Monday, August 16, 2021

Afghan Taxi Ride

Afghan Taxi Ride
2001 - 2021

(Author's note: Please note that this blog was written BEFORE the death of 13 American service personnel in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021.  And also before President Biden had the temerity to describe the American experience in Afghanistan as an "extraordinary success"-- certainly it was for the Taliban!  When I wrote this I was very much afraid that some of the lumbering troop transport planes could become sitting duck targets while landing and taking off from Kabul airport.  We do know that some of these planes were fired upon.  So I suppose that things might have been even worse than they actually were.  As usual, it will take years for the full story of the War in Afghanistan to be told with accuracy and perspective.)

What a long strange trip it's been!  Nearly 20 years ago, following the 9/11 attacks, America boarded the Afghan taxi invading the mountainous country that harbored Osama Bin Laden and Al Quaeda.  In August of 2021 the Afghan taxi screeched to a halt and its surly driver demanded that its American passenger leave the vehicle.  The meter has been running for twenty years as America's longest war ground on.

* Over 2,300 Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan

* Many thousands more were wounded in body in and mind

* Trillions of taxpayer dollars were spent to prop up a corrupt regime 

Now it seems that our Afghan taxi is dropping us off right where it picked us up 20 years ago.  The Taliban is now triumphant.  They currently occupy more Afghan territory that they did in 2001.  Afghanistan will be a haven for terrorists and anti-American extremists.  Al Quaeda and Isis will return to Afghanistan.

President Truman was blamed for "losing China"in 1948.  Biden will, more justifiably, take the blame for losing Afghanistan in 2021.  Robert Gates said that Biden had been wrong on every foreign policy decision for the last forty years.  Gates' verdict on Biden's appalling lack of judgement seems to be vindicated by events unfolding in Afghanistan.  A massive treasure in blood and treasure appears to have been squandered in hopeless nation-building that took place over four American administrations.

Not with a bang, but a whimper...

By reinforcing failure in a desperate attempt to extricate Americans and those Afghans who supported us, the Taliban is now left holding approximately 5,000 American potential POWs.  Twenty years ago we were shocked to see Americans were falling out of buildings.  Today we are shocked to see Afghan loyalists are falling from American airplanes in Kabul.


In the Afghanistan chapter of our 2014 work, America Invades, we wrote, "The attitude towards warfare in Afghanistan is very different from that in the technologically focused West. “Our enemies have the watches,” some Afghans used to say, “but we have the time.” It appears the Western presence may have run out of time in Afghanistan."  (

In 2021 under Biden that prophesy came true.

Could the situation in Afghanistan have been managed better?  Unquestionably, the answer is yes.  The strategic value of Afghanistan plummeted like a rock in 2011 following the death of Osama Bin Laden. (see earlier post on US Navy Seals... That was the time for an orderly American pullout.  An election year in 2012 made that problematic.

Remnants of an Army
Jellalabad 1842

Afghanistan has long been known as the "graveyard of empires",  Alexander the Great campaigned in the region.  The Romans followed for a while around two thousand years ago.  The British fought several disastrous wars in Afghanistan (depicted famously in Elizabeth Thompson's 1879 painting Remnants of an Army).  The country became Russia's "Vietnam" in the 1970s. -- a bleeding ulcer that doomed Soviet Communism.  Now it is the turn of the American superpower for humiliation.  Afghanistan seems less a country than a swirling vertiginous vortex of endless tribal conflict.   

The Afghan Taxi runs not on oil or electricity, but rather on poppies.  The poppy remains the only consistent Afghan commodity of value to the world.  Its important role in end of life pain control has long term economic value for the Afghan state.  The USA ought to have pulled its troops out years ago and sent the drug companies in.  Private security companies paid for by big Pharma might possibly have facilitated some measure of stability in the country.  But now that is mere speculation.

While we are speculating, however, we may ask who will be the next passenger for the Afghan taxi?  The Chinese?  The Iranians?  The Pakistanis?  Caveat emptor!

We Americans now know that we were taken for a ride.

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