Rapid Taliban Takeover Shows How Little US Understood Afghanistan

Though the Taliban may be unpopular with many Afghans at least they are Afghans and not a propped-up government under foreign occupation, writes Joe Lauria.

CIA officer helps evacuees onto an Air America helicopter at 22 Gia Long Street, Saigon, April 29, 1975. (Hubert van Es/Wikipedia)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Biden administration officials on Thursday said they expected the Taliban to arrive in the Afghan capital in 30 days and were sending in troops to evacuate the U.S. embassy and U.S. civilians. Just three days later the Taliban surprised Washington by arriving in Kabul on Sunday. The Afghan president has fled the country.

How could the U.S. have gotten it so wrong?  How did the U.S. spend $83 billion training and equipping the Afghan army and see it fail so spectacularly?

The answer is that the United States has never understood, or cared to understand, Afghanistan from the first day its troops arrived in 2001 to the last diplomat leaving the country.

No doubt many Afghans fear a resumption of Taliban rule after two decades, with its draconian rules against music, the cinema and girls going to school.

But there is a reason why the Afghan military dissolved before the advancing Taliban, putting up no resistance whatsoever, despite Washington banking on them holding out for at least a month: the Taliban may be rotten but they are Afghans. They may impose an unpopular, repressive regime but they are not a foreign occupation force.

‘Afghan People Will Never Allow It’

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai used to be derisively called the “Mayor of Kabul.” His authority stopped at the city’s gates. Even while in power he blasted the United States for not caring about the country. “The United States and NATO have not respected our sovereignty. Whenever they find it suitable to them, they have acted against it. This has been a serious point of contention between us…,” he said in 2013.

“They commit their violations against our sovereignty and conduct raids against our people, air raids and other attacks in the name of the fight on terrorism and in the name of the resolutions of the United Nations. This is against our wishes and repeatedly against our wishes,” Karzai said. “The United States and its allies, NATO, continue to demand even after signing the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] they will have the freedom to attack our people, our villages. The Afghan people will never allow it.”

The U.S. may condemn Taliban rule, but it was instrumental in its creation by supporting mujahideen in the 1980s against a secular, Soviet-backed government that supported women’s rights. After 2001, propping up rulers in Kabul and warlords with pallets of cash, while trying to militarily conquer the towns and villages scattered across a vast, mountainous land, was doomed to fail. And why should it have succeeded?

Keeping U.S. and NATO forces in the country at best would have prolonged an endless stalemate. Joe Biden is being grilled alive, even by establishment Democrats, for the events unfolding at this moment. It may even be political suicide. But it was the right move to finally pull out.

The Taliban may keep girls out of school and kill civilians, but the U.S. and its NATO allies slaughtered Afghan girls and many thousands of other innocent people in atrocities over its two decades of trying to control the graveyard of empires. Read WikiLeaks‘ Afghan War Diary.


Americans liked to call Afghanistan the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. Well, Afghanistan is now America’s second Vietnam.

The comparisons are even in the mainstream media: Propping up corrupt regimes in Saigon and Kabul; the Pentagon Papers and the Afghanistan Papers showing how U.S. leaders lied in exactly the same manner about how both wars were progressing; and the latest comparison: the evacuation of the embassies in Saigon and Kabul.

More than 45 years after the U.S. quit Saigon in humiliating defeat there are still questions asked about what the U.S. motive for the war really was. Was it economic, strategic, ideological or all three? The same question can be asked as the U.S. quits Kabul in humiliating defeat.

It seemed a main reason was control of Afghanistan’s vast, untapped mineral wealth. Why would the U.S. leave that behind? Perhaps one should not be surprised in the not-too-distant future to see U.S. companies negotiating for digging rights with the Taliban. In the 1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal flew Taliban leaders to Houston to work on a pipeline deal.

These sorts of things have always seemed more important to U.S. interests than schoolgirls reading a book. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe  

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76 comments for “Rapid Taliban Takeover Shows How Little US Understood Afghanistan

    August 17, 2021 at 16:53

    Well said!

  2. Susan Leslie
    August 17, 2021 at 09:34

    This is all such a joke! We invade countries, steal their natural resources, bomb the shit out of them, kill millions and leave the rest starving. Hummm, wonder why the rest of the world HATES the USA – the Taliban has nothing on us…

  3. Hide Behind
    August 17, 2021 at 05:11

    Try looking what is o going in 20+ African nations as US and France try to gain control clear into Democratic Republic of Congo, seems that even people fDarkest Continent want to be own rulers.
    uS Flys from 35 to 100 sorties a day dropping 79 tons of.bom s daily.

    The money is not in winning the war, but is in the continuous making of war.
    US just sent a few hundred more combat troopto DRC. THERE ARE SOME 30+ PRIVATE CCORPORATE security firms based in Virginia now under state contracts Nd private corporate protection rackets in Africa.trump as President did not hide theft ofSyrianoil fields andgrain supplies Nd US Treasury just added Syriaunder its US Foreign owned assets list.
    Then he openly ztole all of Venezuelan refineries and gas oil and diesel distributors
    LocatedinUS andfotr good measure confiscated it gold reserves stored within US
    When foreign con erns who also have gold in US voiced concerns He gave veiled threat, stating ALL GOLD WITHIN US BORDERS IS US GOLD.
    US has always bee n a majority of things and murderssince killi g native Americans and Hawaii, Texas Philippines Okinawa Island chains Diego Gaecia andPacificIslanders homes.
    If I was world I would watch out as a wounded predator has been known to just go f’n bokers and strike out at anything that moves
    Watch out for lots of patriotic songs appearing and redneck sayi

  4. Zhu
    August 16, 2021 at 23:36

    The old “stab in the back” nonsense again. The US military LOST in Vietnam and in Afghanistan. The natives did now want us and our atrocities did not cow them. They threw us out. The Indians beat the Cowboys and the Cavalry.

  5. Zhu
    August 16, 2021 at 23:31

    Let’s hope US vassals like Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan, Australia, etc., note the latest US betrayal of allies and reassess their alliances. Do NOT count on Uncle Sam to help you.

  6. Consortiumnews.com
    August 16, 2021 at 23:12

    Many readers seem to have only read the headline. The article does not say the US did not understand its own motives and interests in Afghanistan. It says the US did not understand the culture and mentality of the Afghan people, in classic Orientalist mode, nor did they seem to care to understand, and that a hated foreign occupier is seen as worse than even the Taliban.

    • DW Bartoo
      August 17, 2021 at 07:53

      They (WE) did not “care” to “understand”.

      To imagine, for even an instant, that U$ wars of choice and aggression, war crimes, by the way, were/are ever premised on any sort of human or humane understanding is absurd.

      Certainly, the U$ political class will argue that our wars are “humane”, our rain of death “precise”, our motives “moral” and our behaviors (however brutal and vicious, “noble”.

      Yet the truth is that, for all the horror and lost lives and treasure (all “a price worth paying”) wars are really about hegemony and profit.

      As to the latter, the jingle jangling has to be understood as a fantastic, rousing success.

      The political class, the media, the military brass, and the weapons manufacturers, and the “contractors” made out like bandits.

      Very like the Sackler family, all the aforementioned “made a killing”.

      To suggest that any of those who pushed (and push) war, care in the slightest about “understanding” is to fall victim to myths of decency and compassion, of human concern and identification which simply does not exist in the calculus of “Full Spectrum Dominance”.

      To care to understand, to actually appreciate other human beings or their culture, their history, or their shared humanity is not part of “slamming little countries up against the wall, so that the world knows we mean business”.

      Proof that U$ian policy deciders do not care to (nor have any intention of “understanding”) is made evident in the claims that the Afghans, after everything we gave them, would not fight for “their own country” even though “we gave them all the tools and training to do so”, reeks of the hypocrisy of exceptionalism and racial and cultural superiority.

      And that “sense” coupled to moral righteousness, is reflected in every war, every conflict (direct or proxy) in which the greatest nation, ever, has been involved since our ancestors arrived in a land “ripe for the picking” with the Almighty’s assurance that the continent was ours to do what we pleased with it.

      For a time the U$ has looked on the entire world as it’s oyster, to do with it as we please, you know “making the history” because “we see further” and other such nonsense, all packaged in narrative that the gullible consume without question or doubt, precisely as their leaders, media, and academia instruct them to do.

      Yeah, we tortured some folks, we’ve killed millions, and it is always someone else’s fault if things go awry.

      Worst of all, we claim we mean well and destroy things and people to do good.

      We claim our “interventions” are “humane” and “girls and women” need our protection as we ramp up the killing to bring “peace, stability, and a rules-based order”.

      Yet, Julian Assange rots in detention for exposing the war crimes of our military empire while the architects of war are lionized and above consequence, as “the price worth paying” is always paid by someone else, the little people, the expendables, the unknown casualties.

      Now the world is shifting.

      The hegemon is wallowing in recriminations and fanciful appeals to notions that it has been betrayed by those it has only been “helping” and about whom it has cared so very deeply, while having not the least understanding of the hell it has put these societies and human beings through.

      Yes, understanding, on so very many levels is not merely lacking, it has never been attempted.

      Which, like Western civilization, might be a good thing.

  7. August 16, 2021 at 21:47

    The Taliban won pretty much using a Mahatma Ghandi offense. Though the US wasted a trillion or more in dollars building a 300,000 strong Afghan army/air force, replete with elite/special forces, essentially the Taliban took over all of the Afghan provinces by drinking tea with the provincial governors and requesting surrender. Perhaps the greatest military battle in history is this one and it was fought by drinking tea!

  8. Moi
    August 16, 2021 at 16:23

    The speed and of the relatively bloodless Taliban takeover indicates that most Afghans couldn’t wait to see the end of the war imposed on them by the West.

    A damning indictment if ever there was one.

  9. August 16, 2021 at 16:16

    The real motive for the war in Afghanistan (and all the other wars) is to profit the military-industrial-intelligence-complex. Everyone else loses. The big losers are the people of the countries we invade, but the rest of us lose as well as we are the ones paying for it- most of us paying with money but some of us paying for it with ruined lives and death. All of us will ultimately pay with the continual destruction of our environment.

    • Malu
      August 17, 2021 at 04:25

      Let’s not forget the poppy fields guarded by our troops for 20 yrs. and it direct link to the big pharma opioid epidemic in the US throughout the 21st c.

  10. August 16, 2021 at 15:47

    The current situation in Afghanistan reminds me of what my high school teacher, Captain Boortz, said to our German language class some 70 odd years ago. As best as I can remember what he said was something like this: “Experience is a great teacher, but only a fool can learn from no other.”

    It is with those words in mind that I now ask myself ,what is it, if anything, that we can expect our political and military leaders to have learned from this latest repetition of the Vietnam war catastrophe? Well, if the past is truly a prologue to the future, the only thing I suspect they have learned is what they have already begun with their pivot away from Afghanistan and Iraq and toward China, Russia and Iran instead. This of course will require, much to the delight of the US military/industrial/congressional complex, even greater defense spending, and the very real possibility of an eventual catastrophe that will be even greater than the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

  11. Em
    August 16, 2021 at 14:51

    While the US quits Afghanistan in another humiliating defeat – that’s hubris for you, the British walk away, yet again, unscathed by a deserved condemnation.

    The role of Britain in all the sordid details of past colonial histories is beyond mere accomplice of the US hegemon!

    This is what the trumped-up extradition trial of one of the worlds last remaining reputable journalists, Julian Assange, revolves around – media transparency; the freedom to tell the whole historical truth, and nothing, but the truth!

    Britain was already attempting to colonize Afghanistan from within its Indian Empire in the early nineteenth century and fought three wars there. First Anglo-Afghan War 1839-1842. Second, 1878-1880 and the third 1919.

    Does the break up (carve up) of the Ottoman Empire and Persian Empire ring bells for anyone?

    A “1740s map shows the possessions of the Ottoman Empire in Asia (including present-day Turkey, Iraq, and the Levant), the Persian Empire (shown to include present-day Iran, Afghanistan, much of Pakistan, and the Caucasus), the country of the Uzbeks, Arabia, and Egypt.” hXXps://www.wdl.org/en/item/13048/

  12. William F Johnson
    August 16, 2021 at 13:24

    So what’s next on the agenda of empire? It has to invade someplace, right, or the need for the military complex sort of goes away without an enemy? It’s already in Africa spreading death, while at the same time, removing all the resources U.S. multinationals can obtain by force, so that can’t be right, although escalation is certainly an option as China’s influence grows through cooperation on that continent with various govts and private interests, but that isn’t the empire’s style, now is it?
    No. I think Venezuela might be next and if not, Cuba is another possibly and since both are close to home, why not? Considering the 24/7 propaganda cycle of state/corporate media, control of the narrative will be the easy part of that equation, so folks in the south better be on guard as I’m sure they always are in light of present & past history.
    I sincerely hope I’m incorrect about the next move of empire, and will be happy to eat all the crow served, but I’m pretty sure the empire will do as it’s always done and go on to steal from others and if people die, well, that’s just the price of serving the corporate and bankster masters who own the electoral process. Can’t upset those guys you see.

  13. Carolyn M. Grassi
    August 16, 2021 at 13:14

    Thanks again Joe Lauria for an outstanding article, this time on the sad situation in Kabul. Also, the comments posted here are informative, wise, compassionate for the people of Afghanistan. I will add a bow of thanks and may I add (in my heart) prayers for all the people of Afghanistan

  14. rosemerry
    August 16, 2021 at 13:00

    Another point to be noted in the lies of Blinken,repeating that the invasion of Afghanistan was in response to “9?11” when it was obvious that arranging and carrying out that operation was planned well ahead.

    • Stevie Boy
      August 16, 2021 at 16:43

      9/11 solely down to the CIA, Saudi and Pakistan. How many Afghans and Iraqi’s have died to support Washington’s falsehoods ? How many innocent people have been imprisoned and tortured on the back of the 9/11 lies ?

      Free Assange !

  15. Daniel D
    August 16, 2021 at 12:32

    I don’t understand all the hand wringing about “what did we get for all the trillions we spent on Afghanistan?’
    “We” financed/forced the Soviets to defend a popular modernizing socialist government. Both of which fell. We burned up billions in ordinance. Afghanistan developed a monopoly on opium production resulting in vast off the book wealth for something. Our involvement started off with a developing third world socialist state and 40 years later it is a failed state in the hands of authoritarian religious fanatics who we bankrolled, at least initially. I agree with Joe that we shouldn’t be too surprised about hearing in the future of some joint mineral development projects. I’m not so sure everyone in D.C. or in lower Manhattan is wringing their hands like the rest of us.

  16. Linda Lewis
    August 16, 2021 at 12:16

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed much incompetence. But, it seems those wars were never intended to be won. By supporting insurgent groups throughout the Middle East, the US helped Israel pursue an alleged strategy of keeping its enemies too busy defending their own turf to harass Israel. Continual war thus constituted ‘victory.’ Unquestionably, US interventions promoted corporate interests, as well, and its own policy of keeping Russia out of the region. Israel’s situation has changed, however. It has new alliances in the region, and a recent article in Haaretz reports that Israel currently views a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a useful drain on Iran’s defenses.

    The establishment cannot admit to such things, however, and expect Americans to volunteer for the next war. Thus, it is creating what could be called a hagiography of the war for mass consumption–reporting mass atrocities by the Taliban, accompanied by photos of frightened women and girls. The images and claims bring to mind past media reports of ‘atrocities’ in Iraq (alleging Iraqi soldiers had thrown babies out of incubators in Kuwait) and Syria (multiple allegations of Syrian use of chemical weapons). Eventually, the fraud is exposed but only after achieving the establishment’s goals, and typically in independent media.

  17. Linda Lewis
    August 16, 2021 at 12:10

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed much incompetence. But, it seems those wars were never intended to be won. By supporting insurgent groups throughout the Middle East, the US helped Israel pursue an alleged strategy of keeping its enemies too busy defending their own turf to harass Israel. Continual war thus constituted ‘victory.’ Unquestionably, US interventions promoted corporate interests, as well, and its own policy of keeping Russia out of the region. Israel’s situation has changed, however. It has new alliances in the region, and a recent article in Haaretz reports that Israel currently views a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a useful drain on Iran’s defenses.

    The establishment cannot admit to such things, however, and expect Americans to volunteer for the next war. Thus, it is created what could be called a hagiography of the war for mass consumption–reporting mass atrocities by the Taliban, accompanied by photos of frightened women and girls. The images and claims bring to mind past media reports of ‘atrocities’ in Iraq (alleging Iraqi soldiers had thrown babies out of incubators in Kuwait) and Syria (multiple allegations of Syrian use of chemical weapons). Eventually, the fraud is exposed but only after achieving the establishment’s goals.

  18. Nathan Mulcahy
    August 16, 2021 at 11:43

    In any other country other than Americanistan, political and military heads would have rolled massively for the clusterf**ks going on since GWOT (and earlier). But no. Amercanistanists always find grounds for voting for the other, “lesser” of the two EVILS. No wonder we end up being ruled by complete evil.

  19. VallejoD
    August 16, 2021 at 11:38

    Retired Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was a top
    aide to Collin Powell summed it up best:

    “The best thing we had going for us in Afghanistan was our incompetence “

  20. Helga Fellay
    August 16, 2021 at 11:19

    Excellent analysis, and great comments. Thank you, CN

  21. Vera Gottlieb
    August 16, 2021 at 10:55

    And it didn’t understand Vietnam either…nor Iraq, nor Syria nor any other place where it has meddled. The one thing the Yanx understand is how to ‘disturb the shit’, refuse the blame and count on others to clean up the mess.

  22. August 16, 2021 at 10:49

    The Empire of Shite strikes again.
    No money for Universal HealthCare or College Educations but plenty of money for the immoral war machine!!
    Like all past corrupt immoral empires the New Rome will implode at it’s citizens peril.

  23. Guy
    August 16, 2021 at 10:48

    All very good comments today at this time of introspection following ,finally, the exit of US/Western military from Afghanistan.
    The big question in my mind is -will they ever learn?
    The West has lost it’s credibility as benevolent arbiter in the affairs of other nation states. It will be for others to utilize a different methodology to participate in the repair of infrastructure and development of hopefully a new political system that suits the people of this country . We should all wish them well in this endeavor .

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      August 16, 2021 at 12:45

      They lost that credibility–if they ever had it–decades ago. The imperialist war machine is incapable of learning anything.

  24. Charlotte Ruse
    August 16, 2021 at 09:22

    Free Assange!

  25. Nathan Mulcahy
    August 16, 2021 at 08:05

    Yes, when the Soviets retreated, they negotiated a withdrawal and drove across a bridge …. with their flag flying high on their vehicles.

    In contrast, the greatest army in the galaxy, left Afghanistan in the middle of the night, with their tail between their leg, and even without telling their Afghan partners. Helluva job!

    Trillions of dollars gone, hundreds of new 3 and 4 star generals created, with a cushy pension, lucrative defense industry, and (propaganda) media jobs after retirement. Helluva job!

    Oh, the poor Afghan girls and women I hear, not only from our politicians, propaganda media, but also from the clueless countrymen both from the left snd right. Afghan women snd girls were doing pretty well during the socialist government supported by the Soviets. Do we’ll that we had to create, finance, arm and train mujahedeens (later Taliban and Al-CIA-da) to bring down that government.

    The only positive thing is that America can become a normal country only after the American Empire collapses. That process is well on its way. Now I pray for two things: a landing and a political party system they is completely independent of the existing two utterly and criminally corrupt mafia-like organizations.

    • rosemerry
      August 16, 2021 at 12:43

      “Yes, when the Soviets retreated, they negotiated a withdrawal and drove across a bridge …. with their flag flying high on their vehicles.”
      Also, they had trained the army well enough to fight on successfully for two years, before the breakdown of the USSR caused the support from Russia to stop. The USA has never convinced the Afghans that their US-style rule is viable and worthwhile.

  26. Henry Smith
    August 16, 2021 at 08:05

    Another disaster, another ‘mission accomplished’ will the USA learn from this ? No chance, when have they ever learned from their meddling ?
    The problem now, IMO, is that the USA has a load of troops with nothing to do and, I assume, the likes of Lockheed Martin will be lobbying Biden because their bottom line is suffering from the pullout and the lack of sales of their death merchandise. What to do ? Where will the next USA military disaster be ? Africa ?

    • JonT
      August 16, 2021 at 14:49

      ….Iran? Cuba?

  27. Aaron
    August 16, 2021 at 04:49

    It’s sickening to see both parties and the mainstream media pretending to be appalled at the situation and all the Monday morning quarterbacking against Biden. He was the first one with the cojones to get the US out of there, and it will be political suicide probably, although it shouldn’t be like that. Bush, Obama, and Trump were all scared to do it, but Biden did what needed to be done, he should be lauded for it actually.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      August 16, 2021 at 12:48

      That’s if you think that Biden made the decision. It should be obvious that whoever is president is not the one calling the shots. Those shots are called by corporations, banks, and arms manufacturers.

    • stephen kelley
      August 16, 2021 at 14:13

      believe me, biden only withrew because he realized there were bigger fish to fry(think russia or china or even both!). even imperialism must prioritize its greed!

  28. Jamie Chancellor
    August 16, 2021 at 03:55

    Also worth noting. “The US spent a staggering $978bn on the Afghan war between October 2001 and the end of 2019. The absurdity of this becomes clear when compared with the $36bn total US spending on governance and development in Afghanistan over the same period. As the western war machine churned and incoherent military strategies prioritised partnership with a corrupt Afghan elite, ordinary citizens remained on the margins.” Hameed Hakimi is a research associate at Chatham House

  29. DJC
    August 16, 2021 at 03:05

    A few years ago, I saw Gen. Martin Dempsey, Ret., who was Obama’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speak at a theater in Oakland, and he took questions on notecards, so I asked, “Please give ua an update on objectives and progress on Afghanistan.” My question got selected and the first thing he said after it was read was, “Afghanistan is a mess.” And then he said something like, “There are three main groups of people in that country, and our plan was to make an alliance with one of the groups, and then take over the other two. But as it turned out, the groups don’t each live in their own area, in separate parts of the country. Rather, there’s members of each group in every town, hill and valley. So at that point we just tried to make allies with whomever most of our forces were closest two and wen from there.” Then he said it might be good to have a force long term there because it had the dual purpose of blocking a trade route (of which competing country, I forget) and also keeping us near Pakistan and India should they ever get to the verge of a nuclear shootout.

    The Armed Forces never had a clue as to what they were supposed to be doing over there.

    • DJC
      August 16, 2021 at 03:09

      Sorry for the typos–“… were closest to and went from there.”

  30. Deniz
    August 16, 2021 at 02:22

    I heard a Taliban spokesman out of Qatar today, state that women will continue their education and work, but would be expected to be covered under Islamic tradition. He also gave out his personal phone number and told the audience to call him if they are having any problems with security. The Taliban is not ISIS. While there is certainly cause for concern, no need to make alarmist generalizations.

    • Boris
      August 16, 2021 at 09:14

      Please you. They allow the girls only attend to religoius items at school.

      • rosemerry
        August 16, 2021 at 12:47

        A bit like homeschooling in the USA for evangelical christians??????

      • Deniz
        August 16, 2021 at 14:40

        Traditional Sunni Islam is oppressive, backward and in general not very much fun; however, it is not criminal and certainly not without humanity. The warriors will put down their weapons and build their societies, however dysfunctional, if the US lets them.

      • Zhu
        August 16, 2021 at 23:10

        Still beats being raped and shot by US special forces or blown to bits by US drones.

  31. Anthony Jury
    August 16, 2021 at 02:03

    Nothing screams louder, of the demise of the US Empire than this utterly embarrassing defeat of the American War Machine, at the hands of a ragtag bunch of Taliban fighters numbering only 85,000 fighters? Similar to the Vietnam War, the most Technologically advanced Military on Earth has been humbled & brought to its knees! The US failed again to defeat a determined & committed Foe of limited means? America is a complete laughingstock on the International Stage after this Afghanistan debacle & the Geopolitical humiliation of this escapade dwarfs the Fall of Saigon? At least in Vietnam, the US could say that Nth Vietnamese it was because of support from Russia & China that enabled the Vietcong to win, but who has supported the Taliban in this War? No-one! This incompetent US defeat is worse than their loss against the Vietcong! Two Trillion dollars of US Taxpayer money down the crapper & for what? Nothing, ZERO, Nadda! The Hubris & arrogance of the US Empire under the current Biden Administration refuses to acknowledge this defeat & already is making excuses to bullshit away the significance of this disastrous 20 yr Catastrophe that has achieved nothing but another American failed State! Those who refuse to learn from History are doomed to repeat it & this saying perfectly summed up this disastrous defeat of America at the hands of the Stone age Taliban? Will the US learn the lessons from this utter defeat? Not on your life? Even now the hopeless American MIC are rattling the sabres against China & Russia to provoke another War that they’ll have no hope of ever winning? What a joke, just shows how delusional they are, how could you ever win a War against Powerful Nations such as these two when you can’t even beat the Vietcong or the Taliban! The End of this US Empire is becoming a reality with every passing Day, the evidence is overwhelming!

    • August 16, 2021 at 10:50


    • Susan Lord
      August 16, 2021 at 13:19

      Replying as a USAF veteran and a Gold Star Daughter from/of Vietnam, I respect your comment, except for you calling the American military an embarrassment. We’ve never lost a war that our hands weren’t tied in…when you have to adhere to unreasonable rules of engagement set by corrupt politicians you must blame the politicians not the military. Our military is now and always was the strongest most fierce fighting force on this planet.

      • Nathan Mulcahy
        August 16, 2021 at 15:07

        The Vietcongs and the Talibs beg to differ.

        I am no military man, but the biggest strength of any army ought to be the cause it is fighting for. Invading other countries on false pretense, as we do, leads only to PTSD, suicide, and ultimately, defeat.

      • August 16, 2021 at 16:07

        Susan, replying as a combat veteran of 27 months in the Viet Nam conflict, my perspective is somewhat different. Yes, the U.S. has a formidable military. But our powers that be make lousy choices when it comes to what wars to fight, repeatedly assigning our military to fight unwinnable wars for ridiculous reasons. The rules of engagement really don’t matter when the war is unwinnable.

        Invading other nations is not sound foreign policy. It is the most serious of war crimes and the natives tend to resent our boots on their necks, particularly when applied in partnership with a corrupt puppet “government.” That formula has not worked for the U.S. since it conquered Japan.

        The only legal use of military force is in self-defense. It is past time that the leaders of the U.S. comprehended that is also the wisest use. We have no right — moral or legal — to impose our will on the people of other nations.

        My 2 cents.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      August 16, 2021 at 14:08

      Two trillion Dollars did accomplish several things. Besides making a lot of people very rich (“we came, we saw, we made money”), it also made the Talibs control more of Afghanistan than they ever had. We also liberated Afghan girls and women.

      • Zhu
        August 16, 2021 at 23:17

        “We also liberated Afghan girls and women” of their lives, mostly.

  32. Zhu
    August 16, 2021 at 01:38

    “here are still questions asked about what the U.S. motive for the war really was.” Genghis Khan said his goals were to kill his opponents, steal their property, rape their women. I’ll bet US motives in any of our wars since 1950 were not really different. Certainly US troops in Vietnam did a lot of raping, robbing, and murdering.

  33. Zhu
    August 16, 2021 at 01:28

    In ’75, the helos that fled Saigon crash-landed on aircraft carriers a few hundred miles away. Kabul is thousands of miles from the nearest carrier. So where will they go?

    When the Soviets pulled out, they negotiated a withdrawal and drove across a bridge to Tajikistan, I think. Are our sub-geniuses smart enough to do the same? Who knows?

  34. Realist
    August 16, 2021 at 01:08

    My very first reaction to the swiftness with which the Taliban achieved the reconquista of their own country was to recollect Franklin Roosevelt’s words about a dictator we were propping up in Central America back in the 1930’s. Presumably FDR said that “Somoza may be a son of a b!tch, but he’s our son of a b!tch.” As you say, Joe, the Taliban may be tyrants, but they are the home-grown tyrants and we were the infidel interlopers. By the way, Somoza ruled Nicaragua with an iron fist for forty years, finally being overthrown in 1978 by Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas, whom the locals clearly preferred to the Contras (our latter day SOB’s) that Ronald Reagan wanted to shove down their throats. That attempt to impose American will on a sovereign Western hemisphere neighbor did not work, yet Washington continues to try to this very day. The Taliban can expect the Exceptionals to continue to hold a grudge and keep trying to dislodge them–probably until the US government collapses.

    I find it amusing that so many Republicans AND Democrats are presently lambasting Biden for throwing in the towel and finally retreating from Afghanistan, as if we had some deed or title to the country from the Almighty. Actually, this move was one of the very few intelligent and compassionate policies that Uncle Joe has implemented while president. It was NOT his greatest mistake. His greatest mistake, at least regarding the so-called “Graveyard of Empires,” was to vote in favor of George Dubya Shrub’s invasion of the country in 2001, conflating the Taliban with Al Qaeda. In my recollection, Biden was perhaps the most vocal Democrat in support of Dubya’s wars (or were they in deepest essence Cheney’s gifts to mankind?) in Afghanistan and Iraq. The time has come to evacuate all US troops from Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. (I hope we have none, secretly functioning, in the ongoing chaos of Libya.) All those countries deserve to be allowed to pursue their own paths, tap their own natural resources, rebuild their infrastructures with financing wherever they can obtain it, and organise their own politics as they see fit, even if they prefer some home-grown tyrant as their leader. Such a person may well be the only one who can govern the place. Absolutely NONE of them are ever going to be a threat to the United States. The CIA and special ops will never stop infiltrating these countries. Don’t fall for another 9-11 type false flag. Iran is not going to attack either as they are not tired of living. All these places deserve massive war reparations from the USA, but I have no illusions that such would ever be forthcoming. Our leaders are takers, never givers. Look at what they take from us whilst ignoring our essential needs.

    • Guy
      August 16, 2021 at 10:07

      So very well said !

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      August 16, 2021 at 12:50

      Excellent comment.

    • Ash
      August 18, 2021 at 01:05

      Just a couple of small corrections: the Somoza family ruled the country for 43 years, first the father, Anastasio, then the sons, first Luis and then Anastasio. The dictatorship was overthrown in 1979 by the Sandinistas

  35. Thomas Scherrer
    August 15, 2021 at 22:49

    No chance Biden is doing this (I mean, we know he’s not actually “doing” anything) to create a situation where his own party starts throwing around the 25th Amendment to get him removed?

    This way, the establishment can get what they wanted all along which is a Harris Administration (and, most likely, a return of Afghanistan occupation).

  36. Jeff Harrison
    August 15, 2021 at 21:24

    Zibignew Brzezinski gave the USSR their Vietnam. He did it quite deliberately. And we should not forget Charlie Parker who ensured that the mujaheddin were funded and armed. Everybody thought this was great! The Russkis are suffering! How cool is that? Very cool apparently until it was our turn to cry. We have no one to blame for the state of affairs except ourselves. I have read commentaries that the average Afghan isn’t happy about the Taliban. I don’t know if all that’s true but the Taliban ran though Afghanistan like Castro through Cuba, only faster. Neat trick if you don’t have the support of the people since you have to depend on the people where you’re going since you don’t have a large military with an attendant supply train to feed you etc etc. But that did happen which says to me that your average Afghan thought that the US and our NATO buddies were worse than the Taliban. Go ahead and process that for a while.

    • Gene Poole
      August 16, 2021 at 11:56

      “Zibignew Brzezinski gave the USSR their Vietnam.” Now it’s the US’s Vietnam too.

      • Jeff Harrison
        August 17, 2021 at 12:51

        And that’s what I find so funny. Now Z-big’s failure is complete. The man, apparently like many Poles, was a Russia-phobe. He created the provocations that got the USSR to intervene in Afghanistan. For a while it looked like Russia was the loser there but there is little question but that the biggest loser is ultimately the US itself.

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      August 16, 2021 at 12:55

      Please don’t call us “we”. It was the corporations, the arms manufacturers and the military who did all this, not the working class. The government is controlled by those whose interests are inimical to the interests of workers and the average citizen. As a worker, I know for a fact that the government exists to advance the cause of the wealthy, the shareholders of the corporations, the banks, and Wall Street. Workers do not make these decisions and never have, except in the USSR after the Russian Revolution, before Stalin took power and destroyed it.

      • Susan Lord
        August 16, 2021 at 13:22

        Very well said, thank you Carolyn!

  37. Dave
    August 15, 2021 at 21:22

    Apologies for being so gabby, but… Joe Lauria’s article only scratches the surface of the terrible mess USA has left behind in Afghanistan and peripheral areas. In 1981 I wrote an undergraduate paper about the region during the Soviet’s mercifully brief and marginally justifiable occupation. I cited documentation from only three sources….the CIA (Christian Investment Authority}, the USA State Dept. (probably AID), and most importantly, the USA Army through its hard copy country profile series. That was forty years ago. Does not the USA / UK / Zionist / corporate press ever learn anything? Apparently not. There are libraries and archives, both online and hard copy; why do not the corporate press and media operatives learn to use these facilities? Easily answered; advertising revenue, features sections, unending and relentless nonsense sports coverage, entertainment promotions and hustles, quasi-pornography disguised as advertising, endlessly repetitive editorial drivel, truncation of reader or viewer feedback…..you name it.
    I also found magazine articles about Afghanistan’s mineral resources, mostly lithium and other rare earth minerals, at least ten years ago in the journals Geology, and Scientific American. Nothing new here. Industry newsletters provided current information. This was not, hot-off-the-press info; it had been out there for a decade or more….and don’t forget the US Geological Survey’ s work in Afghanistan and Iraq during the years 2003-2010….it is a real eye-opener…their reports, unless removed, redacted, or censored, are available for public scrutiny. The Soviets had done a considerable amount of exploratory geology, geochemistry, and geophysics research in Afghanistan during the 1970s.
    By now, observant folks should have noticed that there roughly are urban and rural Afghanistan communities, each region(s) with its own economic and social interests. So what else is new? Then there is the opium / heroin angle…probably best the USA authorities and commercial media leave that topic alone for the moment….Hello! Mr. McCoy!
    Re: Afghanistan….read George McDonald Frasier’s initial Flashman novel about the Brits’ leaving the region in 1839. A bit ribald, but more about the area’s imperial history. First rate English language.

  38. Stephen Morrell
    August 15, 2021 at 18:19

    For a short 10-12 years in Afghanistan’s sorry history, girls could get an education and more, and all the imperialists and their liberal backers screamed blue murder when the USSR went into Afghanistan to prop up its first ever indigenous secular regime. And how they crowed about it being the USSR’s ‘Vietnam’, echoing exactly the strategy of the Washington/CIA/State Department schemers. Regardless of its great-power motivations or how ‘imperfect’ it may have been, the USSR’s the Red Army occupation of Afghanistan was truly progressive, and to this day all manner of liberals and so-called ‘leftists’, ‘third-camp’ socialists and the like still furiously deny that.

    • Jeff Harrison
      August 15, 2021 at 21:44

      I agree with everything you said except one thing. It was not their first ever secular regime. The government that was overthrown in 1978 (my future ex wife was an Iran Air Stew on the next to last A/C out of Kabul) was the government of the King of Afghanistan who was definitely secular. If you want to know a bit more about him, you should get “The Nightmare Years” by William L Shirer. This is a book of Shirer’s memoirs. Before he wrote “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich “, he was a Chicago Tribune reporter working in India following Gandhi (this was the 30’s) and he met and was able to hide in the train of the future King of Afghanistan (the British were blockading the country at the time) and get into the country. For me his descriptions were scary. I lived in Iran in the mid 70s and knew Afghans and I knew the territory. That was 77 to 79. Nothing had changed. He then went on to be the almost last American journalist in Germany before WWII. What he relates after his transfer to Germany is totally surreal to me and I’ve seen some pretty strange things….

      • Stephen Morrell
        August 17, 2021 at 06:02

        Thanks for clarifying this, and I agree that its last king sought to modernise and secularise Afghanistan, and introduced a constitution to reflect that. I should have been clearer in expressing myself. Be that as it may, the power of the mullahs remained especially in the countryside, and the Soviet intervention held back and stopped short of the much needed land reform that would have broken the back of the social dominance of the mullahs. Instead, up to the advent of the Soviet-backed PDPA government — which the Soviets intervened to defend in the face of a CIA-funded jihad already occurring that the PDPA government leader Amin showed signs of going over to (thus threatening the USSR’s southern flank, ie, the intervention was certainly not for ‘revolutionary’ reasons!) — all rural women were still condemned to illiteracy, subjugation and to the hideous and tuberculosis-promoting religious burkha, imposed and enforced by the mullahs with little or no opposition from ‘secular’ pre-PDP governments.

        Up to 1978, king Zahir Shah’s regime and the post-1973 Afghan republic may have been secular in name, but the social power of the mullahs remained dominant, whose pointy end was the woman question, which unfortunately was only partially broken by the PDPA government and the Soviet intervention. Nonetheless, no genuinely secular regime would have tolerated women being subjected to such treatment by feudal religious ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’, and the PDPA government didn’t — for the first time in Afghanistan’s modern history. When the PDPA subsequently fell, the Taliban reimposed all that ‘same old crap’, which persisted up to 1978, and of course never pretended to hold ‘secular’ values that the pre-1978 Afghanistan regimes may have professed.

    • A.z
      August 16, 2021 at 00:11

      U don’t change the way of proud people who fight to the death for their honor with force. The soviet
      Arrogance of looking down on the conservative mindset of afghans and the brutal way they tried to suppress the rebellion is the one that set women back.
      In my country the deobondi inspired village mullahs(same ideological school of thought the talibs follow) tried to stop girls going to school when education went to the villages. They tried to stop women starting business through microcredit but then those same people got marginalized when the villages next to them started to benefit from these endeavors and now girls r more successful in the school and college level exams than boys.
      The soviets in their arrogance did more harm than good for afghans.the afghans beat up the US without any help from anybody u think they couldn’t do that to the soviets?

      • Stephen Morrell
        August 16, 2021 at 19:23

        When Napoleon invaded and overthrew the feudal dynasties of Europe imposing his Napoleonic code, he perforce, and despite his subjective and imperial motivations, imposed capitalistic norms on these countries. To those subjugated by the landlords and aristocracy, Napoleon represented a liberating force, and they weren’t so ‘proud’ to defend their overlords and ‘masters’ from his attentions.

        In Afghanistan, the Soviets didn’t win over the peasantry by implementing much needed land reform with slogans such as ‘Land to the tiller’, to thereby split it from the landlords and mullahs. For this fundamental reason, you’re absolutely right to assert that many Afghans, especially in rural areas still under the sway of tribal and religious social norms, were ‘proud’ to fight to the death defending their ‘honour’ — alongside their immediate oppressors. Had the Soviets urged and helped the PDPA government impose land reforms, then things would have been very much different, and the honour of defending newly gained land rights and from feudal reaction overwhelmingly would have replaced the ‘honour’ of defending feudal backwardness from a foreign occupier. The Soviets thereby would have had a much better chance of military victory, but they never had any intention of carrying through a social transformation that would have really modernised Afghanistan. Their intentions were far narrower and their consequent military defeat led directly to subsequent capitalist counterrevolution in the USSR.

    • Zhu
      August 16, 2021 at 23:22

      Afghanistan has a long and distinguised history of visual arts and poetry, even if you don’t know about it. We are the barbarians, not the people we attack.

      • Stephen Morrell
        August 17, 2021 at 23:14

        Of course.

  39. David Hupp
    August 15, 2021 at 16:47

    I would only add that the American invasion of Afghanistan originated when Jimmy Carter’s effort to sucker the Soviet Union into their “Vietnam” backfired, and was spurred by the right-wing Project for the New American Century in the 1990s. And when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken complains about the Saigon/Kabul comparison, he should learn that it is unseemly for Cabinet members to publicly complain. He should leave complaining to his assistants, Winken and Nodd.

  40. August 15, 2021 at 16:25

    Sometimes the action moves so fast in a heartbeat of the moment it is hard to keep up with it all.
    Still, this ultimate defeat seems to me to have been put in the books shortly after the
    brains of a few presidents were blown away. Lincoln, McKinley, Kennedy, and who is next?
    I’ve seen some up close and very personal images of the folks living in Afghanistan – most of these images were associated with when the Soviets went into the graveland of empires….the british tried as well and we all know how that ended. The image though showed a proud and powerful People who knew their land.
    So maybe the take-home message is let the People who live there locally get to decide their own fate.
    Nonetheless, the US of A, my home country, has now made the same mistake as two previous entities (and more than that if you must know), and so as Albert Einstein would say, that just proves the US of A is insane. I agree. The evidence is in. Effing insane.
    No stopping the facts now, so get ready for some serious flux…..it is rolling on its way. No stopping it now.
    May there be peace in Afghanistan I throw out there for the sake of the deep ignominy of the country that I used to call my own…..I don’t know this place anymore. Something has got to change.
    I hope wiser minds prevail. Minds that are humane. We are all in this together besides those who ain’t. It is obvious now and so “game on”. May the best ideas win.

    • August 15, 2021 at 16:38

      Garfield was assassinated as well. That makes 4 US Presidents out of how many?
      46 total.
      Statistically speaking, one has a 10% chance of getting assassinated if one is a US President.
      However, a closer examination of the data suggests the probability has been increasing since about 1865.
      Seriously – who would want that job?
      The ignorance coming out of DC is starting to smell so bad the foulness of it is emanating globally.
      Time for something better is what many of us think.
      We know and we are going to do something.
      We want change for the better and this is
      not a game.

    • Realist
      August 16, 2021 at 01:45

      In addition to the Brits, the Russians and the Americans, Alexander the Great, the Mogul Islamic dynasty of India, the Mongol empire of Genghis Kahn, and various Persian rulers reportedly have attempted to invade and add Afghanistan to their imperial holdings. All failed. The curious part is that Afghanistan is a distinctly multi-ethnic polity, with many local war lords, not a monolithic entity, not like tight knit Scottish or Irish clans. I guess the forbidding landscape of cold mountainous deserts sooner or later wears down the would-be flat land invaders, whilst the natives are well-adapted to it. They know when and where they can operate under extreme conditions, the turistas do not. The Russians are also well-known for utilising Mother Nature as an ally against a long series of invaders. As “the Saker” has told us, the strategy is to withdraw further and further into the harsh interior of the country until the pursuing invaders are trapped there. Both Napoleon and Hitler learned the hard way.

      • August 16, 2021 at 13:10

        Realist – your comment is much appreciated. To think, Alexander the Great nor the Mongol empire could overtake Afghanistan, the Graveyard of empires!
        The Persians even tried, but no, not even them, not even Cyrus the Great! A fine leader that man was. Even he made a mistake. I reckon he must of been human.
        We need more Realist around here these days is what I think, and you must know, cause I’ve already said as much to you directly.
        Thank-you so much for your additional insight.
        Peace is easy.

  41. August 15, 2021 at 16:10

    Now is an opportune moment for people to realize that United States military involvement in Afghanistan, alongside the militaristic/dystopian strategies and approaches that have characterized the extant War on Terror more generally, were unnecessary from the outset if the actual goal was seeking justice and authentic counterterrorism (making the actions of the last twenty years there a fruitless, thriftless waste of time from that perspective).

    Ample evidence attests that diplomatic options to negotiate with the Taliban and secure UBL’s extradition (thereby allowing us to potentially bring him to trial without, e.g., raising the stock and profits of Raytheon and other MIC firms, facilitating the construction or disruption of Central Asian energy corridors on a case-by-case basis, expanding investment opportunities for the extraction of extensive Afghan mineral resources, enabling the exponential growth of the opium industry, or placing forces conveniently abutting the frontiers and environs of China and Russia) were available to the United States both before and immediately after the events of 9/11. (Of course, as an aside, 9/11 could in all probability have also been prevented in the first place if the likes of ThinThread, Able Danger, and other intelligence programs/initiatives had not been cancelled or obstructed based on corrupt motives, but I digress.)

    For instance, here is a FOIA request that I submitted as a private citizen to the US Department of State on August 17, 2016 (which still has yet to be properly answered nearly five years and three presidential administrations later):

    “I am seeking the release of audio-recordings/audio-tapes of a set of meetings between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) and United States (as well as European Union) negotiators that allegedly took place from c. November 2-3 of the year 2000 that principally concerned the resolution of problems related to capturing or killing Usama bin Ladin (UBL), alongside addressing other matters such as the narcotics trade, human and women’s rights, and the peace process in Afghanistan.

    The existence of these proceedings appears attested to by a cable dated November 9, 2000 (State 215948), which George Washington University’s National Security Archive summarizes as ‘[discussing] meetings about bin Laden held in Frankfurt, Germany […] between senior U.S. officials Alan Eastham and Edmund Hill, and Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Jalil’ (see summary information under Document 23 – Islama 05749: U.S. Embassy (Islamabad), Cable, ‘Searching for the Taliban’s Hidden Message,’ September 19, 2000, Secret, 12).


    Additionally, other alleged participants also document the occurrence of these meetings, including the German Member of the European Parliament Elmar Brok, and businessman and future candidate for Texas senator Dr. David Alameel.

    In particular, a purported US diplomatic envoy to the Taliban named Kabir Mohabbat states that he was a part of these meetings in the seventh chapter of his memoirs, entitled ‘Delivering Osama’ (which was first published in 2004 and later republished in 2011 in collaboration with his editor L.R. McInnis – it is listed on Google Books, and is seemingly solely available for purchase in digital form on Google Play). Specifically, on p. 132 of the book, Mohabbat claims that ‘Jeff Lindstead [another participant] told me these two meetings were audio-taped. If anyone wants to hear what happened, they should use a freedom of information request to get the tapes from the U.S. State Department.'”

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