Patterico's Pontifications

4/15/2021

Going to Zero Troops in Afghanistan

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



I don’t have a firm opinion about this, but wanted to throw it open for discussion with a couple of observations:

1. We have gone over fifteen months without a combat death in Afghanistan.
2. The idea of a perpetual troop presence offends many Americans, but we station troops on a long-term basis in a lot of places.
3. We have prevented the re-emergence of a terrorist safe haven of the type that existed before September 11, 2001. I would not like to see that situation recur.

Your thoughts?

37 Responses to “Going to Zero Troops in Afghanistan”

  1. At this point, should it recur we will use other options.

    IIRC, We had 5 options:

    1. The Gandhi Option (do nothing)
    2. The Dick Tracy Option (treat 9/11 as a criminal act)
    3. The Bugs Bunny Option (“you realize, of course, that this means war!”)
    4. The Caesar Option (Empire)
    5. The Strangelove Option (nuke them ’til they glow)

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  2. We use the Bugs Bunny Option. Next time we’ll for #2 or #5, depending on who is in power.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  3. Time to get out. We did our job and no need to be perpetual hall monitors. (that’s what intelligences agencies are for).

    whembly (ae0eb5)

  4. Great observations, Patterico. However, I would say with observation #1, it falls during a time when we have had on again/off again peace talks with the Taliban. During that time, fighting has been at a lull.

    Observation #2 – we do have troops stationed abroad on a perpetual basis, but usually, those billets have a well-defined purpose, usually one of protecting the host country or area from an outside power. With Afghanistan, we are perpetually fighting the same enemy – the Taliban. It’s been Groundhog Day for almost two decades. Exacerbating the problem is an Afghani government that is as corrupt as it is inept.

    Observation #3 – we can prevent that from happening with other ways that don’t include a robust boots on the ground presence of US forces – like a drone program that can take out nascent terrorist training camps before they can train or plan an attack.

    Hoi Polloi (093fb9)

  5. The Taliban is Bugs Bunny. We’re Elmer Fudd. When we’re not Daffy Duck.

    nk (1d9030)

  6. Everything is portrayed as “Viet Nam”….even if our troop commitments are quite modest at 2,500….casualties are quite low….and there is a clear purpose of denying radical jihadists a nation-state where they can openly train, recruit, and organize. Let’s stop falsely framing this as a quagmire and national embarrassment. There’s nothing perfect about Afghanistan…the warlords…the corruption…a 40-year civil war…but there are good guys and bad guys here….and the Taliban are definitely bad. It also seems wrong and simplistic to frame this as only about defense contractors trying to make a buck….as most cable tv shows do to give viewers an easy villain. Biden’s been wrong on most big foreign policy decisions in his career…so nothing new here….except that Republicans are giving him healthy cover…because why else….Trump.

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  7. 1. The reason there have been few combat deaths is that the troops are not involved in combat fighting the Taliban. Afghan troops are, and they’re losing.

    2. Places where the US has a long-standing troop deployments (Europe, Japan) generally have the support of the local population, and the governments don’t depend on their presence for their survival. None of this applies to Afghanistan. Afghans don’t want us there, and the government wouldn’t survive without our (and allied) presence.

    3. Afghanistan is not unique. There are plenty of other destabilized areas (Somalia, Yemen, Libya, etc.) that serve (and have) as terrorist havens. Most of the planning for 9/11 took place in Saudi Arabia, Germany, and the US.

    Rip Murdock (3e2319)

  8. The question is, what is the endgame for the US? The defeat of the Taliban? At one time there were 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan and they couldn’t do it. The Afghans can’t do it either, as their military is corrupt and isn’t supported by the Afghan population (“hearts and minds”). A democratic Afghanistan in a country with a tradition of tribal rule? This is all a result of GWB’s evangelical messianic view of the world.

    Rip Murdock (3e2319)

  9. There’s a guy at Balloon Juice, Adam Silverman, with a long look at the situation. Apparently he had some experience at the Pentagon in formulating Afghan policy some years back. This is his conclusion:

    https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/04/15/the-strategic-implications-of-president-bidens-decision-to-adhere-to-the-agreement-to-withdraw-us-forces-from-afghanistan/

    This is the strategic dilemma that the Biden national-security team and President Biden are facing. The only really compelling reason to stay in Afghanistan now is to put US and our coalition forces in between the Taliban and the Afghans that the Taliban would tyrannize, abuse, and mistreat. The US military is not really prepared to do this type of operation. The only one of our allies who really specialize in it, and who are the best at it, is New Zealand and they just don’t have the force capacity to do it by themselves. However, there are a number of compelling reasons to bring the Afghan campaign to a conclusion. The most prominent of them is that the Trump administration, when they were the US government, obligated the United States to do so.

    There are no good strategic solutions to Afghanistan. We are a third party actor in Afghanistan. Even after twenty years of operations there, of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines going back multiple times during the course of their careers, and hiring civilian subject matter experts with deep expertise into Afghan politics, culture, history, and religion, we still cannot formulate and/or articulate a way forward that both makes sense within an Afghan context and is achievable. Staying in Afghanistan assumes risk. Leaving assumes risk. The questions, after all the words are typed, is the same: how much risk and what types of risk are we willing to assume. And the answers will only come, as they always do, in time.

    I would just add, as in the thread below, that when we leave and if things collapse I hope we have the simple human decency to take in some of the Afghanis who helped us and trusted us. It’s a hope anyway.

    Victor (4959fb)

  10. A. ‘We have gone over fifteen months without a combat death in Afghanistan.’

    ‘Tallying the cost: While the cost in human suffering during the longest war in American history is incalculable and includes the loss of more than 2,300 U.S. service members and more than 100,000 Afghan civilians, the war has also come at considerable cost to the U.S. treasury. Though accounting for the costs of war can be a challenge, many analysts agree that the U.S. has spent more than $2 trillion on the conflict in Afghanistan.

    An analysis by the Costs of War Project at Brown University in the fall of 2019 broke down the U.S. costs of the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2019 like this:
    •$1 trillion for Defense and State Department budgets,
    •$440 billion for off-budget military spending,
    •$240 billion for veterans care,
    •$455 billion in interest costs.

    The numbers are no doubt higher now by tens of billions of dollars, given that nearly two more years of conflict have occurred since these estimates were made. And the withdrawal of troops does not bring the costs to an end. According to the Costs of War Project, the cost of caring for veterans continues for decades and accelerates as retired soldiers age. The group says that the U.S. can expect to spend more than $1 trillion in health care costs in the coming years for veterans of the post-9/11 wars, many of whom served in Afghanistan.’

    source, – https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2021/04/13/Biden-Names-End-Date-Here-s-How-Much-War-Afghanistan-Has-Cost

    B.’The idea of a perpetual troop presence offends many Americans, but we station troops on a long-term basis in a lot of places.’

    It’s not ‘perpetual troop presence’ that offends many Americas; it’s perpetual war and the expense in blood and treasure it incurs.

    Modern, rebuilt Japan, Germany– where conflict ended in 1945; and Korea, where conflict halted in 1953 [more or less] and where troops and bases are stationed, ‘protect’ multi-billion dollar corporate interests today. They’re certainly not there to ‘spread democracy’- especially with much of Europe literally connected to Russian energy sources. And NATO acts as a physical deterrence in Europe w/t previous administration forcing deadbeats to cough up and pay their fair share. Afghanistan [te graveyard of empires BTW] has little to offer– aside from the fabled Khyber Pass– and unfortunately, isn’t sitting on top of a huge oil field. And U.S. taxpayers will still be paying Afghan service and administrative salaries.

    C. ‘We have prevented the re-emergence of a terrorist safe haven of the type that existed before September 11, 2001. I would not like to see that situation recur.’

    Nobody does. But 2021 isn’t 2001; the errors of stove-piping data have diminished while active surveillance has grown across global platforms– and from air and space; the DHS has been established and progress continues to be made. This is a global problem, not peculiar to the U.S. Keep in mind 9/11 was financed by Saudis, the operatives literally trained in America and the ‘attack’ launched from Boston and Newark as well. W/respect to the U.S. proper, domestic terrorism is likely a greater threat.

    Bin Laden was safe-havened in Pakistan, ‘a major non-NATO ally as part of the War on Terrorism, and a leading recipient of U.S. aid. Between 2002 and 2013, Pakistan received $26 billion in economic and military aid and sales of military equipment. The equipment included eighteen new F-16 aircraft, eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, 6,000 TOW anti-tank missiles, 500 AMRAM air-to-air missiles, 6 C-130 transport aircraft, 20 Cobra attack helicopters, and a Perry-class missile frigate.’ – source, wikiPakistan

    Bin Laden is dead; “Mission Accomplished.”

    Long past time for ground forces to come home for a rest… before they’re re-deployed to confront Putin’s troops when he moves to liberate Ukraine from the clutches of the decadent West. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  11. Great post, DCSCA.

    Rip Murdock (3e2319)

  12. See Bill Bramhall’s editorial cartoon for Thursday, April 15, 2021, as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan. (Bill Bramhall/New York Daily News)

    The link goes to all of his cartoons for this year – you’ll have to click to get the date of April 15 after today:

    https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-bramhall-editorial-cartoons-2021-jan-20210103-zvwomsktdbgd7hxtxbkkdu3vxy-photogallery.html

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  13. @10: Reaganomics.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  14. @13. Reaganomics.

    When it comes to ‘war-on-a-credit-card,’ you bet.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  15. Victor (4959fb) — 4/15/2021 @ 11:29 am

    I would just add, as in the thread below, that when we leave and if things collapse I hope we have the simple human decency to take in some of the Afghanis who helped us and trusted us. It’s a hope anyway.

    Some, yes, but with no acceleration and probably fewer than if there’s not a human rights catastrophe in Afghanistan.

    Not increasing immigration (by much, anyway) is the one area where Joe Biden is caving into the Republican Trump wing. Because that’s the only issue they truly care about. Biden can;t control illegal immigration, but he has some control over legal immigration, so he’s avoiding raising the numbers (to compensate – Trump followers only care about total numbers anyway.)

    From the Wall Street Journal today:

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-christian-for-biden-im-feeling-betrayed-11618416411

    So when Mr. Biden as a candidate committed to raise the refugee ceiling from the historically low levels of the Trump administration to 125,000, I was sold. And when he reiterated his commitment shortly after the election and then informed Congress in early February of his intention to reset the refugee ceiling at 62,500 for the remaining half of the federal fiscal year, I felt vindicated. But the president still hasn’t signed the paperwork to adjust the refugee ceiling.

    Some speculate that the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border has made Mr. Biden hesitate. But he knows that refugee resettlement—which brings people identified and vetted abroad to America on airplanes—is separate from the process for asylum seekers who make their own way to the U.S. border to request protection.

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  16. you said it mr p

    Dave (1bb933)

  17. There have been benefits from the Afghan occupation:

    1. A lot of dead Taliban. Lots and lots.
    2. al-Qaeda isn’t a thing anymore.
    3. No attacks on the US or its allies from that place.
    4. Containment of Pakistan.
    5. A warning to everyone that we will do all kinds of expensively violent things to you, for a long time, if you piss us off like bin Laden did.
    6. A military fully trained in anti-insurgent warfare.
    7. Great field tests of all our equipment.
    8. Valuable lessons to political leaders about things not to do.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  18. When it comes to ‘war-on-a-credit-card,’ you bet.

    You know who fought a war on a cash-basis? The Soviet Union, trying to match a guy buying weapons with a credit card. They lost their whole damn country.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  19. 1. We have gone over fifteen months without a combat death in Afghanistan.

    That’s maybe because they didn’t want Donald Trump to change his mind. But now if the U.. gives a date certain, they may try to kill some American soldiers on their way out, to convey the impression of a military victory, the same reason I say the Pentagon was attacked on September 11, 2001, and because they may feel that’s the way to get Biden not to change his mind.

    2. The idea of a perpetual troop presence offends many Americans, but we station troops on a long-term basis in a lot of places.

    It’s a war, but it’s simmering at a very low level.

    Better would be to get a real ceasefire, and it would have been achieved long ago, except for the interference by Pakistan (whose military prefers to act behind the scenes. Maybe Burma’s military now also did, and they also didn’t want to be dominated by China, but they couldn’t manage it. They had bad polls. Thailand’s military is more successful)

    3. We have prevented the re-emergence of a terrorist safe haven of the type that existed before September 11, 2001. I would not like to see that situation recur.

    It’s true enough there are some potential other terrorist havens that are handled other ways, but in all of them I think we have a local government that’s fighting. And some troops, or at least CIA.

    The Taliban assassinate all the good and competent people in Afghanistan – how can any Afghan government do well?

    Maybe place severe sanctions on Pakistan and to lift them demand all this terrorist support stop, and say we won’t take no for an answer. And we won’t take yes for answer. We’ll only take success for an answer.

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  20. @17.

    #6. A military fully trained in anti-insurgent warfare.

    Afghan soldiers still can’t read, despite $200M US-backed program, report finds

    The U.S. government has committed $200 million to a program teaching Afghan soldiers to read — but a new report shows more than half of them still may be illiterate.

    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/afghan-soldiers-still-cant-read-despite-200m-us-backed-program-report-finds

    The U.S. government has committed $200 million to a program teaching Afghan soldiers to read — but a new report shows more than half of them still may be illiterate.

    “Well, as long as it’s money well spent.” – John Brackett [Howard St. John] ‘Lover Come Back’ 1961

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  21. @18. ROFLMAOPIP. You’ve never been to the GUM Department Store off Red Square in Soviet times, have you.

    …and Putin smiled.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  22. I don’t feel very strongly either way, but I do think we would need to take a look at what the actual mission was meant to be. Right now it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I also don’t think it’s Vietnam. We did what we meant to do in the first couple of years and achieve the other target (get rid of Bin Laden) 10 years ago. The original mission has been achieved, it’s either time to go home or to find a new mission.

    And, yes, we are still in Germany and Japan and maybe the same strategic value would apply to having a base in Afghanistan, because really we are still in Germany and Japan for our own military strategic reasons. Transportation and quick deploy. Ramstein/ K-town, is there as an owned refueling and deployment center for that part of the world and Japan (along with Guam) is part of the same strategy for the other side of Eur-Asia. We don’t talk about it though because that is not popular with the civilian populations of our allies.

    Nic (896fdf)

  23. The Trump/Biden decision is the worst of the three paths we could have taken. In descending order of preference:

    1) Go in, take names, inflict death and destruction, and LEAVE soon thereafter. The Northern Alliance held a section of Afghanistan before we went there, and they helped us to send the Taliban scurrying. The best chance of a friendly, strong, albeit undemocratic, government in Afghanistan was at that moment. Yes, rule by the Northern Alliance would most likely have resulted in a strongman, but he would have been our strongman.

    2) Stay there for a long, long time. Yes, there would be an occasional soldier killed (just like police officers are killed in the U.S. in the process of securing the peace, only this is international peace), but that is the price to be paid by not following option 1. Plus, live-fire exercises are beneficial to the military.

    3) Fall prey to mission creep. Try to nation-build. Shower them with programs and money. Silver platter stuff. Hope they see how wonderful our secular, Western ways are. You know, lead the horse to water.

    Call it quits 20 years later when the nation-building exercise fails. (Anybody who truly understood the intersection of religion, tribalism, culture, and geopolitics could have seen that nation-building was going to be an exercise in futility.)

    Admit the inevitable refugees. Hope that some of them don’t get radicalized by propaganda about how great their home country could have been if the evil U.S. hadn’t gotten involved. Spend money providing benefits to a select group of refugees (there is no time limit on how long they can receive welfare benefits), when with the same amount of money the U.S. could provide food and shelter to a much larger number of refugees on foreign soil.

    norcal (01e272)

  24. @23. Time to cash-in your Afghan War Bonds from Uncle Sam!

    Oh.

    Wait.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  25. I usually agree with French, and again here. There’s no reason not to stay. The Taliban had their chance.

    Paul Montagu (26e0d1)

  26. Pay wall, Paul.

    Hey, that rhymes!

    norcal (01e272)

  27. War is too important to be left to pundits and blog commenters.

    nk (1d9030)

  28. French is safe at home.

    And irrelevant.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  29. Buzzkill! 🙂

    norcal (01e272)

  30. That was for nk.

    norcal (01e272)

  31. You know who fought a war on a cash-basis? The Soviet Union, trying to match a guy buying weapons with a credit card. They lost their whole damn country.

    Reaganomics!

    Dave (1bb933)

  32. @31. No. Ronnie’s boss: Warner Bros.:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiEdFcsAoU4

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  33. We have gone over fifteen months without a combat death in Afghanistan.

    Part of the agreement that the Taliban signed in February 2020 was that they wouldn’t go pocky on our troops. Looks like they’ve lived up to that part of the agreement, along with turning over their prisoners, which was also a requirement. In exchange, the US agreed to pull all troops out by May 1st.

    Oh well, it’s not like it will be the first time that the US has backed out on an agreement they signed, or made last-minute demands they knew wouldn’t be met. Just ask the Native Americans.

    Factory Working Orphan (f916e7)

  34. It’s funny. I don’t recall much hubbub back when Trump agreed to a pullout.

    I guess we were too busy paying attention to all his other drama.

    norcal (01e272)

  35. Graham and McConnell criticized Trump’s surrender to the Taliban.

    Dave (1bb933)

  36. I stand corrected.

    “I” was too busy paying attention to all the other Trump drama.

    norcal (01e272)

  37. Breaking – mass shooting at Indianapolis FedEx facility. 9 dead- including shooter.

    America: you suck.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)


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