The American intervention in Afghanistan is ending badly. U.S. efforts to establish a western-style democracy or impose a military solution on Third-World countries have seldom worked — not in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan.
Only 38 percent of the adult population of Afghanistan is literate, as opposed to the international average of 84%. Afghanistan’s ethnic and linguistic differences and history of invasions complicate the problem.
We intervened initially to force the Taliban to expel Bin Laden and al-Qaeda after 911. We accomplished that in 100 days, but then stayed for 20 more years.
Even after almost 20 years, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in January 2020 was still reassuring people that we had turned the corner and were on our way to a solution in Afghanistan.
Senior military officers are expected to echo such assessments. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV in 2011, then the head of the training command in Afghanistan, asserted that the Afghan army was “the best-trained, the best-equipped and the best-led,” and added, “they only continue to get better over time.”
In 2013, Gen. Mark Milley, then deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and now Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said, “I am much more optimistic about the outcome here, as long as the Afghan security forces continue to do what they’ve been doing.”
And those were the experts.
The U.S. bears “major responsibility” for the Afghan military’s collapse and the Taliban’s success, says former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker. “It began under President Trump when he authorized negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban without the Afghan government in the room.”
Those were surrender talks, he says, in which we forced the Afghan government to release over 5,000 Taliban prisoners, who immediately returned to fighting.
Trump’s former national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, also termed the Trump document a “surrender agreement.“
Trump’s former defense secretary, Mark Esper, accused Trump of undermining the agreement by repeatedly urging that U.S. troops leave even though the Taliban did not comply with the terms of the negotiated agreement.
In fact, Trump actively sabotaged the peace talks by repeatedly tweeting his intention to withdraw all U.S. troops by May 1, thus removing any incentive for the Taliban to negotiate.
As FactCheck.org reported: “The Trump administration in February 2020 negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government, freed 5,000 imprisoned Taliban soldiers and set a date certain of May 1, 2021, for the final withdrawal.
“And the Trump administration kept to the pact, reducing U.S. troop levels from about 13,000 to 2,500, even though the Taliban continued to attack Afghan government forces and welcomed al-Qaeda terrorists into the Taliban leadership.”
Jennifer Rubin wrote in the Washington Post that “the Afghans were cutting deals — taking bribes, really — to capitulate as soon as we were gone: The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.
“Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.”
In short, this was a negotiated defeat, inevitably involving the Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, the founders and long-time patrons of the Taliban. Former JCS Chairman Mike Mullen told the Senate in 2011 that the Taliban were a virtual arm of the ISI.
David Vine wrote in the Guardian that “…the U.S. has fueled corruption in Afghanistan through CIA and military deliveries of bags of cash to Afghan power brokers and a system of bribes to ensure U.S. troops remained fed and supplied. Absurdly, the U.S. government has spent billions paying the Taliban not to attack convoys supplying troops sent to fight the Taliban.”
Trump meanwhile pressured Pakistan to release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder and leader of the Taliban, who was captured by the U.S. in 2010 and imprisoned in Pakistan until 2018; he was released from a Pakistani jail at Trump’s request so he could negotiate a withdrawal with Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Even the GOP has disowned Trump’s agreement; The Republican National Committee has removed a webpage from 2020 in which it praised Donald Trump for signing a “historic peace agreement with the Taliban.”
Tom Maertens served as director of the interagency task force that planned and coordinated the U.S. response to 911, including the intervention in Afghanistan.