Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 29, 2016

Why Long-term Occupations Of Afghanistan Always Fail

The U.S. military now plans for a permanent occupation of Afghanistan. A discussion of the historic analogy of the Soviets in Afghanistan shows that this is unlikely to be a successful endeavor.

A Pakistani official summed up the Soviet dilemma in Afghanistan as follows:
The Soviets can continue to occupy the country, but the can not win over the people. The longer they stay, the more they alienate the people. The more they alienate the people, the longer they must stay. This Russian dilemma is also the Afghan dilemma, and both seem condemned to suffer the consequences.
Quoted in Joseph. J.Collins, Afghanistan: The Empire Strikes Out, Perimeters, 1982

The above is an apt description of the current situation in Afghanistan, just replace Soviet with American.

Having tried suppression through torture and indiscriminate bombing, massive bribing, escalation via the "surge", COIN and other social science nonsense, the U.S. military is now pushing for a decades long occupation of Afghanistan to facilitate the long-term Afghanization of the conflict:

Top U.S. military commanders, who only a few months ago were planning to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end, are now quietly talking about an American commitment that could keep thousands of troops in the country for decades.
[T]here is a broad recognition in the Pentagon that building an effective Afghan army and police force will take a generation’s commitment, including billions of dollars a year in outside funding and constant support from thousands of foreign advisers on the ground.

“What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave,” said a senior Pentagon official with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics. They are not going to be ready in three years or five years. You have to be there for a very long time.”

The above quoted paper looked at such a long-term occupation and Afghanization as an exit-option for the Soviets:

"Afghanization" might provide a long-term solution, but efforts to carry out such a policy to date have shown little immediate return. This lack of return is not surprising since the Soviets have not generally been successful in developing Soviet-style cadres in Third World countries. Indigenous pro-Soviet movements have been successful, but only when they have drawn on nationalism or on ethnic or tribal affiliation. Soviet prospects for exploiting these unifying factors in Afghanistan are extremely poor.

Again replace Soviets with American and the statement holds.

The paper concludes with a lecture which the hubristic politicians and generals in Washington DC still have not learned:

Afghanistan is proof positive that great power does not insulate its holder from great mistakes. Indeed, having great power tempts the possessor to regard it as invincible whatever the circumstances. Afghanistan vividly demonstrates that even superpowers are at the mercy of religious, ethnic, radical and other such historic forces in their dealings with Third World countries. Armored divisions and unusable ICBMs have rarely overcome the indigenous forces of nationalism and religious faith. Great powers must take this into account in their dealings with Third World countries. There are tides which one dares not to swim against.

Afghanistan is a conglomerate of  people of various ethnicity, tribal and religious affiliations. There is, besides maybe in sports, no real Afghan nationality on which one could build an overarching structure to rule. The scholars of the 1980s knew this, but their lecture was forgotten. When will it be relearned?

Posted by b on January 29, 2016 at 6:24 UTC | Permalink


Simple really, as long has the heroin trade is profitable, there will be boots on the ground in the Stan..

Posted by: Lozion | Jan 29 2016 6:34 utc | 1

Yes, history of foreign invaders in Afghanistan is long and bloody.
Especially noteworthy is the British in 1842 at the Khourd Caboul pass. Of 4,000+ soldiers and 12,000 civilians, only one man survived, a Dr. Brydon.
IIRC, no one has ever conquered Afghanistan; occupied, but never conquered...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Jan 29 2016 7:15 utc | 2

If the US has not learned the lesson of Afghanistan by now it is difficult to see them learn anything now. Another generation of war in Afghanistan? Why not? The US is the richest nation on earth, we certainly can afford such a war. There is no power that can force us out. The fact that we cannot win is quite irrelevant since we can buy the illusion of victory. That is the problem with US imperialsm -- the US is the only country that can afford to be an imperial power. This could go on for another century. Imperial Rome lasted 3 or 4 centuries --- US imperial domination has only been around for about 70 years.

This is not grounds for pessimism (unless you happen to Afghani) since there are definitely limits. The US can afford to sustain Israel and Afghanistan but it looks Ukraine is simply too large for the US to bankroll that country. (Actually two years ago I predicted that the US would do so but it is looking like that will not happen).

Posted by: ToivoS | Jan 29 2016 7:29 utc | 3

Brilliant, b!
The Christian West's reality-creating cowardice & cretinism summarised in 1 page.
You deserve the Nobel Prize for Merciful Brevity.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2016 8:06 utc | 4

One word...colonisation

Posted by: tom | Jan 29 2016 8:10 utc | 5

US imperial domination has only been around for about 70 years.

Only if you forget the Treaty of Tianjin - 1858.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2016 8:25 utc | 6

The US civil war, like the English civil War was scum vs scum meaning, as history demonstrated, that no matter which faction won, the scum couldn't lose.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2016 8:45 utc | 7

Our military leadership is brilliant. Give us infinite money and time, and I swear we might start winning.

This is 6th generation warfare, why did we skip 5, you ask? We skipped 5, because 6th gen warfare is the most revolutionary doctrinal praxis ever beheld by the likes of man. In Gen 6, the aim of a war is far beyond the old fashioned 'politics by other means.' It's more akin to a game. A game with only one goal: The movement of as many shipping containers to as many lonely mountain tops as is possible, before time runs out.

And baby, our USA military is winning that war. Nobody's moved as many shipping containers up mountains as we have, and we're doing it in style, I'm talking helicopters, I'm talking robotic dogs, I'm talking blimps. All with one goal; Move these mother fucking containers up those god damn hills, and keep them there.

It's a 6th gen thing, you wouldn't understand!

If you need further instruction, I'm available to consult for your company for 1m per year and a seat on the board.

Posted by: Cresty | Jan 29 2016 9:33 utc | 8

As long as Afghanistan is not harboring terrorist training caps there is no justification under International Law to occupy it.

But the Laws of Global Strategy dictate that every region has to belong to a sphere of influence and if that requires occupying a country, then a reason will be found to do so.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jan 29 2016 9:38 utc | 9

US stuck in the exact same quagmire they set up for the Soviets. The irony slays me.

Posted by: KP | Jan 29 2016 10:12 utc | 10


Wow...where to start. I believe U of Penn has video archives you can look at online from the 1970s when Afghans wore miniskirts and bell bottoms and hung out in Kabul nightclubs, rocking the casbah and entertaining the stoners of Europe, who vacationed there for the potent green pollen hashish, the clean air and cheap shishkebab. It was the happening 'Paris of Central Asia', with a profitable oil trade with the Soviets and a currency that attracted foreign investors.

Fast forward to the Brezhnev Era and Supreme Soviet Doctrine of Satellite States Hegemony, up against the CIA and their overthrow of Afghanistan's neighbor Iran, and the Beast of a Shah. A stable Durrani Empire older than the United States was broken on the iron wheel of the Cold War, and Soviets came flooding in to secure their southeastern frontier for trade with Pakistan and India.

But the Soviets brought their Socialism with them, and imposed it with a Stalinist hand on the Afghan people, declaring women equal to men, throwing out the carefully cast systems of families and land ownership, the water men and seed men who controlled agriculture, and the mullahs. The Soviets recast everything Afghan the way the Canadians overthrew the First Nations. Students were trained in cadres speaking only Russian, women were put over men, the easy life of the 70's became a pale gray turnip eating communal sh'tfest.

The Soviets took the best and brightest out of Afghan schools and trained them in Russia, exactly as US trains their foreign-puppets-waiting-in-the-wings today, to return on cue as paid apparatchiks for Mucva, just as Karzai returned from his 'advisor' role in the US to become the Afghan Executor for Cheney's Energy Policy Mafia.

And when the Afghans were offered 'freedom' by America, the Soviets wiped out villages without compunction. The leaders of Afghanistan today, like Karzai, all fled the country. Nobody in the Western world has the slightest idea what life was like under the Soviets, except perhaps Bin Laden.

Now comes the Afghan Janus Executive of World Bank's Ghani, a southern Pashto, and the CIA's Abdullah Abdullah a northern Panjshir with Persian roots, (although AA has dropped from the news and Ghani, naturally as a member of The IMF/WB Club, is presented as the rightful 'leader' (sic).

This time they've learned from the Soviets to leave the people alone, in the Western model, simply stealing the minerals and oil resources out from under them and letting them thrive or starve according to the rains and snows. The Executive model imposed by the West is for the purpose of Presidential, rather than Parliamentary rule.

He signs the resource franchises put in front of him, and the US becomes his Republican Guard. The Soviets tried this for a time after they withdrew from Afghanistan, propping up their selected leader, but it failed as the Soviet state collapsed.

The US is not likely to follow that same failed arc, or have that same social impact on Afghan society. Instead of making Afghanistan into a Soviet satellite, the US will let it become an Empty Resource Space. No harm, no foul, just your PNAC Gazan Final Solution.

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 29 2016 10:12 utc | 11
and more recently
and in support of your conclusion, (but not your premise)

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 29 2016 11:10 utc | 12

The USA want to control Iran, that's why they want based permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to their bases in Turkey and the gulf countries. Iran would be totally surrounded and would not be able to threaten any USA ally in the region. That's the main reason of their recent moves.

Posted by: Virgile | Jan 29 2016 13:10 utc | 13

“The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics. They are not going to be ready in three years or five years. You have to be there for a very long time.”

It's strange that the local forces they're fighting don't seem to require this level of hand holding. I wonder if anyone in Mordor can figure out why?

Posted by: Jesrad | Jan 29 2016 14:05 utc | 14

b, How is Afghanistan different from India or South Africa then? Both countries are also conglomerates of many ethnicities and cultures. But both have managed to hold together as unified states? How have those two, India in particular, been able to stay unified?

Some people look at conglomerates and think the solution is to break them up into ethnicity based states. Biden wanted to break Iraq up into three states, some people want to break the Kurdish parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran to form Kurdistan, and ethnic cleansing was practiced in the former Yugoslavia in an attempt to make the populations fit the borders. Those examples would imply that the better outcome for conglomerate states is to stay unified. So while Afghanistan is a conglomerate, shouldn't the goal be for it to stay one state?

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jan 29 2016 15:29 utc | 15

Ah yes, the Graveyard of Empires.

And the Yanks think they can challenge Destiny?

Yonks ago Bremner, Bird & Fortune did a skit on the long, long, long history of Afghanistan:

Posted by: Afghani Black | Jan 29 2016 15:33 utc | 16

Whoopsie. The link didn't show

Crap quality, but it's the best I could find

Posted by: Afghani Black | Jan 29 2016 15:35 utc | 17

Afghanistan's being surrounded by SCO member nations, while Afghan has Observer status. The only way Afghan can become a full member is for all foreign military forces to leave. The only way Afghan can develop is by becoming an SCO member. The lesson will never be learned, but the Outlaw US Empire will be forced to abandon Afghan anyway.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jan 29 2016 15:38 utc | 18

7;Cromwell scum?Lincoln scum?damn.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 29 2016 15:43 utc | 19

I'm sure that Pepe Escobar would add the New Silk Road as a reason to stay indefinitely.

ISIS presence is growing in Afghanistan and that means trouble in the region.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 29 2016 15:44 utc | 20

@19 Oliver Cromwell was a religious hardliner who ran England as a religious dictatorship much like that Catholic and Protestant monarchs of the time. And there was comparable racism in the North such that abolition of slavery didn't solve all issues of racial tension immediately.

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jan 29 2016 15:58 utc | 21

But the current U.S. "end of combat operations" Special Ops force structure is having a hard time keeping up with the multiple Taliban and Islamic State fronts. In the north, Baghlan and Kunduz are active battlegrounds; in the south, all of Helmand (a.k.a., Poppystan) is just about under Taliban control; and then in Nangarhar in the east Islamic State is on the rise.

Then there is the fact that the clock is running out on the extra-Constitutional Ghani-Abdullah unity government Kerry whipped up by fiat. Elections are mandated by October. Sure, that could be papered over. But there are indications of a rebellion underway among the Kabul quislings; there is a talk of convening a loya jirga to replace Ghani.

All this doesn't make for another five years for the U.S./NATO occupation. China is worried about the Salafization of its Uighur population. China doesn't want a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan; but mindful that the U.S. project in Kabul is doomed, they are pressuring Pakistan, who largely pulls the strings on Taliban leadership, to get peace negotions restarted.

Posted by: Mike Maloney | Jan 29 2016 16:29 utc | 22

How have those two, India in particular, been able to stay unified?
Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jan 29, 2016 10:29:24 AM | 15

Is that the post-British unified India now known as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh & Kashmir or is there another India?

Btw, thanks for Inkan1969 | Jan 29, 2016 10:58:13 AM | 21.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2016 16:43 utc | 23

There is in reality only one way that an occupying power could " "win" in Afghanistan.
One could "win" and "pacify" the country only by exterminating the population, maybe leaving a few small clusters as pets, but otherwise we could stay for a another generation (we've come close to one already) and things would never change.
Maybe resources of sufficient value will be discovered to make that solution marketable.
Exterminating the population is feasible enough, except politically, but we in America haven't quite reached the level of depravity necessary to sell that. But, we do seem to be moving forward...

Posted by: adrian | Jan 29 2016 17:09 utc | 24


Hoarsewhisperer, that India could've been a lot more than India+Pakistan+Bangladesh+Kashmir. Why did that not turn out the case?

Posted by: Inkan1969 | Jan 29 2016 18:41 utc | 25

b asked: " When will it be relearned?"

Not until the West's(US/NATO) exploitation of it's resources is deemed no longer necessary. The 4th Reich's goal of Corporate Global hegemony rolls on.

" It's just business, get over it."

Posted by: ben | Jan 29 2016 20:13 utc | 26

Will any of us USians ever learn? The fact is that much like us, most people don't like to admit they are subject peoples. The fact that we are the subject peoples of the rulers of the empire of chaos, or of the malignant overlords, seems to not fit the myths of democracy is only just now beginning to dawn on USians. (god that was a cumbersome sentence, if sentence at all)

Even on this blog denial seems rampant and almost universal.

Posted by: Rg an LG | Jan 29 2016 20:15 utc | 27

"When you're wounded and dying on the Afghani plains

And the old women come out to divide your remains

Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your God like a soldier."


Posted by: ben | Jan 29 2016 20:26 utc | 28

But why does the US plan on occupying Afghanistan for the long term when history should have taught the Americans that such occupation will not only fail but will break their country?

The reason might be that the US is after Afghanistan's mineral wealth. There's said to be a veritable treasure trove of rare earth minerals worth $1 trillion in that country.


" ... Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004. As it turns out, the Afghanistan Geological Survey staff had kept Soviet geological maps and reports up to 50 years old or more that hinted at a geological gold mine.

In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. The magnetic surveys probed for iron-bearing minerals up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) below the surface, while the gravity surveys tried to identify sediment-filled basins potentially rich in oil and gas. The hyperspectral survey looked at the spectrum of light reflected off rocks to identify the light signatures unique to each mineral. More than 70 percent of the country was mapped in just two months ...

...The surveys verified all the major Soviet finds. Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan's Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements.

"Afghanistan is a country that is very, very rich in mineral resources," Jack Medlin, a geologist and program manager of US Geological Survey's Afghanistan project, told Live Science. "We've identified the potential for at least 24 world-class mineral deposits." ..."

Good luck to the US trying to claw all that mineral wealth with their cold dead hands out of other people's soil.

Posted by: Jen | Jan 29 2016 20:27 utc | 29

P.S.--And all for a unipolar corporate world, to make a few rich people even richer.

Posted by: ben | Jan 29 2016 20:32 utc | 30

@29 With the Chinese economy slowing down and the commodity market currently unable to digest more copper, iron ore etc. it might be a good idea to leave it in the ground.

Posted by: dh | Jan 29 2016 20:46 utc | 31

In the second quote I would have bolded this: "including billions of dollars a year ".

As long as officers are getting promoted and sleaze balls in DC are minting money this will be considered a successful policy by the "mainstream media".

That, and having a cudgel to beat any incipient domestic populism, is the whole point of the GWOT.

Posted by: jsn | Jan 29 2016 21:24 utc | 32

15 and 25

The India moghuls paid the Durrani Empire a tribute and established the region now designated as Pakistan as a no-man's land rump state DMZ. The British Raj could not succeed in overthrowing Afghanistan, which at one time reached far into Iran and India both, but the Brits did annex the areas of Pakistan and Baluchistan, then split Greater India into the Indus Valley India Hindus and the Himalaya foothills Pakistan Muslims, leading to a horrific and undocumented ethnic slaughter, and pushing the Pashtun tribes up into Kandahar, then crowding the Tajiks and Turkmans and Kochis ...all the hill tribes...up against the Hindu Kush.

Some have stated that splitting away the Pashtos and NWFP in the south, (the birthplace of the Taliban bleeding in from Salafist madrassas in Pakistan after the Soviet invasion), would bring stability to the huge northern resource state, where China and India together control the minerals and oil leases (Cheney got dicked on that deal, which is where the planning for the 2009 surge and Karzai's re-selection came from, then that Dick murdered 1,000's of our soldiers simply because Halliburton's EPC cronies lost those franchise bids).

At this point, with ISIS, the US is left protecting the resource leases of India and China, and no doubt stabilizing the CIA poppy trade flooding the US with cheap heroin, within an empty resource state that's seen 30 years of machine war.

Remember the words of uber-right-wing Republican Billy Graham (I was standing in the crowd when he said them): "BOMB THE GOOKS FOR JESUS!

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 29 2016 21:52 utc | 33


It has long been said that Afghanistan is "The Graveyard of Empires." The idea is that the place is so intractable that when a great empire goes there it is inevitably tied up in a quagmire.

Perhaps. But let me try another view. Cause and effect have been reversed. Great empires don't fall because they have gone into Afghanistan, rather, they go into Afghanistan because they have already fallen!!!

It would really not be that hard to pacify the place. One old trick: drive the natives into reservations, replace them with your own settlers or with another more docile population, and let the lack of resources slowly cull the natives. Nasty, unethical, not what I am suggesting, but a tried-and-true strategy that a more intelligent empire might use. Just ask Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan.

However, Afghanistan is pointless. Therefore intelligent and vital empires just don't go there.

But when an empire has become corrupt, when it's leadership is inbred and more concerned with political infighting and wars of honor than the interests of the state, it does stupid things, like invade Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is not the disease, it is merely a symptom of a deeper rot.

Posted by: TG | Jan 29 2016 23:03 utc | 34

@33 Right, China has the mineral rights sewn up. They also have a 40 year lease on the port of Gwadar in Pakistan so Afghanistan isn't as strategically important as it was during the British Raj.

Posted by: dh | Jan 29 2016 23:29 utc | 35

Afghanistan is just a CIA heroin (opium) big farmer.

U.S. troops protecting the opium/heroin industry in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Nick | Jan 29 2016 23:45 utc | 36

They have no choice and will seek to stay until they cannot print anymore of their magic Monopoly dollars from thin air to run their military industrial security complex based economy. There always has to be a bin to dump the trash in and as Saudi Arabia sinks in importance as sole petro-oil sinkhole then places like Afghanistan begin to fill the bill. Caterpillar can't sell tractors so they must make tanks. Real capitalism died with communism.

Posted by: x | Jan 30 2016 0:42 utc | 37

Am I the only one who finds it odd that the Pentagon is calling the shots on whether or not the US needs to stay in Afghanistan? Isn't this a "Commander-in-Chief, advised by the State Dept." kind of decision?

Posted by: Ageless Yankee | Jan 30 2016 1:34 utc | 38

Thursday evening January 28, 2016 NBC National News Lester Holt interviewing Richard Engle who is in Iran and it is mentioned that Israel assassinated 4 Iranian nuclear scientists. Apparently militarily the Russians have us by the short hairs and their vaunted hardware superiority is for real.

How about a piece on how many command level Israeli military have been liquidated in Syrian combat theater since September 30, 2015? Looking more and more like Israel will be relocated to JEWkraine in the very near future. Just my opinion.

Posted by: Alberto | Jan 30 2016 2:10 utc | 39

The Pentagon IS the economy.

Posted by: x | Jan 30 2016 2:12 utc | 40

My impression was a bit different than "The longer they stay, the more they alienate the people."

The Communist coup that defeated the previous government (itself, a result of anti-royalist coup) was "unauthorized" and a trouble for the Soviets who had to support the new friend. One problem was that Communist themselves were split into factions, and in this region "backstabbing" has figurative sense, as in actuality instead of knives people prefer firearms and explosives. Soviets put their bets on the faction that seemed more pragmatic, but unfortunately it was also weaker and the president was overthrown and died from multiple gunshot wounds. That precipitated the direct intervention.

Foreign rulers has to bet on a group of locals to be "their people", and when their people are busy backstabbing each other (in the figurative sense I mentioned above), it is a bit of the problem. Afghans may be a bit peculiar in the intensity of their feuds, but they are not unique -- compare to Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and "rebel Syria". Similarly, under American occupations Iraq was wracked with feuds that were by no means limited to Shia-Sunni.

In that background, "government Syria" is very cohesive and offers much better "value for money" for a power trying to exercise influence.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Jan 30 2016 2:17 utc | 41

b: "There is, besides maybe in sports, no real Afghan nationality on which one could build an overarching structure to rule."

1. This is not true. Many nations have a nationality overarching regional ethnicities. For example the very stable Switzerland and Belgium. Yeah, I know Afghanistan is not Switzerland or Belgium, or the U.S., or Brazil, or Canada, or Yugoslavia before it was destroyed by the West yada yada. Like many other countries, Afghanistan needs strong provincial autonomy, of course ...

2. There is no intention to create an 'overarching structure ... The purpose is chaos and lack of unity among Afghans, in other words a do-able 'divide and rule' setting for a major Western Empire base precisely in the center of the Russia-China-Iran triangle. I think the Empire plans to remove either Iran or China (through soft-power-driven corruption of their elites) from that triangle. Yes, that is overly optimistic to those of us outside the mainstream neoliberal bubble, but the Empire is optimistic.

Posted by: fairleft | Jan 30 2016 2:25 utc | 42

Alberto @39

It may surprise you (or not) that your intuition has some basis is reality:

See: MH-17: Beware the Cameleon, an expose of Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky's possible involvment in the downing of MH-17 that includes this:

Kolomoisky has publicly spoken of Ukraine as the «second homeland» of the Jewish people.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 30 2016 3:05 utc | 43

Follow-up to 43:

Oops... Wayne Madsen. So unreliable. Sorry.

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 30 2016 3:19 utc | 44

Afghanistan is a story that American leadership wants to spin as a 'victory', and a base upon which they want to keep to antagonize Iran.

We don't have to shit anything there. Just occupy enough area to keep the forever-provisional government in power, maybe ignore the heroin flow (CIA OP?), and keep sending troops there to get combat training. This training doesn't even have to have actual fighting - they can just practice it at any various privatized 'school of the americas' training contractors that provide the service.
Everybody works out and the budget appropriations keep getting approved, with no threat of shrinking.

Of course, anything could happen.. US economy finally tanks, the taliban finally Saigon's the major cities, other wars force abandonment/redeployment.. but why should the military brass currently in charge care? They can just retire and get some glad-handed high $$$$$ private sector job

Posted by: aaaaaa | Jan 30 2016 3:36 utc | 45

@38 AY

Following the CIA coup of 2008 the struggle between the covert MIC and overt MIC has come to this. The struggle for control of violence - state-sponsored terror/shock and awe - is now between the CIA and the Pentagon. Violence itself has never been at issue. The Pentagon is asserting itself. Civilian government is dead - died in 2008, officially, a decade or so before in actuality. Only the costumed clowns remain where civilians once more or less ruled.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 30 2016 4:02 utc | 46

@11 chipnik

Good summary. Good link. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 30 2016 4:14 utc | 47

How bout them arab injuns...? They fight to the bone them Afghani injuns they do. Say, pard'ner, you fancy scalpin yerself a piece of them thar primitive injun warrior...? Lockheed Martin says I'm a 4 to 1 on favourite...I'd nearly say them thar were unbackable odds there Cowboy...what say you...?

It's how the west was won... the east.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Jan 30 2016 5:20 utc | 48

"When you're wounded and dying on the Afghani plains

And the old women come out to divide your remains

Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

And go to your God like a soldier."


Posted by: ben | Jan 29, 2016 3:26:12 PM | 28

Worth repeating.

The classics never die.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Jan 30 2016 5:25 utc | 49

Kipling's poem is great but these days soldiers get medevaced out.

Posted by: dh | Jan 30 2016 5:34 utc | 50

'The Soviets can continue to occupy the country, but the can not win over the people. The longer they stay, the more they alienate the people. The more they alienate the people, the longer they must stay. This Russian dilemma is also the Afghan dilemma, and both seem condemned to suffer the consequences.'

HAD the soviets alienated the 'people' of afghanistan? maybe by 'people' is meant the mujahadeen . who hated the socialist state of aghanistan ,not any soviet occupation

Posted by: brian | Jan 30 2016 7:46 utc | 51

45 and 48

The Canadian BGen who was the Deputy Commander of Northern Air Command on 9/11, gleefully leading the air defense (sic) away on a wild goose chase 'war games', operation that was never investigated, ...was later promoted to head of air operations over Libya, then after destroying both the US and Libyan peoples' economic futures in thrall to the Globalist OverLords, El BGen is now CEO of Lockheed Martin Canada for the F35 credit-debt destruction of Canada's economic future.

"It's just business, get over it."

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 30 2016 9:56 utc | 52

There is, besides maybe in sports, no real Afghan nationality on which one could build an overarching structure to rule.
Was this an oblique reference to the Afghan national sport of buzkashi? According to wiki:

Buzkashi is the national sport and a "passion" in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans. Whitney Azoy notes in his book Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan: " ... (that) leaders are men who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The Buzkashi rider does the same".
Completely irrelevantly, I rather liked the adjacent information:
In western China, there is not only horse-back buzkashi, but also yak buzkashi among Tajiks of Xinjiang.
The wiki article is pretty good fun. I didn't know there were any rules to the game.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jan 30 2016 10:05 utc | 53


I would argue the US died in 1973 when fiat money government and a now-idle post-war military became JV Mil.Gov, the real Axis of Evil supporting the Private Fed Bankster Overlords.

This was a time that all of the populists and peaceniks and potsmokers left for the West Coast to turn on, tune in, and pick their navel hairs. From that mitosis into good and evil twins, all the returning veterans took up positions of power within government, using their veterans status, after which Mil.Gov lurched hard to the right and corporatized bigtime.

The invention of the distributed ('personal') computer in 1975 gave Mil.Gov a legacy in silicon for all perpetuity, a power of database never before seen in history, and set the stage for metastasis to what we call Big Brother, so that by 1984, when Reagan abdicated conservative Republican values following his first term deep recession, for Greenspan and Black Ops, nuns pushed out of helicopters and arms shipped to Iranian radicals, then Silverado Savings and Loan revealed the deep, deep rot beneath the teflon Ron GE think-speak.

"My Fellow Americans..." Reagon sold US out in 1984 to the Mil.Gov that he claimed to despise, with his purely sci-fi Star Wars(tm), not one of which ever deployed, the purest of pure Scientocracy frauds. "...results (sic) take time, but I know we'll get there (?), God bless America!"

Mil.Gov almost suffered a downsizing after the Soviets fell, but it only took months for the bloodsucker think-tanks in NOVA and Dickey Bird Cheney to gyn up the 'Islamic Jihad' meme to replace 'Creeping Communism' in MLM. Then the Ship of State started on down, one bulkhead caving in after another, until Gramm-Leich-Bliley and 'A New Pearl Harbor'. That would be the part of the movie where the Titanic breaks in half.

I'm keeping in shape, hoping I'll outlive Dickey Bird, so I can sneak into the cemetery and piss on his eternal flame. If everyone pisses on his grave, the biblical pillar of salt of Saddam and Gaddhafi will rise once again.

Let 10,000 flowers bloom!!!

Buy BRIC!!!

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 30 2016 10:35 utc | 54


For greater detail on the many Afghan Wars, look for a PDF floating around for:

Posted by: Chipnik | Jan 30 2016 10:43 utc | 55

21;Hilarious,a religious hardliner in the 17th century.Who wasn't at least for appearances?
Cromwell was just reaction to the divine right of kings,a leveler of the playing field.Was he a bit reactionary?Yeah,but that's the cycle of history,action and reaction,look at today after the DTCE.
Well,yes we are all racists,and yes the north had its share,but at least many fought for antislavery and union preservation,so not all.In fact,our worst racists all seem to be post Civil War immigrants,as many of the the Jews Italians and Slavs are all virulent racists,and the theme today is why do they have to pay reparations,they weren't even here yet.
If the north was the section of the nation predominately slavers,the release of the slaves to positions of power over their former masters would have led to a northern KKK.But logic and facts don't matter to the holier than thou.
Lincoln was our greatest citizen ever.
The anglo saxons;Didn't they all come from Jutland and the vicinity.Germans?Proto vikings?Britain might be the most diverse nation in Europe,from all the invasions,so anglo saxon is a little misleading.How about Celtic,German,Viking ,Norman,Roman? and anglos.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 30 2016 14:31 utc | 57

48;No the Arabs aren't the injuns,there is many more of them and they are more cohesive than the natives who let themselves be divided and conquered.But the recent development(and it is fairly recent-post Iraq),the divide between shia and sunni,will serve the monsters well,and has already,as the Muslims destroy themselves for Zion.Idiots.
Look at Africa,the black natives do control their nations,as whitey wasn't numerous enough to overcome the demographics.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 30 2016 14:41 utc | 58

And the USA;Germans are the most predominate European ethnic group in America,so maybe Krauts would fit US better than Anglo Saxon.(I'm English,Scottish,German and Dutch myself,with a little Cherokee thrown in.Proud mutt.)

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 30 2016 14:45 utc | 59

Kipling;Dividing the remains;Is he implying cannibalism?Or a slur implying?Or just their kit?

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 30 2016 14:46 utc | 60

@60 Just the privates (pun). Officers got ransomed.

Posted by: dh | Jan 30 2016 14:54 utc | 61

The US attempting to bring some order to Afghanistan isn't as nefarious nor as ignorant as the transposition of powers from teh 1980 analysis might suggest. In the 1980s, the Soviets faced little difficulty if Afghanistan's government dissolved into a puddle of goo. Most of the killing would have remained within the borders of Afghanistan as the war-lords tussled over the scraps they could find. By 2001 a void in Afghanistan meant that people encouraged by Afghanis were killing thousands of folks far distant from Afghanistan. Where the US failed is that it did not execute a policy the Afghanis would have understood - vengeance on a massive scale. We inflicted pin pricks following the Taliban's disregard for the US interest in bringing bin Laden and his followers to justice. The last ten years have been mostly an exercise in benefiting the MIC in the US, but that's an failure internal to the US government and polity more than a foreign policy debacle.

Posted by: PrahaPartizan | Jan 30 2016 15:26 utc | 62

Geneva "peace talks" forbidden to dogs and to Kurds?
Turkey decides who gets invited?

Posted by: Mina | Jan 30 2016 15:43 utc | 63

b says that one needs an over-arching inclusive model to control, US pundits call it Nation building re. the likes of Afgh. The Soviets attempted it with some slim success, for a short time, one could question, discuss that endlessly.

It appears that, like other posters have suggested, the US is not interested in such a scheme, i.e. not in old-style colonialism, obviously, but not even sincerely in new-style (puppet Gvmt., holding of the capital, semi-control of ‘band-lands’ and advantages for US corps. or other.)

More an exercise in chaos-building and short-term profits for flash raiders of any stripe, as well as the arms industry (leaving out drugs for the mo.)

The geographical terrain of Afgh. deserves mention. Landlocked, steep mountainous, difficult to access in the interior, has borders with 6? others. Much of it is desperately cold, freezing, much of year.. Or hot.. This seriously complicates any type of ‘control.’

Remember when Afgh. had all these mineral treasures which could be exploited? It was a big buzz at the time. (See Jen.) What happened? Nothing.

What about Iraq, we need to take their oil (Trump, later about whatever, Syria I guess) but at the time the oil question was a big deal. Right now US oil cos. control, profit, or benefit from practically nothing in Iraq.

This wiki (from top of goog, dodgy) lists oil deals / prod. in Iraq, many countries are participating in various deals: France, China, Russia, Korea, Italy, Malaysia, Turkey, Angola, Japan, etc. etc. with only two listed as ‘US’ - one project from Occidental, one from Exxon.

Unsurprising, because the oil industry is global, investments are very long-term and are a tough haul, competition is robust, as are partnerships for this or that piece, sub-part, services, etc. in highly complex contracts - exactly what US capitalist system supports.

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 30 2016 17:05 utc | 64

@48 MM2 @58 dahoit

Depends on your point of view ... see “Indian Country” for the US point of view, and that of its victims. From the geopolitical pov and this particular outcome you make points, dahoit, but I agree with RD-O and MM2. It's the same old story from the pov of the USG and its terrorist-'soldiers'.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 30 2016 22:41 utc | 65

@64 noirette 'because the oil industry is global, investments are very long-term and are a tough haul, competition is robust, as are partnerships for this or that piece, sub-part, services, etc. in highly complex contracts - exactly what US capitalist system supports.'

A wonderful description of the global constituency of permanent state of global warfare as well as of its parent ... of our inertial fealty to that vile black god as well, isn't it?

Forget global warming. I cannot and do not, nor can I discount the environmental destruction required by the continuing exploitation of the black god - perhaps our exploitation by the black god is more apt - nor can I discount the wild, expensive, financially disproportionate pursuit of his slimy black substance - but for those of us who nonetheless exercise ourselves at a pitch that would break glass in order to preserve our jones ...

Forget global warming, and just consider this unholy alliance, and admit that for just as long as we ritually bathe in the black god's tub that is how long the state of permanent warfare is guaranteed to persist. Reason enough to get out of the black tub - exactly what US capitalist system supports - in and of itself.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 30 2016 23:15 utc | 66

@63 mina

Well, it's spun that they went home because the head-choppers claimed they were not 'rebels', i.e. anti-Assad. I hope they're not, and I hope they come back as a part of a federated Syrian government delegation.

Posted by: jfl | Jan 31 2016 0:55 utc | 67

re Kurds: Actually, the Kurds were excluded on Erdogan's contention they were terrorists. By groundrules, negotiations are for opposition; no terrorists allowed.
sputnick: Turkey has strongly opposed the inclusion of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the reconciliation talks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated over the weekend that Turkey makes "no distinction" between the PYD and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.

Terrorist groups are not seen as part of the "opposition": Quid Pro Quo: Iran last seen (a week or so ago) said 10 of the Saudi-handpicked oppo delegates were Al-Qa’eda; Syria said one group included were on the terrorist list ...

We're still covering Erdogan's back, we call PKK terrorist too.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 2:20 utc | 68

Afghanistan has never had much of an economy or central government. Most central governments are supported either by taxes or some share-cropper tithing so... like the moonshiner and the revenuer, it's been a traditionally hostile relationship. They've been very conservative Muslim for a long time and have used the Afghan traditions (now carried on by Taliban) of various loya jirga or counsel of elders to adjudicate most things, judgments/sentences are carried out quickly and often brutally. It's fast and efficient, they like it. Governments want to take those powers and they are bureaucratically corrupt (which Taliban courts are
"corrupt" in locally accepted traditional fashion, parties can settle out of court. Punishments may see utterly medieval or barbaric -- they like it.
Atlantic: In Afghanistan, Fathers Barter Daughters to Settle Drug Debt

Yes, and the various tribes fight each other rather regularly and do terrible terrible things to the losing side ... It's a backward dirt-poor agrarian society ... they like it just fine. The educated folks generally stick to the city except when they're interfering with the lives of the country folks. With very little rural electricity, they don't know what they're missing -- they like it.

The cops don't need you and man they expect the same ...

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 2:42 utc | 69

oh, I'm talking about the rural folks almost exclusively ... their literacy rate is 38.2%, urban population: 26.7% total (CIA_WFB)

Ethnic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, other (includes smaller numbers of Baloch, Turkmen, Nuristani, Pamiri, Arab, Gujar, Brahui, Qizilbash, Aimaq, Pashai, and Kyrghyz)

wiki: "The Hazara identity in Afghanistan is believed by many to have originated in the aftermath of the 1221 Siege of Bamyan." They are fiercely hated discriminated against, iirc, as foreigners. They are Northern Alliance and have been massacred by the Taliban.

Posted by: Susan Sunflower | Jan 31 2016 2:53 utc | 70

Susan: I agree completely. But it's important to add that the US _likes_ this status quo. It funds the 'government' forces, which are hated by all for their pathetic corruption and subservience to the US, and its close allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan fund and provide sanctuary to the Taliban, which is hated by enough (to create a permanent stalemate) for its murdering of Hazara and other 'non-believers' in its Saudi-style-plus Islam, and its misogyny and Pashtuns uber alles stance.

I was surprised it took this long for the US establishment to recognize (maybe they just took awhile before they announced it through WaPost 'leaks') the strategic usefulness of this badlands close enough to disrupt the China-Pakistan-Iran economic progress corridor. Can't have any of that -- economic progress -- sponsored by our 'enemy' China.

All that said, a confederacy of ethnicities and autonomous regions (you stay out of my business and religion and culture I stay out of yours) could be cobbled together and made to work if the Americans, Saudis, Indians, Pakistanis, and all the other outsiders weren't permanently interfering. The McCoys could stay on one side of the mountain and the Hatfields stay on the other, and Afghanistan has plenty of mountain ranges.

Posted by: fairleft | Jan 31 2016 4:01 utc | 71

Nice piece.

Posted by: okie farmer | Jan 31 2016 5:41 utc | 72

Drugs. At one point, around 2002 iirc (no link, sorry) the WHO / UN proposed that Afghan drug production be legalised and controlled. Afghanistan would simply be licensed to enter Big Pharma and make top-quality opiates for sale world-wide. This would be a ‘stabilization mechanism’ - a favorite buzz word - as it would provide jobs, cut out gangsters and middle-men and seriously impact illegal production/ refining/ trade/etc. Controls would be ‘cleaner’ and easier to implement. Iirc, the proposal focussed heavily on preventing the spread of AIDS (and other), which was predicted to flower - yikes - proliferate rather, in Afghanistan, as it has. (Cheap heroin, poverty, prostitution.)

The US scotched this proposal bang off. (Maybe with others, i don’t recall.)

And btw if anyone believes the Taliban eradication of crops (around 2000) was uniquely based on morality or religion, this is not so, though probably many ‘foot’ actors believed that, so - mixed. It was prompted by a glut in the market and drastic lowering of prices (supply had to be curtailed) as well as, I guess, various fights between local Chiefs - who gets to keep what fields, revenues, etc.

Posted by: Noirette | Jan 31 2016 14:58 utc | 73

The New Take on the Afghan Conflict Settlement

In mid-January Islamabad and Kabul saw the talks between foreign affairs representatives of four states – the United States, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan (the so-called Quadrilateral Coordination Group) who were tasked with a mission to develop a road map that would be able to put an end to the war in Afghanistan, which has been raging for over 15 years now. The Kabul round of negotiations concluded with the adoption of a joint statement urging the Taliban to cease its hostile activities and become engaged in negotiations with the official government of Afghanistan. Now the above mentioned representatives are to return to Islamabad to carry on their discussions on February 6.

There’s no doubt that China’s officials are concerned with the fate of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline, the construction of which depends on the situation in Afghanistan. If built, this pipeline can solve the majority of energy security issues in the western provinces of China, so there’s little wonder that in late December 2015, all four member states of the project announced in Turkmenistan that they were going to proceed with the TAPI implementation.

China/Pakistan are having second thoughts on their Iranian pipeline? or is China actually onboard with the TAPI?

Posted by: jfl | Feb 1 2016 0:23 utc | 74

I think you meant to link this Reuters story (re: failed merger Nusra and Ahrar)

Posted by: Joanne Leon | Feb 1 2016 14:08 utc | 75

As usual we need to see who benefits and follow the money. Why this is so hard for so many people to grasp I don't know. The comment about Gen. 6 war is apt. The Afghan War like all modern wars are fought for money and political power. It is an income stream from mind-controlled chumps to a melange of oligarchs. On the side, of course, there is the heroin trade always highly profitable for the Star Wars Cafe groups of characters that are in and around the CIAs covert services. That's all you need to know--the details and private squabbles between criminal gangs are of course well-examined in the Godfather movies.

Posted by: Banger | Feb 1 2016 17:44 utc | 76

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