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Boardman writes: "In 1979 American pride planned for Afghanistan to become a quagmire, a Russian Viet Nam. Now the Russians are long gone and Afghanistan has become another American quagmire. The mistake is the same as in Viet Nam."

Northern Alliance soldiers eye the crest of hill that serves as a front line December 7, 2001 in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan War is a military conflict that began in 2001 and has cost $1.07 trillion. (photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Northern Alliance soldiers eye the crest of hill that serves as a front line December 7, 2001 in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. The Afghanistan War is a military conflict that began in 2001 and has cost $1.07 trillion. (photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

14 February 18

Forty years of US terrorism show little sign of success

t must have seemed like a safe, cheap, and easy idea back in 1979 when US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, with President Carter’s blessing, set about harassing the Russian occupation of Afghanistan by covert means. The US escalated CIA activities, working with Pakistani secret services, including arming, training, and directing Islamic militants (then called the mujahideen) to fight the Russians. The US waged a nine-year-long proxy guerrilla war in Afghanistan (where US allies included Osama bin Laden). When the Russians pulled out 1n 1989, US proxies remained. Now they were called the Taliban, and they ran the country with the festering Islamic rage that the US had nurtured and supported when it seemed to salve our post-Viet Nam, post-Iranian Revolution wounded global pride.

The monster the US had raised from a pup was out of US control and came back to hurt us. Numbed by decades of Cold War denial of American crimes, Americans acted surprised by September 11, 2001.

Remember back in October 2001 when the US government and the US population were almost unanimous in the inchoate idea that we had to rush to do something – almost anything – in response to the downing of the World Trade Center?

The Bush administration had already obstructed justice by protecting nationals from the country that provided 15 of the 19 hijackers. The FBI wanted to interview Saudis in the US to see what connections they might discover to their compatriot suicide bombers. President Bush, fresh from holding hands with Saudi princes, made sure all the Saudis managed to get out of the country without any inconvenient criminal investigation questioning. That was a clear cover-up even if there was nothing to cover up, because it covered up the possibility of finding anything at all. That was the kind of blatant flouting of the law that Nancy Pelosi Democrats refused to think of as an impeachable offense. And the 9/11 Commission’s report on the Saudis remains top secret into a third presidency. This is massive, bipartisan political breakdown and abject moral failure that could lead to nothing good. It has in fact metastasized unimpeded into the cancer of the Trump administration.

Remember what it was like in September 2001? Almost no one was sane in those days, or if they were they laid low. Susan Sontag wrote a sane reflection on the attack in The New Yorker, for which she was roundly castigated, especially by her querulous peers at The New Yorker. On September 14, 2001, Barbara Lee of Oakland was the only member of Congress to vote against giving the president an “Authorization for Use of Military Force” (AUMF) – a carte blanche to wage war almost anywhere for almost any reason, a Congressional license to kill that remains in force today and serves as the legal justification for pretty much every dead Afghan, Iraqi, Syrian, Kurd, Yemeni, and anyone else we’re killing for any reason anywhere in the world. Rep. Lee has continued to try to rectify the AUMF of 2001, but presidents and Congress en masse consistently maintain America’s right to murder in the name of whatever we happen to think is important at the moment.

On the basis of the Congressional invitation to war, the Bush administration went to war with Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, calling it “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The ostensible cause of the war was the refusal of the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden, who was in the country if not under their control. The US knew roughly where bin Laden was, but was afraid to surround him militarily for fear of provoking serious resistance. Instead, the US relied on Pakistan to seal the border. Osama bin Laden escaped. Lacking a stated reason to be in Afghanistan, the US stayed. And the US is still there. And the US is complicit in the deaths of a million or more Afghans, and complicit in the forced exodus of more than five million Afghans, and complicit in the devastation of Afghanistan culturally, politically, militarily, and economically. Only US delusions survive more or less intact. In his State of the Union address in 2006, President Bush assured us:

We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine president and a National Assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy.

Actually that was not what was happening in Afghanistan, but by then Bush’s deceitful war on Iraq was getting more attention. Barack Obama, typically too clever for his own good, ran against the war in Iraq while defending the war in Afghanistan as a good war (without ever really explaining why). But the politics of perception don’t have to be rooted in reality, and by 2013, in his State of the Union address, President Obama was pitching the perception that the war in Afghanistan was pretty much over (if not necessarily won):

This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight I can announce that over the next year another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Actually that was not what was happening in Afghanistan, either. In 1979 American pride planned for Afghanistan to become a quagmire, a Russian Viet Nam. Now the Russians are long gone and Afghanistan has become another American quagmire. The mistake is the same as in Viet Nam: fighting a native population will take forever, because they have nowhere else to go. Sooner or later, the invader usually goes home. And President Trump seems to be indicating that it will be later, telling a UN Security Council meeting:

I don’t think we’re prepared to talk right now. It’s a whole different fight over there. They’re killing people left and right. Innocent people are being killed left and right, bombing in the middle of children, in the middle of families, bombing, killing all over Afghanistan.… We don’t want to talk to the Taliban. We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it.

Actually what was happening in Afghanistan in 2017 is that the US was bombing the country more than ever, dropping more bombs during 2017 than in the two previous years combined. The US has used the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. The US is using B-52s in Afghanistan, the same plane that carpet-bombed Viet Nam with ultimate futility. Now the B-52 has set a new record for dropping smart bombs on Afghanistan. These attacks were in northeastern Afghanistan, near the Tajikistan and Chinese borders, targeting the East Turkestan Islamic Movement accused of attacking China. Until recently, parts of this remote region had gone untouched by war for decades. Chinese and Afghan government officials are currently discussing the establishment of a Chinese military base in this region. China has provided Afghanistan with more than $70 million in military aid in the past three years (compared to some $10 billion from US/NATO countries).

Taliban attacks on Kabul and other cities have also escalated in recent weeks, killing more than 130 people in Kabul alone.

When the Taliban governed Afghanistan before 2001, it came close to eradicating opium growing and the heroin trade (set up by the CIA in 1979 to help finance the mujahideen). Since 2001, under US occupation, opium-growing and the heroin trade have flourished, reaching record levels. During that same period, US heroin-users have increased from about 189,000 to 3.8 million. According to a UN report on drugs and crime in 2017:

Only a small share of the revenues generated by the cultivation and trafficking of Afghan opiates reaches Afghan drug trafficking groups. Many more billions of dollars are made from trafficking opiates into major consumer markets, mainly in Europe and Asia…. [Drug trafficking constitutes] the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.

According to a 2017 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), during the period 2002-2016, the US provided Afghanistan with $6 billion in security and military aid. An Afghan official estimated that as much as half that money had been stolen through Afghan corruption. The overall cost of the Afghan War to the US is estimated at more than $841 billion to date. Another estimate expects the total cost of the Afghan War to exceed $2 trillion, not including the costs of taking care of veterans. President Trump’s escalation of the war is expected to add billions to its eventual cost, which is calculated to have passed $1 trillion by January 2018. In his State of the Union address this year, President Trump reported:

Our warriors in Afghanistan have new rules of engagement. Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.

So why are we still in Afghanistan? It’s not because Afghanistan poses any threat to US national security – or ever did. It’s not because there’s any rational military or political reason to stay in Afghanistan. And it’s not because the Afghans want us there. There are former Taliban in the Afghan legislature, but the US presence (as in Korea) makes any chance of peaceful resolution that much more difficult.

So why are we still in Afghanistan? Because it seemed like a good idea at the time? Because no one at the time thought it through and decided to leave when the good part was no longer possible? Because presidents have more vanity than integrity? Because the US doesn’t admit mistakes because that shows weakness no matter the cost of being self-destructively stupid for 16 years? Because the US government is most comfortable when it’s lying to the American people? Because the military-industrial complex makes nothing but profits from remote wars? Because we need killed and wounded veterans to show how much we honor our military? Because a lot of people profit from the drug trade? Because the American people have been systematically numbed emotionally and dumbed-down intellectually and mystified for so many decades that they are more angry with each other than the people who do them real harm? Any or all of the above?

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+41 # sashapyle 2018-02-14 10:32
That last paragraph just says it ALL. Modern wars exist simply because it’s the fastest way (among many, all happening) to strip resources from the public and shovel them to the private pockets of the tiny handful of thieves that are determined to own everything. We have a weapons-based economy and a disaster-based culture, because the magic words “national security” make it OK to squeeze the last drop of life out of the struggling American public. Thank you Mr. Boardman for an articulate summation of this tragic war.
+5 # dandevries 2018-02-14 16:40
I'll go with "all of the above."
+6 # futhark 2018-02-14 20:23
None of this should be surprising to us. The United States has had a politically active business interest in imperialism since at least the 1890s, with war-for-profit being the prime motivator, along with gaining control of resources rightfully belonging to the native people. Often, as in the Philippines, naked aggression and savage atrocities perpetrated against the natives were both strategic and tactical methods of securing such control.

A very powerful statement is made at the end of the 1963 film "The Ugly American", in which Marlon Brando, in the role of American ambassador to a fictional southeast Asian country whose situation parallels that of Vietnam at the time, tries to remind Americans that the insurgents, even be they Communists, are impelled by the same passions for national independence as were felt by Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson. It is available on YouTube.

Watch Brando's speech in the last 3 minutes of this movie.
+26 # hkatzman 2018-02-14 10:38
What happens when we decisively win a war and nobody realizes?

We went to war in Afghanistan to close al Qaida training camps and to route them out of the country. Taliban only became a target because they refused to cooperate with our goals. Al Qaida, according to press accounts, no longer has an Afghan presence. So we won the war a long time ago.

The Taliban do not represent "International Terrorism." While maybe abhorent from our perspective, we should be encouraging Taliban to morph into a political group. The Afghani people should be given the opportunity to decide peacefully what type of society they wish to form.

Our goal should not be to use the military to impose peace and democracy (all sarcasm intended), but helping to build, repeat "helping," a peaceful democratic society in an Afghani-decided model.

There is a saying, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, then don't be surprized if all solutions require a nail." If your only tool is the military...
+10 # Salus Populi 2018-02-15 15:43
Actually, going after al-Qa'idah was only the Official Story. The Taliban had offered to send USAma to a third, neutral country for trial, or even to send him to a U.S. ally if they were given any evidence at all of his guilt of planning and carrying out the 911 attack, which he had denied.

Well, you don't put conditions to a rogue nation superpower that's used to flouting every international treaty or law it ever signed, on grounds that it's special.

So Bush ignored their response, told the country that the Taliban were 'refusing' to cooperate -- a monstrous lie -- and commenced bombing, meanwhile threatening the Democrats who spoke out against the AUMF [Lee was the only one in either chamber who actually *voted* against it, and was as surprised as anyone else at that's being the case] with being branded "soft on terrorism" during the next election if they didn't shut up and support the "Churchillian" [as he was actually referred to at the time] war president.

John Ashcroft chimed in with a threat against the populace, similar to Woodrow Wilson's during WWI and its aftermath, that people better watch what they said.

The basic reason for invading Afghanistan, from which *none* of the terrorists came, and none had even set foot in there, was imperial hubris, plain and simple.

And once an imperial court is committed to a policy, it is nigh impossible to get the purple princes to reconsider.
+26 # Arque 2018-02-14 11:19
Well done, though I believe the opiates are the real reason we are still there, and should be more up front in an article like this. It took me 10 minutes before I got to that possible reason, and I think it is generally underplayed in the media. Your stats in here tell the story. If our military isn't doing the bidding of the oil producers, they are doing the bidding of the pharmaceuticals or any other business big enough to pull the strings in Washington.
+31 # laborequalswealth 2018-02-14 11:24
As I watched the Towers fall on 9/11, the words "Reichstag Fire" raced through my brain.

In 16 1/2 years all the US government has done is CONFIRM that 9/11 was either a false flag - a CIA specialite de maison - or was known and allowed to happen. THERE ARE NO OTHER RATIONAL EXPLANATIONS.

Oh - and the 600 page Orwellian-named "Patriot Act" was NOT put together in 6 weeks. That is totally impossible. The Bush/Cheney Crime Family had it at the ready for when they killed 3,000 Americans as an excuse to invade a country who had NEVER attacked us.

When will Americans realized that the controllers of our government are psychopathic mass murderers?
+9 # Observer 47 2018-02-14 13:29
EXCELLENT post! Agree on all counts!
+27 # Observer 47 2018-02-14 11:52
Just...WOW, Mr. Boardman. Brilliant article! Kudos to you for having the courage to tell it like it is.

I know people who, in late 2001 and afterward, parroted the Bush mantra of, "Fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here," totally ignoring the fact that the U.S. had been engaged in Afghanistan for 22 years at that point. And ignoring the fact that, "fighting them over here," was an absurd scenario on the face of it.
+17 # economagic 2018-02-14 12:58
"The mistake is the same as in Viet Nam: fighting a native population will take forever, because they have nowhere else to go."

How can we be sure that it was (is) a mistake and not a feature?
+2 # Robbee 2018-02-14 13:23
Why Are We Still in Afghanistan? - asks William Boardman, 14 February 18

- because bush2cheney let osama bin laden blow up the world trade center

it seems bush2cheney could not figure out how to get our intelligence services to work, sorry!

anyway, bush2cheney allowed bin laden to ignite our war on terror("bring 'em on!") that never ends - by definition, it cannot end until dickhead kills the last terrorist - meanwhile terror is a booming business, both here and abroad!

recall when the recently reviled clinton was prez? - back then we knew there were 2 or 3,000 terrorists and we knew who and where they were

daily we redeclare endless war - clearly terrorists are everywhere, certainly here, as the occasional bombing and gunplay show, worldwide perhaps millions of them?

our armed forces rain terror by drone - so will counter-terrorists!

bush2cheney opened pandora's box - it doesn't close easy, if ever!
+12 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-02-14 13:24
Gotta keep the War Machine well fed so it can continue to buy politicians who vote for War. Coincidently the three largest money makers (oil, weapons, drugs) are ALL controlled by the USA. Any country that doesn't give us (USA Corporations) what we want, we willfully destroy. We are currently fighting seven "undeclared" Wars, costing Trillions, killing Millions, creating 95 Million Refugees.
+12 # jsluka 2018-02-14 13:29
People appear to still be confused about why the US is in Afghanistan. The real reason is US imperialism. We want what we've always wanted - access to and control over resources of all sorts, economic, mineral, political, geopolitical, including control over trade routes. This is what imperialists have always wanted in Afghanistan - "the graveyard of Empires." And if the US withdraws from Afghanistan, then some other competing imperialist geo-power moves in for the same reason the US is there now. This would probably be China, but could be some other country (even India; China and India have among the world's most rapidly growing populations and economies, and this creates an immense need for new energy and other resources to sustain this). The US occupation of Afghanistan has nothing at all to do with "fighting terrorism," "supporting freedom and democracy" or "allowing Afghan girls to get an education." These are all the 'usual lies' we are told to justify our imperial wars. For the neo-cons who rule US foreign policy, Afghanistan is part of the plan for American global domination and so it is like a "tar baby" it cannot let go of. Hence, Afghanistan, the longest war in US history, is now a main front in the "forever war".
+2 # Jim Rocket 2018-02-15 09:55
Location location location!
+4 # GDW 2018-02-14 14:05
Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?
Why indeed?
+7 # rivervalley 2018-02-14 14:13
How much, if any, value do "US Interests" put on the Afghanistan fossill fuel pipeline route to the other "Stans"? I had heard this was a major reason we were there. (Khazikstan etc > Afghanistan> Pakistan> Ocean)
+14 # harleysch 2018-02-14 14:21
Very good article by Mr. Boardman, with one significant omission. There may have been some FBI agents who wished to interrogate the Saudis in the U.S., but the FBI Director at the time did not. He engaged in what Florida Democratic Senator Bob Graham called "aggressive deception," to protect the Saudis. It is Graham who has led the fight to expose the Saudi role, which has been systematically blocked by the FBI, according to statements from him.

Who was that FBI Director who engaged in "aggressive deception" to protect the Saudis? Robert S. Mueller, who Graham said made sure that the Saudi role in 9/11 was not investigated. Mueller is not now, nor has he ever been, the "straight shooter" that some progressives and media people claim he is. Mueller was also involved in the domestic side of the Patriot Act, including collaboration with NSA on establishing the "security state" surveillance of Americans.

Keeping this going costs tax payers billions of dollars, while eroding our rights. Maybe that's one of the reasons we are still in Afghanistan.
0 # WBoardman 2018-02-15 23:41
harleysch makes interesting but unsourced charges about Robert Mueller. I don't dispute them, but.... – this links to a very long piece about the Saudis in which Mueller does not seem to appear. Mueller took over the FBO on Sept 4, 2001. Vanity Fair has this graf:

"F.B.I. officials declined to comment on the investigation, which was reported in Britain’s The Guardian, but the documents show that the file on Abdullah and Omar was reopened on September 19, 2001, while the Saudi repatriation was still under way. “These documents show there was an open F.B.I. investigation into these guys at the time of their departure,” says David Armstrong, an investigator for the Public Education Center, the Washington, D.C., foundation that obtained the documents."

another piece in Counterpunch suggests Mueller's resistance to Graham may have been later (or both) –

"Only years later, Graham writes, did information provided by FBI staffers confirm what he had long suspected: that the FBI carried out its resistance and obfuscation on direct instructions from the White House. Whether Bush and Company were eager to downplay any further connections to their friends the Saudis, or just protect itself from the fallout of such an obvious intelligence failure, will likely never be known."
+3 # Salus Populi 2018-02-18 14:38
Indeed. Mueller also allowed, on his watch, one of the most corrupt banks in the world, the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation or HSBC, to launder billions of dollars in U.S. banks that they got from the Sinaloa drug cartel, rogue nations, Russian mafia oligarchs, sanctions-busti ng, and terrorist organizations. Deputy Director of the FBI at the time James Comey, described in the mainstream press as a long-time close friend of Mueller, left the FBI in 2012 to join the board of directors of ... HSBC. Mueller himself, as soon as his FBI term was over [and it included many other scandals and failures to prosecute wealthy and powerful crime lords usually considered "upstanding citizens" by the media), he joined, as a partner, the law firm that had and continues to represent HSBC. He made well over a million a year in that position, we he resigned in order to go after Trump. Far from being an incorruptible and upright, disinterested judge full of integrity, he rivaled Hoover in his corruption.

His history is hardly unsourced: One of the better sites is at "https://fighti /08/03/robert-m ueller-dirty-co p/", which includes many links to primary sources.

A simple ixquick/startpa ge search on the phrase "mueller patriot act 911 collusion corruption" brought several other hits; I have not had time to check them all out, so some may be less well-grounded than others.
+8 # janie1893 2018-02-14 15:14
Military/indust rial complex has done very well since 9/11 and the immediate cost to America was only 3000 lives and a couple of buildings. Good investment!!
+12 # djnova50 2018-02-14 15:54
Why is the US still in Afghanistan? For the same reason that the US has invaded any other country. The US has a war as a business model. If suddenly the US decided to pull out of all of the countries it has invaded, what would those manufacturers who make the bombs, jets, tanks, guns, drones, and all other war paraphernalia do? The US has wars to keep those manufacturers in business.
+15 # Roger Kotila 2018-02-14 17:40
Journalists often describe the US invasion of Afghanistan (or Iraq) as a "mistake". Eg, Mr. Boardman writes: "Because the US doesn’t admit mistakes because that shows weakness no matter the cost of being self-destructiv ely stupid for 16 years?"

Illegal invasions are not "mistakes." They are world crimes and should be labeled as such.

Invasion and occupation violate international law. Those responsible are war criminals and should be prosecuted except there is no sheriff in town at the global level...the UN lacks the tools to enforce world law. That's partly why activists are increasingly turning to the Earth Constitution to replace the fatally flawed UN Charter.
+2 # WBoardman 2018-02-15 23:46
Couldn't agree more with Roger Kotila that the US war on Afghanistan was a war crime from the start and comprises a continuing nexus of other war crimes.

My use of "mistake" was written imagining the perspective of the White House, any White House, and I might have made that more clear.

On the other hand, in the understated version of official history, war crimes surely qualify as mistakes....
+1 # DongiC 2018-02-19 01:01
Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Tieing our economic prosperity to a 17 year old war in Afghanistan plus several other conflicts plus huge expenditures for maintaining and modernizing our military machine plus sacrificing 3,000 human lives and several skycrapers (one of which collapsed with no plane hitting it, Bldg 7) is the stuff of insanity. Eisenhower eloquently warned us about the dangers of the military - industrial comples but we were unable to check their pernicious power.

Imagine, needing another Pearl Harbor event so Cheny and Rumsfeld et al. could implement their Plan for the next American Century. We are still reeling from that fateful decision by GW Bush and company to launch our nation upon an imperial course. Now with Trump as President we face the ultimate horror - planetary death from nuclear warfare.

Thanks a lot GOP. You are the very definition of deplorable!

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