including the Paki­stani people, Ottawa should incubate and provide a platform for the coura­geous souls speaking out against Pakistan’s use of terror,” writes Ramesh…

Akhil Ramesh is a researcher and scholar, currently serving as a Nonresident Fellow with the Pacific Forum, Hawaii, USA. Previously, he worked on track 1.5/2 diplomacy initiatives for think tanks and on Asia focused consulting projects for risk consulting firms in New York City and Washington D.C.

Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan in noted towards the end of the main quote at this recent post:

The One Thing to Read on the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

And see this 2011 article at the National Post on the key role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in supporting the Taliban vs Afghanistan, from the superb Terry Glavin who has had his ear to the Afghan ground for a long time

A nail in the coffin of the Pakistani pantomime

PREDATE: Here’s the bio for Macdonald-Laurier Institute fellow Shuvaloy Majumdar whose tweet follows (click on the CBC link for the video):


UPDATE: Former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander lays it all out about the Pak army and Afghanistan–the conclusion of his piece:

The ‘forever war’ against Afghanistan that we couldn’t end

Al-Qaida and Taliban aren’t ‘insurgents,’ they’re highly trained proxy armies of Pakistan

None of the four U.S. presidents since 2001 has come close to ending Pakistan’s aggression.

As a result, Pakistan’s 50-year-old “forever war” against Afghanistan rolls on.

By failing to stop it, the U.S. and its allies are still exhibiting moral bankruptcy.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Trudeau says: “F..k our Afghans”

That’s the essential message of this editorial at the Globe and Mail, a centrist newspaper and generally considered Canada’s best. Wow. And note “PREDATE” at end:

Ministers, government have failed those fleeing Afghanistan

It is profoundly dislocating to be compelled to ask during an election, Where has our government gone?

Where is the all-of-government co-ordination of the Armed Forces, the commercial airliners, the rescue mission to help the more than 1,200 still-stranded Canadians in Afghanistan?

Why the molasses-slow response to lifesaving demands for essential paperwork for those brave Afghans, an estimated 2,100, who risked their lives for Canadian soldiers and who now surely have a debt to be repaid to them by our government, and on an urgent basis?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, under Marco Mendicino’s direction, has failed epically to deliver on its promises to provide essential paperwork in time for those who had a chance to escape Afghanistan in the first days after the Taliban takeover…

So while challenges closer to home, from the economy to climate change to ever drunker government spending, are a focus for this election, there is an additional element to consider as we get closer to voting: The duty of care.

It is, or rather was, a solemn responsibility; in fact, our promise to look after those in need was so much a part of our national DNA that it was never disputed.

That promise has turned in just two weeks into a lie. This is what happens when the stewards of our institutions abandon them for self-gain [emphasis added].

What does it even mean to be Canadian when cabinet ministers, led by the Prime Minister and his loyal deputy, act as if they are impotent to make a difference at scale in our name? [See the two stories at the bottom of this post.]

Only NGOs and private donations are making real-time differences on the ground in Afghanistan. This is wrong…

The Liberals made clear during the investigation into the removal of scientists from the national research lab in Winnipeg [see this post and “Comments”: “PRC/PLA-linked Security Scandal at Canadian Microbiology Lab goes Patently Viral“] that Parliament is, in their arrogance, subservient to them. State secrets are for the Liberals to keep and leak, not Parliament. At least when they form government. We couldn’t disagree more.

As Afghanistan fell, Justin Trudeau convinced himself that collapsing Parliament on a whim was both the right, and the best, thing to do. He was wrong.

Today, not tomorrow, we must rebuild our means to defend and support our citizens wherever they may be, as well as those who helped Canada in her hour of need. We will never find comfort in the Liberal Leader’s corrupted line that we will “get through this together.” He doesn’t mean it. Only certain people matter to Mr. Trudeau – the ones he uses to prosecute identity politics for the singular purpose of furthering his destiny [emphasis added].

Actively placing the desperate of Afghanistan and the Canadians still stranded at the bottom of the pile is a sin of commission. More could have been done and was not, because in the final analysis, those lives were not deemed to be worth fighting for during an election [emphasis added].

Yet when you meet the brave and the lonely and you hear why they risked everything to confront the Taliban, it is because these Afghans and Canadians saw a choice. Together they chose the Canadian way. That sense of hope and of duty deserves to be protected, not flushed away by the very government whose responsibility it is to uphold.

Wow. Those stories:

1) Globe and Mail:

2) Ottawa Sun:

Stranded Afghan interpreters running out of options

Author of the article: Joe Warmington

PREDATE: See what PM Trudeau and his government were up to in March 2020 just as the pandemic was taking hold–from the Calgary Herald:

Trudeau’s attempted power grab an alarming breach of trust

Were Parliament to grant the government that power to tax and spend money without Parliamentary oversight they would have fundamentally changed the Canadian Constitution in a way that would be extremely deleterious to the operation of government in this country. David Bercuson

Author of the article: Licia Corbella

“Any needless concentration of power is a menace to freedom,“ Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Something happened in Canada on Tuesday, March 24 that has never happened before and hopefully will never happen again.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his minority government tried to sneak a power grab never before seen in our history into its emergency spending bill that would have, in essence, ripped up the Canadian Constitution, trampled the Magna Carta, damaged the very raison d’etre of Parliament and the role of the opposition and spit on the war graves of those who have fought and died for Canada’s democratic way of life.

And yet, how many Canadians even know that this has happened as most of the country’s focus is on COVID-19 and its rapid spread around the world? The National broadcast on CBC barely mentioned this troubling attempt at an unprecedented power grab on Wednesday [Mother Corpse is largely in the PM’s pocket].

Yet, this is precisely how democracies die — when worried citizens don’t stand on guard for their democratic institutions during a time of crisis.

On Tuesday, a smattering of MPs returned to the House of Commons, which had been recessed from March 13 until at least April 20, to vote on an $82-billion emergency spending bill to rapidly get money into the hands of struggling Canadians who are unable to work as a result of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Every opposition party had made it clear to the ruling Liberal government that they would fully co-operate and quickly pass Bill C-13 in one day. The Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc showed good faith in the government, but the government did not return that good faith. When the opposition parties saw a copy of the draft of the COVID-19 bill, there was a clause in it that would have granted the finance minister the right to spend money, tax Canadians, and purchase or hold a company’s shares without the approval of Parliament until Dec. 31, 2021, or until the first day of 2022 — a span of 21 months [emphasis added].

“We recognize that this pandemic is moving extremely quickly and it is an exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and rapidity,” Trudeau said when questioned by reporters outside of Rideau Cottage, where he is self-isolating.

In essence, the PM was taking advantage of this pandemic to seize power and strengthen his minority government — which is not unlike what those hoarders do who buy up flats of disinfectant wipes to profiteer during this crisis — only on a much grander and vile scale.

When it became obvious that the passage of the bill was stalled because of his government’s underhanded attempt to usurp the power of Parliament, Trudeau then sent out a tweet saying: “The legislation will be tabled without Clause 2.”..

After pushback from the opposition, the Trudeau government will still have six months of special spending powers until Sept. 30, with Parliamentary committee oversight…

Pre-wow. Fellow just can’t stand that pesky Parliament when he cannot completely control it.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Afghanistan: “Roadkill of Empires”

(Image at top of the post is of the Persian Safavid Empire which contested what is now Afghanistan with the Mughal Empire in Delhi during the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries until a distinctly Afghan state emerged for the first time in 1747, more here.)

Excerpts below from a history piece at Politico–some realities that our hordes of pundits, reporters, and politicians should bloody well know but are too intellectually lazy to bone up on. Shameful but typical of today’s world.

The Old Cliché About Afghanistan That Won’t Die

‘Graveyard of Empires’ is an old epitaph that doesn’t reflect historical reality…

[By] Kevin Baker is an author [website here], most recently of America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World.

…Afghanistan, in its long existence, has sadly been more like the roadkill of empires —a victim to their ambitions…

…the peoples living in what is Afghanistan today have resisted mightily one haughty conqueror after another who swaggered down the Hindu Kush. Alexander the Great faced fierce opposition from locals when he invaded around 330 B.C., and received a nasty leg wound from an arrow. But he ultimately smashed that resistance, founded what became the modern city of Kandahar and pushed on to India — leaving behind the Seleucid Empire, which lasted for 250 years. Genghis Khan conquered Afghanistan. So did Timur, better known as Tamerlane, and his descendant Babur. So did the Turks and the Huns, the Hindus and Islamic Arabs, the Persians and the Parthians. So did numerous empires, peoples and tyrants you’ve probably never heard of: the Greco-Bactrians, the Indo-Scythians, the Kushans, the Sassanian Empire, the Maurys Empire, the Gahznavids, the Uzbeks, the Safavids and the Hotak dynasty. Most of them stayed for decades, even centuries.

The idea that Afghanistan was some kind of geopolitical quicksand for empires seems to have started with the First Anglo-Afghan War, which ended in 1842. An army of 4,700 British and Indian soldiers retreating from Kabul was slaughtered nearly to a man near the village of Gandamak, along with at least 12,000 civilians traveling with the army. The debacle was a major scandal back in London. It also came at a moment when England’s penny dreadfuls and its narrators of the travails and glories of empire were hitting their stride. Much like the tabloids and instant TV news of today, their reports and images served to horrify and enrage audiences at home. (They also played into the racist, Western fascination, one that lasted throughout the 19th century and beyond, with the idea of a gallant band of doomed, white warriors fighting to the last while helplessly outnumbered by “savages”: the Afghans in Gandamak or the Sioux and Cheyenne at the Little Bighorn, the Turks at Balaclava, the Zulus at Isandlwana.)

Less frequently mentioned in recollections of Gandamak is that Britain sent an “army of retribution” into Afghanistan a few months later, one that crushed every Afghan army sent against it, looted and razed numerous towns and villages in its path, and finally sacked Kabul — burning the dazzling Char-Chatta Bazaar there in a final spasm of vengeance. Britain would return to stomp Afghanistan in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, which ended in 1880 [see last tweet at bottom of this post]...

Some relevant tweets:

Note also this post:

The One Thing to Read on the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

UPDATE: Note all the founded in what is now Afghanistan–by the way Kandahar comes from Alexander. Some graveyard:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Afghanistan and PM Trudeau Government Friday Headlines

Further to this post,

Afghanistan: Thursday Canadian Opinion Round-Up

if you were someone stuck in Afghanistan trying to get to Canada how would these ones make you fell? From the necessary Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs at the Canadian Forces College (contents at webpage will change daily):

Canadian News

CBC News
Canada urges those left in Afghanistan to stay put and not lose hope

The Globe and Mail
Canada ends Kabul rescue flights, texts those left behind to stay indoors

The Canadian Press
Canadian woman stuck in Afghanistan worries she will die as military ends operation

Reassuring, eh? A tweet very much to the point:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Afghanistan: Thursday Canadian Opinion Round-Up (note UPDATE)

And all these–largely from one small-c leaning chain it must be said–before the murderous terrorist attacks at Kabul airport, do dip into the pieces–not good looks (as we say these days) for PM Trudeau or President Biden. From the daily, almost essential, Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs (both Canadian and non-Canadian sources, page will be changed after this post) from the Canadian Forces College (staff college):

Canadian Commentary

The Editorial Board | The Globe and Mail
Ottawa bungled the Afghan rescue operation, and Afghans relying on Canada will die because of it

Matt Gurney | Postmedia News
The Taliban are not ‘our brothers’ Ms. MonsefMoreMore

Tasha Kheiriddin | Postmedia News
The Liberals have no clue on foreign policy: ‘Our brothers’ gaffe just the latest failure

John Ivison | Postmedia News
It is clear where the Liberal leader’s priorities lie, and it is not with those stuck in Afghanistan

Tristin Hopper | Postmedia News
A mounting cascade of Canadian failures in Afghanistan

Derek H. Burney [former Canadian ambassador to US] | Postmedia News
Dissecting Joe Biden’s Afghan debacle: Never to be trusted again

Konrad Yakabuski | The Globe and Mail
Biden keeps digging himself a hole on Afghanistan

Terry Glavin | Postmedia News
The people of Afghanistan have been delivered into the hands of bloodthirsty tyrants

Where it will all end knows only…very relevant posts:

The One Thing to Read on the Fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban

Kabul and the Flailing, Failing, Incompetent Canadian Government

UPDATE: A must long-read by the excellent Tom Blackwell at the National Post:

The long struggle to get Canada’s allies out of Afghanistan — and how it ended in chaos
‘We are going to lose more of the people and their family members…. That blood is on our government’s hands’…

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Kabul and the Flailing, Failing, Incompetent Canadian Government

Excerpts below from a real, and I believe accurate, cris de coeur about the sad, sorry state of our increasingly incapable federal government (but thank goodness for the Canadian Armed Forces, constantly coming to the rescue of various levels of government, e.g. “Coronavirus: Canadian military arrives at 5 Ontario long-term care homes struggling with COVID-19″). At the website The Line:

Lauren Dobson-Hughes: Canada is no longer ‘fit for purpose’

COVID and now Afghanistan are showing us how deeply dysfunctional our institutions have become

Watching Canada’s reaction to the human crisis unfolding in Afghanistan has been deeply shameful; not least because our inability to respond quickly and effectively was entirely predictable. For years, many who work in foreign affairs or development have identified institutional challenges. Canada simply doesn’t have the capacity to deliver.

These challenges aren’t restricted to international affairs — we saw them over and over domestically during the pandemic. They aren’t new, nor are they restricted to one stripe of government (although they have certainly manifested differently under Liberal and Conservative governments). Their impact has been quietly costly, but usually in a drip-drip way only noticed by people paying attention. Our decline manifests in a hundred missed opportunities, confused processes, responses so late they are almost useless, or woeful underfunding.

Now the mounting crisis in Afghanistan has provided a perfect storm; a microcosm in which long-term problems have crystallized in a single devastating and very visible way — Canada’s embarrassing failure to protect and evacuate Afghans to whom it owes a debt of safety. Kevin Newman’s excellent pieces describe the disgraceful and callous treatment of vulnerable people that may well have cost them their lives…

So what’s causing this? At the tactical level, it’s a collection of internal factors that probably sound boring — “ineffective inter-departmental coordination,” anyone? — but they matter. Put bluntly, if the three departments charged with responding to the situation in Afghanistan are too busy fighting each other in order to advance their own narrow interests, and their political masters are off seeking re-election, it becomes virtually impossible for us to pull off a quick evacuation of vulnerable people.

This is just the immediate failure. It’s the result of a longer-term decline: over time, we’ve allowed our institutional capacity to atrophy.We lack the data, systems, infrastructure and processes to address complex challenges. In Afghanistan, an underfunded, neglected diplomatic service left us without enough intel or people to properly understand or navigate the situation on the ground.

Add to that: a chronic problem of confused decision-making. If it’s not clear who should provide input into a decision, how and when they should do so, nor is it clear who the final decision-maker even is. This leads to frustration, infighting, and paralysis.

…the disaster on display is sadly typical. It’s classic Canadian risk aversion, leading to disastrous paralysis. This country’s bureaucracy tends to over-analyze issues until they are so fraught, that any action seems effectively impossible. Yet in crises, the risk of inaction is often greater than the risk presented by action itself. Inaction is also a risk. And in this case, the inaction may now come very visibly in the form of Afghan lives.

These sins may lie primarily with the culture of the bureaucracy, but they are greatly compounded by a lack of political oversight. With ministers occupied with running for re-election, and most political staff seconded to the campaign, it is clear there is a disconnect between what political levels are saying, and what bureaucratic levels are doing…

All of this culminates in yet another situation where Canada has spent years indulging in lofty rhetoric, for example, about a “feminist foreign policy,” or the international rules-based order, and yet when it comes time to put that rhetoric to work, we are largely absent. Our words should not exist as a political tool designed solely to signal how progressive and morally superior we are.

Our words mean things. Or, at least, they should.

When we say we have a feminist foreign policy, people draw logical conclusions about how we will therefore act. We cannot spend years lecturing others on refugees, repeating ad infinitum our welcoming of 25,000 Syrian people six years ago as our crowning achievement (like Germany hasn’t welcomed 800,000 in the same time), only to be unable to carry through in moments like this.

Even the few achievements we tout are, frankly, mediocre and misaligned with our inflated sense of our own importance…

We are ill-equipped, floundering, and as the Brits would say, not fit for purpose. The Afghanistan debacle should prompt serious thinking about how we were so woefully caught short, and unable to rise to the ideals we’ve been so vocal about. We built our systems, structures and cultures for a different time. They are now failing us, and fast. If this is Canada operating at its very maximum capacity, and the outcome in a crisis is broadly underwhelming, how will we fare when we are truly tested?

Lauren Dobson-Hughes is a consultant specializing in gender, health and rights [more here]. She was previously executive director of an international development NGO, and past president of Planned Parenthood. Lauren worked for the late NDP leader Jack Layton.

The Line is Canada’s last, best hope for irreverent commentary. We reject bullshit. We love lively writing. Please consider supporting us by subscribing. Follow us on Twitter @the_lineca. Fight with us on Facebook. Pitch us something: lineeditor@protonmail.com

Ouch, and the truth I think, to the max. A very relevant post from 2013:

Mark Collins – The Mandela Memorial Ceremony and Canada: “…a little people, a silly people…”

Sigh. And maybe we are now effectively cruel.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds