19 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

India and Iran Will Have Their Hands Full on Afghanistan

Aryaman Bhatnagar

Iran’s newly minted president, Ebrahim Raisi, declared during a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar earlier this month that “Iran and India can play a constructive and useful role in ensuring security in the region, especially Afghanistan.” Raisi went on to claim that “Tehran welcomes New Delhi’s role in establishment of security in Afghanistan.”

Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Iran to attend Raisi’s inauguration ceremony on Aug. 5 underscored New Delhi’s recent push to deepen engagement with Tehran. This was Jaishankar’s second visit to the country in less than a month. In between the two trips, he also held telephone calls with his outgoing Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif.

While the two sides discussed many aspects of the bilateral relationship during these interactions, their main focus was on Afghanistan, where events have unfolded at a head-spinning pace. Jaishankar’s trip this month coincided with the beginning of the Taliban’s astonishing sweep across Afghanistan, capturing nearly all of the country’s provincial capitals in a matter of days. The blitz culminated in the insurgents entering Kabul over the weekend, quickly followed by the collapse of the Afghan government. The nature of the administration that will replace it—whether it is a repeat of the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate that ruled the country prior to the U.S. invasion in 2001 or a Taliban-dominated government formed after negotiations with other Afghan stakeholders—remains unclear for now.

Historic images show the centuries-long struggle for Afghanistan


The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was shockingly swift. On April 14, President Biden announced that the United States would begin withdrawing forces in May, with all the troops out by September 11. By August 15, Taliban fighters were posing behind a massive desk at the presidential palace in Kabul. President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country, the government had fallen, and the Taliban had seized control.

A look at Afghan history makes this stunning turn of events less surprising. Modernization has long clashed with Islamic conservatism and, as the British and Russians can attest, attempts to occupy and subdue Afghanistan have rarely turned out as planned. The results are often tragic, especially for the people caught in the conflict.

In 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan and restored Shah Shufa to the throne as Emir of Afghanistan. He was assassinated in 1842. Britain tried to annex Afghanistan three times to block Russian expansion and protect its colonial interests in India.LITHOGRAPH VIA ALAMY

The Taliban destroyed Afghanistan's ancient treasures. Will history repeat itself?


As Alexander the Great did in 330 B.C., Taliban forces this week conquered the strategic cities of Herat and Kandahar while also taking a dozen other major towns across Afghanistan. The sudden victories caught the nation’s museum curators and archaeologists off guard, and they are scrambling to secure sites and artifacts still under their control. The fate of those within Taliban-run territory remains uncertain.

“We didn’t expect this to happen so quickly,” said Noor Agha Noori, who leads Afghanistan’s Institute of Archaeology in Kabul. Officials intended to transport artifacts from cities like Herat and Kandahar for safekeeping, but the abrupt collapse of Afghan government resistance in recent days prevented those actions.

Now, with Taliban forces closing in on Kabul, the collection of more than 80,000 artifacts in Afghanistan’s National Museum is vulnerable. “We have great concerns for the safety of our staff and collections,” said Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, the museum's director.

The U.S. Spent $83 Billion Training Afghan Forces. Why Did They Collapse So Quickly?


U.S. Air Force cargo planes and contracted aircraft are headed to Afghanistan to evacuate potentially thousands of Americans and Afghans per day as the Taliban advances on Kabul, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

On Thursday the Taliban took Afghanistan’s second largest city, Kandahar, and advances by Taliban fighters have put the country’s capital at risk of falling.

“Time is a precious commodity here,” Kirby said. “Clearly from their actions it appears as if they are trying to get Kabul isolated.”

The need for the rapid departure has raised concern within the Pentagon: How could the U.S.-trained Afghan military collapse so quickly?

The United States has spent almost $83 billion equipping and training the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF, since 2002, including providing almost $10 billion in aircraft and vehicles, according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The Afghanistan Debacle Is Another Step Toward ‘Fortress Europe’

Judah Grunstein

The collapse of the Afghan government over the weekend, culminating in the Taliban’s entry into Kabul and declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, stunned most observers with its rapidity, even if the outcome itself was not a surprise. Ever since it became clear that U.S. President Joe Biden would withdraw U.S. military forces from the country whether or not a peace deal and power-sharing agreement had been reached, the prospect of a Taliban military victory seemed likely, if not necessarily guaranteed. The speed with which the Afghan security forces unraveled, provincial leaders swapped allegiance and the national government dissolved, however, demonstrated that until the very end, Western assumptions about Afghanistan were shaped more by wishful thinking than by realities on the ground.

Like other stakeholders, the European governments involved in NATO’s Afghanistan mission had counted on a period of at least several months in which to assess the potential damage of a Taliban takeover and make contingency plans. They now find themselves scrambling to evacuate their citizens still in the country. But their boilerplate declarations of solidarity with the Afghan population and commitments to take in relatively small numbers of Afghan interpreters and embassy staff underscore the degree to which Europe has been relegated to the role of a passive bystander, with little agency to shape events in Afghanistan—or elsewhere. ...

With Afghanistan Won, A 'New' Taliban Seeks to Rebrand Itself


In sharp contrast to the group's bloody foray into Kabul a quarter of a century ago and the United States' thunderous invasion five years later, the Taliban's largely peaceful uncontested march into the Afghan capital today has proven for some as much of a shock as the rapid pace at which the nationwide offensive unfolded.

But with the country already won, the Taliban now has a new mission: shifting its image in the eyes of the world from that of a radical militia to one of a responsible governing force tasked with running a nation.

"The current posture of the Taliban is for a global audience in an effort to present themselves as a legitimate government who seeks to stabilize Afghanistan and fight terrorism," one Pentagon official supporting the retrograde efforts in Afghanistan told Newsweek.

Initial evidence of this effort can already be seen in the group's tolerance of the mass exit of fleeing Afghans, some of whom chose to risk and even give their lives clinging to departing U.S. military planes rather than live under Taliban rule.

Around the halls: The Taliban retakes Afghanistan

Nearly 20 years after the United States intervened in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power, and in the wake of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops, the Taliban’s stunningly rapid reconquest of the country reached its denouement Sunday, August 15 as its fighters entered Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani left the country. Brookings experts reflect on the latest developments and offer recommendations on how the Biden administration should proceed.

This weekend saw a stunning tragedy unfold in Afghanistan, at a staggering speed and scale. Afghanistan’s cities, and ultimately Kabul, fell like dominoes to the Taliban. We have seen haunting images of Afghans flooding Kabul airport, desperate to leave their country, of planes taking off around them. These will endure.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and no doubt we will spend a great deal of time trying to understand who went wrong, where. President Donald Trump negotiated a feckless deal with the Taliban. President Biden insisted on an unconditional withdrawal, which ensured the Taliban had no incentive to talk peace. President Ghani’s corrupt government and his military leaders failed to lead the Afghan security forces. The rapidity of the American withdrawal this summer meant the rug was pulled out from under the Afghan security forces, who depended heavily on U.S. intelligence and air support. And there’s more, including the influence of Afghanistan’s neighbors. What is clear the day after the fall of Kabul is that the world has collectively failed the Afghan people.

Inside Reach 871, A US C-17 Packed With 640 Afghans Trying to Escape the Taliban


A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III safely evacuated some 640 Afghans from Kabul late Sunday, according to U.S. defense officials and photos obtained by Defense One.

That’s believed to be among the most people ever flown in the C-17, a massive military cargo plane that has been operated by the U.S. and its allies for nearly three decades. Flight tracking software shows the plane belongs to the 436th Air Wing, based at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The C-17, using the call sign Reach 871, was not intending to take on such a large load, but panicked Afghans who had been cleared to evacuate pulled themselves onto the C-17’s half-open ramp, one defense official said.

Instead of trying to force those refugees off the aircraft, “the crew made the decision to go,” a defense official told Defense One. “Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,” the defense official said.

You Can’t Buy a Cause


The rout of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF, will go down in history as one of the greatest military defeats of the past century. Like the Iraqi Security Forces in 2014 and the French Army in 1940, these forces melted away in the face of numerically inferior forces and—France excepted—forces equipped with far inferior equipment. By any quantifiable measure, these armies should have easily held off the Taliban, ISIS, and the German Army. Instead, the French Army collapsed in seven weeks, the Iraqi Security Forces evaporated from the battlefield within days of the ISIS attack from Syria, and the recent Taliban offensive took less than eight days from the capture of Kunduz to the capitulation of Kabul.

It was not supposed to be this way. As recently as last month, President Biden noted that the Afghan armed forces were “as well equipped as any army in the world” and “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” The ANDSF were well equipped, numerically superior and superbly trained over the past two decades by the United States, NATO and its coalition allies. Billions of dollars were spent to train and equip hundreds of thousands of soldiers with modern weapons and aircraft.

The 1 Thing That Could’ve Changed the War in Afghanistan


Had the United States caught and killed Osama bin Laden in December 2001, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would have faded away almost immediately afterward. I cannot prove that. It’s only an opinion from my vantage point as one of President George W. Bush’s speechwriters in 2001 and 2002.

Yet I strongly believe it. The U.S. stayed for 20 years in Afghanistan because first Bush and then his successors got trapped in a pattern of responding to past failures by redoubling future efforts. In the fall of 2001, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was clear, limited, and achievable: find and kill bin Laden. After bin Laden escaped, that mission escalated into something hazy and impossibly difficult: to rebuild Afghanistan’s society and remodel the Afghan state.

Had U.S. forces succeeded against bin Laden in 2001, justice would have been served in the way Americans like: fast, hard, and cheap. Republicans could have campaigned in the elections of 2002 as the winners of a completed war—and pivoted then to domestic concerns. Remember, if George W. Bush learned one single lesson from his father’s presidency, it was that even the most overwhelming military success does not translate into reelection. In November 1992, the elder Bush won 37 percent of the vote against a Democratic nominee who had opposed the triumphant Gulf War.

Does the Great Retreat from Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era?

Robin Wright

History will surely note this absurdly ill-timed tweet. On Monday, August 9th, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul posed a question to its four hundred thousand followers: “This #PeaceMonday, we want to hear from you. What do you wish to tell the negotiating parties in Doha about your hopes for a political settlement? #PeaceForAfghanistan.” The message reflected the delusion of American policy. With the Taliban sweeping across the country, storming one provincial capital after another, the prospect that diplomacy would work a year after U.S.-backed talks in Qatar began—and quickly stalled—was illusory. By Thursday, the Afghan government controlled only three major cities. President Joe Biden, the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, announced that he was dispatching three thousand U.S. troops to Afghanistan to pull hundreds of its diplomats and staff out of that Embassy. And, by Sunday, it was all over—before dusk. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, his government collapsed, and the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces simply melted away as the Taliban moved into the capital. American diplomats—having evacuated the fortress-like U.S. Embassy—were forced to shelter in place at the airport as they waited to be evacuated. America’s two-decade-long misadventure in Afghanistan has ended. For Americans, Afghanistan looks a little, maybe a lot, like a trillion-dollar throwaway. Meanwhile, Afghans are left in free fall.

As the Taliban return, Afghanistan's past threatens its future


In the blue haze of hookah smoke that filled Kandahar’s Cafe Delight on a recent weekend afternoon, it was easy to forget there’s a war outside.

Young male professionals with well-groomed beards and mullet cuts, slumped in plush chairs, sipped espresso drinks beneath flat-screens that pulsed with racy Turkish and Indian music videos, the bare midriffs of women blurred by channel censors.

This was still Afghanistan, a conservative Islamic society. But the patrons belonged to a more permissive, urbane generation that came of age after the fall of the Taliban, with vague to no memory of the oppressive, fundamentalist regime, born in this southern city, that banned television, music, and cinema; forbade men from trimming their beards; and forced women to wear head-to-toe burkas.

Pentagon Shifts Blame, Says U.S. Didn't Plan for Afghan Forces 'Capitulating' Without Fight


Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Monday that the United States military "did not anticipate" the degree to which Afghan forces would succumb to a Taliban takeover.

Speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon Monday, Kirby told reporters the U.S. military had gone through multiple planning exercises looking at possible scenarios surrounding U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying "plans are terrific, and we take them seriously, but they are not and never have been perfectly predictive."

Asked by a reporter if one of the scenarios was a complete Taliban takeover of the capital city of Kabul, Kirby answered, "It would certainly be wrong to conclude that the United States military did not view as a distinct possibility that the Taliban could overrun the country, including Kabul."

"Many times it happened very fast," Kirby continued. "And one of the things that we couldn't anticipate and didn't anticipate was the degree to which Afghan forces capitulated, sometimes without a fight." Kirby's comment appeared to point blame toward the Afghan forces and his impression of their quick surrender.

We Never Did What Was Necessary in Afghanistan


All of the American angst and blame-gaming associated with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s lightning march to Kabul is the agonized flailing of a people not accustomed to losing wars.

Or rather, those among us who are not accustomed to admitting we lose wars.

It is painful and infuriating to see Afghanistan fall to the very people we went in there to oust. And did oust. It is a country where the United States has spent 20 years, $2.26 trillion and, most importantly, lost more than 2,300 of its bravest and most admirable sons and daughters—with tens of thousands more suffering life-changing physical and psychological injuries.

But it’s important to recognize that we suffer that pain now because we were not willing to do what was necessary to secure a different outcome. Four presidents, 10 congresses, two political parties—all of us.

Biden: ‘I Stand Squarely Behind My Decision’ on Afghanistan


President Joe Biden said Monday that he did not regret withdrawing all American forces from Afghanistan despite “gut-wrenching” scenes of the Taliban taking control of the country as locals desperately try to flee.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said at the White House. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.”

Biden returned to the White House from Camp David to address the American public for the first time since Kabul fell into Taliban control over the weekend. He returned to the presidential retreat in Maryland shortly after his remarks, which lasted about 20 minutes.

In April, the president announced that he had directed all American troops to leave Afghanistan by Sept. 11. That withdrawal plan offered a slightly longer timeline than the deal former President Donald Trump reached with the Taliban last year, which required all U.S. forces to leave as soon as May 1.

What went wrong in Afghanistan

David Loyn

When Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, he was able to say that they'd leave behind a formidable Afghan army with 300,000 troops, paramilitary police and some 30,000 special forces. That is, on paper, more than enough to secure the country against an insurgency if skilfully deployed and well motivated. The best of these troops are as good as any in the region. But they ended up strung out in thousands of checkpoints across the country, poorly fed, rarely paid, and with fuel and ammunition sold off before it reached them. Many of the units were composed of ‘ghost soldiers,’ phantom troops whose pay was collected by senior officers.

Just a few weeks ago, Joe Biden downplayed the risk of losing Kabul. His strategy was to leave Afghan forces to hold off Taliban for months as negotiators try to hammer out a peace deal. ‘The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,’ he said.

Even now, Biden has not changed his mind. ‘We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result,’ he said yesterday. ‘I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.’

Why America Was Destined To Fail In Afghanistan

Andrew A. Michta

In April, President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, in effect ending America’s longest overseas war; the mission itself is now slated to be over by August 31. Since the announcement, the Taliban have been on the march, assuming control over provincial capitals and surrounding territory. The Afghan forces, nominally numbering over 300,000, trained and equipped by the United States and its allies to the tune of billions of dollars, seem unable to do much to stop the advance, notwithstanding Biden’s calls on the Afghan leadership to come together, develop a strategy and fight for the future of their country.

As of this writing, the vastly outnumbered Taliban fighters are making lightning battlefield advances and are already pressing on the outskirts of Kabul, with some reports now having them just entering the city. There are already thousands of refugees on the move, running away from areas now once again under Taliban control. If, and as is looking increasingly likely, when Kabul falls, the United States will have no option but to evacuate our already downsized embassy. Some analysts have suggested that we may be tracking for a repeat of the “Saigon scenario” reminiscent of the last days of the Vietnam War (the U.S. is sending 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation of the embassy).

The Taliban Is Back: What Happens Next? – Analysis

Frud Bezhan*

(Gandhara) — The situation in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is changing rapidly as the Taliban has moved into the city and taken over parts of it, including the Presidential Palace. This happened as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and security forces in the city melted away.

Though much is unknown, here are some of the key questions for the war-torn country as the militant Islamist group takes control of the entire country.
What Happened To The Democratically Elected Afghan Government?

The internationally recognized government in Kabul has largely collapsed.

President Ghani flew out of Afghanistan on August 15, effectively ceding power to the Taliban as its fighters surrounded the capital and later entered it. He landed in neighboring Tajikistan and was reported to be headed to a third country.

Afghanistan after the U.S. Withdrawal: Trends and Scenarios for the Future

Antonio Giustozzi

Executive Summary 
This essay discusses the prospects for Afghanistan after the completion of the U.S. forces withdrawal and assesses that a relatively wide range of outcomes remain possible.

Main Argument 

Neither the Taliban’s leadership nor any of their regional sponsors aim for the re-establishment of a Taliban autocracy. However, the deadlock in intra-Afghan talks raises the possibility of that happening by default, especially if the Taliban gain such a military edge that a balanced negotiated outcome becomes impossible. A Taliban military campaign could increasingly weaken the Taliban’s willingness to make concessions, whether to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or to individual factions of the political elite in Kabul. In that scenario, two outcomes are possible: a de facto Taliban autocracy, in which fragments of the old political elite could be co-opted in a marginal, window-dressing role; or state collapse, in which the Taliban would not be able to assert order over the chaos created by the defeat of the republic.

The Taliban Ride Back to Power in Kabul

Niha Dagia

That the Taliban are on the cusp of power in Afghanistan may be unsurprising, but the speed of the collapse is undoubtedly staggering. It appears that as the United States prepared to exit and the Ashraf Ghani government looked towards Pakistan to blame, the armed group was already planning how it would govern the country.

About 10 days ago, the Taliban claimed its first major victory when it overran the regional capital Zaranj in the southwestern province of Nimroz. On Sunday, its fighters entered the Presidential Palace in Kabul.

In just over a week, the Taliban seized 26 of the country’s 34 provinces, gained control of major border crossings, and choked Kabul. Although some areas such as Herat saw intense fighting with popular militia serving alongside the Afghan security forces, others such as Jalalabad witnessed armed forces and government officials surrender without a shot being fired.

Kabul Is Not Quite Saigon, and It Was All Too Easy

Luke Hunt

The right-wing politics of U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell are not everyone’s cup of tea. But he’s an old stager and he was right about the Taliban shaping-up to retake of Afghanistan, when he said: “This debacle was not only foreseeable, it was foreseen.”

“The Biden Administration has reduced U.S. officials to pleading with Islamic extremists to spare our Embassy as they prepare to overrun Kabul,” he said.

“The latest news of a further drawdown at our Embassy and a hasty deployment of military forces seem like preparations for the fall of Kabul. President Biden’s decisions have us hurtling toward an even worse sequel to the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975.”

The sheer speed of the fall as the militia fanned out across the country was as breathtaking as it was heartbreaking for the Afghans who believed in America and those who backed Washington’s efforts over two decades to rescue what was a failed state.

Afghanistan Is a Wake-Up Call for ‘Major Non-NATO Allies’

Nikolas K. Gvosdev

Apoint that I have tried to make in these pages for the last two decades is the importance of clarity in language, particularly when it comes to commitments. Back in 2003, I worried that the careless bandying-about of terms like partner or ally “increasingly muddle policy, especially when they create assumptions or expectations that are then unfulfilled.” In the aftermath of Russian actions taken against Georgia (in 2008) and Ukraine (in 2004), I warned about the dangers of blurring the line between an ally with a Senate-confirmed mutual defense treaty and concrete contingency planning for security, and a “partner” who received U.S. security assistance funds and basked in presidential speeches and non-binding Congressional resolutions promising support.

Commitments matter, because the reliability of one’s guarantees directly influences the deterrent power that they exercise over a challenger’s strategic calculus. Over the last seven years, we have seen how Russia has tested, most notably with Ukraine, the gap between rhetorical promises of support for Kyiv with what the United States was actually prepared to put on the line. In addition, the U.S. ability to get other key allies to adopt its rhetorical commitments as binding on them has waned. Germany, pursuing its own national security imperative of securing unimpeded access to energy supplies at a price and quantity that allows its economy to remain competitive (and, in turn, to pull along the overall economies of the European Union member states), has successfully pushed back against U.S. efforts to stop the construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline that will allow Russian natural gas to be sent directly to Germany—without the need to transit states which have difficult relations with Moscow. From Germany’s perspective, Ukraine is a European partner (which is why Berlin offers to use its good offices to ensure some Russian energy transit continues across Ukrainian territory, and to invest in modernizing the Ukrainian energy infrastructure)—but not a treaty ally, meaning that Germany does not believe it is obligated out of any sense of formal alliance commitments to prioritize Ukrainian concerns as part of the bilateral German-Russian relationship.

‘A self-inflicted wound’: Former ambassador to Afghanistan, Spokane Valley native Ryan Crocker says Taliban rout was avoidable

Orion Donovan-Smith 

WASHINGTON – With Taliban forces rapidly seizing territory across Afghanistan and Americans rushing to evacuate the besieged capital, a decorated former diplomat who twice headed the U.S. embassy in Kabul said the United States could have avoided this disastrous coda to its longest war.

Spokane Valley native Ryan Crocker arrived in the Afghan capital to reopen the shuttered embassy in January 2002, weeks after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime, and returned to serve as ambassador from 2011 to 2012. In an interview with The Spokesman-Review on Friday, Crocker said while the pace of the insurgents’ advance has surprised him, the Biden administration should have seen it coming.

“I think the direction was predictable; the trajectory was not,” he said. “What President Biden has done is to embrace the Afghan policy of President Trump, and this is the outcome.”

After Trump signed off on a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 that excluded the Afghan government, on April 13 Biden announced his administration would withdraw U.S. troops from the Central Asian country by Sept. 11. That symbolic date falls exactly two decades after al-Qaida attacked the United States from its base in Afghanistan, where the Taliban gave the terrorist group safe haven.

From hubris to humiliation: America’s warrior class contends with the abject failure of its Afghanistan project

Greg Jaffe

Twenty years ago, when the twin towers and the Pentagon were still smoldering, there was a sense among America’s warrior and diplomatic class that history was starting anew for the people of Afghanistan and much of the Muslim world.

“Every nation has a choice to make,” President George W. Bush said on the day that bombs began falling on Oct. 7, 2001. In private, senior U.S. diplomats were even more explicit. “For you and us, history starts today,” then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told his Pakistani counterparts.

Earlier this month, as the Taliban raced across Afghanistan, retired Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, a two-time veteran of the war, stumbled across Armitage’s words. To Dempsey, the sentiment was “the most American thing I’ve ever heard” and emblematic of the hubris and ignorance that he and so many others brought to the losing war.

How U.S. leaders deliberately misled the public about America’s longest war

Afghanistan’s lesson? Fight to win or stay home | Column

Robert Bruce Adolph

America and its allies lost the war in Afghanistan. The expenditure of blood and treasure was extraordinary and, in the end, shed and spent for little reason. There is no denying it. The clear winner is the Taliban, which is capturing one provincial capital after another as the U.S. troops finish pulling out. There are many reasons for the humiliating loss.

The Taliban fought a total war for the existence of their way of life. America did not. Our goal was to force the Taliban to quit sheltering Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, but that objective later morphed into “winning Afghan hearts and minds.” The former objective was possible. The latter was wildly improbable, reflecting mission creep gone mad. That led inevitably to America’s longest war.

America assiduously follows the Law of Land Warfare, which reflects our humanitarian values. The Taliban did not. America desperately attempted to avoid civilian casualties in the conduct of the conflict, especially during the Obama administration. The Taliban did not. The Taliban knew an essential old-world war-fighting truth: The winner triumphs by embracing the idea that the ends justify the means — and the end is ultimate victory.

Written in Taliban

Matthew Griffin, Scott Chapman
Source Link

The first time I saw you was in the Khyber pass. You came with your technology, elite fighters fueled by revenge, and the hubris to believe you could disprove history.

This was a war that you didn’t have the stomach to fight. But I’m glad you tried.

We bled you the same way we bled the Soviets in our Holy Land. We bled you the same way the Vietnamese bled you in their home land. We did it patiently and deliberately.

Patience. Something Westerners never learn.

Our history is millennial. We don’t yearn for an early victory when the Infidel ravages our Holy Land. Our victory is celebrated decades from now. We’ve endured, then ravaged every standing military that crossed our borders. Why? How? We’re patient.

In 30 days, we’ll be stronger, richer, and have control over precious natural resources that you need for your pathetic life dictated by comfort. We will have women, riches, land, guns, and ownership of one of the greatest chapters in military history.

The $88 billion gamble on the Afghan army that's going up in smoke


The United States spent more than $88 billion to train and equip Afghanistan’s army and police, nearly two-thirds of all of its foreign aid to the country since 2002. So why are they crumbling in the face of the Taliban onslaught?

The breathtaking failure to mold a cohesive and independent Afghan fighting force can be traced to years of overly optimistic assessments from U.S. officials that obscured — and in some cases, purposely hid — evidence of deep-rooted corruption, low morale, and even “ghost soldiers and police” who existed merely on the payrolls of the Afghan Defense and Interior Ministries, according to current and former officials directly involved in the training effort.

Even the Afghan units who have fought valiantly in the face of a formidable enemy, suffering enormous casualties in the process, were never expected to operate without high-tech air and ground support from foreign allies, they say.

What Starts In Afghanistan Does Not Stay In Afghanistan: China, India And Iran Grapple With Fallout – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

Taliban advances in Afghanistan shift the Central Asian playing field on which China, India and the United States compete with rival infrastructure-driven approaches. At first glance, a Taliban takeover of Kabul would give China a 2:0 advantage against the US and India, but that could prove to be a shaky head start.

The potential fall of the US-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani will shelve if not kill Indian support for the Iranian port of Chabahar that was intended to facilitate Indian trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Chabahar was also viewed by India as a counterweight to the Chinese-supported Pakistani port of Gwadar, a crown jewel of the People’s Republic’s transportation, telecommunications and energy-driven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The United States facilitated Indian investment in Chabahar by exempting the port from harsh US sanctions against Iran. The exemption was intended to “support the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.”

Laos-China Railway on Track for December Opening: Official

Sebastian Strangio

A railway embankment in the countryside outside Vientiane, Laos, on November 12, 2018.Credit: Sebastian Strangio

The multibillion-dollar Laos-China railway is set to begin operations by the end of the year as scheduled, a Lao official said last week, completing the first link of a long-envisioned rail line connecting southwest China with Singapore.

The announcement was made by Minister of Planning and Investment Sonexay Siphandone on August 11 during a meeting of 10th Laos-China Railway Project Construction Committee, according to Pasaxon, the newspaper of the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.

Sonexay said that as of July 25, construction of the railway, which runs from the town of Boten on Laos’s border with China to the capital Vientiane, was 93.82 percent complete. “The Laos-China Railway will be completed in November, and will be open and ready for use by Laos National Day on 2 December,” he said.

Malaysia’s Muhyiddin Finally Steps Down As Prime Minister

Alifah Zainuddin

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin stepped down on Monday after trying – and failing – to seek opposition backing to remain in power. While this brings an end to his beleaguered premiership, it adds even more chaos to the country’s politics as party leaders scramble to form the next government.

Muhyiddin will not leave office immediately. He will stay on as caretaker prime minister until his successor is selected. That person will then serve as premier until the next general election takes place within two years.

“I can take the easy route and sacrifice my principles to remain as prime minister. But that is not my choice. I will not compromise with kleptocrats or interfere with the freedom of the judiciary, just to stay in power,” Muhyiddin said in a televised address to the nation about an hour after he submitted his resignation. “I’ve tried to come up with ideas to save this administration. But they didn’t work, as some quarters would rather grab power than prioritize the lives of the people.”

Mind the Gap: Priorities for Transatlantic China Policy

China is at the top of the transatlantic agenda. Throughout the first half of 2021, the Distinguished Reflection Group on Transatlantic China Policy, 21 individuals with a wealth of expertise on China and transatlantic relations - including MERICS' experts Bernhard Bartsch, Mikko Huotari and Jan Weidenfeld, worked to advocate a more joined-up approach to China. Its report outlines priorities and provides recommendations for strategies to shape transatlantic China policy. Download the report here:

Longest war: Were America’s decades in Afghanistan worth it?


Here’s what 19-year-old Lance Cpl. William Bee felt flying into southern Afghanistan on Christmas Day 2001: purely lucky. The U.S. was hitting back at the al-Qaida plotters who had brought down the World Trade Center, and Bee found himself among the first Marines on the ground.

“Excitement,” Bee says these days, of the teenage Bee’s thoughts then. “To be the dudes that got to open it up first.”

In the decade that followed, three more deployments in America’s longest war scoured away that lucky feeling.

For Bee, it came down to a night in 2008 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. By then a sergeant, Bee held the hand of an American sniper who had just been shot in the head, as a medic sliced open the man’s throat for an airway.

As U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Top the Civil War’s Toll, We're Repeating Disease History


On Saturday, the United States passed a new landmark in the fight against the novel coronavirus, when the death toll surpassed 620,000 people, the classic estimate for the number of deaths from the American Civil War. The grim comparison is telling, not only because of the sheer size of the death toll, but also because it carries a bleak secondary meaning.

The Civil War, infamous for having the highest American death toll of any war in history, was the last major American conflict before the greater public understood how diseases spread. It was therefore the last war where the bulk of the deathstwo-thirds, in fact—were not from bullets and bombs, but from viruses, parasites and bacteria. Unfortunately, today’s COVID-19 death toll shows that many have approached the virus with a medical attitude hardly updated from 160 years ago.

The impact of disease on the course of the Civil War began almost as soon as the conflict was sparked. Both Union and Confederate soldiers found themselves caked in mud and sleeping in tents in improvised encampments. Without knowledge of how diseases spread, these close quarters encouraged bacteria and viruses to run rampant through the ranks.

US Geopolitical Imperatives To Rollback It Military Exit From Afghanistan – Analysis

Dr. Subhash Kapila

The United States decision for exit of US Forces from Afghanistan was inherited by President Joe Biden as a ‘Legacy Issue’ from the outgoing Trump Administration. President Biden opted to pursue the Trump Administration Afghanistan strategic blueprint and even went on to unwisely retain President Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Former US President Trump in his initial Trump Doctrine on Afghanistan had asserted that ‘No Time -lines’ for US Forces exit from Afghanistan will be delineated. President Trump had asserted that exit of US Forces from Afghanistan would be commensurate with the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The ‘Security & Stability” of Afghanistan was to be paramount deciding factor.

US presidential year politics and some domestic compulsions perceptionaly seem to have prompted then US President Trump to spin on its head his own enunciated Doctrine and place the United States on the track of ill-advised Doha Peace Dialogues with the Afghan Taliban.

Lengthening the bridge: the role of current weapons and emerging technologies in expanding the pre-nuclear phase of conflict

Dara Massicot*

In Russian military theory, strategic deterrence is composed of strategic nuclear deterrence and strategic non-nuclear deterrence. Within the realm of the latter, several new military systems make up Russia’s growing intermediate and long-range conventional precision strike portfolio. These include the Iskandr short-range ballistic and cruise missile complex, the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile, and the Kalibr sea-launched cruise missile, and emerging capabilities like the Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile. They have now been operationally tested and are being delivered to the armed forces in larger quantities.

Consequently, debate is emerging regarding specific tasks for these weapons in the pre-nuclear phase of conflict. Several authors and senior military leaders are evaluating methods to generate additional combat solutions for the Kremlin, and to provide flexible and scalable options for managing escalation at multiple conflict phases and conflict types. Russian strategists are trying to find efficiencies, using current and projected technologies, that will lengthen the bridge between the pre-nuclear phase of conflict and nuclear-first use. Questions being discussed include:

Brief: Russia Warns of ‘Internal Threats’

Background: More than most, Russia’s leaders have an imperative to maintain their country’s unity. Russia’s size, multinational demographics, uneven living standards and poorly developed infrastructure make this as difficult as it is urgent. It’s why the Kremlin is so sensitive to potential threats and closely monitors any flashpoint or hotbed of activity that could destabilize society.

What Happened: Speaking at the All-Russian Youth Educational Forum, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said internal threats are more dangerous to the country than external ones. Such problems, he argued, could make Russia go the way of Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq or Syria. Related: Last week, Shoigu alleged that there are propaganda centers located in Warsaw, Riga and Tallinn that are meant to undermine Russia.

Army Says It Wants Space Capabilities, Not Sats


WASHINGTON: The Army plans to continue to experiment with small satellites as a way to inform requirements for future long-range strike capabilities, according to Rick De Fatta, director of the Army Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence.

However, in remarks to the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. yesterday, he took pains to stress the Army’s current mantra that it does not want to build and operate its own satellites.

“We do not intend to fly satellites in the Army,” De Fatta said. “While we intend to experiment, and are experimenting, with a small sats … once we’ve proven that technology, we will pass that back into these emerging architectures” being put together by the Space Force and Space Command, he explained.

Fatta’s center, one of 12 Army Centers of Excellence, is part of the service’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), which now serves as the Army Component Command to both Space Command and Strategic Command, as well as providing support to Northern Command for its missile defense mission.