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Afghanistan

#61 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-August-20, 18:41

One point that Jason Kander makes in the podcast that I was listening to is that the Afghan government had agency.

Kander thinks that one very likely scenario is that the Afghan government was actively discouraging the US from taking actions that might be perceived as undercutting the Afghan government (and that taking aggressive actions to pull out local civilians would be one such example)
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#62 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-21, 06:43

View Posthrothgar, on 2021-August-20, 18:41, said:

One point that Jason Kander makes in the podcast that I was listening to is that the Afghan government had agency.

Kander thinks that one very likely scenario is that the Afghan government was actively discouraging the US from taking actions that might be perceived as undercutting the Afghan government (and that taking aggressive actions to pull out local civilians would be one such example)


There was an interview on PBS last night with Sarah Chayes (someone I had not heard of). Some of her comments concerned the kowtowing to Karzai.
https://www.pbs.org/...ead-to-its-fall
Here is part of it:

Quote

  • William Brangham:

    What role did the U.S.' actions play in this? Did we hinder the corruption? Did we help the corruption? Did we try to stop the corruption?
  • Sarah Chayes:

    I have to say, on balance, we enormously helped the corruption, as I say, first of all, by allowing local strongmen to capture the revenue streams.

    So, for example, you would have one local strongman who is providing security at that — at a U.S. base, and then he would only allow his people in to our contracting conferences, for example. We never held any of the officials that we were partnering with to account.

    I would say that, toward 2009-2010, we began to catch on to this as a serious issue. And so a decision was made to do a test case, with plenty of evidence. It was brilliantly mounted, and it had to do with a haul of approximately $900 million in Kabul Bank, right?

    So we're talking a significant issue here. And the person targeted who was taking a bribe was in the palace, was close to President Karzai. Well, as soon as President Karzai threw a fit about the arrest from his henchman, warrants executed a U-turn, and the U.S. never took corruption seriously after that. That was in 2010.

    In 2011, when I was working with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there was an interagency policy process that would arrive at a determination, how was the United States going to address corruption? And, explicitly, it was decided that we were not going to focus on any of the high-level corruption, only — quote — "street-level" police corruption, which, of course, was the purview of the military.

    So, from my perspective, there was a real dereliction of duty on the part of civilian leaderships in the United States.


I am sure international relations is a tricky business. Realistically, we must work with some pretty repulsive people. But we should try hard not to climb into bed with them, that never ends well.

For right now, we have to get people out as well as we can. It won't be simple, and it might not be as successful as we would like. But we don't want this to end like a Shakespeare tragedy with dead bodies lying everywhere. My Kingdom for a horse. Well, maybe that's not quite the right message. I'll work on it.
Ken
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#63 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-21, 06:55

View Postawm, on 2021-August-16, 13:54, said:

Elianna asked an interesting question today, but the person she asked may not have been old enough to really know, so I'll ask it again here.

For those who remember the US withdrawal from Vietnam, how does the news coverage of the evacuation of Kabul today compare to the evacuation of Saigon?


I saw a link this morning that brought your post to mind:

http://links.america...UO4vJQ8esKTgIjB



I just now saw the link so I cannot say much about it but it probably discusses the matter Elianna brought up.
Ken
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#64 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-21, 14:56

View Posty66, on 2021-August-20, 11:04, said:

Edit: Petraeus sounds like a drone salesman.

His counter-insurgency theory of gaining local support could be subtitled: how Uncle Sam became a ‘mark’ for Afghan conmen
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#65 User is offline   Chas_P 

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Posted 2021-August-21, 17:44

I'm really missing Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks.

#66 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-August-21, 23:16

View PostChas_P, on 2021-August-21, 17:44, said:

I'm really missing Norman Schwarzkopf and Tommy Franks.


Why?

All they did was invade Iraq.
The US did a great job invading Afghanistan.

If we wanted to, we could do a great job re-invading Afghanistan

Where we failed was nation building.

What makes you think that Schwarzkopf or Franks had any competency with this?
Alderaan delenda est
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#67 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2021-August-22, 04:07

I'm staying out of this from now on. I can't compete
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#68 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-August-22, 10:34

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-20, 18:09, said:

From Sullivan:
"When a regime knows its time is going to be up soon, and its leaders are not as determined to keep power as insurgents are to seize it, things can collapse very, very quickly. If our military leaders did not get this, they are as useless now as they have been for the past 20 years."



This sounds more like a warning to the United States on the possible collapse of its democracy in the coming years than a commentary on Afghanistan.
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#69 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2021-August-23, 04:29

I had my doubts, but if Tony Blair says the withdrawal was a tragic mistake - he of the infallible judgment of war and peace - then surely it must have been a tragic mistake. https://www.theguard...gible-evacuated

It means I can safely ignore the perspective of someone who has spent much of the last 20 years in Afghanistan, reporting, running two non-profits, and advising the US government, and who thinks the outcome now has been inevitable for quite a while: https://www.sarahcha...-ides-of-august

Since 2015, every year more than 10,000 Afghans (not counting Taliban soldiers) were killed in the war. https://twitter.com/...570055734751235
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#70 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2021-August-23, 04:35

View Postkenberg, on 2021-August-16, 06:14, said:

I guess someone should say something.

I don't think so!

Quote

I confess to ignorance.

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#71 User is offline   cherdano 

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Posted 2021-August-23, 04:38

View Postawm, on 2021-August-16, 13:54, said:

Elianna asked an interesting question today, but the person she asked may not have been old enough to really know, so I'll ask it again here.

For those who remember the US withdrawal from Vietnam, how does the news coverage of the evacuation of Kabul today compare to the evacuation of Saigon?

Here is a thread by James Fallows touching upon these questions: https://twitter.com/...443351405858821
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#72 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2021-August-24, 18:28

Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg said:

President Joe Biden’s handling of Afghanistan has few vocal defenders. What they lack in numbers, though, they make up for in unity of message: The press is being too hard on Biden. The president is a victim of “a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.” It’s the “overt editorializing” from the press that has made Biden’s Afghan record unpopular — editorializing that reflects the media’s alliance with national-security hawks. On Aug. 22 and 23, White House chief of staff Ron Klain used his Twitter feed to publicize five critiques of the media’s coverage of Afghanistan.

Bad press stings more for Democratic politicians than for Republican ones. The Democrats generally have friendlier relations with reporters, who generally have views more in alignment with theirs. Harshly negative stories can feel like a disturbance in the natural order, and Democrats in politics can react to them with a sense of betrayal. What makes it worse is that Democratic politicians cannot even get much benefit from attacking the press, the way Republicans can; Democratic voters don’t think of reporters as foes the way Republican voters do.

But the theory of press bias that Biden and some of his cheerleaders have adopted is wrong. It isn’t consistently hawkish. It wasn’t in 2005-07, when seemingly every day brought grim news from Iraq. Looking further back, coverage of the Vietnam War, especially after the first few years of U.S. involvement, was hardly favorable toward military action either.

So why is Biden taking so much flak? There are at least eight better explanations than the ones coming from the White House.

First, the press is biased, not toward hawkishness per se, but toward government action to relieve visible human suffering. When it comes to domestic politics, that generally works in favor of Democrats. In foreign policy, it can work for U.S. military action or against it, depending on whether action or inaction seems to be more responsible for bloodshed and oppression. The press will therefore have a soft spot for military action if it is seen as motivated by humanitarian concerns. (Recall that in Donald Trump’s first months as president, the media — specifically images of children subject to chemical warfare — prompted him to order air strikes in Syria.)

Second, many journalists covering Afghanistan have built relationships with Afghans who are now at grave risk from the Taliban. That circumstance, too, is pushing the coverage in a hawkish direction.

Third, Biden’s decisions have generated nearly uniform criticism from Republicans — even the ones who agree that we should be getting out of Afghanistan say he has carried out the policy badly — while a lot of Democrats, including veterans of the war such as Denver-area Representative Jason Crow, have broken with the administration. That’s a formula for unfavorable coverage.

Fourth, Biden’s pre-withdrawal spin could hardly have aged worse. He’s now saying that of course our departure is taking place amid chaos. Back on July 8, he said, “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” News stories do him a favor whenever they don’t mention this soundbite.

Fifth, the administration’s spin hasn’t gotten better. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday that it’s “irresponsible” to characterize Americans as “stranded” in Afghanistan. This weird semantic battle is not one the White House can win.

Sixth, the administration’s attempts to blame its predecessor for the situation undercuts its own position. When Biden’s allies say that Trump owns this debacle, they’re conceding it’s a debacle. If things were going well, they would be saying that withdrawal is a great achievement that Trump only talked about but Biden accomplished.

Seventh, Biden’s policies have put him in a box politically: He can’t even voice the lowest-common-denominator sentiment of Americans that the Taliban are murderous barbarians. His policy will be an even bigger disaster if they start taking American hostages, and he knows it. He therefore doesn’t want to provoke them, even if it disarms him rhetorically.

The eighth reason for the bad press is the most important: The news that’s being reported is just bad. Biden wouldn’t have had to send troops back to Afghanistan if it weren’t. When Republicans in Trump’s first weeks in office complained that the press was not letting him have a traditional presidential honeymoon, it rang hollow: When your national security adviser has to go after 23 days on the job, there’s no way to make it a positive story. There’s no way to make this story good either. Biden’s problem isn’t a biased press; it’s a recalcitrant reality.

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#73 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 05:45

David Leonhardt at NYT said:

What might a more successful exit from Afghanistan have looked like?

I have spent some time talking with colleagues and experts about that question, and it is a difficult one to answer. President Biden’s exit certainly has not gone well. The “orderly” withdrawal he had promised did not happen, and the world has watched agonizing scenes of Afghans trying to escape.

But I’ve also noticed a naïveté about some of the commentary on Afghanistan. It presumes that there was a clean solution for the U.S., if only the Biden administration (and, to a lesser extent, the Trump administration) had executed it. The commentary never quite spells out what the solution was, though.

There is a reason for that: A clean solution probably did not exist.

The fundamental choice, as my colleague Helene Cooper told me, was between a permanent, low-level U.S. war in Afghanistan — a version of what John McCain once called a 100-year war — and a messy exit. “The pullout was never going to be a simple thing,” says Helene, who covers the Pentagon. “It was always going to be an ugly pullout.”

My goal with today’s newsletter is to explain what the true options in Afghanistan were, as well as some alternate decisions by the Biden administration that might have worked out better.

More

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#74 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 07:18

Matt Yglesias said:

After a rough couple of days, the evacuation of personnel from the Kabul Airport seems to be going a bit more smoothly, and the media’s obsession with trying to punish Joe Biden for defying the national security establishment and ending a hopeless and pointless war should fade away.

The damage to his approval rating will be already done, however, and a message will be sent to future politicians: it doesn’t matter how badly we fail; any effort to admit that we failed and cut out losses will be blamed on you, not us. What I find particularly frustrating about the national security establishment’s hostility to leaving Afghanistan — a policy they opposed during the most opportune moment to do it when Osama bin Laden was killed during Barack Obama’s presidency, a policy they successfully blocked during Trump’s four years, and a policy they’ve been furiously lashing out at Biden for implementing — is that they themselves have never treated Afghanistan as strategically important to the United States. This makes the policy disagreement over Afghanistan vexing and frustrating.

https://www.slowbori...XJct9dyCGBtTLX4

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#75 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 07:28

I spent a couple of days visiting grandkids. One of them just started kindergarten and the subject of Afghanistan did not arise. But here I am, back again. On the drive home Becky commented on how we plan to evacuate "all Americans who wish to leave". She observed that some Americans do not wish to take the covid vaccine so perhaps there also are some Americans in Afghanistan who do not wish to leave but it is hard to imagine that there are many such. I thought about what "all Americans who wish to leave" means. It's a little slippery. Do we intend to say that if an American did not make it to the Embassy and announce "I wish to leave" then we will just assume he is fine with staying?

This is another way of saying that the issue before us is "What do we do now?"


David Ignatius writes about working with the Taliban. The column is not optimistic but he does not quite reject it. What do I think? I hope the people who are making the decisions know what they are doing. I am not confident that they do.

A word or two about ignorance. In my intro to this thread I began "I guess someone should say something. I confess to ignorance." A few posts back Cherdano cited this, suggesting, or so I took it, that if I am ignorant maybe I should not be saying something. Fair enough, but here we are once again at a decision point. Joe Biden, once again, will not be calling me for advice. I imagine that we will be discussing this. I am open to such discussion, and that includes people who cannot name three alternative airports to Kabul from which we could evacuate refugees.

At times I think that if the people who planned this withdrawal had been more honest about their own limitations of knowledge we might have been better prepared for coping with this disaster.

I liked the Leonhardt column, and the others as well.
Ken
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#76 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 08:01

Agreed

The Leonhart column was well done
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#77 User is offline   y66 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 08:23

US Embassy in Kabul, April 27, 2021 said:

U.S. Embassy strongly suggests that U.S. citizens make plans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited.

Perhaps they should have added in parentheses: "as soon as possible means please get the f#ck out now while you can".
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#78 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 08:45

During the campaign season, I was not a huge Biden supporter - but I did come to believe that he had the best chance to defeat Trump. I have been surprised that he has been as good of president as he has been thus far, and I count Afghanistan in that assessment. The one thing seemingly all the media reporting omits is that Biden is the only politician willing to take the heat for a horrible decision almost 20 years ago and ending a ridiculous forever war. That the evacuations weren't handled perfectly is a minor blip on the big-picture map that we are not still fighting and sending troops to Afghanistan. And that is definitely to Joe Biden's credit.
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#79 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 09:03

View Posty66, on 2021-August-25, 08:23, said:

Perhaps they should have added in parentheses: "as soon as possible means please get the f#ck out now while you can".


I mentioned the PBS reporter Jane Ferguson. She has tremendous courage but now I urge:

Get on the plane, Jane.
Ken
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#80 User is offline   Lovera 

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Posted 2021-August-25, 09:19

Also "Afghan Lives Matter"
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