Barring an unforeseen event or shift in policy, it seems likely that by May 2021, the United States will remove its military forces from Afghanistan. That being said, there is a vocal minority that believes the US and its NATO allies should leave a small presence of advisors behind to support “institutional development at the ministries and institutions.”

Joe Felter recently asked, “how can the international community pull out of Afghanistan without pulling the rug out from under the Afghans?”  The question of “who the Afghans are” is is a question frequently dodged. Are we discussing the Pathans/Pushtun who were ushered out of Pakistan’s Northwest Border Province by the “Taliban Movement” that the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) created? Are we talking about ethnic Tajiks or the Uzbeks in the north or the Iranian-Shiite backed groups that exist in the west of Afghanistan within the Iranian sphere of influence? Afghanistan is presently ruled by a weak, corrupt, government that many Afghans believe are propped up by the USA. They’re not wrong.

Some say that with “just a little more time”, the Afghan national army will be able to stand on its own. Twenty years and trillions of dollars later, it’s still the wet dream of beltway bandits who have been fleecing the US taxpayer with that (forlorn) hope for nearly a generation.

Is there any part of Afghanistan that the Afghan Government would control without the presence of US troops?

The Pakistanis used (in part) American foreign aid to create the Taliban. It was a fiction, that worked through deft manipulation of the Pashtun hope of going home to Afghanistan to toss the Tajiks out of office. Then the US spent money – lots and lots of money – attempting to build a nation that didn’t want to be built. (inside every Afghan, there is NOT an American trying to get out)

Critics of institutional advising in Afghanistan, including this blogger, suggest that contradictory efforts on the part of the US and NATO along with internal corruption and patronage substantively destroyed most attempted efforts toward progress. Ten years into the process, the Department of Defense began to send trained advisors to support the development of institutional processes within the Ministries of Defense and Interior. While advocates of continued US spending in Afghanistan will point out that after ten years, success is just around the corner, I disagree, and so does President Trump.

Once the war in Afghanistan shifted from a CIA led operation utilizing special operations troops on the ground with overhead support by the US Air Force to a “Big Army” war with large maneuvering forces and a lame (best term I can come up with) program of nation building that ebbed and flowed in different directions, spending/wasting billions of dollars a day, the effort was doomed.

There is an effort in the US National Security Council (NSC) to keep the US engaged with advisors (unsupported and vulnerable) on the ground. I believe that it is folly. I’ve heard their arguments and they ring hollow, they sound bureaucratic, and unfounded optimism never does much to sway me.

Many nations have appropriately reduced their presence in Afghanistan in favor of other missions that have a higher priority to their own national security interests.  For example, Italy’s key national security interests are focused on Libya and Europe’s south.

The NSC argues that if the US leaves, China will take over Afghanistan. My answer is that they are welcome to it. They can build a belt road through that poxy nation to Iran in the same way that they are doing it in Pakistan to get to the Indian Ocean.

The Afghan government has no long-term prospects for establishing institutions capable of securing territory and people from the threat of the Taliban. When the US leaves, the Taliban will roll in. Withdrawing US funding and US advisors to watch how the money is spent needs to accompany a withdrawal of troops. Allow the Afghans to decide their own future, growing opium and doing what they do. The place will once again fragment into a tribal/civil war for power

United States is unable protect its investment in Afghanistan without pouring more good money after bad. It’s time to recognize that fact.


  1. Having read James Michener’s book Caravans as a teenager, I concur wholeheartedly. I was in Bosnia when the “war” kicked off and told my troops then that we would kick ass at first but we would never succeed there the way we did after ww2. we should have studied the soviet adventure there. it should be pretty easy since helped make that adventure more spicy. why the hell was rummy hired over and over again despite losing every conflict he was involved in? I thought when I read the book that Afghanistan was my destiny and thirty years later lamented being turned down for deployment there…. i’m glad that I was wrong.

    • We could have studied The Great Game more closely, or could have done a lot of things that – if done – were done inadequately. The Russians tried to win hearts and minds – in their Russian way. They should have gone in harder and simply wiped out the indigenous population out completely the way that they did in Chechnya and replace the Afghans with Great Russians. They didn’t go far enough and the US has had a lot of mixed agendas.

      The Afghans don’t want nation building. They want to live in the 8th Century AD.

      • yes, exactly. after 9/11 I watched an interview of a guy, can’t remember his name, but he was a world renowned expert on islam. studied with the imams all over the world for decades. the host asked him what can we do to live in peace. he said, and I remember the gasp from the audience, KILL THEM ALL. the flabbergasted host stammered, you can’t be serious! he said as long as there is islam, there will be no peace…..

        • I worked extensively in and around Afghanistan before Afghanistan was cool. I don’t dislike the Afghan people and fancy that I understand them and their way of doing things. Tribal people have a different way of viewing the world. And their leaders are completely corrupt.

          We need to leave, and let Afghanistan be what it is.

  2. I’ve always held it to be a mistake to have remained in that hole. Nation building is not something we should be doing. We need to get everyone out as soon as feasible. Except Bergdahl. Send him back.

  3. Maybe the Taliban also will do as they did last time when they reduced the production of opium. That will help.

      • The Talibs are no longer hitting the opium pipe, meth has made it across the border from Iran. There are now tweaker Talibs.

        • I did not know that. I’m not surprised, though. The Chinese cornered that market in the subcontinent and they want to own that real estate.

  4. When and if the US pulls out, will the then downsize the military again? I know it is expensive to keep a military sitting around doing nothing, but that is also dangerous to for the nation to have less troops doing nothing but training.

    • That’s been part of the sub rosa rationale. Keep the Army in the field, training in real world situations. It’s costing a lot of money and enough lives.

  5. We could probably make Afghanistan into a pretty decent 3rd world nation, or a kind of lame second-world one, that would look sort of civilized from the resort hotels, if you drink the right amount.

    However, we’d have to be all-in on the project. We would have to be enthusiastic about getting our hands dirty, and murder those who need murder w/o hesitation or remorse.

    I figure it’d only take 100-150 years, and the repeating annual budget of… let’s say Ohio.

    In the end, we’d have a new, IDK, maybe Croatia, on the Moon. Plus, everyone would hate us even more.

    The electorate has no interest in that.

    I do wish we’d evacuate those who worked with us as honest friends when we go, but that’ll never happen. We’ll just fuck the people who joined our team, like always.

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