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Kabul: The Dead End Of The Road

As Afghanistan falls to the Taliban, a veteran reflects on a useless war
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Woke up this morning to news that the Afghan president has fled the country. It’s over. Now the Taliban are going to slaughter every one of the people who helped us.

I read this by Laura Jedeed, a US veteran of the Afghan war. I found it to be quite powerful. It has an air about it that brings to mine Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, which, if you haven’t read it, find it and do so, today:


You can read it on the original site and subscribe to Laura Jedeed’s Medium account here. I hope you do. I want to know more about what she will be writing and saying in the days ahead.

I had my 17 year old son read Jedeed’s reflection. He has been thinking about serving in the US military, but has lately begun to change his mind. “This is what the generals you would serve under would do to young men like you,” I said. Grind you up in service of crackhead ideological dreams and empires that never can be.

There has to be a reckoning for our failed military leadership. There has to be for the people who lied about what they were sending our soldiers into. Will there be? Was there for Vietnam?

I think Joe Biden deserves criticism for the terrible way his administration handled the endgame. But Joe Biden didn’t lose this war. This war was lost not the day George W. Bush decided to attack Afghanistan — the Taliban government deserved it for harboring Osama bin Laden — but rather on the day that George W. Bush decided that we were going to nation-build in Afghanistan. Obama and Trump contributed to that loss by not ending the bleeding on their watches.

Here are excerpts from a column published on July 10, 2002:

Days ago, in the bloodiest friendly fire incident of the war, U.S. air strikes reportedly killed 48 Afghans and wounded 117, including women and children. While U.S. officers have yet to locate all the wounded or the graves of the claimed dead, neither have they found the anti-aircraft gun that precipitated the attacks.

Fearing instability in Kabul, three U.S. senators Sunday urged a commitment beyond the 7,000 U.S. troops already in the country. Sen. Chuck Hagel even raised the specter of an American defeat: “If we lose there, if this goes backward, this will be a huge defeat for us symbolically in that region, in the world, for our word, confidence in Americans all over the world. We cannot allow this to go down.”

His call for deeper intervention and Karzai’s call for more American troops is echoed by Sen. Evan Bayh: “If all you do is secure the capital and allow instability to fester around the country, I think we’re running a real risk that the gains we made during the war could be lost by an insufficient peace. … My own view is, we went to war, we won the war, let’s not lose it now. And I think we need to take stronger security steps.”

The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Bob Graham, said of Qadir’ s killing, it “may indicate that we are going to have to be more of a participant in some of the security activities … to create a climate in which the new government can be established.” We must, he added, “spend more effort figuring out how to do the final chapters of our involvement in nations and do them as well as we do the first.”

With due respect to Graham, no nation has ever done the “final chapters” of Afghanistan “well,” as the Afghans tend to want to write those chapters themselves, and turn savagely on outsiders who come to teach them how to live.

President Bush may soon face a decision as critical as that of Liberalism’s Best and Brightest to fight the Vietnam War.

Clearly, the days of easy victories are over. When the Taliban decided to stand and fight U.S. power, it was suicidal. Smart bombs guided to their targets by U.S. Special Forces destroyed the Taliban positions before they could engage the Northern Alliance.

But while crushing a Taliban army in conventional war may be a warm-up exercise for the United States, running down assassins and cells of Pashtun fighters in the countryside and the cities of Afghanistan and Pakistan will be a longer, bloodier assignment for U.S. ground forces, if Bush orders them to undertake it. He might ask the Israelis what it was like fighting Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

In Phase II of this Afghan war, not all the odds favor the visiting team. The huge Pashtun tribe bitterly resents the Tajiks dominating the cabinet. The warlords who welcomed U.S. troops who came to crush the Tablian will not welcome U.S. troops who arrive to take away their warlord powers. Iran, China and Russia had no objections to the U.S. smashing a Taliban they detested. They do object to the permanent U.S. military presence we are establishing in Central Asia, where they live.

America is detested by many Pakistanis for having abandoned them after the Cold War, for what we did to their Taliban allies, for being an infidel superpower that dictates to the Islamic world. President Musharraf is mocked as “Busharraf” by many Pakistanis and is seen as a U.S. puppet who sold out both the Taliban and the Muslim “freedom fighters” seeking to liberate Kashmir” in return for Yankee dollars and a Bush blessing for his dictatorship.

Before heeding the bipartisan chorus to send more U.S. troops in, the president should reflect: The Soviet empire was defeated and collapsed because it intervened to set up and prop up an Afghan regime that ignited both a nationalist war and a holy war. On which side of nationalism and jihad will we Americans be, when we go in?

Almost twenty years ago, that columnist warned that we had better not go down this road — a road that burned through blood and treasure, and ended in this catastrophic humiliation in Kabul today. The author of that column was Patrick J. Buchanan, a co-founder of this magazine. Mad respect, sir. You lived to see it all happen as you prophesied. Vindication brings no joy, but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that your haters were wrong, and brought our country to disgrace.

UPDATE: Empires fall.

UPDATE.2: A reader writes:

Thanks for writing the article as you did, telling the truth. I took the attached photo from my Humvee in Afghanistan in 2008. Those blurry objects are the rusted out hulls of Soviet era armored personnel carriers. The Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, two decades before I snapped that photo. Let that sink in.
The Taliban used to have a saying: “The Americans have the watches, but we have the time.”
I, too, have a 17yo son. He will not be following in my footsteps to become a Marine officer.
According to the 2021 Gallup poll of confidence in US institutions, aside from Small Business (70 percent), the US military is the institution that more Americans (69 percent) have confidence in, and nothing else is even close. Once the American public starts to realize how Petraeus, McMaster, and the rest of them led us into this quagmire, and humiliating withdrawal, that number is going to slip, and it should.
UPDATE.3: A reader in a position to know writes:
I think listing McMaster alongside Petraeus is a category mistake. While an opponent of withdrawal, he has not been featured as knowingly lying about Afghanistan and wrote a whole book on DOD corruption (Dereliction of Duty) that is highly applicable today.