Another Bright Shining Lie - Anatomy of the US $2 Trillion Afghanistan Failure

owedtojoy

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The "Bright Shining Lie" refers to Neil Sheehan's book about Vietnam, called A Bright Shining Lie.

The Pentagon Papers were released to the New York Times in 1971 by analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the papers. They revealed how the cost, scope and progress of the war had been kept from media and public for years.

Just now, similar papers have been released by the Washington Post after a long legal battle. The website "Lawyers, Guns and Money" give a summary:


THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS
INTERVIEWS AND MEMOSExplore the documents

  • Key insiders speak bluntly about the failures of the longest conflict in U.S. history
POST REPORTS‘We didn’t know what the task was’
  • Hear candid interviews with former ambassador Ryan Crocker and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
THE FIGHT FOR THE DOCUMENTSAbout the investigation
  • It took three years and two federal lawsuits for The Post to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records
Sections:
In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.



I always thought that Afghanistan might have turned out differently if the US had not pursued its military adventure in Iraq. Afghanistan then was a rogue state abetting a ruthless terrorist organisation that just murdered thousands of US citizens on US soil. That could not be let stand.

Some of the comments on LGM are worth reading. Paul Compos made the point that Vietnam was fought by a conscript army, so an unwanted war effected many American households, leading to outrage and anger at the Pentagon Papers revelations. The Afghan War is being fought by volunteers, with technology in many areas taking the place of the "grunts". The Pentagon is much more self-contained, and few politicians (if any) seem to want to trim its fat budgets.

So little will change, and there is no evidence that the US taste for military adventures is being reduced.

 


McTell

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$2 Trn is a lot to pay for a training ground.
 

Catahualpa

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The "Bright Shining Lie" refers to Neil Sheehan's book about Vietnam, called A Bright Shining Lie.

The Pentagon Papers were released to the New York Times in 1971 by analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the papers. They revealed how the cost, scope and progress of the war had been kept from media and public for years.

Just now, similar papers have been released by the Washington Post after a long legal battle. The website "Lawyers, Guns and Money" give a summary:




In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.



I always thought that Afghanistan might have turned out differently if the US had not pursued its military adventure in Iraq. Afghanistan then was a rogue state abetting a ruthless terrorist organisation that just murdered thousands of US citizens on US soil. That could not be let stand.

Some of the comments on LGM are worth reading. Paul Compos made the point that Vietnam was fought by a conscript army, so an unwanted war effected many American households, leading to outrage and anger at the Pentagon Papers revelations. The Afghan War is being fought by volunteers, with technology in many areas taking the place of the "grunts". The Pentagon is much more self-contained, and few politicians (if any) seem to want to trim its fat budgets.

So little will change, and there is no evidence that the US taste for military adventures is being reduced.

It was/is a Clusterf.cuk

- but nothing like as costly in US lives as Vietnam was.

And therefore not as controversial

BTW about 50% of US soldiers in Vietnam were Volunteers

- & about 80% of those deployed were not combat troops

IIRC 2 out 3 casualties were caused by booby traps.
 

owedtojoy

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$2 Trn is a lot to pay for a training ground.
Vietnam was the Training Ground.

Yet every single mistake made in Vietnam seems to have been made in Afghanistan.

The only difference is that the casualties are less. That is probably because it is much more a war of technology, and the Taliban are real guerrilla fighters, whereas from about 1968 on, the US Army was engaged with units of North Vietnamese regulars. These did not melt away like guerrillas but were intent to hold their ground.
 

owedtojoy

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Of all the threads I ever started, this has been the least discussed.

But it should be one of the most.

This article explains why it got so little traction in the US media ... because EVERYONE is to blame ... Bush, Obama & Trump.

Afghanistan goes to the heart of what is wrong with US political-military strategy overseas, but because it cannot be simply reduced to Us vs Them, White Knights vs Black Hats, no one wants to talk about it.

And the media needs soundbytes, heroes and villains to feed the 24 hr news cycles, spin-off tweets and social media. So a real learning moment is lost.


George W. Bush started the Afghanistan War and botched it in plenty of ways, not least by starting another war in Iraq. But Barack Obama, despite his obvious skepticism of the war effort, exacerbated Bush’s mistakes by bowing to the Washington foreign policy blob and authorizing a pointless troop surge. Now, although both Democrats and Donald Trump seem to be on the same page about getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, there has been little progress with peace talks.
 

james toney

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After 18 Years of US Occupation, Poll Finds 0% of Afghans Thriving...and 85% “Suffering”
Since the 2001 occupation of Afghanistan began, fighting has not stopped, destroying the country and leading to the U.S. spending an estimated $2 trillion on the war.

 

The OD

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$2 Trn is a lot to pay for a training ground.
Troops with no real combat experience are not very effective in a real conflict. A high proportion of them will be weeded out very fast under fire.

Afghanistan has played a vital part in keeping the US military combat ready and at just over 100 billion a year, they (The US) probably view it as money well spent.
 

Tacitus

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This is also really depressing from a German point of view. Afghanistan is the first war that Germany really participated in (The Kosovo war hardly counts) and thus there was always a feeling that Germany needed to suceeded exemplary there. The chance to rebuild a country that had been destroyed by war and a tyrannical leadership also resonated with many Germans. German politicians were amongst those who argued for nation-building, hence the Petersberg dialogue. The opportunities seemed endless. We could build schools, wells, provide vaccination et all. However now we see that most of our efforts were unsuccesful. Not solely because of others of course, as the papers reveal, Germany was very naive regarding the conditions in Afghanistan, e.g. when it came to building up a police force.

Now we are trapped. We can not win the war, but we also can not leave, because if we do and the Taliban take over, there will be another refugee wave rolling on Europe.
 

owedtojoy

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It strikes me that, if the Trump Administration really wanted to end "endless wars", this report gives it an invincible weapon to arouse public opinion.

The fact that the report is being buried suggests to me that it has triggered no serious soul-searching in Washington, and that the assumptions behind the intervention in Afghanistan, which were also carried into Iraq, are also now behind the drive for war with Iran.

In other words, the report is not about the past, it is about the future. :(

At least, perhaps, NATO allies of the US can use it to argue against further US adventurism in the Middle East.
 

Gin Soaked

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I know "graveyard of empires" is a cliche, but they should have just pursued Al Qaeda and OBL. And Iraq was the real disaster. It begat Syria and Obama spawned ISIS.

There is a reason why boots on the ground should be avoided. US foreign policy post 9-11 has been an utter disaster.

Arguably worse than Vietnam in many ways. And way longer.

Now they are stuck.

This is why Iran is also so deeply stupid. Diplomacy should have seen Iran in global rehab by now.

It is also why the EU needs to break clearly with the US in policy. Good to see this happening with Iran, but it needs to be clearer.
 

Gin Soaked

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It strikes me that, if the Trump Administration really wanted to end "endless wars", this report gives it an invincible weapon to arouse public opinion.

The fact that the report is being buried suggests to me that it has triggered no serious soul-searching in Washington, and that the assumptions behind the intervention in Afghanistan, which were also carried into Iraq, are also now behind the drive for war with Iran.

In other words, the report is not about the past, it is about the future. :(

At least, perhaps, NATO allies of the US can use it to argue against further US adventurism in the Middle East.
Seeing as the current Iranian intervention has united Iraq and Iran, it is imperative that the US be called out as moronic by the EU and other big countries.

Putin must be loving the self destruct.
 

owedtojoy

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I know "graveyard of empires" is a cliche, but they should have just pursued Al Qaeda and OBL. And Iraq was the real disaster. It begat Syria and Obama spawned ISIS.

There is a reason why boots on the ground should be avoided. US foreign policy post 9-11 has been an utter disaster.

Arguably worse than Vietnam in many ways. And way longer.

Now they are stuck.

This is why Iran is also so deeply stupid. Diplomacy should have seen Iran in global rehab by now.

It is also why the EU needs to break clearly with the US in policy. Good to see this happening with Iran, but it needs to be clearer.
The US invasion of Afghanistan is arguable, but the invasion of Iraq has set off a sequence of catastrophes, with an (apparent) war with Iran now in the offing.

Absolutely grotesquely, nearly all of the US leadership cadre, from Trump downward, supported the Iraq War. So also the war drummers in the US media. In other words, they got away with it last time, and are about to pull the same stunt, even with the evidence from Afghanistan laid bare for all to see.

Obama, at least, was an opponent of the Iraq War, from the get-go. And under his stewardship, the US had a lesser involvement in the Middle East (for example, in troop numbers) than it has now. Of course, he made mistakes, but they were capable of being fixed, while those of his successor will be far more difficult.
 

Tacitus

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The US invasion of Afghanistan is arguable, but the invasion of Iraq has set off a sequence of catastrophes, with an (apparent) war with Iran now in the offing.

Absolutely grotesquely, nearly all of the US leadership cadre, from Trump downward, supported the Iraq War. So also the war drummers in the US media. In other words, they got away with it last time, and are about to pull the same stunt, even with the evidence from Afghanistan laid bare for all to see.

Obama, at least, was an opponent of the Iraq War, from the get-go. And under his stewardship, the US had a lesser involvement in the Middle East (for example, in troop numbers) than it has now. Of course, he made mistakes, but they were capable of being fixed, while those of his successor will be far more difficult.
I suspect that what Trump prevents from issueing a withdrawal order is the scenario of a second Saigon. He really doesnt want to be associated with pictures of the Taliban taking Kabul. Who would want this as part of his legacy? So I suspect that each adminastration just keeps on kicking the can down the road, hoping that their successor will have to make the fateful decision.
 

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Democracies have particular problems in wars. Popular sentiment can provoke a confrontation when none should happen and admitting that a war has been a colossally expensive mistake is extremely difficult. The Taliban were not exactly an information-rich outfit and seem to have failed to understand AQ, its global ambitions and the danger it posed to them. There were no good options for the Americans. I vacillate between a remote war against AQ alone or toppling the Taliban, replacing them with a friendlier warlord and going home ASAP.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Afghanistan is an extraordinary place in a way. Various superpowers have been trying to subjugate the place since the advent of the propellered biplane and to my knowledge they've beaten off the British Empire, the Russians and the Americans. And most of the time they've hardly had a shekel to rub against another.

Most alarming shepherds on the planet if you check their stats.

If the Chinese are smart they'll build a wall between China and Afghanistan. And if really smart they'll make Trump pay for it.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Didn't the Afghan tribesmen enjoy playing polo with the heads of Russian soldiers at one point. That was Soviet Russia.
 

owedtojoy

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Afghanistan is an extraordinary place in a way. Various superpowers have been trying to subjugate the place since the advent of the propellered biplane and to my knowledge they've beaten off the British Empire, the Russians and the Americans. And most of the time they've hardly had a shekel to rub against another.

Most alarming shepherds on the planet if you check their stats.

If the Chinese are smart they'll build a wall between China and Afghanistan. And if really smart they'll make Trump pay for it.
Great book about the first British attempt to subjugate Afghanistan, which ended in disaster.

 

Lumpy Talbot

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The Afghans have only got China and France to beat and they become world champions. If there was any justice indeed they'd probably already have qualified for a seat on the UN Security Council. They've already seen off Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.

Curious enough too that one nation with barely an electricity supply in its cities, a country that for much of its mass and across a calendar year is a dusty baking hinterland of scrub at best, freezing cold anywhere hilly and where opium and hashish are the cash crops, starvation never that far away and yet they found time to be shepherds and moonlight as superpower-defeaters in their spare time.

Hardy feckers.
 

owedtojoy

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The Afghans have only got China and France to beat and they become world champions. If there was any justice indeed they'd probably already have qualified for a seat on the UN Security Council. They've already seen off Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.

Curious enough too that one nation with barely an electricity supply in its cities, a country that for much of its mass and across a calendar year is a dusty baking hinterland of scrub at best, freezing cold anywhere hilly and where opium and hashish are the cash crops, starvation never that far away and yet they found time to be shepherds and moonlight as superpower-defeaters in their spare time.

Hardy feckers.
Afghanistan's curse is that it is at a vital crossroads - which is why Alexander the Great conquered it. It controls key routes from Iran to India, and Central Asia to the Indian Ocean.

If it was Tibet or Bolivia, it would be better off. The British wanted it because they were sure the Russians planned to penetrate to the Indian Ocean. That "Great Game" seems to have been a myth, by the way. After a few wars with plenty of slaughter on both sides, the British settled for external control of the country through a friendly monarch.

The Russians wanted it in the 1980s because they feared a "Great Game" in reverse - Western penetration into Central Asia. After Communism collapsed it became important as the site of oil and gas pipelines. What is in store for it next I do not know.

Not a Graveyard of Empires so much as a place Empires drift past in the night - a brief encounter in the grand scheme of things.

PS Afghanistan has done some Empire-building of its own. Some Indian dynasties from the Mughal era and before originated in Afghanistan.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Bit like Poland in Europe. Everyone's tank-park.
 


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