Bret Stephens | Abandoning Afghanistan Is a Historic Mistake – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

“I once boarded a flight from Dubai to Kabul alongside a team of Afghan soccer players — teenage girls in red uniforms, chatting and laughing much as they might have anywhere else in the world. I thought of those players again after President Biden announced plans for America’s complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I hope they have the means to get out before the Taliban take over again, as sooner or later will most likely happen.

The United States did not go into Afghanistan after 9/11 to improve the status of women. We did so anyway. Millions of girls, whom the Taliban had forbidden to get any kind of education, went to school. Some of them — not nearly enough, but impressive considering where they started from and the challenges they faced — became doctors, entrepreneurs, members of Parliament. A few got to watch their daughters play soccer under the protective shield of Pax Americana.

Those women are now being abandoned. So is every Afghan who struggled to make the country a more humane, hospitable, ethnically and socially tolerant place — some by taking immense personal risks to help U.S. troops, diplomats and aid workers do their jobs. As George Packer writes in The Atlantic, there are some 17,000 such Afghans waiting for the wheels of U.S. bureaucracy to turn so they can get their visas.  . . . “

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Bret Setphens for trying, but no thank you. In researching our fiasco in Vietnam, I discovered the writing of Sun Tzu, who wrote “the Art of War,” about the wisdom accued from about 300 years of civil war in ancient China. He collected a list of important ideas, which included: Never invade another country unless it is an emergency, and then, get in and get out, or the cost of the occupation will be more than any gain you achieved initially. He also wrote, know your enemy better than you know yourself, and, as correctly quoted in the movie “Wall Street,” don’t go into a fight unless you already know you will win. The Chinese are delighted that we waisted 2 trillion dollars in this hopeless occupation, and they would love to see us double our losses. We need to put gigantic sums into our infrastructure, and human capital, and research and developent. I admit that when David Brooks suggested last Friday on the News Hour, that we should maintain a small force as a long term deterent, I knew that that was the only viable argument. But while 500 hundred was enough in nothern Syria, 2500 wasn’t apparently enough in Afgahistan. It will be up the Afghan people to fight or change the Taliban.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Opinion | I Fought in Afghanistan. I Still Wonder, Was It Worth It? – The New York Times

Mr. Kudo is a former Marine captain who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He is working on a novel about the Afghanistan war.

Credit…Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“When President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States would withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he appeared to be finally bringing this “forever war” to an end. Although I have waited for this moment for a decade, it is impossible to feel relief. The Sept. 11 attacks took place during my senior year of college, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed consumed the entirety of my adult life. Although history books may mark this as the end of the Afghanistan war, it will never be over for many of my generation who fought.

Sometimes there are moments, no more than the span of a breath, when the smell of it returns and once again I’m stepping off the helicopter ramp into the valley. Covered in the ashen dust of the rotor wash, I take in for the first time the blend of wood fires burning from inside lattice-shaped mud compounds, flooded fields of poppies and corn, the sweat of the unwashed and the wet naps that failed to mask it, chicken and sheep and the occasional cow, the burn pit where trash and plastic smoldered through the day, curries slick with oil eaten by hand on carpeted dirt floors, and fresh bodies buried shallow, like I.E.D.s, in the bitter earth.

It’s sweet and earthy, familiar to the farm boys in the platoon who knew that blend of animal and human musk but alien to those of us used only to the city or the lush Southern woods we patrolled during training. Later, at the big bases far from the action, surrounded by gyms and chow halls and the expeditionary office park where the flag and field grade officers did their work, it was replaced by a cologne of machinery and order. Of common parts installed by low-bid contractors and the ocher windblown sand of the vast deserts where those behemoth bases were always located. Relatively safe after the long months at the frontier but dull and lifeless.  . . . “

Opinion | On Afghanistan, Trump Gets Taken – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rice, a former national security adviser, is a contributing Opinion writer.

Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

“Sometimes, foreign policy consists of trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

In the case of the recently signed U.S.-Taliban agreement on Afghanistan, President Trump provided the lemons, and the lead U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team did the squeezing. Mr. Trump made clear that he intended to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan — with or without a “deal.” Then NATO partners pressured the United States not to reward the Taliban by conceding their long-held objective of forcing an American withdrawal for free. So, the president reportedly gave his negotiators a finite window to explore whether some deal was achievable.

Lacking the backing of a resolute American commander in chief, Mr. Khalilzad got what he could — a deeply flawed agreement that has the potential to lead to peace but is very unlikely to achieve it. In short, the United States gave away a lot and got relatively little in return.

To start, the United States dropped its longstanding, principled opposition to negotiating directly with the Taliban (including the terrorist Haqqani network, which has killed countless American service members) without our key partner, the Afghan government, at the table. Next, following a seven-day, roughly 80 percent “reduction in violence,” the United States acceded to the Taliban’s primary demand — that America fully withdraw all of its own and NATO forces as well as intelligence personnel from Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump agreed to draw down from our current force level of approximately 12,000 U.S. troops to 8,600 (the level he inherited from President Barack Obama) within four and a half months. Within 14 months, he will drop American and NATO troops to zero — leaving only an embassy-based diplomatic presence.”

Opinion | Why a Deal With the Taliban Will Prevent Attacks on America – By Borhan Osman – The New York Times

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By Borhan Osman
Mr. Osman is the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan.

Feb. 7, 2019

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai headed a Taliban delegation at meetings with Afghan opposition leaders in Moscow this week.
Credit
Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

“The United States and the Taliban made progress in peace talks in late January after coming to a basic understanding about withdrawing American troops in return for Taliban commitments to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for transnational terrorists. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban has been long overdue — as part of a broader settlement also involving the Taliban’s Afghan opponents — and is the way out of a war without victory.

The fear of Afghanistan-based terrorists attacking the United States has been the key reason for keeping American troops in the country and keeping the Taliban out of power, but it is rooted more in perception than in reality.

The transnational terrorist threat from Afghanistan has been exaggerated. For years, I have puzzled over claims from American and Afghan officials that 20 terrorist groups operate in Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, portrayed the country as a “front line” in the global fight against terrorism. These statements make the Afghan conflict appear terribly chaotic.

The reality is that the Afghan war is a two-sided struggle, something increasingly rare in the fragmented landscape of modern warfare. The conflict in Afghanistan is simpler than the multifactional wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Almost every battle in Afghanistan involves the Taliban fighting the government forces, which makes insurgency almost synonymous with the Taliban.”

via Opinion | Why a Deal With the Taliban Will Prevent Attacks on America – The New York Times

Editorial | End the War in Afghanistan – The New York Times

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By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Feb. 3, 2019,  632
On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress wrote what would prove to be one of the largest blank checks in the country’s history. The Authorization for Use of Military Force against terrorists gave President George W. Bush authority to attack the Taliban, the Sunni fundamentalist force then dominating Afghanistan that refused to turn over the mastermind of the attacks perpetrated three days earlier, Osama bin Laden.

In the House of Representatives and the Senate combined, there was only one vote in opposition: Barbara Lee, a Democratic representative from California, who warned of another Vietnam. “We must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target,” she said. “We cannot repeat past mistakes.”

Days later, Mr. Bush told a joint session of Congress just how broadly he planned to use his new war powers. “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Mr. Bush declared. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

More than 17 years later, the United States military is engaged in counterterrorism missions in 80 nations on six continents. The price tag, which includes the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and increased spending on veterans’ care, will reach $5.9 trillion by the end of fiscal year 2019, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. Since nearly all of that money has been borrowed, the total cost with interest will be substantially higher.

The war on terror has been called the “forever war,” the “long war,” a “crusade gone wrong.” It has claimed an estimated half a million lives around the globe.

It is long past time for a reappraisal.”

via Opinion | End the War in Afghanistan – The New York Times

Opinion | The Real Lesson of Sept. 11 – by Joe Quinn – NYT

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“. . . . . I learned that Osama bin Laden’s strategic logic was to embroil the United States in a never-ending conflict to ultimately bankrupt the country. “All that we have to do is send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘Al Qaeda,’” he said in 2004, “in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note ….” Why are we continuing to do what Bin Laden wanted all along?

But that, ultimately, was not the thing I realized.

I learned that every part of me wanted to just stay quiet with my feelings about the war because I was afraid of what people might say. It’s easier to bask in the warm embrace of “Thank you for your service” without questioning what that service was for. One way or another, we were all affected by Sept. 11, which has caused us to view the war through a distorted lens. This is why most of us won’t comment or share or at least have a dialogue about the war.

But the main reason I wanted to stay quiet is because it has embarrassingly taken me 17 years to realize something, and what I realized was this: Seventeen years ago, staring at that picture of Mohammad Atta, I wanted revenge against the people who killed my brother. But what I finally realized was that the people who killed my brother died the same day he did.

I refuse to take Atta’s orders, or Bin Laden’s. I will not “stay quiet.” End the war.”

Joe Quinn is a United States Army veteran.

DL: In hindsight, invading Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes. I recommend “State of Denial,” by Bob Woodward, for a briefing on the Iraq mismanagement.  We ignored the rules of war as delineated over a thousand years ago by Sun Tsu, in “The Art of War.”

For example, three of his cardinal rules are: know your enemy better than you know yourself.  Only go to war as a last resort. Never occupy a foreign land for a long time, it is too expensive, and reveals your ignorance while all of your advantages will slowly erode.

Having severely damaged these two counties, and Syria, Libya and Yemen, perhaps we have no better choice than to pull out.  Here is the top comment which I endorsed:

Ken of Sag Harbor
Sag Harbor, NY

I write from Tunis, working with Libyans. The biggest tragedy of 9/11 was not the humans killed that day but the American reaction. Funneling fury against a handful of Muslim Arabs upon a whole diverse people, we destroyed Iraq, and by contagion Syria, and then Libya, and now Yemen. Our racist anger blinded us. I am that rare bird, an American who speaks Arabic and gets the Middle East. I am working in all these nations, a miniscule clean-up crew against the colossal onslaught of American destruction. Our constants wars on the Middle East have not only led to the breaking apart of a whole swath of nations, which like Humpty are hard to put together again, but refugees flooding Europe and thereby triggering a global right-wing resurgence. In a hundred years they will look back at how a few hijacked planes led the most powerful nation on earth to destroy its legacy in a few short years. Osama must be thrilled. And it is not over.

 

via Opinion | The Real Lesson of Sept. 11 – The New York Times

Mr. Trump on Afghanistan: More of the Same; No End in Sight – The New York Times

“If there is a compelling case to be made for deepening the United States military involvement in Afghanistan, where the 16-year-old war has already lasted longer than any other in American history, President Trump did not make it in his speech Monday night.

Rather than the comprehensive strategy that is called for, his plan amounted to a jumble of ideas that lacked detail and coherence and were often contradictory. Having spent years criticizing America’s involvement in Afghanistan, he now appears inclined toward an open-ended commitment, but with no real ways to measure success and no hint of a timetable for withdrawal.”

I saw no reason to post this editorial, until I came across the following comment, which enjoyed and approved.

Vesuviano

Altadena, CA 21 hours ago

On the day after Trump’s announcement of escalation in Afghanistan, the stock market is up 185 points. That is obscene.

War-profiteering used to be illegal, but now it is the order of the day, even when the cost of all these profits is wasted American lives.

Want to end wars fought by the United States? Have some new rules:

1. Declared wars only. No declaration of war, no fighting.

2. An automatic draft in wartime, with the children of the wealthiest Americans drafted first, and only to combat units.

3. All declared wars will be paid exclusively through increases in corporate taxes.

Put those three rules into effect, and we would by God be the most peaceful country on the planet.

From Kabul to Baghdad- My Bird’s-Eye – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“Since I can’t explain Trump’s Middle East, let me explain what I saw here — three things in particular: I saw a new way of mounting warfare by the United States in Iraq. I saw in this new warfare a strategy that offers at least a glimmer of hope for Iraq, if and when ISIS is defeated. But, though only a glimpse, I saw in Afghanistan an eroding stalemate — with all the same issues that have undermined stability there for years: government corruption, distrust among Afghans and perfidious interventions by Pakistan and Iran.”

Gandhi Won’t Leave India – by By GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI – NYT

“. . . Democracy is about majority rule, not majoritarian tyranny. What is under attack in India is not just Hindu-Muslim concord, but the right of all minorities — ethnic, linguistic, regional, political, social and cultural — to be themselves, to be equal, to be free. Dissent, free speech and the freedom to choose with confidence and without fear are under strain.On Gandhi’s 75th birthday in 1944, Albert Einstein wrote in a book of felicitations, “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” When Einstein said “will scarce believe,” he had in mind Gandhi’s distinctive capacity for nonviolent resistance.Einstein knew of Gandhi’s having been pitched out of a train in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, because of the color of his skin. He knew that Gandhi led the subsequent resistance by Indians in South Africa against discriminatory treatment, and he knew of his nonviolent ability to suffer persecution and humiliation without physical retaliation.

Gandhi bore no hatred for his oppressors, did not speak or write a harsh word about them but, with his large and growing band of associates, offered the toughest resistance through what he called satyagraha, or soul force. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela found this capacity in Gandhi compelling, exemplary and even sublime.

Gandhi’s satyagraha was famously illustrated in the Salt March in 1930, when he walked 240 miles with his followers to the village of Dandi on the Arabian Sea in western India. . . . “

Dunkirk- the War and the Amnesia of the Empire – by Yasmin Khan – NYT

OXFORD, England — Two and a half million soldiers drawn from Britain’s empire in South Asia fought in World War II. But they are missing from many British commemorations and accounts of the war — an absence reinforced by Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk,” which does not feature any of the Indian soldiers who were present at the battle.The Indian soldiers at Dunkirk were mainly Muslims from areas of British India that later became Pakistan. They were part of the Royal India Army Service Corps — transport companies that sailed from Bombay to Marseille. The men brought with them hundreds of mules, requested by the Allies in France because of the shortage of other means of transport. They played a significant role, ferrying equipment and supplies.The Germans captured one Indian company and held the men as prisoners of war. Others were evacuated and made it to Britain. Paddy Ashdown, a British politician, has spoken of his father’s being court-martialed for refusing orders to abandon the Indian troops under his command.