The black hole of Aghanistan

SIGAR (the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) was established in 2008 to serve as an oversight body. It conducts audits of reconstruction projects and its mission is to look for waste and fraud.

In the wake of the collapse of the Afghan government last year, SIGAR was asked by Congress to look into the causes of the rapid collapse and today it issued an interim report. The text of the report is here.

Here is a summary of the conclusions.

SIGAR found that the single most important factor in the ANDSF’s collapse in August 2021 was the U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under the Trump administration, followed by President Biden’s withdrawal announcement in April 2021. Due to the ANDSF’s dependency on U.S. military forces, these events destroyed ANDSF morale. The ANDSF had long relied on the U.S. military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries. The U.S.-Taliban agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population. The agreement set in motion a series of events crucial to understanding the ANDSF’s collapse.

The report identifies “six factors that accelerated the ANDSF’s collapse in August 2021.”

1) U.S. decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan through signing the U.S.-Taliban agreement in February 2020 under the Trump administration, followed by President Biden’s withdrawal announcement in April 2021
2) the change in the U.S. military’s level of support to the ANDSF
3) the ANDSF never achieving self-sustainment
4) Afghan President Ashraf Ghani frequently changing ANDSF leaders and appointing loyalists
5) Afghan government’s failing to take responsibility for Afghan security through an implementation of a national security strategy
6) the Taliban’s military campaign effectively exploiting ANDSF weaknesses

In addition, the report identifies “nine factors that explain why, after 20 years and nearly $90 billion in U.S. security assistance, the ANDSF was ill-prepared to sustain security following a U.S. withdrawal”.

1) no country or agency had complete ownership of the ANDSF development mission,
2) the length of the U.S. commitment was disconnected from the reality of the time required to build an entire security sector
3) the U.S. created long-term dependencies that would require significant time to overcome, such as providing the ANDSF with advanced equipment they could not sustain and leaving them out of the equipping process
4) the U.S. military, driven by political deadlines, struggled to balance winning battles with letting the ANDSF gain experience by fighting on their own
5) U.S. metrics created to measure the development of the ANDSF were unable to effectively measure ANDSF capabilities
6) Afghan corruption harmed ANDSF capabilities and readiness
7) U.S. control of the battlespace and of key governance systems restricted Afghan ownership of important military and governance systems
8) U.S. and Afghan governments failed to develop a police force effective at providing justice
9) advisors were often ill-trained and inexperienced for their mission, and personnel rotations impeded institutional memory

SIGAR has been issuing quarterly reports and “lessons learned” reports as part of its mission. Last August, SIGAR issued one of these “lessons learned” reports, the text is here, and this is from the executive summary.

The U.S. government has now spent 20 years and $145 billion trying to rebuild Afghanistan, its security forces, civilian government institutions, economy, and civil society. The Department of Defense (DOD) has also spent $837 billion on warfighting, during which 2,443 American troops and 1,144 allied troops have been killed and 20,666 U.S. troops injured. Afghans, meanwhile, have faced an even greater toll. At least 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed. More than 48,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, and at least 75,000 have been injured since 2001—both likely significant underestimations.

What, really, do we have to show for all that blood and treasure? Will anyone be held accountable, even if it’s only at the ballot box? If the American people don’t have the fortitude to hold their leaders accountable, we shouldn’t hold out hope that said leaders will hold themselves accountable.

Rumor Of War

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Ukraine and Kazakhstan border on Russia. They are all mobilizing troops along the borders.


Secretary of State Blinken says NATO never promised not to admit new members, and that the United States is fully committed to defending the principles NATO stands for. The US has moved an aircraft carrier group into position in preparation to defend those principles.


China and Taiwan both agree there is only one China; they disagree whether the mainland or the island is the wayward province which should be ruled by the other. Lesko Brandon said the United States will defend Taiwan if China moves against it.


Defense experts argue over whether Brandon should get the US involved in a two-front war, or only one land war in Asia.


I ask why the United States is promising to go to war against Russia and China at all? What is our vital national interest in Ukraine? How many Americans should die for Kazakhstan? We already have hyperinflation caused by dumping Covid money into the economy – how will we pay for a war against China?


The United States played World Policeman for a century. It’s time to end the farce. We should solve our problems at home before attempting to solve problems elsewhere.


Joe Doakes

I don’t know about you, but I’m half expecting a whole lot of government push on the patriotism of supporting the war effort. Just like our victorious vaccination drive.

It’s Veterans Day

I’ve said it in the past; I’ve always found the practice of thanking veterans for their service to be a little…off.

Nothing against those that do say it – but it’s always felt a little strange to me.

“Thanks for taking a couple years out of your life, in many cases going around the world and undergoing a lot of unimaginable stress, danger and horror. Thanks so much!”.

So for my part – to all you veterans out there: I’m glad you made it home.

Let’s make this nation worth your time, and the sacrifice of those who didn’t come back.

The Math

The Biden administration did its unearned victory lap yesterday, in of the most catastrophically bad speeches I’ve ever seen – a formidable bar indeed for our senescent president.

But the worst part?

The Administration brags about getting around 120,000 people out in the “biggest airlift in history” (not even close to the Berlin Airlift 73 years ago, but whatever).

Ed Morrissey notes:

We know the evacuation carried out perhaps 6,000 Americans. Add in 8,500 SIVs, to whom we owe some degree of safety, and who will likely make better Americans than 30% of our current electorate.

Let’s further assume that some of them brought out family; let’s say it’s 25,000 as a generous guesstimate.

That means about 35% of the evacuees are the people who actually needed to get out.

That’s like the Dunkirk evacuation bringing back 50,000 British solders, 25,000 French troops, and 250,000 Belgian farmers who happened to make it to the beaches.

This, as the military left Americans behind in droves:

Text message between Michael Yon and a US Army colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division, writing from the Kabul Airport.

Saigon, Jimmy Carter, and the CIA people who botched the US Embassy in Teheran in 1979 can breathe easy; they are no longer the greatest humiliations in US history.

Hey – at least no mean tweets.

The First Domino

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

So the US got tossed out of Afghanistan, so what? How does our retreat-in-disgrace affect the rest of the world?

Maybe not so good. If the US isn’t willing or able to exercise competent military actions, the nations which have been relying on us for defense, begin to look vulnerable. They might need to arm themselves to defend themselves, or risk be conquered by rivals.

Domino theory is back and I’m wondering how many weapons and how much ammunition will be required to survive the fall of the final domino.

Joe Doakes

Japan has got to be seriously rethinking its post World War II agreements on military posture.

The Drones Of August

One of my favorite rhetorical easy hits – one I use a lot, but then it’s apposite so very very often – is “I don’t believe so and so intended to (implement some current fiasco that so and so is involved with) – but if he did intended it, what would he have done differently?”

It’s snarky, but it’s appropriate so very often.

Especially this past couple of weeks.

I’m an armchair…well, not “general”. I’m an armchair corporal. But in reading a metric poo-ton of military history, a few things seem fairly elementary:

  1. Abandoning Bagram – a highly defensible base with multiple runways and enough residual capacity to support tens of thousands of troops, to say nothing of housing thousands of refugees – in preference to running a combat evacuation out of a single runway on the edge of a hostile city? It’s a little like Churchill evacuating the Royal Navy before the Army at Dunkirk. Stupid.
  2. Purging generals and admirals (starting under Obama) that were focused on fighting, and promoting the ones who were onboard with Big Left’s social agenda? Stupid.
  3. Making the withdrawal contingent on zero conditions to be obeyed by the enemy? Stupid.
  4. Taking a pass on maybe defusing the whole thing long enough to make the evacuation at least nominally orderly, to say nothing of less of a humiliation?

Wait – what?

OK, I’ll say it – if Joe Biden and/or “his” administration were trying to humiliate the United State, isolate us from our allies, make us look completely impotent and untrustworthy, what would he be doing different?

Too conspiracy-minded? Just an accident, fomented by a senile man?

had an interesting, and ultimately intensely sobering about Afghanistan with Michael Yon on Satursay. It’s the first half of this hour.

It’s his theory that it’s actual, deliberate sabotage from within the Administration.

And if you ask yourself “Even in a Democrat administration “led” by a senescent fool and a cackling lawyer-turned-petty-authoritarian, who would be this stupid, accidentally?”, and come up with no good answers, it’s worth a thought.

Dear Hollywood

To: Hollywood
From: Mitch Berg, Irascible Peasant and Lapsed Movie-Goer
Re: Planning

Dear Moguls,

Get an option in on this story. Stat.

And don’t put some moron who cut his/her teeth writing comic book movies on the job of writing the screenplay; the story calls for someone of David Mamet’s stature and talent. Nothing less.

Don’t f*** this one up.

(NARRATOR: “Hollywood will f*** this one up”)

UPDATE: And in case anyone tries to morph some credit over to the civilian and/or military chains of command?

“This Herculean effort couldn’t have been done without the unofficial heroes inside the airfield who defied their orders to not help beyond the airport perimeter by wading into sewage canals and pulling in these targeted people who were flashing pineapples on their phones,” Mann said.

Which brings up a troubling question: if one must defy orders to do the right thing, what does that do for unit cohesion and morale? The authority of the chain of command?

Hidden in this one bit of scarce good new is a lot of really awful stuff for the future of this nation’s institutions.

Our New, New Normal

Over the past few days, there’s been an undercurrent on social media of people saying the implosion of Afghanistan, culminating [1] in yesterday’s suicide-bomb attack killing (so far) 10 Marines and close to 100 people all told was “the angriest/saddest they’ve felt since 9/11”.

For me? In some ways, it’s worse.

9/11 wasn’t a “surprise”, per se – if you’d been paying attention through the ’90s, with the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers and the first WTC Bombing, it was a natural progression. But it was enemies doing what enemies do. We were attacked – like Pearl Harbor, like the Norks crossing the 38th Parallel, it was people who hated us, doing what people who hate us say they’re going to do.

This past two weeks? That same motivation was – let’s not delve into conspiracy-land here – colossal incompetence on every level of our own government, humiliating this country. It’s basketball team doesn’t just shoot a three-pointer into their own basket, but every member of the team slamming a dunk into their own bucket, as the coach says “yep, that’s the plan – score 100 points for the other guys; then we’ll have ’em where we want ’em”, and the other team does casual free-throws when there isn’t one of our guys hanging from the rim.

They say “never chalk up to malice what can be better explained by stupidity”. But if the Biden Administration had planned from the very beginning to humiliate this nation, what would they have done differently? Make Robin DiAngelo the chair of the Joint Chiefs, and put Steven Colbert in charge of Special Operations Command?

Seeing our nation blind-sided twenty years ago was bad enough.

Seeing our nation humiliate itself? Over and over?

This is a new one for me.

This is not the nation I wanted to leave for my kids, my grandkids.

And as far as I can help it, I won’t.

[1] And when I say “culminating”, I mean “so far”. This seems to be a barrel with no bottom.

They Say…

…to never ascribe to malice what can just as easily be chalked up to stupidity.

I try to live by that advice.

But with God as my witness, sometimes it’s so, so very very hard:

U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of names of American citizens, green card holders and Afghan allies to grant entry into the militant-controlled outer perimeter of the city’s airport, a choice that’s prompted outrage behind the scenes from lawmakers and military officials… the decision to provide specific names to the Taliban, which has a history of brutally murdering Afghans who collaborated with the U.S. and other coalition forces during the conflict, has angered lawmakers and military officials.

“Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list,” said one defense official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s just appalling and shocking and makes you feel unclean.”

If they had a plan do make not only the wrong choice at every single turn of this debacle, but surgically home in on the worst possible choices in every possible circumstance, what would our Houseplant in Chief be doing different?

The Next Time…

…the Biden Administration starts chattering about gun control, just mentioned this:

Without going into specifics about weapons, that’s enough to put a new firearm in the hand of every member of every NATO military, with quite a few left over.

As far as the human cost, especially to those afghans who helped us (and his records are no doubt being circulated by the Taliban as we speak)?

That’s just too depressing to engage with at the moment.

Trying To Put The Best Face Possible On This. And Failing

Looking at the collapse of Afghanistan, and the likely re-emergence of Al Quaeda and ISIS, as well as the inevitable surge of Chinese, North Korean, Iranian and Russian aggression that will attend the adminstration’s show of not just weakness but pathetic senility, one looks for some bright spot.

“But it’s not actually Saigon…”

So – a bright spot to the most dismal day of American foreign policy since I watched that Huey take off from the roof of the embassy in fifth grade?

Maybe it’s this: some of the top “minds” in DC Democrat messaging are going to have to spend so much more time thinking of ways to convince people that “conservative white supremacist terror” is the greatest threat facing this nation, they won’t have time to think of anything new.

I said I was “looking” for a bright spot. I didn’t say I found one. But then, what the heck, we can’t even find the ^$#@ President:

Site note: as I watch thousands of Afghans trying and failing to flee for their lives because American bureaucracy is more concerned about Covid testing than mass murder…

…I have to wonder if Michelle Obama is still proud to be an American .

Because I’m have a touch of “not”, at the moment.

More tomorrow.

Nationwrecking

There’s a case to be made that we fought the wrong war in Afghanistan; that we should have gone in, rooted out the Taliban, and installed the best awful people have given them three steps toward the door and left in 2003.

There’s an even better case to be made that nation-building, especially in a place like Afghanistan, just can’t work.

I’m all ears.

It was America’s longest war by a fair turn, and it needed to end, somehow, someday.

But the idea that burning ithrough hundreds of billions of dollars of “investment” and just plain pouring money on the ground, and the lives of 2,372 American servicepeople, and it all ends with a Saigon moment? One our administration practically begged for, and seems unable to comprehend?

That is a little hard to swallow.

It should be, shouldn’t it?

“Western ‘Progressives’ Mourn Otto Skorzeny”

Listening to the garment-rending among western “progressives” over the death of Otto Skorzeny, the head of Nazi special operations…

…sorry. I got my historical eras mixed up. Otto Skorzeny was Germany’s top commando – sort of the David Stirling of the World War 2 Wehrmacht, Germany’s top commando, in charge of creating terror and disorder behind allied lines.

Of course, I’m referring to the death of Iranian General Soleimani – “Austere Religious Scholar”…

…no, wait. That was the NYTimes’ obit for Al-Baghdadi, the former Caliph of ISIS.

What I meant was that he was some person who did some stuff…

Dammit. I’m sorry, that was Ilhan Omar’s characterization of the 9/11 terrorists, who’d done us the favor of killing themselves before a drone or SOF team had to do it.

The media stuck with “Iran’s most revered general” (or, occasionally, as a combination of Lady Gaga and James Bond – and no, this is not one of my “Avery Librelle” spoofs), which probably was what brought up my erroneous Skorzeny reference.

No, Soleimani was the head of the “Quds Force”, which as been referred to as the most accomplished intelligence, unconventional warfare and special operations organization, besides (and and alongside of, and often against) Mossad in the Middle East. It was, among other things, responsible for the deaths of about 600 Americans in Iraq over the past fifteen years.

“But not between 2012 and 2018!”, “progressives” bleat. “Quds helped us defeat ISIS! He was an ally!”

Right – in the same sense that Stalin was Hitler’s “ally” in dismembering Poland in 1939. They, like Iran and the US, had mutual interests in delaying or displacing their fighting for a while – in Quds’ case, keeping up weapons supplies to Hezbollah (which wound up as craters and Iron-Dome-chaff all over southern Israel) and keeping the bloodletting in Syria at a steady simmer (including its support for whatever remains of the Assad regime, longtime Iranian clients and the worst among a cast of bad actors in that whole sorry nation), and blowing up a Saudi Oil refinery and a couple of tankers in the Gulf, just to keep things interesting.

It’s just been interesting watching the Democrats exercising their 50-year-long penchants for not only betting on America’s enemies, but for exercising, shall we say, flexible ethics when it comes to assassinating “some people who do some things”.

This Iranian Situation Will Take Intelligence And Critical Thought

None of which will come from our idiot “elite”.

Rose MacGowan – who, I’m told, is something of a movie star – twote:

Ms. McGowan – I suggest going to Teheran to work this out personally.

Wearing the outfit in your Twitter profile photo.

Get back to us. If you can.

The assassination of Soleimani does present some gnarly questions: he was a fair target under current international agreements about terrorism – but one could raise questions about whether it was a great idea. Also whether it was an act of war.

On the other hand, we’re treated to the spectacle of watching politicians, deep-staters, media drones and celebs who batted not an eyelash over Obama’s constant, intense campaign of drone, air and special ops “hits”, complaining about Orange LIterally Hitler Man doing it to a target that actually matters, but up to whom The LIghtworker sucked…

…and having to choose, in public, during an election year, with whom to side in public.

Troublling?

Brilliant?

Why choose? It’s both.

Men In England Now A-Bed…

The tale of the Brits who, despite their government’s best efforts to neuter them, dealt with the terrorist attack in London over the weekend:

Of course, the Brits are lucky it’s a story that’s gone ’round the world; if it were regular street crime, they’d be prosecuted more seriously than the thug.

It’s something to celebrate – and take as a warning. “Progressive” government – in this case, one that strips citizens of their means and right to self-defense, rendering a citizen a subject – is a bigger danger than terrorism.

Anniversary

I’ve said it before; I knew isomething terrible happened the moment I turned in NPR, and heard public radio personalities trying to ad-lib. Even before I heard the words “airplane”, “terrorist” or “World Trade Center”, I knew something awful was going on; Public Radio people don’t go to the bathroom without a script.

Hard to believe – nobody under the age of 18, officially, was born on 9/11. Some of the soldiers and Marines who’ll be fighting the war that started 18 years ago will have born after the war began. For an entire generation, the war is all of reality.

In case you’ve forgotten:

And say what you will, but Dubya never had a better moment:

After eighteen years, the takeaways are all pretty bad.

Quoting Glenn Reynolds:

One thing I guess I didn’t believe 17 years ago is that America would elect such a feckless President in 2008, and stand idly by while he flushed our global position, and security, down a left-wing toilet. But we did, and we’ll be paying the price for a long time. That said, for the first time I feel like our diplomacy is on a good track, and that — thanks also to fracking — the problems that led to 9/11 are being addressed.

God bless America. We need it.

We were given a moment – against our will – when we, a nation, had to react to what is, in the great, historical scheme of things the norm; barbarity, terror, the imposing of ones will onto others via violence. And for a brief moment, we did react. Positively, effectively, and up to the best of this nation’s traditions. But now, 18 years later, we’re even more tribal than we were after the 2000 elections. Perhaps terminally. I’ll add “both sides are responsible”, but you know that’s largely punching a ticket.

And the great lesson of 9/11 was that, when government lets us down – and it did, and always does – the individual stepped up and dealt with what they needed to. The people below the points of impact in the World Trade Center, far from being the mindless cattle that law enforcement expected people to act like, largely organized their own evacuations from the doomed buildings; there were relatively few dead from among those below the floors with the impacts. And passengers on Flight 93 did what would have been unthinkable years before – utterly contrary to the “conventional wisdom” of the day. And yet 9/11’s greatest institutional legacies are a government that treats people even more like cattle (seen those TSA lines lately?), is more intrusive and hamfisted (wiretap laws and militarized police with greater purview to use force for routine interactions), and just plain bigger and dumber.

And in that? The terrorists did win.

Sorry to say.

Touched By The Concern

Big Leftymedia is concerned that former ISIS fighters who defected from France to the Caliphate aren’t getting due process:

[Human Rights Watch spokesman Belkis] WILLE:  The trials of ISIS suspects in Iraq are fundamentally unfair. We say this based on sitting through many of these trials over the last two years. And what we see is that defendants do not get any of their basic due process rights granted to them under international law, as well as under Iraqi law. There is absolutely no presumption of innocence when they walk into the courtroom. And many times, defendants are alleging that they have been tortured.

[NPR Middle East correspondent Jane] ARRAF: France doesn’t have a death penalty. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it would relay its opposition to sentencing the men to death. But it also said it respected Iraqi jurisdiction. The men were handed over by Kurdish Syrian forces to Iraq because the alleged crimes were committed in Iraq and Syria.

Due process is a human right, and it’s be disingenuous of someone who supports Western Civilization to say otherwise.

I’m just wondering where the concern was when ISIS was on the ascendant?

Movie Rights Are Currently On The Table

The only response to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

It helps when the good guy is a long-serving member of one of the world’ premiere special forces units.

A British Special Air Service (the original model for US Army’s Delta) trooper in town to train Kenyan special forces apparently intervened personally in the Nairobi hotel shooting:

Amid the carnage – orchestrated by terror group al-Shabaab – a lone SAS soldier got tooled up and went in after a request for help from Kenyan security forces, sources said.
Incredible images showed the operator in jeans, trainers and body armour storming through doors and aiding injured, his face covered by a balaclava.
He was pictured operating at the hotel alone. But he was joined in the mission by US Navy Seals, sources said.
An insider said: “UK Special Forces always run towards the sound of gunfire. He was there training and mentoring Kenyan forces when the shout went up, so they went in.
“During the operation he fired off some rounds – it’s a safe bet he hit his target – the SAS don’t miss.
“He is a long serving member of the Regiment, there is no doubt his actions saved lives.”
The incident was today declared over by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and all the attackers “eliminated”.

It’s kind of amazing how often good guys with guns – who as luck would have it happen to be elite British soldiers – wind up involved in these sorts of stories.

It’s Kind Of Amazing…

…how the big media is doing its best to spin this story – the Administration talking peace with the Taliban after 17 years of war – as a bad thing.

Especially given that when the Administration reversed the Obama-era policy of giving the insurgents a “save the date” card, and cut off all talks six months ago, the same experts were wondering – as they always seem to – what was so wrong about diplomacy.

(There was actually a very good, even-handed story about this on an NPR broadcast last night.  I can’t seem to find it.  I’ll hold off on the conspiracy theories and assume I’m missing something, here…)