As the Biden administration debates what to do in Afghanistan, there is a great deal of talk about how the U.S. should not abandon the government there. Meanwhile, the Taliban has stuck to its pledge not to attack American troops for a year, and had promised that it would not allow terrorists a base in Afghanistan in the case of U.S. withdrawal.
Given these facts, supporters of continuing the war have come to realize that the national security case for staying is weaker than ever, and have centered their argument on moral appeals. What would happen to the Afghan government if the United States left?
But such arguments require that the Afghan government be morally superior to the Taliban and able to provide a better future for its people. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that this is the case.
By all accounts, the Taliban is less corrupt than those the U.S. is defending. How could this be the case? The Afghan war has cost the U.S. over $2 trillion, which includes military spending on fighting the Taliban, aid to the Kabul government, and reconstruction projects. What is the Taliban spending on this war? There are no official numbers, but according to one report, they brought in $1.6 billion in the fiscal year that ended in March 2020. The Taliban can gain and hold territory in the face of overwhelming odds because they have better morale and more effective organization.
This has been admitted by officials of the Afghan government. According to Tooryalai Wesa, the former governor of Kandahar province, citizens told him that under Taliban rule “the money changers used to cover their money just under a sheet” as they went to pray because “people knew that law will be enforced.” Moreover, “when Taliban ordered to stop poppy cultivation, Mullah Omar could enforce it with his blind eye.” Under the U.S. occupation, drug production has been out of control, sometimes implicating Afghans at the top levels of government.
Taliban competence compared to government corruption is still a recurring theme of reporting on the conflict. A driver delivering a cargo of potatoes on Highway 1 recently reported that while he needed to pay the Taliban a one-time toll of the equivalent of $75, the government was worse, with 12 different checkpoints on the same road, each demanding up to $37, while providing inferior levels of security.
According to the New York Times, from the beginning of the American invasion, “the insurgents seized on the corruption and abuses of the Afghan government put in place by the United States, and cast themselves as arbiters of justice and Afghan tradition — a powerful part of their continued appeal with many rural Afghans in particular.”
While the West rightly criticizes the Taliban for its human rights abuses, the Afghan government also has blood on its hands. Secret units have carried out summary executions on flimsy grounds, including against children. And while the Taliban has been suspected of being behind an ongoing assassination campaign against civil society figures, recently credible reports have emerged that the Afghan government is secretly killing individuals advocating for reconciliation and the end of war.
The practice of bacha bazi, an Afghan custom in which a young boy dances for and is sexually abused by older men, made a comeback in Afghanistan during the war. It was the Taliban that originally made the practice illegal for being inconsistent with Sharia law. In 2015, it was apparently common practice among Afghan military and police, and American soldiers were told to ignore it. The Afghan government did not move to ban the custom until 2017. Revulsion over the practice was reported to be key to Mullah Omar’s rise to power, with locals in the south of the country objecting to warlords raping their young boys and throwing their support behind the Taliban and its effective, if harsh, form of justice.
Have you ever wondered what NATO’s position on diversity is?
This week, the world’s most powerful military alliance tweeted, ‘Diversity is our strength’. The tweet featured a video of employees of various ethnic backgrounds, including both men and women, telling viewers to ‘respect our needs’ and ‘embrace our differences’. NATO encouraged Twitter users to share the tweet – which was in honour of ‘#ZeroDiscriminationDay’ – ‘to join us in celebrating the differences that make us stronger’. The organisation which bombed Iraq and Libya back to the dark ages is diverse. How nice.
It’s not just NATO that has leapt on the woke bandwagon. Former CIA boss John Brennan – the ‘principal coordinator’ of a US anti-terror ‘kill list’, who also oversaw American drone strikes – revealed his white guilt this week. ‘I’m increasingly embarrassed to be a white male these days with what I see other white males say’, he told MSNBC.
The US Army is in on the fun, too. It has its own ‘Equity and Inclusion Agency’, which launched ‘Project Inclusion’ last year. This operation included ‘listening sessions with soldiers and civilians worldwide to converse on race, diversity, equity and inclusion’. General James C McConville, chief of staff of the US Army, said on the army’s website that it ‘must continue to put People First by fostering a culture of trust that accepts the experiences and backgrounds of every soldier and civilian’. I wonder what the citizens of the many countries the US has attacked in recent years would have to say about that.
The military is signed up to the environmentalist agenda, too. Both the US and British armies are pursuing ‘Net Zero’ emissions targets. The army needs to be ‘on the right side of the environmental argument, especially in the eyes of that next generation of recruits that increasingly make career decisions based on a prospective employer’s environmental credentials’, according to senior British general Sir Mark Carleton Smith. The military, with its gas-guzzling tanks and fighter jets, is a significant emitter of CO2. So apparently, in order to attract recruits for the next foreign war, we need eco-friendly death machines.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced a $125 million military aid package for Ukraine. The $125 million package includes two armed Mark VI patrol boats, giving Ukraine a total of eight such vessels provided by the US.
The Pentagon said the package also includes “capabilities to enhance the lethality, command and control, and situational awareness of Ukraine’s forces.” This means additional counter-artillery radars, other tactical equipment, continued support for satellite systems, and some medical equipment.
This package is the first part of the $275 million approved by Congress for Ukraine in the 2021 fiscal year. As per the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the additional $150 million is contingent on Ukraine reforming its military. The Pentagon said it will work with the State Department to certify “that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on key defense reforms this year.”
Since the 2014 US-backed coup in Ukraine that sparked the war in the eastern Donbas region, the US has provided Kyiv with $2 billion in military aid. Despite the controversy around President Trump and aid to Ukraine, he took a step the Obama administration was not willing to take and sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kyiv.
Last week, President Biden released a statement on the seventh anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and said the US would “never” accept Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. He said the US “will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts.”
The U.S. Navy has handed a contract to Raytheon for versions of its Coyote small unmanned aerial vehicle configured as loitering munitions, also known as “suicide drones.” The service says that it specifically wants them to support the development of unmanned surface and underwater vehicles as platforms to launch drone swarms, which could offer a slate of game-changing capabilities.
The Pentagon announced the deal, valued at up to almost $33 million if all the options were to be exercised, in its daily contracting notice on Feb. 26, 2021. The announcement said that the contract, which the Office of Naval Research (ONR) awarded to Raytheon, was for “Coyote Block 3 (CB3) Autonomous Strike” drones to support work on “Autonomous Swarm/Strike – Loitering Munitions.”
This is “a rapid capability effort to achieve operational launch capability from unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and an unmanned underwater vessel (UUV). The intended concept of operations (CONOP) and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision strike capability from maritime platforms,” the contracting notice added. “Additionally, the High Volume Long Range Precision Strike (HVLRPS) from USVs and Fires (HVLRPF) from UUVs demonstrations will leverage prior efforts including the Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) and progress on the Mobile Precision Attack Vehicle (MoPAV).”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a worldwide “stand down” of the U.S. military in April to focus on extremism in the ranks. This is fine, but indications are that the one-day sessions will not focus on both ends of the political spectrum, and will not identify true extremists who have no place in the military.
One wag snarked, “Just ask if they voted for Donald Trump.” More seriously, retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Kolditz, a former department head at West Point, told Fortune in an interview that he was very concerned about a “strong Trump following in the military.”
Kolditz conceded that military men and women can be conservative, but Trump supporters who think that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was “a good thing” (Are there any?) should be removed. “That probably won’t happen,” he added, “until the Trump loyalists are out.”
Move over fancy-schmancy storage containers with bars on the windows because the Biden administration is reopening a detention camp in Florida that Trump shut down in 2019 … probably because it’s contaminated with military waste.
And they said Trump was cruel, wow.
US foreign policy has clearly continued in the same direction, without missing a beat. Unlike in previous transitions in the White House, this time US President Joe Biden has not even really tried to promise even the faintest hope that it wouldn’t.There were a few glimpses of remote hope – particularly regarding the possibility the US wouldn’t abandon its last arms treaty with Russia, New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) – and Biden’s promise of returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.
However, in Biden’s first speech regarding foreign policy since taking office, now posted on the White House’s official website and titled, “Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World,” reveals that, if anything, US belligerence on the global stage is set to only expand.
“America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”
Biden’s opening remarks attempt to suggest that America has drifted away under his predecessor US President Donald Trump. But when he says “America is back,” we are left to assume he means “back” to what the US was doing under the administration of US President Barack Obama under which he served as vice president.
This was a president elected into office by the American people to end the wars of his predecessor, US President George W. Bush. Not only did he fail to end those wars – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – he expanded both. He also started several new wars including in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
Under the administration of Obama-Biden, the US also overthrew the government of Ukraine in 2014 precipitating deadly violence in the nation’s eastern region.
Obama also continued Bush-era policies aimed at overthrowing the government of Venezuela and instituted the so-called US “pivot” to Asia in which US meddling was expanded in a bid to peel Southeast Asian states away from China’s orbit – or create an arc of chaos to disrupt China’s rise, trying.
And in Biden’s recent foreign policy speech – he has vowed to continue all of this.