Afghanistan a lesson about limits of military intervention?

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uk 75

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This will probably be too hot for the moderaters but I think the events unfolding in Kabul are so central to basic disagreements on what the military are expected to do. These in turn impact on what sort of resources and equipment they receive.
Not since 1975 has the West faced such a clear defeat for its foreign and military policy.
I have never believed that remaking Afghanistan in the West's image was feasible. But the way in which the house of cards toppled is even more dramatic than the final agonies of Cambodia and South Vietnam.
We promised the Afghans more than we could deliver. How much we owe those who believed us and supported us is now a raging debate. Emotions are running high.
Colin Powell's warning that intervention should always have an exit strategy has meant that 1991's liberation of Kuwait stands in marked contrast to the chaotic response to 9/11.
The US thought it had learnt the lesson of 1975. Until Reagan sent forces to Grenada the lesson was to keep its head down, reinforced by Carter's botched rescue of the hostages in Iran.
The UK learnt its own lesson in 1956 at Suez. Then in 1982 the Falklands War seemed to show we could act. The Sierra Leone intervention reinforced this view and the UK senior military charged into Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya with their political masters.
As has been touched on in another thread, the fomer Yugoslavia was another disaster. Even now in Bosnia and Kosovo the cauldron boils.
 

Archibald

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I posted that elsewhere (maybe I should delete my posts since there is a new Afghanistan thread ?)

Makes one thinks...

https://www.forbes.com/sites/hanktu...s-with-big-bills-yet-to-come/?sh=2052f6107f8d


The coincidence in numbers is only that - a coincidence - but one can't help thinking

"Hey folks, how about repaying those trillions sunk into trying a rebuild of Afghanistan - with some trillion worth rare earths and minerals ?"

Maybe there was a lost opportunity there. Over those 20 years, maybe the most interesting mineral deposits could have been secured, then mined, and the benefits shared between Uncle Sam and Afghan people - something akin to this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearts_and_Minds_(Vietnam_War)
or this
- except successful and adapted to 21th century realities.

Thinking about it - I can really see the Chinese doing that, either throught soft or hard power.
They have the human resources, the wealth, the industry, and the ruthlessness to make this happen... to THEIR profit.
Frack, they are already doing it in Africa:
bringing infrastructures & development vs pillaging natural resources.
 

Dilandu

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have never believed that remaking Afghanistan in the West's image was feasible. But the way in which the house of cards toppled is even more dramatic than the final agonies of Cambodia and South Vietnam.
It was probably feasable - USSR managed to make quite civilized nations out of Middle Asian territories, which were hardly any more civilized than Afghanistan - but not fast. And trying to install a full-scale democracy was the doomed proposal, thegap is just too big. A secular & not very corrupt authoritarian regime would be the most practical intermediate stage. Problem is, that Western public would throw a fit, if the goal would be declared as "installing dictator who would hold".
 
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uk 75

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have never believed that remaking Afghanistan in the West's image was feasible. But the way in which the house of cards toppled is even more dramatic than the final agonies of Cambodia and South Vietnam.
It was probably feasable - USSR managed to make quite civilized nations out of Middle Asian territories, which were gardly more civilized than Afghanistan - but not fast. And trying to install a full-scale democracy was the doomed proposal, thegap is just too big. A secular & not very corrupt authoritarian regime would be the most practical intermediate stage. Problem is, that Western public would throw a fit, if the goal would be declared as "installing dictator who would hold".
South Korea was a dictatorship when the West fought the Korean War. Until the 70s Taiwan/Formosa was defended by the US despite being a dictatorship. Greece, Portugal and Turkey were NATO members even when they were run by dictatorships.
Since the 70s driven by greater media coverage of world affairs the general public in the West has been less ready to accept such governments. Mind you Kuwait in 1991 was hardly a liberal democracy.
 

Dilandu

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South Korea was a dictatorship when the West fought the Korean War. Until the 70s Taiwan/Formosa was defended by the US despite being a dictatorship. Greece, Portugal and Turkey were NATO members even when they were run by dictatorships.
Since the 70s driven by greater media coverage of world affairs the general public in the West has been less ready to accept such governments. Mind you Kuwait in 1991 was hardly a liberal democracy.
I believe, its linked to a major change in US ideological narrative after Vietnam War; the concept of "protecting freedom" became more prominent and more interlinked with US-style democracy.
 

shin_getter

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The United States government doesn't have a colonial office where capabilities in "nation building" gets developed. Instead, ideology drives action and success can only be result of pure random processes.

The ideology both demands changing the world in its own image while denying the capability to do so.

It is easy to think men as masters of the world, but men are just pawns to ideas. For many reasons the ideas that is the most accurate do not win. This applies to all agents as well, including our 'enemies.'
--------
With the huge culture export power of the US, the insane thing is that they might be no place on the world that can maintain a culture with a clear independent view of events and mass confusion can be sustained.
 

Archibald

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Greece, Portugal and Turkey were NATO members even when they were run by dictatorships.

You forgot Spain. We are lucky the Basques terrorists send Carrero Blanco in orbit with his Dodge (still haven't reentered to this day); and then that Franco doctors, trying to save his (unworthy) life for an entire month, ended turning him into a stuffed animal - somewhat ironically, like Lenin, except before, rather than after his death.

 

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EVACUATION FLIGHTS NOT GUARANTEED TO BE FREE: Even though U.S. officials tell NatSec Daily and others that evacuation flights from Kabul will be free, people trying to catch a plane in the Afghan capital say differently. One person said State Department staff were seeking large payments — up to $2,000 — from American passengers and even more from non-U.S. citizens.

When we relayed what this person told us to the State Department, a spokesperson didn’t deny that this is happening.

“U.S. law requires that evacuation assistance to private U.S. citizens or third country nationals be provided ‘on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.’ The situation is extremely fluid, and we are working to overcome obstacles as they arise,” the spokesperson said.

In other words, the Biden administration may request payments for evacuation flights.
:rolleyes:

 

Fluff

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I'm not sure why Kuwait is mentioned, there was a functioning country and government, until Iraq Invaded, and this government was returned to power, probably with a few commitments about womens rights etc.

I'm British, but have worked with americans, and with the military. Perhaps the american view, is that they give the $$, and they expect, as would generally happen/did happen in American History, the good 'men' will stand up, be counted, and take power in their own damn country, and with a veneer of democracy. It doesnt sound too hard, Afghanistan last time was freed by locals/ special forces in jeeps, and airpower.

Then we spent 20 years, 70K lives and 2 T$ and we couldnt make enough difference that the people wanted to fight for it. I stress people, how are there thousands of 'men' trying to get into the airport, but they dont have guns, when there are vids of building full of guns?

Doesnt sound to difficult to do the jeep airpower thing again, there seem to be some locals making a stand, but if thats just one 'tribe' what good is it.

A mess, yes. Embarrassing for every country that went, yes. Did it reduce terror on western streets, I would say yes-but then difficult to understand pulling out what was a small US force.
 

uk 75

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Archibald. Although Spain did not join NATO while Franco was in power, you are right that the US treated it to all intents and purposes as a member the Alliance.
 

uk 75

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The frightening parallel is not with Vietnam but with the killing fields of Cambodia/Kampuchea.
If the Taliban go down the path of the Khmer Rouge and slaughter, imprison, reeducate Afghans again.
Then there is the example of Somalia where the failed Western intervention has been a blip in decades of ethnic, religiious and tribal conflict.
A bleak moment.
 

GTX

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I strongly recommend participants keep any biased political posts out of this thread lest it will be quickly closed down. This includes those trying to paint this disaster as solely the fault of any one political party, individual or otherwise.
 

uk 75

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I strongly recommend participants keep any biased political posts out of this thread lest it will be quickly closed down. This includes those trying to paint this disaster as solely the fault of any one political party, individual or otherwise.
Thanks for this.
My emphasis in this thread is on turning poiints and their general impact on foreign and defence policy.
The individual blame games whether Suez, Vietnam or Afghanistan are well covered in countless books and blogs
 

Fluff

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I strongly recommend participants keep any biased political posts out of this thread lest it will be quickly closed down. This includes those trying to paint this disaster as solely the fault of any one political party, individual or otherwise.
Thanks for this.
My emphasis in this thread is on turning poiints and their general impact on foreign and defence policy.
The individual blame games whether Suez, Vietnam or Afghanistan are well covered in countless books and blogs
I cant see how any one country or person could be responsible, if we are talking about Afghanistan as it is today. The history is so chaotic, invasions etc.

coulda, woulda, shoulda applies to pretty much everyone, from USSR, USA, UK/G20/Nato, but also the Afghans, and their neighbours.

I'd like to know why, out of 200 countries in the world, Afghanistan doesnt seem to have 'become' a country, it seems to be a bunch of fiefdoms, just like europe was, 200-300 years ago.
 

uk 75

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Well said. Yet it produces some remarkable people and they deserve our thoughts rather than the blame game.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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The Afghanistan news topic is currentlly locked for a reason. It is not an invitation to reconstute the topic elsewhere on the forum spewing out random news and opinion posts.

Temporary post bans will be given out to offenders.


I'm amended the topic to indicate what the original poster intended. Continue this topic with care.
 
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muttly

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I will say only this. You cannot help those that do not want your help or those that
will not help themselves.
 

zen

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Hmmmm I can see this thread getting locked and deleted in short order.

Especially once someone disagrees......

Afghanistan should have remained a mixture of punishment raid and support for the North Alliance.
And if it had been left at that, we'd all be better off.

But once you entertain the notion of nation building. You have be honest with what you are willing to do to achieve what.
The lower the goals, the more achievable, and obviously cheaper.

Looking back it struck me at the time of the Loya Jirga, that ruling out the Old King and a return to the monarchy was utter delusion. Afghanistan was and is not going to become a mini-USA style republic.
A country where Feudalism is frankly a modern and exciting development, is not ready for Western Democracy.

Frankly the only way to achieve that requires behaviour that Western Societies are not compatible with.

But I wouldn't say it's impossible....if you are willing to dirty your hands.
 

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"Military intervention" *can* certainly work wonders. Witness how military interventions convinced the South to give up slavery, how it convinced Germany to give up Nazism, how it convinced Japan to give up imperialism and Emperor worship. But military intervention failed when Britain and the US invaded Russia in 1918-25, it failed in Afghanistan, it failed in Viet Nam. What's the difference? In the successful cases, the military interventions were outright *wars* fought to actually utterly defeat the enemy, and then deprogram them. Half measures don't work. Half measures make things *worse.*
 

kaiserd

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If there’s ever a topic that is complex, multifaceted and whose accurate meaningful analysis (i.e. actually learning from it) does not benefit from glib comments or from the usual suspects (here and elsewhere) projecting their pet-peeves and pet-agendas onto it.

But one point is important to note - the failure of the western project in Afghanistan is not some kind of new shocking development and nor is it some kind of sudden cowardly surrender by a feckless ungrateful local population.

The reality is that the UK, for example, lost their Afghan war and largely withdrew 7-8 years ago. The US similarly, for all their temporary victories, slowly lost their Afghan war and withdrew bit by bit until they agreed to fully withdraw fully knowing what the eventual end result of that would be. And the “pro-western” (for want of a better name) government of Afghanistan really lost their civil war long before their recent collapse, despite many genuine efforts and payment lives and blood. In that kind of context people are going to try to make the “least-bad” decisions to try to keep themselves and their families alive.

And that’s not letting anyone off the hook for recent miss-management that hastened the end and that probably made aspects like the evacuations considerably messier, traumatic, and potentially more costly in human suffering and lives than it necessarily needed to be. But anger at being embarrassed (both by defeat and by the exposure and shattering of shared illusions) is neither, in overall ranking of things, that important or helpful in understanding and learning from what happened.
 
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uk 75

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Thought this thread was still locked. I hope the sensible and thoughtful stuff doesnt get deleted.
The debate between national self interest versus nation building will go on.
 
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zen

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Well yes there is a major strategic question here. What did we intend for Afghanistan and for who's benefit?

Taliban was a product of Pakistan and in Lahor's eyes Afghanistan is their 'strategic depth' with India. Especially since the loss of East Pakistan.
Furthermore Pakistan was encouraged to take that view after the fall of the Shah left a gaping hole in American alliances.
 

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Legalising the trade would be a major dent in certain people's revenue. That said, Afghanistan has ample resources beneath the ground, which China has already started taking an interest in. Generally, the problems in the country have stemmed from 100+ years of various interests not really caring all that much about it unless they need to be there for a decade or two. The past 20 years are essentially no different from when the English were there way back when.
 

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Legalising the trade would be a major dent in certain people's revenue. That said, Afghanistan has ample resources beneath the ground, which China has already started taking an interest in. Generally, the problems in the country have stemmed from 100+ years of various interests not really caring all that much about it unless they need to be there for a decade or two. The past 20 years are essentially no different from when the English were there way back when.
its somewhat ironic, that 20 years ago most people would have laughed, if you said your next car would be electric, with a big battery under the floor. Now we are told Afghanistan has tons of lithium. Sounds like the illuminati need to up their game around here. If ever there was a case for continuing the support, this must be it?
 

edwest2

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This topic is not complex. Afghanistan should consist of various country-like regions inhabited by the various tribal groups living in peace. The U.S. saw what happened when the Russians were there and when they pulled out. The U.S. made a commitment in Afghanistan but after most of the mission objectives were reached, it could not keep troops there forever. Had the U.S. stayed longer in Vietnam, the same thing would have happened there on the same scale.

Last night on the so-called news, it was stated that "various U.S. Military and Intelligence Agencies" were involved in getting Americans and Afghan nationals out. It is obvious that the CIA was involved along with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). It would be wrong to say no one knew things would turn out this way. But what happens when the bad guys wake up one day to see a checkpoint abandoned along with various forward bases? It would have been unwise to remove troops from the field on a published schedule.

Meanwhile, surveillance, computing power and drones have improved over the last 20 years. Afghanistan, like Vietnam, was a testing ground under combat conditions.

The Korean War is technically still on. Only an armistace was signed. And what was the goal of the "police action"? To have an American base near North Korea? Why?
 

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The issue is that somewhere along the line someone decided that a certain area of land was 'Afghanistan' and then tried to force whoever was living in that space to conform to a given premise. The Taliban are just the latest in a line of people who think they know what being an 'Afghan' is, although they then kill anyone who isn't what they define as Afghan. They're pretty much parroting a colonialist view of the place. Add to that some half-arsed version of what their religion is, although in 6 months or so they will be killing each other for perceived wrongs. If any money starts to flood in from China etc you can bet that they supposed 'Taliban' will fragment and start killing each other off, and we'll be back to warlords again.

WRT to the military side of things, the past 20 years have again proved that money and tech do not win wars. A bunch of guys with 50 year old designs will still beat your multi-million dollar kit. Why? Because they live there and know the place better than you, and you - at the end of the day - don't really want to lean anything about the place you've moved to. You'd rather just make some presumptions and work forward from there. Also, what actually constitutes someone as 'Taliban' is a moveable feast - time and again, people would be tarred with the 'Taliban' brush and be bombed etc, all the while it was really just person A getting the crazy Westerners to kill person B on their behalf for largely pointless reasons.
 

Fluff

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The issue is that somewhere along the line someone decided that a certain area of land was 'Afghanistan' and then tried to force whoever was living in that space to conform to a given premise. The Taliban are just the latest in a line of people who think they know what being an 'Afghan' is, although they then kill anyone who isn't what they define as Afghan. They're pretty much parroting a colonialist view of the place. Add to that some half-arsed version of what their religion is, although in 6 months or so they will be killing each other for perceived wrongs. If any money starts to flood in from China etc you can bet that they supposed 'Taliban' will fragment and start killing each other off, and we'll be back to warlords again.

WRT to the military side of things, the past 20 years have again proved that money and tech do not win wars. A bunch of guys with 50 year old designs will still beat your multi-million dollar kit. Why? Because they live there and know the place better than you, and you - at the end of the day - don't really want to lean anything about the place you've moved to. You'd rather just make some presumptions and work forward from there. Also, what actually constitutes someone as 'Taliban' is a moveable feast - time and again, people would be tarred with the 'Taliban' brush and be bombed etc, all the while it was really just person A getting the crazy Westerners to kill person B on their behalf for largely pointless reasons.
The Taliban have coalesced against the americans(and the rest of us).

Now that threat is over, they probably will split along tribal/ethnic and what does the koran say about women etc. So yes its probably not over.

I had some dealings in Iraq, and the overall impression was that it was fine for you to come over, kill a few of my cousins, then next month I come over to your village and kill a few of yours. All the time the USA was picking up the cheque.
 

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There isn't really anything as the 'Taliban' as an organised, centralised group (ditto for Al Qaeda etc). Such things are just badges attached to the situation by the West. So, when things in the country calm down and money starts to come in, whoever is running one particular area will just start killing off their rivals. Like I said, we'll be back to warlords pretty soon. Maybe there are some 'Afghan', anti-'Taliban' forces in the country - seems it's possible by some recent events - but if they're not armed and not willing to use arms things will just revert to how things were 20 years ago. But instead of floods of US money it'll be from elsewhere.
 

zen

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The chief problem is...
Pashtinistan would include chunks of Pakistan (the P in Pakistan's name comes from the Pashtun).
To the north-east we have Uzbekis who ought to be part of Uzbekistan, north-west the Tajikis.
Only in the centre is there Hazzara, Nuristani (formerly Kaffiristani), and another I forget.
 

Dilandu

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The U.S. saw what happened when the Russians were there and when they pulled out.
Problem is, that US brushed aside all those lessons because "they were communists, and failed because of that, therefore their experience is irrelevant".
 

zen

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the P in Pakistan's name comes from the Pashtun
Err...you want to check your facts there?
Oh was it Punjab? It's late, and the beer is playing havoc with memory.

Certainly Pakistan was supposed to be an acronym of something like member states/peoples.
Something like
Punjab
Afghanistan
Kashmir
Sindh
Balochistan
 
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uk 75

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We never remember lessons from the past. This one was on the telly every night when I was a kid.
 

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GTX

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the P in Pakistan's name comes from the Pashtun
Err...you want to check your facts there?
Oh was it Punjab? It's late, and the beer is playing havoc with memory.

Certainly Pakistan was supposed to be an acronym of something like member states/peoples.
Something like
Punjab
Afghanistan
Kashmir
Sindh
Balochistan
The first recorded reference was the "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?" pamphlet written and published by Choudhry Rahmat Ali on 28 January 1933, in which the word Pakstan (without the letter "i") was used for the first time. This referenced Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. The "i" was added later to improve the pronunciation.
 
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zen

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the P in Pakistan's name comes from the Pashtun
Err...you want to check your facts there?
Oh was it Punjab? It's late, and the beer is playing havoc with memory.

Certainly Pakistan was supposed to be an acronym of something like member states/peoples.
Something like
Punjab
Afghanistan
Kashmir
Sindh
Balochistan
The first recorded reference was the "Now or Never; Are We to Live or Perish Forever?" pamphlet written and published by Choudhry Rahmat Ali on 28 January 1933, in which the word Pakstan (without the letter "i") was used for the first time. This referenced Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan. The "i" was added later to improve the pronunciation.
Yeap that sounds like it.
It's years....no decades... since I saw a history of Pakistan.
 

GruntFox

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The thing is, anyone who thought nation-building was going to be an easy and quick job was deluding themselves. We're looking at at least three generations of people, most likely four, before we would see any returns. Due to how the general US populous has a political memory of goldfish and a severe unwillingness to take casualties...

... you can see where that is going.
 
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