USA: An In-Depth Analysis of the Afghanistan Crisis – By: The Conversation

Academic rigour, journalistic flair
In-Depth Analysis of the Afghanistan Crisis
Here is what our coverage today of the crisis in Afghanistan is not about: It is not about political figures trashing the president or how 2022 midterm campaigns will use the messy exit as a cudgel against opponents. And there are no pundits opining about the “optics” of what is going on.

What we offer instead is trenchant analysis. Two experts – one a scholar long-experienced in foreign affairs, the other a security policy and politics analyst – provide critical insights on the history of the Afghanistan conflict and how over two decades it led, ultimately, to the terrible images of chaos and death we have seen over the past few days.         

Gordon Adams, of the American University School of International Service, ranges through three failed wars fought by the U.S. – Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – and concludes that the same motivating force led the country into all of them: hubris. “Afghanistan is now the poster child for the sense that the U.S. can remake the world,” writes Adams, who calls that belief “delusional.”

UMass Lowell scholar Arie Perliger complements Adams’ analysis. He notes that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan stemmed from a misguided approach “in which military seizures of territory are intended to fight international extremist movements and ideologies.” The problem, writes Perliger, is “military organizations are not equipped or trained” to build democracies and political institutions.

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

U.S. troops in Afghanistan had better equipment, training and funding than the Taliban. AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan?

Arie Perliger, University of Massachusetts Lowell

It may be attractive to think that promoting democracy in occupied foreign countries is an appropriate moral and effective path for restoring security and stability. But it’s not accurate.

Politics + Society

Afghanistan only the latest US war to be driven by deceit and delusion

Gordon Adams, American University School of International Service

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that the US Afghanistan pullout is not a repeat of failures in other recent wars. “This is not Saigon,” he said. A seasoned foreign policy expert disagrees.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 2:38 am

    After reading the two forwarded essays, I am reminded that the Vietnamese referred to the Russian personnel who replaced the Americans in Hanoi and
    [Sài Gòn] Ho Chi Minh City as “Americans without money.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 4:52 am

    Chee-A-Tow wrote:

    This was a policy based on arrogance and the belittling of an enemy they thought would crumble at the sight of overwhelming weaponry. We are once again paying the price of defeat by a much militarily inferior enemy, in terms of weaponry, but which was fighting for their homeland and way of life.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 5:06 am

    That “survival instinct-thing” is a powerful drug – Motivator!!

    The fight-or-flight reaction to threats is far too simplistic to effectively overcome many of those we are confronted with today.

    Unlike threats of the past, today’s are often neither immediate, foreseeable, or understandable, much less controllable.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 5:16 am

    Why Did A Military Superpower Fail In Afghanistan?

    Arie Perliger | The Conversation

    The speed and efficiency with which Taliban forces were able to complete the occupation of most of Afghanistan, as well as the quick collapse of the Afghan government, has led to criticism of President Joe Biden’s decision to end U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and of the withdrawal’s logistics.

    BUT THE CRITICISMS, WHILE VALID, MAY BE BESIDE THE POINT. I have studied conflicts like those in Afghanistan for more than 20 years. My experience has taught me that there are more fundamental problems with the United States’ strategy in the 20-year war, of which the current chaos is only the latest manifestation.

    They stem from an approach in which military seizures of territory are intended to fight international extremist movements and ideologies, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    Nation-Building Is NOT A Military Strategy

    U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, was initially justified by a need to dismantle immediate and serious national security threats: al-Qaida and Fears Of Weapons Of Mass Destruction.

    However, those short-term goals were quickly replaced by a longer-term goal of preventing future threats from those countries, such as new extremist groups. That led the U.S., with other nations, to occupy both nations and attempt to provide stability and security so that the people of those countries could set up their own governments.

    It may be attractive to think that promoting democracy in occupied foreign countries is a morally justified and effective path for restoring security and stability. But political reform is more successful when it originates from the local societies and political cultures.

    In Tunisia, for example, local political movements were able to transform their government, a success due in part to a lack of foreign involvement.

    In Afghanistan, international groups like the U.N., alongside non-profits and independent aid agencies, spent millions of dollars and untold hours of work trying to build democracy, write a constitution, create a bill of rights and otherwise create a new political society.

    But this external approach, based on military occupation, was “DOOMED TO FAIL”, according to official assessments published in 2009 by the Center for Complex Operations at the U.S. military’s National Defense University.

    That assessment said “nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a debacle” and recommended the military resume its historic focus on preparing for war.

    Military organizations are not equipped or trained to engage effectively in civilian-centered missions such as fostering national identity, forming political institutions or instilling democratic practices of accountability. Promoting stability is different from promoting democracy, and stability can in fact be present even under very undemocratic governments.

    The history of military interventions in places such as the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon, Somalia and Iraq show that when local leaders are dependent on foreign military forces to maintain power, it’s hard to build popular legitimacy, govern effectively and build a shared national identity.

    The Misuse Of Military Power In Counter-Terrorism

    Boots-on-the-ground military forces aren’t good at nation-building or democracy-fostering. Nor are they good at information warfare – fighting effectively in the battlefield of ideas.

    TERRORISM, at its essence, is a form of symbolic but deadly violence used to communicate a political message. The conflict is not just over who controls which pieces of land, but rather whose narrative is most influential.

    In Afghanistan, decades of Western military superiority failed to uproot the Taliban’s ideological narrative regarding the corrupted nature of Afghan leaders and their allies and their betrayal of Islamic traditions and practices. Nor could that superiority strengthen a unified national identity that might at least partially erode tribal attachments, which were exploited so successfully by the Taliban.

    And even when their forces were driven off targeted territory, both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida developed new bases and strongholds far from the fighting. They did this not exclusively by military force, but also through the power of their ideas and by providing an alluring alternative ideological narrative.

    THE CORRECT CONCLUSIONS FROM AFGHANISTAN

    After 20 years, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has failed to establish any coherent and sustainable political structure with popular legitimacy. Based on that experience, and the experiences in other countries in other circumstances, there is no reason to think that a continued troop presence would change that.

    Locally based political movements that seek democracy and civil liberties – in Afghanistan or elsewhere – can benefit from U.S. support, but NOT from military force.

    Forcing societies to embrace democratic practices can lead to political instability, conflict and a decline in citizens’ safety.

    IN MY VIEW, THE CLEAR CONCLUSION FROM ALL THE EVIDENCE IS THAT MILITARY INTERVENTION SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON MILITARY OBJECTIVES, AND SHOULD NOT DIVERGE INTO POLITICAL OR SOCIAL ENGINEERING.

  • wally n  On 08/20/2021 at 9:14 am

    Strange all these long discussions and opinions, without a mention of why would any country want to be involved in a shit hole like Afghanistan. Lets say maybe it is one of the largest producers of heroin actually means billions of dollars, and maybe military and the CIA has access to unlimited funds. And then there is this…

    In 2010, a report by US military experts and geologists estimated that Afghanistan was sitting on nearly $1 trillion ( £730 billion) in mineral wealth. A huge amount of iron, copper, gold, cobalt and rare-earth deposits are scattered around its provinces. Afghanistan’s lithium reserve is believed to be the largest in the world.
    The resources can dramatically reform the economic prospects of Afghanistan, currently one of the world’s poorest countries. However, for years, the potential couldn’t be tapped into due to ongoing conflicts.
    Now China needs those deposits, China can easily move the heroin without international inspection and also have complete access to all.
    Stick to what is important!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 10:01 am

    Philip wrote:

    Nah., The super powers invested in high tech weapons and aircraft instead of an abundant supply of AK 47s and Toyota pick up trucks.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 10:28 am

    Don’t Give George W. Bush A Pass On Afghanistan

    SALON P.O.V.

    “It seems like only yesterday that the President of the United States was standing on the pile of rubble of the World Trade Center with a bullhorn telling the world, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Salon’s Heather Digby Parton writes.
    But to watch the pundits and politicians on cable news the last few days, it would be easy to forget the real reason for this war: REVENGE.

    The blame for this week’s debacle is surely spread around Washington fairly evenly — the war was, after all, a bipartisan project from the very beginning — but it’s been strange to see Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Barack Obama getting the majority of the flack from talking heads when George W. Bush was, by any measure, the mastermind of the venture at its outset.

    At least it appears the American people haven’t forgotten:

    “According to a Business Insider poll this week, more Americans blame Bush for the U.S. failure in Afghanistan than all the presidents that succeeded him. Whether the media keeps showing him as the nice old guy who cares about the Afghan women or not, he will always be that guy with the bullhorn — and that isn’t such a feel-good moment 20 years later.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 10:31 am

    The Military Industrial Complex at work – They got to sell their Guns and Ammo!!

  • wally n  On 08/20/2021 at 12:48 pm

    holy crap???
    OTHER BREAKING NEWS…
    HAITI DISAPPEARS FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH…those poor people
    BUB BYE

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 10:27 pm

    Senior Trump Officials Rip Former Boss for Afghanistan Pact:

    ‘The Taliban Didn’t Defeat Us. We Defeated Ourselves.’

    Joe de Paolo | MSN Media

    FOR DAYS NOW, FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP HAS TRIED TO PIN THE FALL OF AFGHANISTAN TO THE TALIBAN SQUARELY ON HIS SUCCESSOR, PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN.

    But several top officials in his administration are calling out their former boss for trying to distance himself from a fire they believe he started.

    APPEARING ON A PODCAST WITH BARI WEISS, H.R. McMASTER — Trump’s former national security adviser — LAID BLAME SQUARELY AT THE FEET OF TRUMP AND FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO FOR SIGNING WHAT HE DEEMS AN ILL-FATED DEAL WITH THE TALIBAN IN FEBRUARY 2020.

    “OUR SECRETARY OF STATE SIGNED A SURRENDER AGREEMENT WITH THE TALIBAN,” McMaster said. “THIS COLLAPSE GOES BACK TO THE CAPITULATION AGREEMENT OF 2020. THE TALIBAN DIDN’T DEFEAT US. WE DEFEATED OURSELVES.”

    SIMILARLY, FORMER TRUMP DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK ESPER — in a CNN International interview Tuesday — MAINTAINED THAT TRUMP’S VOCAL IMPATIENCE WITH WANTING U.S. TROOPS OUT OF AFGHANISTAN HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE SITUATION.

    “MY CONCERN WAS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP, BY CONTINUING TO WANT TO WITHDRAW AMERICAN FORCES OUT OF AFGHANISTAN, UNDERMINED THE AGREEMENT,” Esper said. “Which is why in the fall, when he was calling for a return of U.S Forces by Christmas, I objected and formally wrote a letter to him. A memo based on recommendations from the military chain of command and my senior civilian leadership that we not go further, that we not reduce below 4,500 troops — unless and until conditions were met by the Taliban. Otherwise, we would see a number of things play out, which are unfolding right now in many ways.”

    Trump has insisted, in recent days, that Biden owns Afghanistan — calling on him to “resign in disgrace” for his handling of the situation. Tuesday night on Hannity, Trump claimed that he would have stood up more to the Taliban if he were still in office.

    “We had a great deal, we worked on it very hard,” Trump said. “Mike Pompeo, a brilliant guy, and many others worked on it endlessly. Meetings with the Taliban, of course, you have to meet with the Taliban. They’re the ones that you’re negotiating with. I spoke on numerous occasions to the head of the Taliban, and we had a very strong conversation. I told him up front, I said, ‘look, before we start, let me just tell you right now that if anything bad happens to Americans or anybody else or if you ever come over to our land, we will hit you with a force that no country has ever been hit with before.’”

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/20/2021 at 10:33 pm

    After reading the foregoing, it reminds me of the time North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.”

    In response, President Trump tweeted that the nuclear launch button on his desk is “much bigger” and “more powerful” than that of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – and that his button actually “works”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s