Afghanistan: Michael Scheuer's View

I urge you to read as much of the excerpts which appear below
from Michael Scheuer’s
2002 Through Our Enemies’ Eyes
2004 Imperial Hubris and
2008 Marching Toward Hell
as you have time for, but especially,
all of the excerpts from TOEE (they’re not too long - or at least read the boxed items)
and, from Imperial Hubris,
Michael Scheuer’s Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan
and, most especially of all,
Pillar VII: There Will Be an Islamist Regime in Kabul.

At the end of this document are (excerpts from) selected articles by Mr. Scheuer;
for his latest views on this and other subjects,
see his blog non-intervention.com.

Administrative note:
These excerpts from the writings of Michael Scheuer
used to appear in my blog
as part of one giant (over 400KB) post/document titled “Afghanistan”;
that document finally became to big to edit,
due to problems either in my browser or with blogger;
on 2010-07-03 I moved them to this file dedicated to
the writings of Michael Scheuer concerning Afghanistan.

Introduction to the excerpts from
Michael Scheuer’s Through Our Enemies’ Eyes

What follows immediately is an excerpt from a book published in 2002,
Michael Scheuer’s Through Our Enemies’ Eyes.
It is included because I think it is important to consider the question:
“Who got things right the first time?”

From the perspective of this writing, September 2009,
Scheuer’s views below, published in the spring of 2002,
seem to show considerable prescience.
Can you think of
any prominent U.S. pundit or mainstream “Afghan expert” (Barnett Rubin et al)
who, writing circa 2002, made equally accurate predictions?

As an American, I think it is a real shame for America
that, as late as 2009,
Scheuer still has not been incorporated into
the team of those planning America’s Afghan strategy.

Through Our Enemies’ Eyes
by Michael Scheuer

Chapter 15
Spring 2002:
Where Are We?
Where Are We Going?

Just as they are killing us,
we have to kill them so there will be a balance of terror.
This is the first time that the balance of terror has been close
between the two parties,
between Muslims and Americans in the modern age.
We will do as they do.
If they kill our women and innocent people,
we will kill their women and innocent people
until they stop.

Osama bin Laden,
October 2001

Section 15.1
Where Are We?

Subsection 15.1.1
Al Qaeda and the Taliban

As this is written [early 2002],
Osama bin Laden apparently is alive and his forces remain largely intact.
The losses al Qaeda has suffered since 7 October 2001
have been serious but not debilitating....

While these losses are not insignificant,
there is no reason to believe that bin Laden’s network has been defeated
or, for that matter, is even more than moderately distracted.
As argued earlier, al Qaeda is a veteran insurgent organization;
it is large, disciplined, well trained, and resilient.
It also is dispersed worldwide, and so most of the organization
that is targeted against the United States and its allies
has not been attacked or disrupted by the U.S. military.
The loyalty of al Qaeda’s leaders and foot soldiers remains rock solid—
not a single defection has been reported in the media—
and bin Laden himself has long since
become accustomed to changing his location on a daily basis,
if not more frequently.
Overall, the impact of the U.S. military onslaught on al-Qaeda
has caused bin Laden’s forces
logistical disruptions, personal sorrow,
and some uncomfortable nights in chilled caves;
it has not, however, seriously eroded their ability to wage war.

Neither should too much be made of what many in the West
have described as the Taliban’s complete military and political collapse.
It obviously is true that
the Taliban has lost control of the major Afghan urban centers.
With that loss, however,
the Taliban has been returned to its proper state of nature,
courtesy of the U.S. military.
The Taliban—and al Qaeda for that matter—
has done what all of history’s successful insurgent organizations
have done to survive:
they have abandoned the cities.
“Unlike traditional armies,”
Lawrence Friedman recently reminded readers of the journal Survival,
“guerilla groups and terrorists do not expect to hold territory.
They need time more than space,
for it is their ability to endure while mounting regular attacks
that enables them to grow
while the enemy is drained of patience and credibility.”
Many Muslim commentators and analysts have made this point;
Abd-al-Bari Atwan in the United Kingdom and Humayun Akhtar in Pakistan,
for example.
The latter also has raised the interesting point that
no one in the West has accounted for
the more than forty thousand soldiers
the Taliban still had under arms when Kandahar fell.
In the West, few have mirrored this line of analysis,
although more notice should be taken of the views of Milton Bearden,
a retired senior U.S. intelligence officer.
In warning his countrymen not to count unhatched chickens,
Bearden wrote the following in mid-November 2001:
As a rule,
set-piece battles for major urban centers
are not the way of combat in Afghanistan,
especially when a foreign element
as prominent as U.S. air support in the current fighting is involved.
Getting into Afghan cities, particularly for foreign armies,
has always been pretty easy;
it took the Soviets less than two weeks to take most of the cities....
The hard part always has been what comes next...
So to call the Taliban down for the count
because a string of urban centers has fallen, while possible true,
would be needlessly pushing our luck.

Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and the Taliban
also draw strength from several other factors.
First, the interim government of Hamid Karzai
is kept in power by foreign, Christian forces,
has no Islamist credentials,
and is dominated by Masood’s senior lieutenants—Takijs all.
The interim regime therefore is transparently an artificial Western creation,
made of what a Pakistani commentator accurately has called
a “minority jing bang lot of nationalities, and I dare say Martians too.
Their government will be a mongrel of uncertain parentage and will not last.”
It also is devoid of any credible representation
from the country’s numerically and historically dominant Pashtun tribe.
Rather than the interim government being a new beginning for Afghanistan,
it is more likely to be a catalyst for steadily intensifying domestic strife.
In an excellent and prescient essay in Foreign Affairs,
Milt Bearden told his countrymen that
not much stability could be expected from a Tajik-dominated regime.
“On the contrary,” Bearden argued,
“the more likely consequences of
a U.S. alliance with the late Masood’s fighters
would be the coalescing of Afghanistan’s majority Pashtun tribes
around their Taliban leaders
and the rekindling of a brutal, general civil war
that would continue until the United States simply gave up.”

The situation on the ground in Afghanistan also bodes well
for a resurgence of the Taliban and their al Qaeda associates.
Since the fall of Kandahar, multiple regional warlords—
many of whom served as anti-Taliban proxies for the U.S.-led coalition—
have established control over personal fiefdoms across the country,
a land so perilous it can boggle the mind of anyone who has lived in peace.”
The murder, briber, kidnapping, and extortion
that the Taliban had all but eliminated
have again become commonplace.
“I was born in a time of fighting,”
a female nursing student in Kandahar told the Washington Post in early 2002,
“and I never saw stable conditions except with the Taliban.
In the time of [religious] extremism, I could study safely.
Now I can’t.”
As Afghanistan again descends into
the barbarous, crime-ridden conditions
that fostered the Taliban’s rise to power in the 1990s,
Mullah Omar and bin Laden—assuming they have survived—
will bide their time until,
as bin Laden’s senior aide, Mahfouz Ould Walid,
told al-Jazirah television in November 2001,
“The same conditions that helped the Taliban seize these cities in the past
will enable the Taliban to recapture these cities in the near future,
God willing.”
As always,

Afghans will take extremism
over violence and instability
every time.

[This last is a point concerning which
there is considerable disagreement in the Western media,
which frequently finds Afghans who will state
how much they hate the Taliban and its extremism.
Whether they hate that more than they hate violence and instability is not clear.

My suspicion is that the Western media is sometimes willing to find
Afghans who will paint the picture
they way that they wish it to be painted,
rather than the way most typical of the Afghanis.
I have no expertise whatsoever in this matter;
that is merely a suspicion based on
the (I think) overwhelmingly clear PC tilt of the Western media
and the opposition between its PC values and the Afghan tradition.]

Subsection 15.1.2
America and Its Allies

As signaled by its premature triumphant tone,
the United States seems to have learned little since 11 September 2001.
As noted in an epigram above,
we still lack respect for bin Laden,
we still misidentify his organization as terrorist vice insurgent...

The United States also continues to be hamstrung by
the analyses of our “experts,”
as well as by
the pervasiveness of our beliefs in
the universality of our culture and values.


The experts’ disdain for bin Laden’s capabilities
also have caused them
to urge the application of limited military power in Afghanistan
to pave the way for democracy there and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
The Afghan war, then, is
an opportunity for social work of international scope,
not an opportunity to destroy al Qaeda.



[M]any American experts ... have ignored
the very real accomplishments and popular acceptance
of the Taliban government in Afghanistan—

the documentation of which is full and easily accessible

and have ...
equated the fall of Kabul with the liberation of Dachau,
thereby obscuring for their countrymen
the genuine possibility of a Taliban rebound.


Section 15.2
Where Are We Going?

[Emphasis has been added by the author of the current blog.]

“Well, General, our goal was to get them [the Union army]
out of Virginia and into the open.
Now they are in the open.”
So says Lt. General James Longstreet to Robert E. Lee
in the great movie Gettysburg,
as the two men discuss events at the close of the first day of that epic battle.
These words encapsulate bin Laden’s current position.
He has long wanted U.S. ground forces “out in the open,”
and Abd-al-Bari Atwan is on the mark when he says
“he [bin Laden] believes that
attracting U.S. forces to Afghanistan
was one of the aims he planned very well.”
If bin Laden is alive, he must be doubly pleased that
U.S. ground forces have deployed to the Philippines
and may soon turn up in Somalia and Yemen.
Bin Laden no longer has to rely solely on his urban fighters
and now can bring to bear the guerilla forces of
al Qaeda, the Taliban,
other veteran Afghan fighters led by Khalis, Sayyaf, Hekmatyar, and Haqqani,
and other allies and associates in the just-mentioned nations.

With the promise of useful employment for all their fighters,
and armed with a specific strategy and well-defined war aims,
bin Laden’s forces will proceed in their usual professional and patient manner.
The United States, however, has yet to understand bin Laden
or the dimensions of the threat his forces pose,
and has neither a clear strategy nor a recognizable set of war aims.
Are we out to smash al Qaeda once and for all,
bring democracy and secularism to Afghanistan
and then to the rest of the Islamic world,
and make friends in the Muslim world and avoid offending the Europeans?
Or are we warming up militarily for the main event against Iraq or Iran,
or simply trying to intimidate al Qaeda and the Afghans—fat chance—
while trying to make sure no American soldier gets killed?
Are we after a mix of these or some as yet unstated goal?
Until we figure what we face and what we want,
our fortunes are likely to be as barren
as those of the forces of bin Laden will be flush.

Subsection 15.2.1
Al Qaeda

[This subsection is omitted.]

Subsection 15.2.2
The United States

“The Americans had lost the war even before they started it,”
Abd-al-Bari Atwan wrote in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 2001-10-29,

it is a preposterous, open-ended
war of arrogance
without specific goals.”

The statement is too harsh and premature,
but, as already noted [§15.2.1],
dead on the mark regarding vague and jumbled goals.
What is the right set of goals for the United States,
and in what order should they be pursued?
Those questions need to be answered by others
far more intelligent and knowledgeable than I am.
That said, my view, in the words of some of those others,
is laid out below and is meant to answer the following questions:

What is the goal?
Who is the enemy?
What are the means to victory?
What is the bottom line?

You ask: “What is the aim?”
I can answer in one word:
It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror,
victory, however long and hard the road may be;
for without victory there is no survival.

Winston Churchill, May, 1940

And this is definitely a fight to the bitter end,
which means first and foremost that we must eliminate Osama bin Laden.
As long as he lives, we have lost the war against Islamic terrorism.
He will never stop bombing us.
His magnetism within militant Islamic circles is undeniable.
He will never stop recruiting others to his cause.
He has made a rag-tag outfit of Islamic militants,
his terrorist umbrella organization al Qaeda,
in just a few years,
the most celebrated holy warriors in modern Islamic history.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, September 2001

Westerners have learned, by harsh experience,
that the proper response [when attacked by Islamic raiders]
is not to take fright but
to marshal their forces,
to launch massive retaliation and
to persist relentlessly until the raiders have either been eliminated
or so cowed by the violence inflicted that they relapse into inactivity….
The world must learn again that
the United States, when severely antagonized,
is to be feared;
that it grinds its mortal enemies to powder as it did sixty years ago,
that the widespread view in extremist Islamic circles
that it is
cowardly, decadent, and easily intimidated by the though of casualties
is false.

Sir John Keegan, October 2001
and Conrad Black, January 2002

The range of American policy options in the [Middle East] region
is reduced to two alternatives, both disagreeable:
Get tough or get out.

Bernard Lewis, December 2001

Introduction to the excerpts from
Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris

Here are some extracts from Michael Scheuer’s 2004 Imperial Hubris
which deal with the United State’s involvement in Afghanistan.

To show context, chapter and section titles are included;
in the case of Chapter Two,
they give, in telegraphic style, the major points Scheuer wishes to make.
Paragraph numbers, emphasis, and some comments have been added.
Note that IH was completed in May 2004,
so all these views and predictions predate that date.

Note especially,
for predictions and assertions which look remarkably prescient four years later,
his Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan.

Chapter Two
An Unprepared and Ignorant Lunge to Defeat
(The United States in Afghanistan)

Today the United States in Afghanistan
deludes itself with the vanity of apparent power
and imagines that its fate
will be better than the fate of earlier invaders....
Apparently it has not properly read Afghanistan’s history.

Mullah Omar, 2002-09-13

The Russians, moreover, foolishly did not try to punish rogue Afghans,
as [Great Britain’s Lord] Roberts did, but to rule the country.
Since Afghanistan is ungovernable,
the failure of their effort was predictable.... +
America should not seek to change the regime,
but simply to find and kill terrorists. +

Sir John Keegan, 2001-09-14

It is, overall, hard to disagree with
al Qaeda’s assessment of the U.S. Afghan campaign.
“For it is obvious that the U.S. administration,
in defining this goal [winning the Afghan war],”

the Internet journal Al-Ansar commented in August 2002,
“did not proceed from a careful and in-depth study
of the enemy it was about to face.

Instead, it proceeded from a hysterical state
that made its position lack the basic scientific rules
that ought to be considered when making a decision.”

Section 2.1
At War’s Start:
The Cost of Prolonged Failure
[This section is omitted.]

Section 2.2
Into Afghanistan:
Tragic Country, Absurd Analysis

[2.2.5 partial]
[S]o uneducated was the U.S. intelligence community’s official input
to America’s Afghan strategy that began to be implemented on 2001-10-07
that it was almost as if the task
of advising policy makers and planning covert action
had been left to African and Latin American experts.
As I will explain, for example,
the strategy Bob Woodward describes in Bush at War as the “Tenet Plan”
was used because it made sense to the U.S. mind—
using the power of money and few Americans
while having foreigners die for us

not because it had drawn on
the U.S. government’s vast repository of Afghan knowledge. [BaW, p. 51]
However, the strategy’s subsequent failure shows
its planners’ complete lack of comprehension
of Afghanistan’s tribal, ethnic, and religious realities.

Using nonexperts to devise strategy when experts were at hand would, of course,
be a great disservice by the U.S. intelligence community (IC)
to Americans and their elected leaders
too serious to contemplate.
Then again, soon after the war began the New York Times
quoted unnamed “senior intelligence officials”
who claimed the U.S. government
did not “have the people to exploit [information about Afghanistan].”
The senior officials and several academic experts
led Times’ journalist Diana Jean Schemo to conclude that,
“As the United States takes up a war against terrorism
that will demand human intelligence as well as smart bombs,
it faces a nationwide shortage of Americans
with a deep knowledge of the languages and cultures
of Afghanistan and the surrounding region....”
While the U.S. was indeed short on fluent speakers of the regional languages,
it beggars the imagination that any “senior intelligence official”
could utter the bald-faced lie
that the U.S. government lacked expertise on South Asia,
the region most likely to host the world’s first nuclear war.
I have found, in my career, that the IC leaks this kind of comment only
  • when senior managers have failed
    to develop a cadre of substantive experts,
  • when they want to put their “pets” in charge of programs
    for which they have no substantive expertise, or
  • when they want to prepare the public for failure.
As noted, the first motivation is not the case here,
and our hubris ensured no thought went to possible failure.
And so, it seems, substantive experts were not used,
and that we are paying an exorbitant price
because we ignored Sun Tzu’s advice
not to “demand accomplishments of those who have no talent.”
What follows is
a look at the disasters that have befallen American in Afghanistan and
speculation about those to come.
Past and future, these harvests of pain were predictable but not forecast because
no U.S. leader was given the expert analysis
that would have allowed him to see beyond the war’s easy part—

bombing the air-defenseless Taliban from power.

Section 2.3
Hey, Did Anyone Know
the Red Army Lost a War in Afghanistan?

For those fortunate enough to have assisted the Afghan mujahideen
to force the USSR’s withdrawal from Afghanistan,
the unfolding of U.S. operations there since October 2001
has been horrifying.
Although the media in late 2001 lamented
the U.S. government’s lack of expertise on Afghanistan,
few assertions—as noted above—could be more incorrect.
As George Crile wrote in his excellent book Charlie Wilson’s War,
U.S. aid to the Afghan mujahideen, as administered by the CIA,
was the largest, most successful covert action program in American history.
Given the size and diverse nature of this 13-year program—
guns, food, vehicles, money, training, uniforms, orange drink, donkeys,
you name it—
there are hundreds of military, intelligence, diplomatic, and AID officers
who gained extensive Afghan experience and knowledge.
Many worked on the Afghan program
far longer than the two- or three-year tour common in the federal services,
a longevity due to the program’s unique size,
a desire to see the Afghans defeat the Red Army and its barbarity toward civilians,
and an itch to pay back Moscow for Vietnam.
Many officers also were held by South Asia’s intoxicating appeal.
Americans in the 1980s were as enthralled as British sahibs in the 1870s
by the people, topography, and history of a region that was ancient
when Alexander neared the Indus River in the fourth century before Christ.
To date, no benefit from this hard and expensively won experience can be seen
in America’s two-year-old Afghan misadventure.

The debilitating impact of not tapping America’s Afghan expertise
has been compounded by
our failure to learn from the experience of the USSR,
the most recent nation to join the list of states
that failed to win wars in Afghanistan.
Here, too, detailed studies of the Soviet’s disastrous Afghan experience
are readily available at local libraries and [bookstores].
Soviet soldiers—conscripts, field-grade officers, and generals—
have written a number of excellent memoirs of the war,
and the University of Kansas Press has published,
in a translation by Lester Grau and Michael A. Gres,
the Soviet General Staff’s after-action report on the Soviet-Afghan war.
This study details
what the Soviet armed forces did in Afghanistan—save for the atrocities—
and assesses which political and military policies and actions
succeeded or failed.

the study depicts the frustrations of an arrogant superpower
trying to cope with a people and country it did not understand,
as well as with an enemy
all but invulnerable to conventional military operations
and more than able to deal with special forces (Spetsnaz).

The study’s conclusions were condensed by a senior Russian official
when he met senior CIA officials in mid-September 2001.
“With regret,” the Russian said, “I have to say that
you are going to get the hell kicked out of you.”
One of the Americans [apparently Cofer Black] responded in words
that will someday be found in a U.S. military study of its failed Afghan war.
“We’re going to kill them,” the U.S. official asserted.
“We’re going to put their heads on sticks.
We’re going to rock their world.”
The occasional substitution of bravado for thought
is truly an eternal attribute of senior intelligence and military officers.

Grau’s translation of the Soviet study is a must-read for
any group of officials responsible for invading Afghanistan—
an admittedly small audience
[Note added 2010-01: No longer so small.
One wonders how many of President Bush’s national security team
[Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al.]
even knew of its existence, let alone read it.]

or more generally, by anyone preparing to use conventional forces
against a large and experienced insurgent organization.
And beyond this easily acquired public material,
one also must assume that
the multiple analytic arms of the U,S. intelligence community
produced an ocean of classified, electronically retrievable analyses
about all aspects of Afghanistan’s travails,
from coup d’etat,
to invasion,
to occupation and war,
to a [1989] victory triggering the USSR’s demise, to civil war,
to the rise of the Taliban and large-scale heroin trafficking,
to Mullah Omar’s rule and the return of Osama bin Laden.
[Given what we now know about
Scheuer’s role at the very center of the CIA’s analysis team on bin Laden,
it seems safe to assume that Scheuer, then writing as “Anonymous”,
was being cute here,
unable to come right out and talk about those “oceans of classified analyses.”]

More especially, the IC had to have produced detailed analyses of
why the Red Army failed in Afghanistan and what it might have done to win.
Given the wealth of public and classified data that appears to have gone unused,
one is tempted to paraphrase Churchill to the effect that
never in the history of U.S. foreign policy
have so many officials failed to read so much pertinent information
to the detriment of so many of their fellow citizens.

success rides on how fully they are retrieved, reviewed, and absorbed.
Perhaps the most acute observation made about Soviet performance in Afghanistan,
sadly can likewise be made about America’s 2001–2004 performance.
The comment is in the Soviet General Staff study noted above;
it ought to haunt U.S. leaders who did not read it before
starting to “rock their world” on 7 October 2001.
“When the highest political leaders of the USSR
sent its forces into war [in 1979],
they did not consider
historic, religious, and national peculiarities of Afghanistan.
After the entry these peculiarities proved the most important factors as
they foreordained the long and very difficult nature of the armed conflict.
Now it is completely clear that
it was an impetuous decision to send Soviet forces into this land.
It is now clear that the Afghans,
whose history involves
many centuries of warfare with various warring groups,
could not see these armed strangers as anything but armed invaders.
And since these strangers were not Muslims,
a religious element was added to the national enmity.
Both of these factors were enough to trigger
a large mass resistance among the people,
which various warriors throughout history
have been unable to overcome

and which the Soviet forces met when they arrived in Afghanistan.”

the Soviet General Staff tries to attribute much of the Red Army’s failure
to the fact that it had not previously fought this type of war,
much as U.S. leaders now say that U.S. forces in Afghanistan
are fighting a “new” type of war.
Grau and Gress correctly reject the Soviet General Staff’s alibis—
as Americans might consider doing with new-type-of-war claims—
and call attention to the Red Army-run insurgent campaigns of World War II,
as well as the mass of material pertinent to fighting Afghan insurgents
available long before the 1979 Soviet invasion.
the initial inept approach of the [Soviet] 40th Army to fighting guerrillas
was not due to the lack of historical experience to draw on,”
Grau and Gress snorted.
British experience on their Indian Northwest Frontier is replete with
tactical solutions to fighting the ancestors of the mujahideen.
Mujahideen tactics were basically unchanged over the decades,
and the British lessons were still valid.”

Section 2.4
From Day One—
A Worse Dance Partner Was Not Available
(Referring to the Northern Alliance)

By 1 September 2001, the Taliban,
with important but not indispensable help from al Qaeda,
had defeated the multiethnic Northern Alliance.
The Alliance, led by Ahmed Shah Masood,
held only 10–15 percent of Afghanistan—
some estimates are as low as 5 percent—
and was a military force, as historian Frederick W. Kagan has written,
“that had exhausted its ability to continue fighting [the Taliban].”
The Alliance’s viability also was, as always, overwhelmingly dependent on
its leader’s unquestioned brilliance as an insurgent commander,
his media-winning charisma, and the weapons, funds, and economic aid
coming from Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, and India.
The first three were trying to seal Afghanistan to isolate the Taliban contagion,
while India sought an anti-Pakistani regime in Kabul
that kept military forces active near Pakistan’s western border.

External support
might have enabled Masood’s Alliance to survive for several more years
and perhaps even add small bits of territory to its enclave
in what had been a back-and-forth war with the Taliban,
but for all intents and purposes

the Taliban stood victorious on 1 September 2001
and had installed a harsh but stable law-and-order regime
over most of the country.

More important,

Mullah Omar’s regime was increasingly accepted by Afghans
as they started to see the end of pervasive banditry and warlordism
and the gradual return of safety
for themselves, their children, and their meager amounts of property.
Most Afghans seem to have regarded this as a fair exchange
for the Taliban’s rigorous, unforgiving application of strict Sunni Islam.


Faced with an imminent organizational implosion
and final military defeat by the Taliban,
the Northern Alliance’s leaders found
a last-minute life-support system known as the United States
when New York and Washington, D.C. [actually, the Pentagon]
were attacked by al Qaeda forty-eight hours after Masood’s death.
Surprised by the attack,
and utterly unprepared to respond with its own military forces,
Washington reinvigorated long-established ties to the Northern Alliance,
delaying its inevitable demise.
by using it as indigenous window-dressing for the application of U.S. air power,
the Bush [43] administration kept the Northern Alliance alive to an extent that
its leaders appear to believe they have defeated the Taliban and won the war.
The truth, however, is that
America won a single battle
using Tajik- and Uzbek-dominated Northern Alliance auxiliaries
and is now “politically beholden to its indigenous allies”
who have formed an untenable regime.
“Under any circumstances,” Professor Kagan has said,
“it would be difficult to imagine a stable Afghan state in which
Pashtuns were ruled over by Tajiks and Uzbeks.”
Thus, most of the war is still to be fought.
It is a war the Alliance cannot win unless
  • America provides a far larger infantry force,
  • defeats the Taliban-and-al Qaeda insurgency, and
  • is ready to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely.
This scenario, even for men as lucky as Masood’s successors,
is a bridge too far.

[So Scheuer wrote in early 2004.
Interestingly enough, and in my opinion tragically enough, that, however,
is very much the course of action that
the editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post have called for,
and both the Bush-43 and Obama-44 (at least through mid-2010) administrations
have carried out.]

The mistake America made in the first months of its Afghan war
was not that it used the Northern Alliance to drive the Taliban from power,
nor even that it portrayed the Alliance
as a military force that mattered in the long run.
It is clear, in fact, that for immediate U.S. purposes,
the Alliance was the only game in town;
it was at war with the Taliban,
it had a military force in the field, and, most important,
it had the cannon fodder that foreclosed—at least in the near term—
the need to deploy to Afghanistan large numbers of killable U.S. infantry.
U.S. military planners accurately gauged the obvious
by taking advantage of the Alliance’s post-Masood desperation,
but took no account of the future.
As Ralph Peters has written,
“Our enemies play the long game, while we play jailbird chess—
never thinking more than one move ahead.”...
Washington did not recognize that the Alliance had no growth potential
to serve as the base for a democratic government
in a de-Talibanized Afghanistan.
This series of mistakes merits further examination,
and at this point it is time to look at some of the easily checkable checkables
that were obviously not checked.

Section 2.5
Did Anyone Do Their Homework?

What did we know about the Northern Alliance on 11 September
that should have informed and hedged
the way we used, depended, and still depend on it?
Well, we knew Masood formed the Alliance
to resist the Pashtun mujahideen groups
when fighting began in earnest
among the Afghan resistance’s constituent members
after the pro-Soviet Afghan regime in Kabul fell in April 1992.
From inception,
the Alliance was an overwhelmingly Tajik-dominated organization.
It was dominated, moreover, by the leaders of
a small subset of the country’s Tajik minority,
men from the Panjshir Valley [map].
In a sense, the Alliance, born of desperation,
never had a chance to be the basis for a national government.
Even with Masood’s guiding genius, the Alliance’s raison d’etre—
to force the Pashtuns to share power equally with the minorities—
was a forlorn hope.
The Pashtuns were not and are not going to
abide a political relationship with
minority groups they do not dominate.

Masood was the most important and militarily capable Panjshiri Tajik.
He worked tirelessly
to bring and keep groups from the country’s other ethnic minorities—
Uzbeks, northern Pashtuns, Turkmens, Hazara Shias, Ismailis, et cetera—
under the Alliance umbrella.
His work bore some fruit as General Rashid Dostum’s Uzbek forces joined,
as did the country’s largest Shia group, the Hiabi Wahdat,
and some members of the late communist regime.
Masood also gave the Alliance a veneer of inclusiveness
after the Taliban took power in southern Afghanistan in 1994–95
by enlisting the tenuous allegiance of
the Pashtun groups led by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,
the IULA and the Hisbi Islami (HIG).
The Alliance was most cohesive in late 1995 through summer 1996
but weakened after the Taliban took Kabul in September 1996
and its forces slowly retreated north toward the Tajik heartland.

As noted earlier, by 1 September 2001
the Taliban had contained the Alliance
in a 10–15 percent slice of Afghan territory
adjacent to the borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
In that ethnically favorable enclave,
the Alliance had enough fighters but was dependent on
financial, military, and other forms of aid from Iran, Russia, and India,
and had little chance of keeping the land it held, let alone expanding.
Masood, because of his substantive military brilliance
and his international renown,
was the key to ensuring this support continued
and allowed the Alliance’s survival, even in a much reduced form.
When Masood was killed by al Qaeda, the Alliance died with him.
There was simply no one to take his place.

Had there been no foreign intervention
after Masood’s death on 9 September 2001,
we would have seen
the military defeat of the Northern Alliance,
the nationwide consolidation of Taliban power, and
the slow emergence of
the first chance for relative peace and security in Afghanistan
for nearly a quarter century.

Section 2.6
The Price of Winging It

The answer to the question [2.5 above], obviously and unfortunately, is that
available data was not retrieved, collated, and used;
given the content of cabinet-level discussions
presented in Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War,
it may not have been requested.
Like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the 1930s movies,
U.S. government agencies
got the neighborhood kids together,
gave each a role and a script, and
expected to produce a professional Broadway musical in the backyard—
Andy Hardy Conquers and Rebuilds Kabul, perhaps.
Sadly, success from “winging it” occurs only in movies,
and Washington’s attempt to duplicate Hollywood’s methods in Afghanistan
yielded a full-blown disaster.
As Ralph Peters has wisely posited,
“If you intervene ignorant of local conditions,
you will likely fail—and you will certainly pay in blood.”

Of course, no senior U.S. or UK official will admit to winging it.
The immediate response from U.S. policy makers and military planners,
if asked if they had thoroughly reviewed the checkables,
would be something like:
“We didn’t have time.”
“We had to work with the material we had on hand.”
“We had to defend America.”
Good rhetoric,
superficially plausible in days of unthinking high emotion, and
self-protectively wrapped in red, white, and blue—
and just as clearly factually wrong and deliberately misleading.
Once the United States and its allies
were unable to strike on the afternoon of 09-11, or the next day, or the next,
al Qaeda and the Taliban were well on the way to effective dispersal.
As a result, we did have the time to
think about what we wanted to do in Afghanistan,
line up needed assets, and, most important,
identify and accept the things that could not be accomplished there.
This was not done, however, and Washington charged ahead
to align with a group [the Northern Alliance] whose only plausible leaders
were second-raters from Ahmed Shah Masood’s Panjshiri mafia—
Mohammed Fahim, Abdullah, and Yunus Qanooni
and the Uzbek leader Rashid Dostum.
The result, journalist Michael Massing has written, is that
the “government’s top three ministries [defense, foreign affairs, and interior]
are controlled by men who belong to a tiny subgroup of an ethnic minority....
Even many Tajiks are unsettled by the prominence of the Panjshiris,
regarding them as war criminals.”
In Dostum,
the United States befriended the single most hated man in Afghanistan
due to his behavior during and since the Soviet-Afghan war.
Among Dostum’s endearing habits were
having tanks run over trussed-up civilians or prisoners of war, and
dousing villagers—men, women, and children, and overwhelmingly Pashtuns—
with gasoline and then lighting them up.
Dostum’s status as a top-ten world villain faded only when
more murderous monsters emerged in the Balkans and Central Africa.

Overall, the United States
took willy-nilly a Northern Alliance in its death throes,
kept it alive and united through the work of a few dozen extraordinarily brave, talented, and lucky U.S. intelligence officers, and
assured its capture of Kabul with American air power and special forces.
The Alliance’s leaders played their part well,
strutting into Kabul to the enthusiastic applause
of a population unrepresentative of the country;
Kabul, now and historically,
is much less Islamic and more cosmopolitan than the rest of Afghanistan—
witness its status as a haven for hippies in the 1960s,
and the Kabulis’ willingness to tolerate their decidedly un-Islamic presence—
a point that I heard no Western journalist, media expert, or government official mention as they analyzed the city’s populace rejoicing over the Taliban’s defeat.
The hopelessly naïve reaction in the United States
probably is best described by Bob Woodward.
“Soon there were [television] pictures of real liberation,”
Woodward wrote in Bush at War, [page 313]
“women in the streets doing all the things that had been forbidden previously.
[National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice felt that
[U.S. leaders] had underestimated
the pent-up desire of the Afghan people to take on the Taliban.”
The Alliance leaders behaved as magnanimous victors before the cameras,
while quietly and quickly flooding the capital
with fighters and intelligence operatives no more savory
than the Taliban fighters they replaced.
Rather than the masters of all they surveyed,
the Alliance leaders were then—and are now—dead men walking.

Since the United States did no homework on the Northern Alliance
it is not surprising that the Pashtun leaders America welded to the Alliance
to form a “broad-based” interim regime
amounted to more dead weight and are, indeed, the kiss of death.
In most ways, U.S. officials repeated the same failure
they engineered in Afghanistan between 1989 and 1992,
when U.S., UN, and other Western diplomats tried to construct
a broad-based government—meaning non-Islamist—
to replace the Soviet-Afghan communist regime.
The purpose of that attempt was—as is today’s—
to allow the barest minimum of participation in the new regime
by the mujahideen,
the uncouth, violent, devout, and bearded men who had won the war.
Having banished these unwashed, medieval Islamists to the periphery of politics,
the diplomats intended to give the bulk of the new government’s posts and power
to people more like themselves:
  1. secularized Afghans;
  2. westernized Afghans who refused to fight for their country
    and spent a comfortable, self-imposed exile
    in Europe, India, or the United States;
  3. technocrats who had worked for the Soviet and Afghan communists;
  4. tribal leaders who had emigrated to preside over refugee camps
    in Pakistan or Iran and avoid being shot at;
  5. the deposed Rome-based Afghan king,
    his effete, Italianate entourage, and
    their Gucci-suited “field commanders” who never fired a shot; and even
  6. Najibullah,
    the head butcher of the just-defeated Afghan communist regime
As always for Western diplomats, well-coiffed men who
dressed well,
spoke a smattering of English or French, and
shared an aggressive contempt for religion,
were preferable as rulers to
the hirsute men wearing funny looking pajama-style clothes
who had merely
fought and defeated a mass-murdering, superpower enemy in a ten-year war.
Style over credibility every time.

Flash ahead a decade and this scenario repeats itself
with a new, more ludicrous twist.
This time out, the same U.S., Western, and UN diplomats
intend to create an interim government
[recall again this is written in early 2004]
from an even less credible crowd,
again proving their infallible ability to pick losers.
Taking the dimming shadow that is the Northern Alliance—
for whom U.S. intelligence officers and soldiers won a battle
it could never have won on its own—
U.S. officials added the Westernized Pashtun Hamid Karzai
as leader of the new government.
A genuinely decent, courageous, and intelligent man,
Karzai had nonetheless absented himself from the fight against the Soviets,
and also from the one against the Taliban,
until he jumped in on the side of the Americans
and their overwhelmingly powerful military.
With no Islamist credentials and minimal tribal support,
the India-educated Karzai was and is a man clearly adept and comfortable
hobnobbing with U.S. and British elites,
but far less so at
chewing sinewy goat taken by hand from a common bowl
with an assembly of grimy-fingered Islamist insurgent and tribal leaders
and their field commanders.
Fixing Karzai as chief of the transitional administration via
a UN-run and U.S.-manipulated conference held in Bonn, Germany
another sure disqualifier for the xenophobic Afghans—
we then liberally salted the new regime with
well-educated, detribalized, and minimally Islamic Afghan expatriates
who had been waiting in the wings in the West since the early 1990s
for a prize they wanted but for which they would not risk life and limb.
We then enlisted tribal warlords ...
to provide Karzai with military muscle in regions where the Pashtun tribes
were politically and demographically dominant.

This is not a winning lineup.
While Karzai and his expatriate assistants
shivered in cold, dark, and bankrupt Kabul,
the warlords depended on the forces of the U.S.-led coalition for support
because their supposed muscle was nowhere to be found.
Having ignored the foregoing checkables,
the West quickly discovered that these warlords
had been in exile or under domestic subordination
not because they disagreed with the Taliban, but because they
had failed to provide leadership and security
when they ruled Afghanistan before the Taliban arose
(they then specialized in banditry and heroin trafficking),
had little support inside the country, and
were afraid of Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

Thus, the government the West installed in Kabul in early 2002
was missing every component that might have given it a slim chance to survive
without long-term propping-up by non-Islamic, foreign bayonets.

The Northern Alliance formally represented several minority ethnic groups,
but it was and is nothing more than the tool of Masood’s Panjshiri clique.
There is virtually no genuine Pashtun representation in the regime,
though Karzai and some returning expatriates were unrepresentative Pashtuns:
they had been living in the West or Pakistan,
had not fought the Soviets, and
were only nominally Islamic.
Likewise, the interim government’s warlords were military nonentities
unless backed by U.S. and UK military forces.
Karzai’s regime, at day’s end,
is the perfect example of the unnecessary mess that always ensues
when time is not taken to review and digest the “checkables.”
And on this occasion, to make matters worse,
the checkables were available in
local public and university libraries,
federal government archives, and
the memories and experiences of hundreds of serving and retired U.S. government employees.
The data were not hiding until they could be clandestinely acquired
by the West’s intelligence services.
On reflection, one again has the strong but surely incorrect impression
that responsibility for U.S. political and military planning for Afghanistan
was deliberately given to officials
who had spent their careers working on African or Russian affairs
and not on the Middle East, South Asia, and Islam.
But not even my generation of senior civil servants
could be that criminally negligent.
Could they?

Section 2.7
Why Are All the Fighters on the Other Side?

The second half of 2003 and early 2004
saw a substantial increase in Taliban and al Qaeda attacks
on the military forces of the Karzai government and the U.S.-led coalition,
as well as the discrediting
of another group of Western experts on the war in Afghanistan.
The rising tempo of combat gave the lie to such analyses as
  1. Newsweek’s early 2003 speculation that
    al Qaeda’s back “may finally have been broken”;
  2. Max Boot’s conclusion that the defeat of the Taliban in 2001
    “should have shattered for all time the mystique of the guerilla”; and
  3. the February 2003 assertion by Steven Simon and Daniel Benjamin that
    “after the punishment meted out in late 2001, it is unlikely that
    U.S. forces will again face al Qaeda forces on the battlefield.”
The current [2003–2004] consensus
of media reporting and official U.S. announcements is that
“remnants” of the Taliban and al Qaeda are “regrouped and reformed” and
are waging a guerilla war against the Kabul regime and its foreign allies.
“Regrouped, rearmed, and well-funded,”
wrote the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Baldauf in May 2003,
“they are ready to carry on a guerrilla war
as long as it takes to expel U.S. forces from Afghanistan.”
This conclusion is supported by both empirical evidence and the corpses at hand—
although whoever coined the term “remnants”
for the unvanquished forces of bin Laden and Mullah Omar will regret it—
and was underscored when General John Abizaid,
head of the U.S. Central Command,
said in mid-November 2003 that daily combat oerations in Afghanistan
are “every bit as much and every bit as difficult as those that go on in Iraq.”
The forces that oppose Karzai’s regime and its allies, however,
go far beyond the Taliban and al Qaeda,
and therein lies another example
of the cost of not reviewing the checkables before acting.

While sparsely covered in the Western media—
save for the Christian Science Monitor’s superb reporting,
which continues to this day—
the Afghan insurgents’ war against the Red Army and Afghan communists
was among the most vicious, lonely, and lengthy
of what are now fashionably called the twentieth century’s “small wars.”
Although over time increasing numbers of non-Afghan Muslims
traveled to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Afghan Islamic resistance,
the war was fought and won by the Afghans.
American and Saudi involvement in the war was important in terms of money—
it allowed the mujahideen to fight with AK-47s and RPGs
rather than 100-year-old Lee-Enfield rifles
but the war, again, was fought and won by the Afghans.
And the most talented, effective, and durable fighters of this war
were from the hard-line Islamist guerrilla organizations,
those led by Ahmed Shah Masood, Yunis Khalis, Jalaluddin Haqqani, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Ismail Khan, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
These groups, not coincidentally,
also attracted the lion’s share of the funds, ordnance, and manpower
from governments, individuals, and religious organizations
across the Muslim world, including, of course, Osama bin Laden.
The Afghan Islamist leaders did not get along
because of ethnic differences and political rivalry,
and each was the foe of political unity in the Afghan resistance movement.
Each, at times, took a break from killing communists to kill each other.
The firefights and assassinations between the forces of Masood and Hekmatyar,
for example, are legendary.

The Afghan Islamist’s power and perseverance, therefore, came
not from nationalism or personal affinity for each other,
but from
  • their faith,
  • their hatred of communism and atheism as an affront to God
    and His prophet, and, most of all,
  • the extraordinary pride, stubbornness, tribalism, and xenophobia
    that are central to the Afghan character,
    traits making it impossible for Afghans
    to obey non-Afghans or long tolerate a foreign presence on their soil.
The reader need go no further to verify this claim than to read
Robert D. Kaplan’s outstanding and courageous firsthand account of the mujahideen,
Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Yes, external supplies of weaponry and money were important assets
in defeating the Soviets in just ten years [1979–1989],
but the external aid bought the foreign donors
not an atom of control over the mujahideen,
except in that the Afghans agreed
to use most of the foreign ordnance and money
to kill Soviets.
Faith, tribalism, and xenophobia
provided enough glue to keep most resistance activity
focused on the Soviet and Afghan communists,
and it was only after the Red Army’s defeat and withdrawal
that ethnic and theological clashes led to the final breakup of the resistance.
This, in turn, led to a decade-long civil war
that the Taliban had largely ended by mid-2001.
Notwithstanding the cruel civil war
that followed victory over the USSR and led to the Taliban’s rise,
the above-mentioned Afghan leaders and other Islamist commanders
have entered Afghan history’s pantheon of military heroes.
They are like the Confederate generals of the U.S. Civil War,
men such as Joseph Johnston, James Longstreet, and Edward Porter Alexander
who were hated by the North as traitors during the war
and yet redeemed as “American heroes” afterward by
the men they fought,
the populations whose sons they killed, and
the government they sought to destroy.
The older generation of Afghan commanders remain heroes today
for millions of Afghans who experienced the war’s horrors firsthand,
as well as those tens of thousands
who grew from infant to adult to parent in Pakistani and Iranian refugee camps.

The foregoing, again, is all checkable information.
The great bulk of it requires no access to
signals intelligence, clandestine collection, diplomatic reporting,
or satellite imagery.
A trip to the local library probably would suffice to show
the pivotal importance of these “old” mujahideen;
a visit to a university library surely would;
and, for the unambitious or sedentary,
accessing the Internet from home would fill the bill.
And yet there is no sign that Western officials made much if any effort
to contact these men and their field commanders
with either of the equally worthy goals of
securing their help against the Taliban or, if they refused to cooperate,
killing them.
U.S. leaders seem to have completely ignored these men,
apparently agreeing with the tragically ill-informed conclusion
of two former senior National Security Council terrorism officials
[Benjamin and Simon] that
“the most Islamically radical Afghan commanders,
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Gulbuddin Hemkatyar ...
[were] men who were both vicious and ineffective leaders.”
the only sign sent to them was the same one now hung in Baghdad:
“No Islamists Need Apply.”

These veteran guerrilla chiefs and field commanders
are the swing force in the Afghan military-political equation.
They are mostly Pashtun but fought the Soviets in league with Masood’s forces.
At the same time, because they were Pashtuns,
they have strong
ethnic, linguistic, tribal, and cultural affinities with the Taliban,
even though differing over what kind of Islam is best for Afghanistan.
The nub of the matter for the United States was that
while these men could have been engaged or killed,
they could not be ignored
if Washington was to have a chance for long-term success
in terms of creating a stable government of some sort.
These leaders were
latently anti-Western,
militarily adept,
used to defying and defeating Great Powers,
extremely xenophobic, and
commanded greater or lesser numbers of armed and experienced insurgents.
Two of the Soviet-era insurgent leaders were even good enough
to remind the United States of the power and potential animosity of this group
before the U.S. invasion was launched.
“[W]e give nobody the right to launch a raid on Afghanistan,”
Hisbi Islami chief Yunis Khalis told the Afghan Islamic Press News Agency
on 2001-09-21.
“Anybody who under any kind of pretext mounts an attack is an aggressor
and the Afghans will confront them relying on God’s help
as they did against the aggressors in the past.”

Then, on 2001-10-02, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar announced that,
“We should defend our country….
The Talibans fought against us [the Northern Alliance],
but today we will forget all about our disputes with them
and fight against our common enemy.”

Over time—and not much time—
Afghan xenophobia and tribalism predictably would move the old mujahideen
to aid the Taliban and al Qaeda
and fight to rid Afghanistan of another foreign army of occupation,
leaving for the post-victory period
the visiting of revenge on those who helped the foreigners
and the squaring-off to fight for power amongst themselves.

[2.7.6 is omitted]
[It traces relations between bin Laden and the “old mujahideen.”]

As the pace of the new guerilla war in Afghanistan picked up in mid-2003,
it is not difficult to guess which leaders appeared most often in the media
damning the U.S. “occupation” of the country
and promising to teach the Americans the jihad lesson
already administered to Britain and the USSR.
Coming off the sidelines to support the Taliban and al Qaeda
in attacking Karzai’s forces and their U.S. and Western protectors
were, among others, the just-mentioned Khalis, Haqqani, and Hekmatyar,
Hekmatyar being the most vocal and militarily active.
Masood is too dead to be heard from, and
Sayyaf—who helped Masood get dead—
has so far kept quiet in his mountainous strongholds in Paghman—
from where his militia reaches into western Kabul—
and Maidan Shahr, west and southwest of Kabul.
When the time comes, however, Sayyaf and his fighters
will attack the Karzai regime along with the forces of
Mullah Omar, bin Laden, and other Soviet jihad-era leaders.
The position of the “old mujahideen” was summed up in the call for jihad
against “U.S.-led foreign forces” made by Yunis Khalis in October 2003.
“The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan is unjustified and unprincipled
and is no less than the Soviet aggression against our homeland,”

Khalis instructed “all mujahideen and common Afghans” in his fatwa.
“If they fail to withdraw from Afghanistan,
the foreign forces will be responsible for the consequences.”

The U.S. failure to co-opt or destroy the leaders and forces
of the older generation of Afghan mujahideen
ensured it would face a formidable enemy;
the same enemy that negated U.S.-led efforts
to establish peace in Afghanistan between 1992 and 1996.

In short, the West is out of time in Afghanistan,
the decisive swing votes have been cast by Hekmatyar, Haqqani, Khalis, et al.
in favor of the Taliban and al Qaeda,
and this, in turn, has ensured the demise of the Karzai-led
Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA).
Karzai’s defeat may not come tomorrow, the day after, or even next year—
I have been wrong too many times predicting the timing of events in Afghanistan
to try again—
but come it will, and the Prophet’s banner will again be unfurled over Kabul.
Further sealing the ATA’s doom, the West will soon find that
parts of the coalition now backing Karzai—
especially Masood’s rank-and-file fighters—
will begin working against the ATA
and seek a modus vivendi with Taliban-led opposition.
There is no great wisdom or predictive power in this observation,
only a willingness to review the checkables
and to keep up with al Qaeda’s electronic journals.
The Northern Alliance forces have most in common with Russia and Iran, not the U.S., Al-Neda explained in September 2002,
“… and these will not be loyal to Karzai,
but to the leaders of their parties,
and they would fight in the ranks of their parties, whenever the need arose.”

Masood’s men, like all who oppose Karzai,
fought the Red Army to rid their country of an anti-Islamic military occupation.
For the most part, Masood’s men see America as
less brutal, less brave, and less determined than the Soviets,
but just as anti-Islamic;
on the latter point,
they have seen Karzai’s nebulously Islamic government
and have heard U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
define “self-determination” as
the creation of any government as long as it is not Islamic.
Most important,
Masood’s fighters are Afghans and, although not Pashtuns,
they share the Afghan character’s
devotion to Allah, and
resolve to never give an inch no matter how powerful the foe.
They will not trade a Soviet master
for a U.S. ambassador with proconsul ambitions,
nor will they trade what the West calls
their harsh and medieval Islamic theology
for the Pillsbury Doughboy-version of Christianity
now on offer from the Vatican and Canterbury.
The gentle refrain of “kumbaya”
will never replace
the full-throated “Allahu Akhbar”—“God Is Greatest”—
in the land of the Hindu Kush.

This gradual, fatal shifting of allegiances
is again something that could have been readily forecast
if the checkables had been checked.
A short visit to the local library
would document this sort of defection
among the Afghans allied to the Soviets and the British—
it happened twice to Britain—and
would confirm that those Afghans who stood to the end with the foreigners
expected and met, as did Sergeant Billy Fish in The Man Who Would Be KingKipling’s timeless tale of foreigners coming to grief in Afghanistan—
no mercy at the hands of the country’s liberators.
Neither before nor after Masood’s death were he or his fighters
pro-Western, pro-Islamic, or Islamic moderates.
They were and are as
anti-Western, radically Islamic, and militantly xenophobic
as the forces led by Khalis, Haqqani, and Hekmatyar.
We in the West were able to cultivate our delusion about Masood
and what he represented
only because of Masood’s indisputable genius for media manipulation,
and the Western media’s own desperate search for a major Afghan commander
their words could shape into a man who seemed somewhat like “us.”
This worm will eventually turn with a vengeance, however,
and we will again suffer for ignoring the checkables.

Section 2.8
The Fatal Seven, or,
The Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan

The list of ignored Afghan checkables
that might have saved the United States
from the now unfolding nightmare and ultimate ignominy
is too lengthy for comprehensive examination here.
I therefore have selected, with apologies to T. E. Lawrence,
what can be called
“The Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan.”
[Playing, of course, on Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”]
Ignoring any of these pillars
would have endangered U.S. chances for success in Afghanistan;
being on the wrong side of all seven—
while a negative accomplishment of Homeric proportion—
ensures a self-inflicted, and so, thoroughly merited disaster.
For those interested in a detailed, painful, but at times hilarious account
of the near-complete ignorance of these pillars among U.S. leaders—
and apparently among the intelligence-community analysts
who wrote for them—
see Bob Woodward’s Bush at War
[e.g., pages 50–53, 75–78, 113–115, 121–130].

The Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan

Pillar I: Minorities Can Rule in Kabul, but Not for Long


For more than three centuries,
Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes,
their tribal codes and traditions, and
the tenets of a strongly conservative Islam

have dominated
the country’s usually monarchical central government.

There have been three exceptions to this rule:
  1. the Tajik Habibullah Ghazi
    a.k.a. Bacho-i-Saqo or “son of the water carrier”—
    who overthrew a westernizing Pashtun king [Amanullah]
    and was Islamic but not Pashtun;
  2. the Afghan communist regime,
    which was overwhelmingly Pashtun but not Islamic; and
  3. [Hamid] Karzai’s Tajik-dominated government,
    which is neither Pashtun nor more than nominally Islamic.
The first two experiments in minority rule ended
when they were violently overthrown by Pashtun forces,
until recently the only case in Afghan history of rule passing to the Tajiks—
after nine months (December 1928–September 1929) and
the Afghan communists after fifteen Red Army-backed years (1978–1992).
The same fate seems likely for Karzai’s minority-dominated administration.
“The Pashtuns, who have rule Afghanistan for 250 years,”
explained Pakistan’s former chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg,
“have been pushed into a corner and
are brooding over the [mis]treatment of fellow Pashtuns” by the Karzai regime.

Unless U.S.-led foreign forces are massively increased
and are prepared to kill liberally
and remain in Afghanistan permanently,
the current Afghan regime cannot survive.

Pillar II: The Afghans Who Matter Are Muslim Tribal Xenophobes

In 1989 or 1990,
I was assigned to accompany a senior intelligence community official
to give a briefing on Afghanistan to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
My small role was to provide a concise but detailed sketch
of the current political-military situation in the country.
The plan was to finish this presentation quickly,
so most of the session could be devoted to the senators’ questions for my boss.
All went according to plan, but as I finished,
a clearly agitated senator asked me a question.
Having caught my attention, this distinguished gentleman—
who represented one of what Mr. Lincoln called the “border states”—
cleared his throat and drawled:
“Sir, do I understand you correctly?
Do you mean that after the United States
has spent ten years and billions of dollars to support the Afghan resistance,
we are soon going to have anti-American Muslims
running the government in Kabul?
Are you saying that we have helped to create an Islamic regime in Afghanistan?”
Standing nonplussed and suppressing a grin,
I was providentially rescued by the senior official,
who soothingly told the senator that the Afghan Islamists
did have the whip hand at the moment, but that
the composition of the next regime in Kabul was still not set.

I recount this incident because quite a few current U.S. officials
share that border-state senator's surprise that
Afghans are Muslims, tribal, and xenophobic.
Besides the Red Army's presence and depredations,
these were the only forces that maintained
the tenuous alliance of the ethnically diverse resistance groups
during the Soviet-Afghan war.
They are as powerful as they were twenty years ago;
Islam, in fact, is far stronger and more conservative.
Today, the few pro-Western Afghans in Kabul
are clustered around Karzai and the returned expatriates
in the transitional regime created by the UN in the Bonn Accords and
installed by U.S. air power and bayonets.
In most ways,
Karzai and the returnees are Afghans in name only.
In their
  • opposition to tribalism;
  • support for secular political and liberal religious views; and
  • faith in the quick growth of democracy,
they are more Westerners.
They in no way are regarded by Afghans as leaders.
”We do not know what sort of human being with sound wisdom and conscience,”
Gullbuddin Hekmatyar wrote in a letter to the U.S. Democratic Party [!]
explaining the Afghans’ disdain for Karzai and his lieutenants,
would consider people rulers of a country
whose personal security is also maintained by foreigners—
who cannot trust any of their compatriots in the entire country
cannot find any force inside the country to keep them safe inside their own palace;
those who go to their own province and to their own countrymen
under the protection of American commandos,
and even then they are attacked.

In a short time—much of it now elapsed—
the Afghans’ revulsion at the infidels’ installation and management of the regime, occupation of the land,
and their ingrained tribal pride, localism, and xenophobia,
will yield a violently anti-U.S. attitude
among most Pashtuns and some of the minorities who helped put Karzai
in power.
As of January 2004,
U.S. forces in Afghanistan face a slowly accelerating shift
that will end in Afghans of all ethnic groups fighting to evict U.S.-led forces.

As this eventuality nears,
there will be wailing and complaining [e.g.] by Afghans
that the United States, the West, and Japan
have failed to provide enough
food, money, technology, expertise, peacekeepers, computers, and whatever
to “rebuild the Afghan nation”
and have thereby reneged on their promises and—as in 1989–1992—
abandoned Afghanistan.
The amount of foreign aid flowing to Afghanistan is relevant only in that
higher amounts may give Karzai a limited stay of execution;
it will not allow his survival.
In Afghanistan, above all other places,
familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt,
but war to the death.

Pillar III: Afghans Cannot Be Bought

Perhaps the hardest myth about Afghanistan is that
money can buy anyone and anything is the country.
This myth was trumpeted as gospel
before and after the U.S. invasion began in October 2001.
The media quoted tens of “unnamed” U.S. officials
who told stories of U.S. intelligence officers and soldiers
moving about the Afghan countryside with boxes of cash,
cleverly buying the loyalty of Afghans
to ensure the Taliban’s fall, limit U.S. casualties, and make way for democracy.
“I always found,” a former CIA station chief swaggered forward to say,
“that a few million here and there worked wonders [in Afghanistan].
Loyalties are complex there but money will still work.”
The truth about this often-told tale is that
nothing could be more untrue.
That said, the myth is so sturdy that people hold it
even when simultaneously faced with
irrefutably definitive evidence to the contrary.

Again we return to Bush at War.
Woodward recounts several senior U.S. government officials
explaining how they had bought control of the Northern Alliance;
one such episode described CIA officers giving a senior Alliance leader
$100,000 in ten one-foot stacks of hundred-dollar bills
and a promise that
“there was more money available—much more.”
Woodward quotes the U.S. secretary of state as saying
“no one wants the Northern Alliance in Kabul, not even the Northern Alliance”
because, as Woodward explains,
“the Southern tribes would go bonkers seeing their rivals in the capital.”
This being the case, one would be excused for assuming
several one-foot stacks of hundred dollar bills would have been used
to keep the Northern Alliance out of Kabul.
The Alliance entered Kabul with utter disdain for U.S. concerns
on 13 December 2001.

Afghans will always take you money, but afterwards
they will do what you want only if they were going to do it anyway.
So stubbornly contrary are the Afghans, moreover, that
they may well take your money
and then decide not to do what they had intended
just to avoid appearing to do your bidding.
America, Saudi Arabia, and other states
sent billions of dollars in cash, weapons, bribes, salaries, and supplies
to the Afghan resistance in the course of its ten-year jihad against the Soviets,
and many U.S. officials and politicians spoke as if
the Afghans therefore had been under our command.
In truth, the Afghan jihadists took all the swag we and others could deliver
and did what they would have done without it—
they killed Russians.
The Afghans consistently refused to attack, move, or speak
as we directed, asked, suggested, or pleaded,
no matter how much financial support we provided.
Ironically, no organization
was more eager to take our money and less willing to do what was asked
than Masood and his Jamiat Islami fighters,
those whom Washington’s desk-bound chest beaters
crowed about buying lock, stock, and barrel in late 2001.
An excellent example of the Afghan’s determination to go their own way
is made in the following anecdote, which may even be true.
In the late 1980s, it is said, a senior U.S. diplomat—
speaking for a government that was donating billions of dollars to the mujahideen—
met Hisbi Islami chief Yunis Khalis, a recipient of American largesse,
and told him that because Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
was seriously considering the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan,
the insurgents should encourage Moscow by slowing combat activity.
Khalis is said to have quietly responded:
“No, we will kill them until they go.”
Taken aback, the diplomat revised his argument,
this time stressing that U.S. and Western diplomatic activities
were key to forcing a Soviet withdrawal,
and that this pressure would be greater
if the Afghans reduced attacks on the Red Army.
Khalis, as he walked away, quietly said:
“No, they will leave because we are killing them
and we will kill them until they leave.
If we keep killing them, they will go.”

Despite the claims of “unnamed” senior U.S. officials
[I wonder why Scheuer keeps putting that in quotes?],
our profligate distribution of boxes and suitcases of cash
between 7 October 2001
and the conclusion of the March 2002 battle of Shahi Kowt
bought us two things:
auxiliaries who created a permissive environment
in which Taliban and al Qaeda forces
returned to their natural state as insurgents,
and the chance to install
a new but already-dead government of hated minorities in Kabul.
All major al Qaeda and Taliban leaders—
except the former’s Mohammed Atef
and the latter’s intelligence chief Qari Amadullah,
who were killed by U.S. air power—
were allowed to escape by our Afghan hirelings.
Most of the groups’ rank-and-file fighters
also eluded our just-purchased allies to fight another day—
a study by the UK-based International Institute of Strategic Studies
estimates “ninety percent of bin Laden’s forces survived”—
and the battles of Tora Bora and Shahi Kowt
were only the most egregious examples
of our allies neglecting to dog the escape hatches.
“Anyone who follow the news from Afghanistan,”
al Qaeda’s Abu-Ubayd al-Qurashi wrote
just after the end of the Shahi Kowt battle,
“will see how the different factions are playing with the Americans
in order to prolong the flow of dollars as much as possible
and are trying to strengthen their own interests
without participating seriously in the American crusade.”

Finally, if more proof of the Afghan’s refusal to be bought is need,
we can note that no Afghan has provided information
yielding the capture of what are called “high value targets” (HVTs).

Despite living in the planet’s poorest state,
and the bait of $100 million of U.S. reward money
that is widely advertised on radio, matchbooks, newspapers, and posters,
not one Afghan—
you know, the breed that does anything for money—
has been willing to betray Islam and his tribal code
to help capture Messrs. Omar, bin Laden, and al-Zawahiri

and make himself rich.

[That was true when Scheuer wrote it in 2004, and it is still true as of mid-2008.
I find that a) absolutely amazing, and
b) proof beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt
that political/media types are either idiots or lying through their teeth
when they assert “it’s all about money.”]

“The astronomical figures of the rewards, in millions of dollars,
failed to move Muslims in Afghanistan an inch from their principles,”

al Qaeda’s Al-Ansar journal said in an essay entitled
“The Illusions of America,” which derided U.S. ignorance of its enemy.
“America did not receive any significant information
that could enable it to win the war.
This was an example of sincerity that is unknown in modern history,
one that has upset the calculations of America,
which has started its countdown for defeat in America.”

As the saying goes, caveat emptor.

Pillar IV: Strong Governments in Kabul Cause War

This truism so far
seems to have escaped President Karzai and his U.S. and Western advisers.
The U.S. State Department, for example,
wants a strong central government in Kabul
to prevent a situation where
“interested parties would try to carve out territory or spheres of interest,”
and Karzai himself,
according to the UN’s political adviser in Afghanistan in the 1990s,
“has attempted to impose the kind of centralized rule [the Taliban] envisioned—
if not its religious principles.”
This is yet another strong indicator
that Karzai is not a representative Afghan
and that his foreign advisers
have not bothered to read a survey or two of Afghan history.
Afghanistan preeminently is a country of
regions, subregions within regions, and subdivisions within subregions based on ethnic, tribal, and linguistic differences.
In this complex web of interrelationships,
the central government in Kabul historically played a limited role,
one primarily focused on foreign affairs
and running a national military organization of sorts.
Since 1945,
Kabul also has served as the conduit through which
aid from foreign governments, international institutions,
and nongovernmental organizations
is received and dispersed to the regions.
Even when ruled by a monarchy—until 1973—the central government was weak.
The king was greatly respected as an individual, but, in terms of direct rule,
his government’s power did not extend much beyond Kabul—
thus Karzai’s current moniker, “the mayor of Kabul.”
The last Kabul government
that tried to impose direct rule and uniform laws and regulations
on the country’s regions, ethnic groups, and tribes
was the Peoples’ Democratic Party of Afghanistan, the Afghan communists.
Even a casual reader of the media will recall that
this attempt at centralized rule from Kabul,
in the name of modernization, Marx, and secularism,
sparked uprisings across the country,
nearly overthrew the regime in the late 1970s,
and led to the 1979 Soviet invasion and all the horrors that followed.
After twenty years of war and ineffective or alien government in Kabul,
the regions, subregions, and tribes
have never been more autonomously minded and jealous of their prerogatives.
In this environment, even mild direction from Karzai’s Kabul
is likely to be interpreted as dictatorial and resisted,
leaving Karzai in a lose-lose situation:
abandon his centralizing policies
or bloodily enforce them with the infidels’ soldiers.

Pillar V: An International Cockpit, Not Insular Backwater

“Russia is arming one warlord, Iran another,”
the hard-nosed Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid told the West in early 2003.
“Wealthy Saudis have resumed funding Islamic extremists
and some Central Asian Republics are backing their ethnic allies.
India and Pakistan are playing out an intense rivalry
as they secretly back opposing forces.”

Far too often,
the West ignores the reality occurring on what Rashid termed
the “playing fields of Afghanistan” and believes that
if only a stable government ruled in Afghanistan,
the country would fade into a brooding insularity in which
the Afghans would torment themselves
but stop bothering the rest of the world.
This is what the historian Thucydides referred to as
“hope, which is the prop of the desperate.”

While each of Afghanistan’s neighbors publicly speak
of a desire and support for a united, stable Afghanistan,
none of them share the same the same definition of unity and stability, and
none will tolerate a stable Afghanistan unless it protects their interests.

wants a stable Islamist and Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul,
one that hates India and aspires to Islamicize Central Asia,
this last to keep the Islamist Afghans focused northward
and not east toward Pakistan.

Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Tajikistan
want a state dominated by mildly Islamic Tajik and Uzbek Afghans,
which will create a buffer in the country’s northern tier
to stem the flow of Sunni militancy to Central Asia
from southern Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.
Toward this end,
Moscow and Turkey have been directing much of their aid to, respectively,
the senior Tajik Field Marshall Fahim and Uzbek general Dostum,
rather than to Karzai’s regime as a whole.

as always, is aiming for an Afghan regime that
protects the lives and interests
of the country’s historically persecuted Shia minority,
greatly reduces the production and export of heroin, and
allows for the expansion of Iranian Shi’ism into Central Asia.

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states,
conversely, still require what they required during the anti-Soviet jihad:
a Sunni Islamic, Taliban-like regime that
will block the expansion of Shi’ism through Afghanistan to Central Asia and
will instead spur the growth of Sunni militancy there.

needless to say, dreams of a near-to-secular government in Kabul, that is
friendly to New Delhi,
promotes the growth of neither Sunnism nor Shi’ism
in Afghanistan and Central Asia, and
works with India’s military and intelligence services
to spy on and conduct subversion in Pakistan,
thereby making sure that Islamabad always has to worry about
the security and stability of its western border.

The United States, the West, and the UN
want to believe that the just-named governments’ often-voiced support
for Afghan unity and stability under Karzai’s ATA
is genuine;
therefore, they will be sorely disappointed.

[Now that’s intelligence!
What a succinct presentation of the interests and goals
of many of the key players who are affecting Afghanistan.
Too bad for America that some powerful and influential people
have made such a project of
denigrating Scheuer’s intelligence and restricting his influence
because of his views on America and Israel.]

Pillar VI: Pakistan Must Have an Islamist, Pashtun-dominated Afghan Regime

Although akin to Pillar V, this reality merits separate treatment because
it is always ignored by Westerners and because
it involves the stability and even survival of a nuclear power.
Since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947,
Pakistan has had three paramount and nonnegotiable security concerns:
  1. most important, deterring its giant Hindu neighbor India;
  2. acquiring and then protecting a nuclear weapons capability; and
  3. ensuring to the greatest extent possible that
    a friendly, Pashtun-dominated government rules in Kabul.
deterring India is Pakistan’s overriding national security concern,
and the other two issues enable and support that deterrent.
Only once in Pakistan’s history—between 1998 and 2001—
were all three of these national interests
adequately and simultaneously addressed.
In May 1998,
Pakistan successfully tested a nuclear weapon
matching India’s long-ago-acquired bomb
and, at the same time,
the Taliban held about three-quarters of Afghanistan,
ensuring amity along the Durand line
that demarcated the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
For a golden moment,
Islamabad found that Allah had perfectly aligned the planets.

Today, the Afghan leg of Pakistan’s national security triumvirate
lies shattered in [a million] pieces—
and matters are growing worse.

The Taliban was routed
in the first major battle of the U.S.-Afghan war
and has reverted to
an insurgent government-in-waiting—
it will return to power;
it is only a question of when and under what name.

Also troubling for Islamabad—
not because it might succeed, but because it destabilizes Afghanistan—
is the U.S.-backed ATA (Afghan Transitional Administration),
which is trying to lay the groundwork for what would be
a minimally Islamic state,
and one that is demonstrably non-Pashtun, pro-Russia, and pro-India.
Always eager to get a lick in on Pakistan,
New Delhi has worked closely with Karzai’s regime [e.g.],
sending military observers to Afghanistan
and resuming training Afghan officers in India’s military academies;
reopening its Kabul embassy
with the anti-Pakistani Vivek Katju as ambassador; and
has established an extensive diplomatic presence,
with consulates in Heart, Mazar-e Sharif, Jalalabad, and Qandahar.

In addition,
Washington ... [is] pushing Pakistan
to move its regular military forces
into the country’s border regions adjacent to Afghanistan.
This is an area where Islamabad’s writ is seldom observed
and where a destabilizing revolt against Pakistan
by the border’s autonomous Pashtun tribes—and their Afghan brothers—
is the most likely result of the endeavor so cavalierly urged by America.
“A recent visit to the tribal area,”
David Rohde reported for the New York Times in December 2002,
“confirmed that opposition to the United States is vehement and growing….
As a result, a year after the Taliban’s fall,
the tribal areas are emerging as
a newly emboldened stronghold of Islamic militancy.”
Given Pakistan’s overriding concern with the threat from India,
the current Afghan situation, from Islamabad’s perspective,
is simply and dangerously intolerable.
While doing what it can to appear helpful to the United States
and rhetorically supportive of the ATA,

Pakistan’s national security depends on
reinstalling a Taliban-like regime in Kabul and
avoiding actions that
would trigger warfare—civil war, really—
Pakistan’s well-armed Pashtun tribes and
the Pakistani military.

[This 2004 forecast by Scheuer seems to be becoming a reality in 2009:
see this 2009-10-16 story by Jane Perlez.]

President Musharraf
will move army units into the tribal areas to placate Washington—
as he did in the fall of 2003 and early 2004—
but odds are they consistently will be just a bit tardy
when opportunities arise to capture or destroy major al Qaeda or Taliban targets.

Stability and peace in the tribal belt
must be Islamabad’s top priority,

whatever the wishes of the Americans.

At day’s end [night falls],
Islamabad cannot endlessly play America’s game vis-à-vis Afghanistan
and count on the survival of the government and Pakistani sovereignty.
Whether under President Musharraf or his successor,
Islamabad will support the Taliban’s effort to retake Afghanistan.
While the West will decry this as
the work of “rogue elements” in the Pakistani military or intelligence service,
they will be wrong.
As it has been since the 1979 Soviet invasion,
support for the Taliban will be a government-wide, if covert, effort
to ensure a friendly Pakistan-friendly Kabul regime.

Indeed, it may be that Pakistani assistance never has stopped doing so.
Pakistani border units, for example,
offered no opposition to al Qaeda escapees
after the Tora Bora and Shahi Kowt battles,
and now appear to be letting Taliban and al Qaeda forces
cross the border to attack U.S. and ATA targets and then return to Pakistan.
There are reports, moreover,
that Pakistani intelligence moved al Qaeda fighters to safety in Pakistani Kashmir;
that post-invasion help was provided to al Qaeda by Pakistan’s surrogate Kashmiri insurgent groups, Lashikar-e Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed; and
that the Islamist-dominated government of the North West Frontier Province
will not allow serious actions by Pakistan’s army
against the Taliban and al Qaeda in the border areas,
though it has clearly agreed to
Islamabad stationing additional army units in the area.
These units will stage enough operations and spill enough blood
to satisfy U.S. demands for “actions”—
and thereby avoid giving U.S. leaders
a basis for unilateral action inside Pakistan—
but they will not take actions that risk capturing bin Laden or Mullah Omar,
events that would offend Pakistan’s Gulf benefactors
and foment armed conflict with the Pashtun tribes.

Faced with
an eroding economy;
rising Islamist power
in Pakistan’s society, politics, military, and security services; and
India’s growing conventional military strength,
Pakistan’s rulers cannot afford to blithely increase threats to national security
by letting an anti-Pakistani Kabul regime take root or
by taking coercive, bloody anti-Taliban and anti-al Qaeda military action
in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area
that could spark civil war
or drive the Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun tribes
to secede and form their own nation.

Pillar VII: There Will Be an Islamist Regime in Kabul

To state the obvious,
Afghanistan is a country of truly conservative Islamic temperament.
This was true
in the British Raj,
when the Afghan communists took power in the 1970s,
when Moscow invaded in 1979, and
it remains so today.
And the trend is toward an ever more conservative brand of Islam.
Why so?
  1. Because of the thirteen-year war (1979–1992)
    against the Soviets and the Afghan communists
    fought in God’s name and fueled by unwavering faith.
  2. Because a two-year civil war (1992–1994) was fought to a draw
    because the United States, the West, and the UN—
    in an early version of the doctrine now seen in Iraq—
    prevented the Afghan Islamist insurgents, who beat the Soviets,
    from taking power and implementing Islamic law.
    As in Iraq, self-determination was defined as
    a U.S.-approved government that is not an Islamic regime.
  3. Because of the seven-year armed struggle (1994–2001) it took to
    end this deadlock,
    begin the formation of a national regime, and
    nearly establish countrywide law and order.
  4. Because the Afghans are now waging a war (2001–?) that,
    though of the Taliban’s making,
    has taken their xenophobic and tribally dominated country
    into a new era of foreign domination, one characterized by
    armed resistance to Western occupation and
    the bayonet-point installation of a regime with no Islamic credentials.
    “I do not find a convincing reason
    for their [U.S. and NATO troops] continued presence,”

    IULA leader and nominal Karzai ally Abdul Rasul Sayyaf
    told al-Sharq al-Awsat.
    “We did not get rid of the Soviets to get the Americans in the end.”
    [Pun intended?]

As always, the Afghans themselves said it best prior to the 2001 U.S. invasion.
“We thank God,” said the Taliban radio service on 2001-09-28,
in words that could have been said about invading infidels
by any ethnic group, Sunni or Shia,
today or any time in two millennia of Afghan history,
that the Afghans with such small power and such poverty
are confronted by America, which is a powerful force.
It is coming with all its force
to confront the Afghans from the East to the West.
In response, we, Afghans, also thank God
that [the United States] is standing against us....
If America make[s] aggression on our country,
we are ready with all our resources.
Out children, praise be to God, are also ready.
We, with love, want from Almighty God
that America comes to our territory.

As seen from an Afghan-centric perspective,
the Afghan Islamists have twice been denied the fruit of their military victories; they are certain to try for them again.
Beyond their strong faith and traditional xenophobia,
three other factors will aid the Islamists’ drive to power.
  1. Since 1979 nearly six million Afghans have, at one or another time,
    lived as refugees in camps in Pakistan and Iran.
    The education for children raised, or born and raised, in the camps
    featured a militant curriculum taught by
    Iranian clerics,
    Saudi clerics,
    clerics from other Gulf countries,
    Pakistani clerics who were trained in Saudi universities or by Saudi clerics, and
    Afghan clerics—like Taliban chief Mullah Omar—
    who were trained by Saudi, Pakistani, Iranian, or Gulf clerics.
    The refugees’ return to Afghanistan, therefore, must inevitably enhance
    the militant Islamists’—Sunni and Shia—dominance of Afghan society, and
    move the once-isolated Islam of Afghanistan
    further into the Muslim’s world mainstream.
  2. Sunni Islamic NGOs—many of them from Saudi Arabia—
    have been at work in Afghanistan for a quarter century,
    educating young Afghans with
    the same Salafi Islamic curriculum taught in the refugee camps in Pakistan,
    and that was taught to Osama bin Laden in Saudi Arabia.
    Along with potable water, prenatal care, and cottage-industry skills,
    the NGOs have provided another stimulus
    to the deepening conservatism of Afghan Islam.
  3. Most Afghans realize that only three entities
    consistently stood by them in the years since the Soviet invasion:
    Allah, the Islamic NGOs, and Osama bin Laden.
    Mullah Omar has told Afghans,
    “Usama helped us in the war against the Russians.
    He is not going to leave us now....
    Usama will live with us and die with us.”
These three realities taught them that
Islam was the key to survival and ultimate victory and that
little or no non-Islamic help was coming to them,
a reality that added another stimulus to faith.
The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul
is as close to an inevitability as exists.

One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the Westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul
are able to get out with their lives.

End of Chapter Two

Chapter Five
Bin Laden Views The World:
Some Old, Some New, and a Twist

Section 5.1
Staying the Course on Main Themes

Subsection 5.1.3, The Importance of Afghanistan

While Afghanistan has long since fallen off the screen of U.S. officialdom
and the media—save for the Christian Science Monitor
it remains at the center of bin Laden’s concerns and priorities.
The West has largely missed
the affection with which bin Laden regards Afghanistan and
the debt of personal honor and religious duty
he feels toward Mullah Omar and the Taliban
for hosting al Qaeda and refusing U.S. demands to surrender him.
How many men and organizations, after all,
are willing to give up the reins of power and control of a country
for the sake of one man and religious principle?
The West also looked too cynically
on bin Laden’s late-1990s decision to formally pledge his loyalty
to Mullah Omar as the “Commander of the Faithful,”
concluding that he was showing less than sincere respect for the Taliban chief
in return for the Taliban’s protection.
To date, however, there is no evidence that bin Laden regards Mullah Omar
as anything other than the world’s primary Muslim leader.
“My relation with Mullah Omar,” bin Laden said in late 2001,
“is one of faith.
He is the greatest, most valiant and most content Muslim of this age.
He is not afraid of anyone but God.”

Beyond the personal debt to the Taliban,
bin Laden and other Islamist leaders view Afghanistan
as “the only Islamic country” in the world,

and that the battle going on there against the United States
will decide the Muslim world’s future
and therefore “is one of Islam’s immortal battles.”
“A core tenet of al Qaeda’s strategy is that
radical Islamists must gain control of a nation,”
Steven Simon and Daniel Benjamin wrote in The Age of Sacred Terror [page 134]
in a generally accurate explanation that applies in most Islamist circles.
“Holding a state, in their view, is a prelude to
knocking over the dominoes of the world’s secular Muslim regimes....
The craving for territory
is one reason al Qaeda carries out its own terrorist attacks
and supports so many national insurgencies.”
The other point to be made here, of course, is that

the Islamic insurgencies al Qaeda supports
are fighting—without exception—
to reacquire land once ruled by Muslims
and so fit the definition of a defensive jihad.
So far as I have found,
al Qaeda supports no Islamic insurgency
that seeks to conquer new lands,

notwithstanding the unsupported but media-pleasing claim of many in the West that bin Laden
“makes very clear …... [his] ultimate goal is
to undermine Western civilizations in its entirety....”
Even Western political leaders are not immune to such hyping.
UK foreign secretary Jack Straw, for example,
described al Qaeda’s November 2002 attack on two British facilities in Istanbul
“as an attack on our entire civilization.”

But why, one might ask, is one of the poorest countries on earth
and a one-eyed, battle-scarred, and not superbly educated mullah
pivotal in the Islamists’ eyes?
The answer, once again, is found in the annals of Islamic history.
Since the British completed destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924,
no country has replaced Turkey as the Muslim world’s center.

In other words,
Islam has needed a site from which to launch a new Caliphate,
a state that would be governed by the sharia, God’s law.
“The beauty of the new Islamic system,”
wrote the Sunni scholar Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian executed by Nasser
and whom bin Laden and most Islamists view as both hero and mentor,
“cannot be appreciated until it takes concrete form.
To bring it about,
there must first be a revival in one Muslim country,
enabling it to attain the status of world leadership.”

Writing in 1997,
Professor Samuel P. Huntington, like Qutb, noted that
Islam has lacked what he called a “core state” since the Ottoman’s demise.
“A core state,” Huntington contends,
“can perform its ordering function
because member states perceive it as cultural kin.
A civilization is an extended family and, like older members of a family,
core states provide their relatives with both support and discipline.”
While several states have tried to play this role—
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey—
none became the “dominant center,” which meant
“no one of them is in a strong position to mediate conflicts within Islam;
no one of them is able to act authoritatively on behalf of Islam
in dealing with conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim groups.”

Suddenly, when the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996,
Afghanistan became an official Islamic state—or emirate—
ruled by sharia principles,
and so the Islamists found themselves having the long-sought basics:
a state ruled by an Islamic scholar from which to revive the Caliphate.
On this latter point, much has been written about
Mullah Omar’s less-than-stellar academic credentials,
that they prevent him from being accepted as an international leader of Islam.
Clearly, Omar is less well educated than
many scholars in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere,
but the reality is that
Afghanistan is an Islamic state,
it was ruled by the shariah, and
its leader was a Muslim cleric who fought in a victorious jihad.
Given these factors, Mullah Omar may not be the best-educated cleric,
but—since only God is perfect—he will do in a pinch.

Afghanistan is important to bin Laden and Islamists worldwide simply because
it is Afghanistan,
the site of the only Muslim victory over the West in almost eight centuries.

The defeat of the Red Army had, and still has,
enormous symbolic and emotive power in the Islamic world;
it remains a potent motivator
for recruiting fighters for al Qaeda and other Islamist insurgent groups.
The Western media coverage of the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad was spotty at best,
and its coverage post-1989—the year of the Soviet withdrawal—
focused mainly on
the interethnic civil war, and
the failure of Taliban leaders to prove themselves radical feminists.
As a consequence, the West, in essence, missed the war’s importance
as one of the major catalysts for what is now called the Islamic awakening.
More than any other event, the shock of the Afghans’ victorious jihad
restored the belief of Sunni Muslims that, if God is willing,
anything is possible.

Not surprisingly, bin Laden did not miss the point.
He welcomed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
not only because it made targets of U.S. soldiers,
but because it put the infidels on the soil of the only country
that has been successful defended by Muslims in modern memory,
and defended against odds reminiscent of
the Prophet’s come-from-behind military victories in the early years of Islam,
such as in the battles of Badr and The Trench.
Here again history comes into play
because the Prophet’s victories—fourteen centuries on—
are still topics of regular reference and comment
in contemporary public discourse in the Muslim world.
“The early period of the ummah remains alive to all Muslims,
because it represents a sacred drama,”
the journalist Stephen Schwartz wrote in his book,
The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror,
“and in this sense
Islamic history has never been drained of its holy significance.
Muslims feel that they participate collectively and individually
in the consequences of past events,
in a way largely absent from Christianity (but more present in Judaism).”
Welcoming the arrival of U.S. troops,
bin Laden calmly outlined his confidence that history would repeat itself,
God willing.
“[The] one who prolonged us with one of His helping hands
and stabilized us to defeat the Soviet Empire,”
bin Laden said,
“is capable of prolonging us again
to defeat America on the same land, and with the same sayings,
and that is the Grace of God.”

Picturing the war as a new instance of Christendom’s Richard the Lion Heart
this time clad in red, white, and blue—
trying to crush the Muslim Saladin,
bin Laden asserts Afghanistan and its people are standing almost alone:
“The entire West, with the exception of a few countries,
supports this unfair, barbaric campaign.”

Appealing to the Afghan’s religion, tribal pride, and xenophobia,
and simultaneously trying to shame Muslims who have not aided the Afghans,
bin Laden identified the Afghans as
the vanguard and shield of Islam against the United States,
just as they were against the Soviet Union.
O Afghan people,
God has granted you the honor of carrying our jihad in His cause
and of sacrificing all that is dear for upholding His great word....

O Afghan people,
I am saying this while confident that
you will understand this talk more than anyone else,
because Afghanistan is the land where
invaders never settled throughout history
and because its people enjoy strength, resolve, pride, and patience in fighting.
It had never opened its doors to anything but Islam.
This is because Muslims did not come to it as colonialists
nor had they been after earthly ambitions.
Rather, they came to spread and call for the worship of God
The important place Afghanistan holds in bin Laden’s affections,
as well as in the strategic plans of al Qaeda and other Islamists,
ensures that the fight with the United States for control of that country
has yet to begin in earnest.

[Recall again that these words of Scheuer were published in mid-2004.]

Chapter Six
Blinding Hubris Abounding

Section 6.2
War Reporting or Reporting Non-Wars?

Our hubris in regard to Afghanistan ... was and is breathtaking.
While the UN and the U.S.-led coalition have made strides
toward improving everyday life for a portion of the Afghan population—
in terms of health services, potable water, schools, and ordnance disposal—
these undeniable, even heroic gains
have not changed the status quo in the country.
Afghanistan’s tribal-based society remains
ethnically riven, plagued by foreign intervention, and in a state of war;
it is a state, moreover, in which the tide of war is rising, not ebbing.
[Recall again Scheuer published this in 2004.]
an assortment of direly needed humanitarian and economic advances,
the on-the-ground political-military reality in Afghanistan
remains starkly disturbing for U.S. interests.
Western and U.S. media on the ground,
as well as the Muslim reporters on the scene
and commentators in their editorial chairs,
clearly see the coming disaster for America.

The Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Baldauf, for example,
reminded readers that a
“significant number of Afghans—especially the conservative Pashtun minority—
are finding that they have more in common with
the radical Islamic message of al Qaeda and the Taliban
than they do with
the pro-Western statements of new Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”

The brilliant Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai,
who has excellent access to Pakistan’s political and military elites
and the country’s Islamic militants,
warned in early 2003 that
“more and more Taliban are volunteering
to join the resistance movement building-up
in the Pashtun-dominated areas of the war-ravaged country.”

Even a simple recollection of history and application of common sense
by another Pakistani journalist
caught the dangers ahead for the United States.
“But I am afraid,” warned Muzzafar Iqbal in the popular daily The News,
“Afghans are rather notorious for their tenacity.
There is little hope that
what the Soviet Union could not achieve with 140,000 men,
we can achieve without large-scale disasters soon erupting
all over this unruly land.”

Most ominous, however, was the advice of Sir John Keegan,
the doyen of Western military historians,
ten days after the attacks on Washington and New York.
In a brilliant 2001-09-20 Daily Telegraph article entitled
If America Decides to Take on the Afghans, This is How to Do It,”
Keegan provided a clear and courteously understated explanation to U.S. leaders
of what history promised America
if it chose to ignore lessons drawn from
nearly two centuries of Western military experience in Afghanistan.

[The numbers in brackets below are paragraph numbers in Keegan’s original article.]
Efforts to occupy and rule [Afghanistan] usually ended in disaster.
But straightforward punitive expeditions,
for limited objectives
or to bring about a change in Afghan government policy,
were successful on more than one occasion....

The success achieved by Indian and British troops
in the last days of the Raj depended on
avoidance of general war and
of policies designed to change society or government in Afghanistan.
The Raj accepted that Afghanistan was
unstable, fractious and ultimately ungovernable
and thought merely to check its mountain warriors’
irrepressible love of raiding and fighting....

Russia, in 1979,
made the mistake the East India Company had in 1839.
It tried to impose a government in Kabul.
Putting its own man in place was easy enough.
Keeping him there proved the difficulty....

Limited campaigns of penetration,
aimed simply at inflicting punishment,
can succeed,
as long as the punitive forces remain mobile,
keep control of the high ground
and are skilful at tactical disengagement.

End of excerpts from Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris

Here are some extracts from Michael Scheuer’s 2008 Marching Toward Hell
which deal with the United State’s involvement in Afghanistan.
All emphasis is added.

Marching Toward Hell
by Michael Scheuer

Chapter One
Readying bin Laden’s Way:
America and the Muslim World, 1973–1996

Section 1.3
1989: Afghanistan—
Intervening to Ensure Disaster

[Aside from the first sentence,
the first two paragraphs are not very controversial;
the more controversial remarks (e.g.) start with paragraph 1.3.3,
which mainly deal with the period from 1992 to 2001 (1992-1996, 1996-2001)
of the Afghan Civil War.]

On February 15, 1989, there began a process that was destined to prove
the incompetence of U.S. officials in conducting overseas political interventions,
as well as
the futility of
making the “building of democracies” a central goal of U.S. foreign policy.

On that date the world witnessed
the last Soviet military commander in Afghanistan
walk across the Friendship Bridge spanning the Amu Darya [formerly Oxus] River
and step onto the soil of the then-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan.
That general’s footfall marked the Red Army’s defeat
by the Afghan mujahedin and their non-Afghan allies—
among which were both Muslims
and such infidel entities as the U.S. Treasury and the CIA.
The Afghan Islamists had defeated a superpower,
and the glory and honor of that victory belongs exclusively to them.
Western journalists and politicians
have since made an industry out of the concept of “Afghan blowback,”
the supposed rise and radicalization of Islamist militants
because of U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedin,
but this was and is nonsense.
[Scheuer references two books by Peter Bergen.]

Undeniably the United States supplied billions in
cash, military equipment, ordnance, and the other sinews of war
in what became the largest and most successful covert-action program
ever conducted by the CIA under the president’s orders
[note the curious qualification].
And I had the great honor of being a bit player in that effort
from 1985 until early 1992.
From the perspective I had, and as history shows,
the CIA did an extraordinary job in making sure that
the Afghans could kill Soviet soldiers as quickly and efficiently as possible
using AK-47s and other arms from World War II and the Korean War
(with the important exception of Stinger missiles),
instead of the Lee-Enfield rifles and even muzzle-loaders
left over from Britain’s imperial Afghan misadventures
in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
As long as the Soviets occupied Afghanistan,
the focus and goals of the U.S. covert-action program were clear:
help the Afghans kill increasing numbers of Soviet military personnel
until Moscow decided to throw in the towel.
For the CIA, the heroes of the Afghan program were
its financial and logistics officers,
who ensured the mujahedin had the wherewithal to keep Soviet blood flowing,
and its clandestine officers in the field
who made sure that most U.S. arms and cash went to
the Afghan Islamist leaders who were actually in the field killing Soviets
and not to the so-called “moderate” Afghans
who fought their war dressed in three-piece suits
and battled each other for Western media attention
and bigger cuts of the U.S.- and Saudi-provided swag.

And then [in 1989] the Soviets withdrew,
and the roof caved in for the United States and the West generally.
As the Afghan Islamist groups who beat the Red Army
saddled up to undertake the fighting that remained to defeat
Afghan Communist leader Najibullah’s Soviet-supported regime in Kabul,
U.S. and Western diplomats, most of whom had turned up their noses
while the CIA and other intelligence services
did a decade of the dangerous work of arming the mujahedin,
spotted a chance to go a-nation-building.
The task of defeating Najibullah’s regime
turned out to take thirty-eight months and concluded in April 1992.
During this period
the Afghan Islamists
fought the Afghan Communists,
were bedeviled by Pakistani authorities who, searching for a quick victory,
pushed them into several bloody defeats in semiconventional battles
[notably Jalalabad],
fought with each other with increasing ferocity, and
unknowingly were led to lose all they had gained
by the feckless intervention and interference of U.S. and Western diplomats.

Through all of this post-Soviet-withdrawal mayhem,
U.S. and Western policymakers made another massive disinvestment
in their nations’ long-term national security.
Instead of running as fast and as far as they could from Afghanistan
(the advice offered by Thomas Twetten and Frank Anderson,
then respectively the CIA’s DDO and chief of the Near East Division),
Washington, London, the UN, and other NATO foreign ministries
deployed and detonated
the West’s most powerful weapon of mass destruction:

diplomats obsessed with building
Western-style, secular democracies
in places where they are not wanted,
especially in Islamic cultures that view them
as an affront to God.

Instead of leaving the Afghans to recover their own political balance
after nearly fifteen years of war
and the dire social and economic costs of the barbarous Soviet occupation,
the U.S-led West joined the UN to send diplomats
to teach the Afghans how to govern themselves,
as if the Afghans were brand new to politics
and not a political culture that was already well and stubbornly established
when Alexander the Great and his army invaded
nearly four hundred years before Christ’s birth.
A bevy of U.S diplomats of ambassadorial rank, among them
Peter Tomsen, Robert Oakley, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Phyllis Oakley,
arrived in Afghanistan
to lead the great unwashed mass of Afghan Muslims in the creation of
a secular and democratic Afghan Monticello on the banks of the Kabul River.

These smart, talented, good-hearted, and well-intentioned men and women
never had a chance
and in the end did a great deal more harm than good for U.S interests,
a self-inflicted fiasco
that their successors are repeating and deepening today in Afghanistan and Iraq
at a time when the stakes are much greater for America.
U.S diplomats, U.S AID officials,
and hundreds of Western nongovernmental organizations
flooded the Afghan playing field
armed with large amounts of money and expectations entirely inapplicable
to those of the people they were trying to help.
Ambassador Tomsen, for example,
spoke often about building a Hamiltonian federal system in Afghanistan
[The indefatigable efforts of Ambassador Tomsen to help the Afghans
are admirable, poignant, and relentlessly Western-centric.
His advocacy of a U.S.-like federal system for Afghanistan
has been consistent for nearly twenty years.
See Peter Tomsen, “A Chance for Peace in Afghanistan,”
Foreign Affairs 79, no. 1 (January-February 2000), 179–83.
[Note the remarkably unprescient subtitle to Tomsen’s article: “The Taliban's Days Are Numbered”,
and the unprescient analysis that goes with it.
Scheuer’s central point,
which he states and attempts to justify over and over again,
is that what he calls “America’s governing elite”
is totally afflicted by such wishful thinking
when it comes to dealing with the Islamic world.]
and Ambassador Phyllis Oakley brought in groups of American lawyers
(as if the Afghans had not suffered enough under the Soviets)
to lecture Afghan tribesmen on the niceties of
due process, human rights, and the rule of law.
Ambassadors Robert Oakley and Zalmay Khalilzad spent untold hours
trying to teach Afghan resistance leaders
the ins and outs of
parliamentary government, fiscal responsibility [a specialty of the U.S.],
and the protections of minority rights.
Always polite, patient, and hospitable,
the Afghans listened intently to their professorate of ambassadors,
took the money that was on offer,
and proved themselves unable and more often unwilling
to implement anything they were taught.
Because the U.S., Western, and UN diplomats
wanted to deal with Afghans like those
who had fled to overseas exile during the war against the Soviets or
who belonged to resistance groups that talked but did not fight.
They wanted to deal with people
who resembled themselves in style and temperament,
men who were mannered, well-coiffed, wore suits, spoke English or French,
were educated in India or the West, and
were at most nominal Muslims—
after all, no polity needs too much of that religion stuff.
In short, the West preferred to deal with
those Afghans who had played a minor role in the struggle against the Red Army
or had safely spent the war abroad.

To the surprise of Western diplomats but not of anyone with common sense,
the Afghan leaders who had fought the Red Army
had no intention of ceding control of their country
to a government installed, paid for, and protected by foreigners.
By deliberately leaving the Islamist Afghan mujahedin on the outside looking in,
the West ensured that
no weak but coherent Afghan central government would emerge
(the only type of central government the Afghans will tolerate)
and that
the civil war that began to take shape as the Soviet withdrawal was completed
would evolve into a nationwide Hobbesian conflict of all against all.

The upshot of this democracy-spreading U.S.-Western involvement, then,
was not the now-dominant urban legend of
Western abandonment after Soviet withdrawal
but an involvement that guaranteed that
post-jihad Afghanistan would not find a way toward either
the anathema of secular democracy or
the political stability potentially possible
through the use of
the tools and practices of a two-millennia-old, tribal-dominated polity.

Indeed, the Western spanner in the Afghan works helped to foster
a national environment of
intertribal strife, crime, banditry, narcotics trafficking, and ethnic animosity

so dire that
the rise of the harsh Koran-based rule of the Taliban would be welcomed
because it brought reliable law and order in its train.

Thus 1989 marked the start of a period in which the West missed a chance
to let the Afghans find their own political equilibrium
and resume their traditional, intense insularity.

By seeking to install a secular democracy,
it [the West] ensured that Afghanistan would grow
a nonthreat to the United States
the home of bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Sadly, the 1989 effort in Afghanistan would not be the last time
U.S. governing elites would embark on attempts to install democracy abroad
and succeed only in killing Americans and bleeding their wealth.

Chapter Three

A Final Chance to Learn
History Applies to America

America is her own mistress and can do what she pleases.

— Thomas Paine, 1778

America is a new character in the universe.
She started with a cause divinely right.

— Thomas Paine, 1782

The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind.

— Thomas Paine, 1776

Paine thought more than he read.

— Thomas Jefferson [3], 1824

What is happening today in Afghanistan was predictable
and has been predicted.
And making the prediction required nothing more than
a reading of history and
a review of the U.S. government’s CIA-led covert-action program (1979–92)
that supported the Afghan mujahedin.
I made the prediction in two books
[2002, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, Chapter 15 and
2004, Imperial Hubris, Chapter 2],
and individuals much smarter and more experienced than myself
in both Afghan history and covert-action operations,
such as
Sir John Keegan [“How America can wreak vengeance,”
If America decides to take on the Afghans, this is how to do it”] and
Milt Bearden [“As the War Turns”, “Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empries”],
made the same prediction,
the former with more erudition and better prose,
and the latter with insight from in-the-field experience.
The bottom line is that the U.S. governing elite must not be let off the hook
for the approaching calamity for U.S. interests in Afghanistan.
Rather than a surprise, the pending defeat is the direct result of
their shortsightedness, willful historical ignorance, political correctness,
and inability to change patterns of thought
created for and nurtured by the Cold War.
As Jefferson wrote about Paine,
the leaders of America’s bipartisan governing elite think and speak
without reading enough history.
They try to make history without bothering to understand it.

[Actually that is incorrect.
The non-PC types are overpowered by the lies and sophistries of the PC types.]

Section 3.1
Going to War

[T]he insurgent forces of the Taliban and al-Qaeda
had not stood and fought to the death;
they had rather done
what all successful insurgents throughout history have done—
they dispersed into the almost impenetrable topography of South Asia
to fight another day.
While the administration mistook this interlude for victory ...
the Taliban and al-Qaeda were pursuing the traditional—and well-documented—
Afghan strategy that was described by
the senior al-Qaeda commander Sayf al-Adl.
“We say to those who want a quick victory,”
al-Adl explained in March 2003,
“that this type of war waged by the mujahedin
employs a strategy of [the] long-breath
and the attrition and terrorization of the enemy,
and not the holding of territory.”

Section 3.3
Waging the Afghan War, a Micro View:
If Only U.S. Leaders Knew History!

[S]cholars and retired intelligence officers far smarter than I am
have explained that Afghan history teaches that
the country cannot be successfully invaded and controlled.
In advice meant for the Bush [-43] administration and U.S. military leaders,
the eminent British historian and great friend of the United States Sir John Keegan wrote on September 20, 2001 that Afghanistan is
“unstable, fractious, and ultimately ungovernable”
and urged Washington to steer well clear of a
“general war and of
policies designed to change the society or government in Afghanistan.”
Sir John was not arguing that
America should refrain from attacking Afghanistan—
9/11 was an act of war—
but rather that its focus should be on its only true objective:
to quickly kill bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar,
and as many of their lieutenants and foot soldiers as possible.
History, Sir John said, held the key for the United States:
Efforts to occupy and rule [Afghanistan]
usually ended in disaster.
But straightforward punitive expeditions ...
were successful on more than one occuaion.

It should be remembered that, in 1878,
the British did indeed succeed in bringing the Afghans to heel
[with a punitive expedition].
Lord Robertsmarch from “Kabul to Khandahar”
was one of Victoria’s celebrated wars.
The Russians, moreover,
foolishly did not try to punish rogue Afghans, as Roberts did,
but to rule the country.
Since Afghanistan is ungovernable,
the failure of their [1979–92] effort was predictable...

America should not seek to change the regime,
but simply
to find and kill the terrorists.
It should do so without pity.

Get in fast, kill faster, and get out still faster,
was Sir John’s sage advice.
And for anyone caring to read a bit of history,
these recommendations were seconded by
the very British general to whom Sir John referred,
Lord Roberts of Khandahar.
[One wonder if he ever said anything unflattering about his peers in the India Office!
And if the British Crown would have given a damn
if he had.]

“It may not be very flattering
to our amour-propre,
Roberts wrote
to his military and political superiors
after the success of
his 1878 punitive expedition,
“but I feel sure that I am right when I say that
the less the Afghans see of us,
the less they will dislike us.

Should Russia in future years [like 1979!] attempt to conquer Afghanistan,
or invade India through it,
we should have a better chance of attaching the Afghans to our interests
if we avoid all interference with them in the meantime.”
Notwithstanding the ready availability of such sound advice
from a distinguished pro-U.S. scholar,
as well as a general who is perhaps the only infidel military practitioner
who was ever successful in Afghanistan,
U.S. leaders said,
Thanks for the comments, but history does not pertain to America,
and we will—like Sinatra—do it our way.
They did, and they will suffer a calamitous loss in Afghanistan because of it.


[3.3.9 – the final paragraph of the section]
Washington’s fixation on nation-states
focused U.S. efforts in Afghanistan on
trying to build a secular, pluralistic polity
just as it did in Germany and Japan after World War II
and the countries of Eastern Europe after the Soviet collapse.
Washington installed Masood’s minority-groups-dominated Northern Alliance
in Kabul as the governing regime
and put at its head Hamid Karzai, a detribalized Pashtun
who had spent most of the war against the USSR abroad.
In so doing U.S. officials did not seem aware that
they were undoing by force of infidel arms
a three-plus-century tradition of Pashtun rule in Afghanistan;
if they knew of this tradition,
they ahistorically and foolishly concluded that
the Afghan world started anew on the day of the U.S.-led invasion.
The subsequent elections for parliament and president
put more Pashtuns into the central government,
but the Pashtun tribes perceived that
the United States was keeping
both the levers of military power and the revenue coffers
firmly in the hands of the Afghan minorities—their historic ethnic enemies—
and the Westernized Pashtun elite.
The upshot was, ironically, that

because Washington decided to remake Afghan society
in America’s image
rather than a two-millennia-old Afghan image,
it ensured that
not even a nominally effective nation-state—
which is the best that has ever existed in Afghan history—
would be created during the U.S. occupation.

For the Pashtuns,
the advent of elections and democracy in Afghanistan simply meant that
their enemies would hold power and that therefore
their only sensible option was
to support the return of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to power
and with them seek
the reestablishment of their traditional political primacy by military means.

Section 3.4
Concluding the War,
Learning the Lessons of Defeat

For the United States, the war in Afghanistan has been lost.
By failing to recognize that
the only achievable U.S. mission in Afghanistan was
to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their leaders and get out,
Washington is now faced with fighting a protracted and growing insurgency....

[That seems to mark an inconsistency with some of Scheuer’s earlier writings.
In Imperial Hubris he said
“[the Taliban] will return to power;
it is only a question of when and under what name”.
Perhaps Scheuer’s comment here only refers to the original Taliban.]


In view of the willful historical ignorance apparent in
Washington’s Afghan strategy and operations,
it is important that,
after the U.S.-led coalition is defeated in Afghanistan,
Americans not let their political and military media leaders
off the hook of responsibility.
These leaders are already beginning to claim—
and the claims will grow shriller over time—
that the coming U.S. defeat is the result of
the unexpected consequences flowing from well-intended U.S. actions.
Charity demands that we give U.S. leaders the benefit of the doubt
when they claim that
they did not intend the consequences that are causing us to lose the war.
Unintended consequences are not always unpredictable consequences,
and in Afghanistan (as well as in Iraq)
the disasters that have befallen America since 2001
were predictable in the context of historical experience.
For the continuing utility of learning history
and the predictability of
what the United States is now experiencing in Afghanistan,
reflect on the following passage
from the eminent classicist Frank L. Holt.
Such reflections surely will discredit
the official alibi of unintended consequences.
“Alexander’s reputation as a military genius, though richly deserved,”
Holt writes of a time two millennia past,
cannot mask some of the miscalculations he pioneered in Bactria
[the Greek name for Afghanistan] ...
Alexander’s soldiers had been trained to wage and win major battles,
but the king now shifted them into new and uncomfortable roles.
One minute they were asked
to kill with ruthless and indiscriminate intensity,
the next they were expected to show deference to survivors...

The mythical Hydra provides a defining image
of Afghan warfare through the years.
The ability of the foe to regenerate itself
demoralizes even the most self-assured invaders.
This kind of hydra-like warfare exacts a heavy toll on everyone,
and its effects are psychological as well as physical.
The smashing victories of Alexander’s troops against the armies of Darius
had occurred years earlier, closer to home ...
In those campaigns the veterans with Alexander
had grown accustomed to a comforting expectation:
when they fought someone, they absolutely prevailed,
and the defeated enemy always stayed defeated.
This arrogance of power, as so often since,
lost its punch in Afghanistan.
The place and its people took no heed of recent history,
ignored the strength and sophisticated modernity of the invaders,
and cared little for the time-honored conventions of treaties and truces.
They fled like bandits if confronted with overwhelming force,
then attacked whenever the odds were better.
You could never tell if you were winning the war or not.

End of excerpts from Michael Scheuer’s Marching Toward Hell

Miscellaneous Articles by Michael Scheuer


Afghanistan: Forgetting the Lessons of History
By Michael Scheuer
Jamestown.org, 2007-03-06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Afghanistan is again being lost to the West.
The insurgency may drag on for many months or several years,
but the tide has turned.

Like Alexander’s Greeks, the British and the Soviets before the U.S.-led coalition,
inferior Afghan insurgents have forced far superior Western military forces
onto a path that leads toward evacuation.
What has caused this scenario to occur repeatedly throughout history?

In the most general sense,
the defeat of Western forces in Afghanistan occurs repeatedly because
the West has not developed an appreciation
for the Afghans’ toughness, patience, resourcefulness and pride in their history.

Although foreign forces in Afghanistan
are always more modern and better armed and trained,
they are continuously ground down
by the same kinds of small-scale but unrelenting hit-and-run attacks and ambushes,
as well as by the country’s impenetrable topography
that allows the Afghans to retreat, hide and attack another day.
The new twist to this pattern faced by the Soviets and the U.S.-led coalition
is the safehaven the Afghans have found in Pakistan.
This is the basic answer to why
history has found so many defeated foreign armies
littering what Kipling called Afghanistan’s plains.


Obama’s Afghan-Ignorant Policy Guide
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2009-05-06

With much ballyhooing, Bruce Riedel led a team that conducted
the Obama administration’s “review” of Afghan policy.
As is known,
the team’s deliberations produced a wonder of either naiveté or stupidity,
or perhaps both:
21,000 more U.S. troops to control a country the size of Texas, and
a logistical system running vital U.S.-NATO resupply lines
through hostile territory in Pakistan and –
with Russia’s gleeful support for keeping America bleeding in Afghanistan –
the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The question must be asked how a man as intelligent as Riedel
came up with a plan that amounts to massively reinforcing failure.

The answer lies, I fear,
in Riedel’s eagerness to please Obama with a new plan
and a deep faith in the rightness of U.S. interventionism.
Trying to please the president is a trait so common in
some former senior CIA officials jockeying for political sinecures
that it hardly comes as a surprise;
Riedel very effectively managed analysis on several Middle East issues
during his Agency career.

What does surprise me, however, is
Riedel’s clear ignorance of his Obama-assigned task, Afghanistan.
Writing on the Brookings Institution Web site on April 30, 2009,
Riedel bemoans the fact that
America has not intervened more fully and aggressively in Afghanistan.
In an article titled “Afghanistan: What Is at Stake?” Riedel writes,
“Twice in the last quarter century
the United States has squandered great victories achieved in Afghanistan
by failing to follow up battlefield success
with an enduring and resourced commitment
to helping to build a stable government in Afghanistan.”

One wonders what Riedel is talking about.
The United States has never won a war in Afghanistan.
The war against the Red Army and the Afghan communists (1979-1992)
was won by the Afghans – period.
U.S. arms supplies helped them kill Russians more quickly and effectively,
but they, not we, won the war.
In the war that commenced in October 2001,
we won one battle – that for control of the Afghan cities –
but since late March 2002, we have been losing every step of the way.
To his credit, Riedel says we are losing the current war.
He also says “it is not yet lost.”
He is wrong; we have lost.

Another, more important point on which Riedel is dead wrong is in
his repetition of the exceedingly durable but completely incorrect urban legend that Washington and the West abandoned Afghanistan
after the Red Army withdrew.
In the late 1980s, Riedel claims,
“U.S.-supported Afghan mujahedin
defeated the Soviet 40th Red Army [sic]....
The mujahedin were badly divided, however,
and quickly fell into civil war.
The United States could have led an international effort
to restore order and rallied key players like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
to try to end the conflict.
Afghanistan got virtually no attention
from the White House or the Congress.”

Riedel’s ignorance of what happened after the Red Army’s withdrawal
is almost breathtaking,
but such a misrepresentation of reality is politically requisite
if anyone is to believe the new-but-doomed Afghan policy approved by Obama
has a chance to succeed.
One might have hoped that Riedel –
who worked on Iraq in the years he is writing about –
would have consulted one or more of his Afghan-experienced former colleagues
for some factual background before taking up his pen.
But then again, the facts would get in the way of justifying
more U.S. intervention in Afghanistan.

Riedel argues that a viable post-Soviet Afghan government failed
because the “mujahedin were badly divided,”
Western governments lost interest,
and Washington did not seek Saudi and Pakistani involvement.
This is palpable nonsense.
The mujahedin were, are, and always will be “badly divided,”
but they still beat the Soviet superpower –
as they are on the verge of beating the American superpower –
and there is no doubt
they eventually would have worked out
governing arrangements compatible with Afghan history and society.
The West tends to forget that
the Afghans have been running their country for 2,000 years
and have a bit more experience than we do
in managing their tribal and ethnically diverse society.

From the perspective of Washington and its allies,
the real post-Soviet trouble was that
whatever regime the mujahedin built
would not be the one we wanted;
namely, one that included
none of the Afghans who actually fought and bled to drive out the Soviets.
Sadly, therefore, the U.S. government,
many of its European allies (especially the UK, France, and Germany),
and various UN organizations
intervened fully and dictatorially in post-Soviet Afghan politics,
thereby preventing any sort of genuine Afghan attempt at self-determination.
And as they are today,
the Saudis and Pakistanis were also fully involved in
telling the Afghans what to do, and, just as today,
their recommendations ran exactly counter to U.S. interests.

Notwithstanding Riedel’s assertions,
in the late 1980s and early 1990s
U.S., Western, and UN diplomats
consistently tried to dictate to the Afghans
what kind of government they should have.
That troika
wanted to staff the new secular and centralized Kabul regime with
Afghan technocrats;
secular Afghans who, like Hamid Karzai,
spent the war safely in India, America, or Europe;
“Gucci” mujahedin who were nominally Islamic, received wartime aid,
but did no fighting;
and even former members of the Afghan communist regime.
In other words,
all were welcome to join the new Western-mandated Afghan government
except those who
wore beards, carried AK-47s, were devoted Islamists,
and fought to expel the Soviets.

In the immediate post-Soviet years, then,
Washington spent tens of millions of dollars to try to form
exactly the same type of strong and centralized Afghan government –
the type of regime that historically causes war in Afghanistan –
it is trying to form today.
And in a lethally ironic case of déjà vu,
the father of current Afghan President Karzai –
a far more honorable and competent man than his son –
was one of the West’s favorites, and he was guided by Zalmay Khalilzad,
the same U.S. diplomat who has brought us
the recent disasters in Kabul and Baghdad.
In addition,
the talented U.S. ambassadors Robert and Phyllis Oakley and Peter Tomsen
led numbers of U.S. and UK bureaucrats, contractors, and NGOs into the country
to teach Afghans the West’s democratic ways,
as well as how to organize and administer national budgets,
establish the rule of law,
and create a strong central regime.
This wildly misplaced intervention
went so far as to bring in teams of American lawyers and judges
to teach the Afghans a Westernized judicial system
to replace what we knew
was all that silly old Islamic and tribal stuff.

In the end,
the U.S.-led, late-1980s democracy-building intervention in Afghanistan
was all for naught,
just as Obama’s new Afghan policy will be.
The Afghans wanted no part of
the secularism the U.S.-led West insisted on then,
and they want none of what the U.S.-led coalition has on offer now.
While the Afghans will accept medical aid for their kids,
electrical generators,
and tools for increasing potable water supplies,
they will utterly reject and fight measures aimed at
eliminating the traditional role of tribalism and Islam in their society
in the name of secular democracy.
Afghans, like all Muslims,
make a clear distinction between the terms modernization and Westernization;
they are eager for the former but will fight the latter to the death.
For our future relations with the Islamic world,
it is a fatal liability that we are so cocksure the two terms are synonyms.

One final point.
Riedel is a senior fellow at the aggressively pro-Israel Brookings Institution.
Is it just a coincidence that his very misleading article about
the “need” for more and longer U.S. intervention in Afghanistan
appears just a week after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
identified Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq as
the three main threats to Israel?
I think not, and
that is why America will either be defeated or still fighting, bleeding, and losing in Afghanistan and Iraq by Inauguration Day 2013.

[Is it not interesting how a well-informed person such as Michael Scheuer
points the finger at Israel and its acolytes in the U.S.
as pushing for continued conflict with conservative Muslims?
I agree that that is part of, in many cases the primary part of, the problem,
but I think it is also clear that
many, many of America's most educated and politically active,
either directly or indirectly, women
have been taught to almost loathe the way
conservative Islamic socities treat their women.]

Questions on the Eve of the Afghan Election
by Michael Scheuer
Antiwar.com, 2009-08-18

How many Marines and soldiers will die in Afghanistan
before the mainstream media dares to speak the truth
and ask questions based thereon?
it is the mainstream media that is keeping us locked in Afghanistan [e.g.],
and they are doing so for two reasons:
  1. They will do almost anything
    to avoid asking President Obama a hard question
    that would delineate the depth of his deceit.
  2. They now support the Afghan war because

    it is not the children of the elite who are dying
    and because
    it is now being fought for social policy reasons –
    women’s rights, educating children, etc. –

    and not for any reason that pertains to
    America’s defense or future security.

[Who can deny the infatuation of major parts of the MSM
with pushing feminism,
even outside the United States,
at great financial and human cost to the United States?]

Let’s start with a basic contention:
America has lost the war in Afghanistan,
and any further U.S. casualties are useless.
How to test this contention?
The following questions put to the president
or his chief advisers on terrorism and Afghanistan –
John Brennan and Bruce Riedel
would help to clarify the situation for all Americans.
If any of these three men answer honestly,
we will be out of Afghanistan in 90 days.

  1. Isn’t a clear sign of sheer military and political incompetence in
    your administration and that of former president Bush
    that we are approaching the ninth winter of the Afghan war
    and no one in the Pentagon or either party
    is sure how many troops are needed or what they are to do there –
    kill the enemy, rebuild the country, or
    secularize and democratize Muslims?
  2. While you continually try to frighten the American people
    by saying Pakistan is in a state of near-collapse,
    isn’t it the case that
    the most dire threat to Pakistan’s stability is
    the prolonged U.S. and NATO occupation of Afghanistan?

    Is it not true, moreover, that
    the Afghan war and
    the civil war Washington is urging Islamabad to wage in its border lands
    are destroying nuclear-armed Pakistan
    as a viable nation-state?
  3. Why are you supporting President Karzai, his family, and his advisers,
    who have purchased this week’s election with U.S. funds;
    who are unable to travel safely, let alone govern, outside of Kabul;
    who are raking in an untold fortune from the heroin industry; and
    who are hated by growing numbers of Afghans
    because they have seen no impact
    from the billions of dollars in the foreign aid
    given to Karzai’s regime for reconstruction?
  4. Shouldn’t you tell Americans that you and the Bush administration
    have tried to pull the wool over their eyes
    by claiming that this week’s election – or any election in Afghanistan –
    will improve stability there,
    even though you know that
    national elections are meaningless
    in that deeply Islamic and tribal society?

    Isn’t it true that elections work
    only if the opposition puts away its guns after they lose the vote,
    and that the Taliban and their allies –
    funded and egged on by the Saudis and other Gulf regimes –
    will never do that?
  5. Doesn’t the deployment of new U.S. troops
    to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan
    show three things:
    1. NATO is losing the war in that region
      and needs substantial assistance;
    2. the deployment means
      the one task of national-security importance to the United States –
      destroying al-Qaeda –
      is not being addressed because
      there are virtually no al-Qaeda forces in southern Afghanistan; and
    3. you are unconcerned about
      further alienating the Islamic world
      by demonstrating in Afghanistan that
      you are waging war against
      Muslims who want to live by Islamic law,
      not against al-Qaeda?
  6. Doesn’t the decision made by the Bush administration,
    and recently reaffirmed by Secretary of State Clinton,
    to support the Karzai regime’s decision to facilitate
    the greatly expanded presence of India –
    Pakistan’s mortal, nuclear-armed enemy –
    in Afghanistan all but negate
    Pakistan’s willingness to help the U.S. in Afghanistan?
    Haven’t Karzai and Washington created a situation where,
    for the first time in its history,
    Pakistan faces an Indian threat on both its eastern and western borders?
    And doesn’t this reality make it essential,
    for the sake of Pakistan’s national security,
    that Pakistan’s army work to dislodge India’s presence in Afghanistan
    by making sure the Afghan Taliban eventually prevails?
  7. Why don’t you tell American parents that
    the lives of their soldier-children are of secondary importance – if that –
    to your goal of building an Afghanistan in America’s image?
    Isn’t it right to tell those parents that
    your and the Pentagon’s decision
    to tighten the rules of engagement for our soldiers and Marines
    to avoid Afghan civilian casualties
    will yield more U.S. deaths and
    afford safer battlefield conditions for the Taliban and their allies?
  8. Wouldn’t it be wise to tell Americans that
    decisions by your administration and its predecessor
    have knowingly created the potential for a military disaster
    for the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan?
    Don’t the American people have the right to know that
    U.S. politicians and generals
    have deliberately marooned a U.S. field army in Afghanistan
    by allowing its support to depend on
    tenuous overland supply lines that run through hostile territory –
    the Russian Federation and Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal territory?

These are fairly direct questions and
have the benefit of being framed on the basis of
reality on the ground in Afghanistan,

not on what Patrick Henry once called the phantom delusion of hope
and others have called the audacity of hope.
One cannot be sanguine
that the mainstream media will ask any of these questions,
or, if asked,
that any of the gentlemen named above will answer honestly.
it is much more likely that
the mainstream media and senior administration officials
will identify this week’s Potemkin Afghan election as a success
and rejoice at
what they will call the advance of democracy in that beleaguered land.
And thereafter?
Well, my guess is that

many more of America’s soldiers and Marines will die uselessly
for the unobtainable and nonessential goal of
making sure Ms. Muhammad can sit in the Afghan parliament. [Cf.]

[As an example of how “feminist-goal-directed” our Afghan policy has become,
note that even a report from JCS Chairman Mullen
features a large photograph captioned

“[JCS Chairman] Mullen hands out notebooks
at opening of Pushghar Village Girls School in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan,
July 2009.”:

That’s a far cry from my conception
of what America’s top military officer should be doing.]


Obama should have sent a Marine
by Michael Scheuer
Non-Intervention.com, 2010-06-24


What [the forces of the U.S.-led coalition] have utterly failed to do
is what the counterinsurgency experts —
especially two men named John Nagl and David Kilcullen
asserted would be easy to do; namely,
by “protecting the people against the Taleban”
Western forces would win hearts and minds and thereby
defeat the small number of Afghans who were Taleban extremists.

As a timeless truism one cannot find a better example than the phrase:
“Afghans hate and will not tolerate
their country being occupied by foreigner infidel.”


The really wonderful thing about
those who designed and pushed
the current counterinsurgency policy in Afghanistan
is that
reality and facts have no impact whatsoever on
their fervor for failure.


As the positive trend line for ... “hearts-and-mines” operations
has steadily risen in the last several years,
the positive trend line for the Taleban-led insurgency
has risen even more sharply.

The reality, quite simply, is that
as the Nagl-Kilcullen list of indicators of victory in Afghanistan
has been accomplished,
the insurgents have become
more popular among, supported by, or acquiesced in by
the rural Afghan population.

Why is this case? Well let us go back to the above-mentioned truism:
“Afghans do not like being occupied by foreigners.”
Add to that Mao’s equally venerable truism that
an insurgency dies without popular support,
but cannot be killed if it has it,

and you see what
Obama, Biden, Holbrooke, McChrystal, Petreaus, Nagl, and Kilcullen
have given America —
utter failure,
a thousand dead and untold numbers of wounded U.S. service personnel, and
gargantuan waste of U.S. financial resources.
Not to mention putting Pakistan on the road to implosion.

So by sending Petraeus to Afghanistan in McChystal’s place,
Obama has decided to keep a disastrous counterinsurgency policy in place.
He has simply exchanged an indiscreet man
who preferred to see our soldiers and Marines killed
than the enemy and its civilian supporters,
with a man whose attitude is the same
but is a past master at selling snake oil.
The media, for example, still refer to the “Petraeaus victory” in Iraq
although it is now in a slow-but-sure mode of unraveling.

Why West Lost Afghan War
by Michael Scheuer
The Diplomat, 2010-07-01

The former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit says
the US-led coalition has already lost the war in Afghanistan.
A shake-up in military leadership won't change that.

Recent events surrounding Afghanistan shouldn’t confuse anyone,
as the reality of the situation still lies in one simple statement:
The US-NATO coalition has lost a war
its political leaders never meant, or knew how, to win.

‘Winning’ in Afghanistan was never anything more than
killing Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar,
as many of their fighters and civilian supporters as possible
and then getting out immediately with the full knowledge that—
as Mao said long ago—
insurgencies always rebuild and the process might need to be repeated.

The best and most appropriate response to al-Qaeda’s September 11 raid, then,
would have been a unilateral US punitive expedition
that inflicted massive death and destruction on the enemy
and delivered a clear warning to Islamists
not to pick fights with the United States.
Indeed, many Islamists expected this response,
which is why they poured vitriol on bin Laden
and expected the US military to set back their movement a decade,
if it did not destroy it completely.

Faced with this criticism, bin Laden simply said ‘wait,’
adding (in paraphrase) that
the Americans and their allies can’t stomach casualties,
that they won’t use their full military power
and will unite Afghans by trying to Westernize them via
popular elections, installing women’s rights,
dismantling tribalism, introducing secularism and
establishing NGO-backed bars and whorehouses in Kabul.
Bin Laden was right; it seems he is, among other things,
a keen student of the West’s past nation-building operations.

saddled with a dead-end strategy devised by
David Kilcullen, John Nagl and other counterinsurgency ‘experts,’

gave access to himself and his staff to Rolling Stone,
long among the most anti-military US journals.


While this has played out,
Hamid Karzai reportedly met with Sirajuddin Haqqani—
a major Afghan insurgent leader—
and prepared to surrender under the guise of creating a coalition regime.
For all his failures and fabulously corrupt relatives,
Karzai can easily solve the dilemma the West can’t even frame accurately:
Question: What does the Taliban and its allies want?
Answer: Power.
So Karzai is talking to Haqqani, and probably Taliban leaders,
to see if there’s a governing arrangement
that will give him a role in post-NATO Afghanistan
and doesn’t lead to his execution after the last NATO trooper leaves.
The chance of this is near nil, however,
and so Karzai and his family
will have to step up the pace of their alleged thievery
and get ready for an early exit
that leaves the West holding the bag.


The bottom line is that
the United States and NATO stand defeated in Afghanistan.
Under McChrystal, Petraeus, or Obama himself
the counterinsurgency strategy now being flogged
has been intellectually bankrupt from its inception.
No better proof of this can be found than the fact that
the part of the policy meant to address the Afghans’ ‘quality of life’
has been a substantial success....
Kilcullen, Nagl and their colleagues argued that such success
would prompt the Afghans
to turn away from the Taliban’s religiosity and nationalism
and isolate that purportedly small force
from a population swelling with delight and loyalty to Karzai
because of material improvements.
In short, a social science-powered, mini-New Deal in Afghanistan
would win with minimal use of US-NATO military power
because Afghans would joyfully jettison God and country
for better teeth and smoother roads.

Well, no such thing occurred.
As the trend line for these accomplishments rose,
the positive trend line for the Taliban-led insurgency rose faster.
The once southern-Afghanistan-based insurgency spread across the nation;
the Taliban and its allies struck in Kabul at their pleasure;
and the large military/social-work operation
to clear insurgents from Marjah District in Helmand Province—
framed as the test case to validate US-NATO strategy—
became, in McChrystal’s words, an endless, ‘bleeding ulcer’
as the Taliban has gradually reasserted control there.


A week’s reading at the local library about the occupations of Afghanistan
by Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union
shows each empire was sooner or later defeated and evicted—
Alexander lasted longest because he built Greek colonies—
by the most basic Afghan trait
which has been transparently and overwhelmingly dominant
since the 4th century B.C.:
Afghans refuse to tolerate foreign occupation and rule.

[Well, that’s the lesson from history from Michael Scheuer.
The factions of the American political scene
that want us to stay in Afghanistan “forever”
in order to secure “human rights” for Afghan women
have found a different niche of Afghan history to point to.
We shall see which has more validity.
I vote with Scheuer, but I admittedly have a strong anti-feminist bias.]

US Must Grow Up On Pakistan
by Michael Scheuer
The Diplomat, 2010-07-26

Pakistan has done more than was in its own interests
in the war on terror.
Its support for the US has left it with a civil war.


Here’s how Afghanistan ends —
America loses, Islam wins, and a new Muslim generation joins the jihad

by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2011-06-10


Who Should Apologize for Afghanistan?
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2012-02-26


On the issue of “apologies,”
it is clear that one is due,
it is due to the American people
and especially to American parents
who have lost sons or daughters
to members of the so-called Afghan Forces
who have shot the U.S. and NATO soldiers who trained them.

I always try to avoid saying “I told you so,”
but since I published Imperial Hubris in 2004
I have written on numerous occasions that

the idea that the U.S. and NATO
were going to be able to train
an Afghan military/security/police force
that could defend the country
and the social and political values
Washington and its allies sought to impose on Afghans
was a piece of absolute of nonsense.

I argued that those we trained would kill our soldiers,
ultimately help the Taleban to throw NATO out of the country,
and thereafter divide along ethnic lines for the coming civil war.

Right and left came down hard on me for making these points,
the former claiming I was a Bush hater
and the latter that I was a an anti-Afghan racist
["Racist" - ha ha ha.
The accusation of "racism" has been reduced to an absurdity.
The pin-heads who make the accusation (many with Ph.D.'s)
only move from lie to lie to demean those who would speak truth
to the politically correct lying scum.]

because I refused to see how much
the Afghans were desirous and capable
of uniting their nation under a secular democracy.
Well, I hated neither Bush nor the Afghans —
I simply hate those U.S. and Western politicians
who refuse to see reality and read history
and so get our soldier-children killed for no good reason.


On Afghanistan, Mrs. Clinton owes an apology to Americans on behalf of Democrats and Republicans
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2012-07-05

[An excellent analysis.
Issues that the decision-making and opinion-leading "elite" have ignored,
to the great detriment of those Americans who are concerned with things other than
the welfare of Israel and the interests of feminism.
As to why John McCain supports this war,
rather than an effort to regain American manufacturing strength,
about which he has unwisely said "those jobs are not coming back",
it seems hard to imagine a reason other than that
he is controlled by people who do not have America's best interests at heart.

Anyhow, here are some of the errors Scheuer lists,
and how he introduces the subject.
I have emphasized in red those issues that I agree with most heartily.]

For those who might ask
what Mrs. Clinton has to apologize for to Americans,
try the following on for size.


For both parties’ insane obsession with building a secular democracy —
complete with a parliament and Western-style rights for women —
in a deeply Islamic Afghanistan.
Obama, Biden, Bush, Cheney, Clinton, Powell, Lieberman, Graham, and McCain
are all personally responsible for
getting U.S. and NATO military personnel killed, wounded, and de-limbed
for such demented goals as
allowing Afghans to vote and Mrs. Mohammad to hold a parliamentary seat.

[I think Scheuer takes too narrow a view when he blames the American politicians for the terrible errors they have made.
Sure, they must take direct responsibility,
but their course was preordained by the puppetmasters who control
the media and the campaign funding.
There is a voluminous literature on that subject.]

For the bipartisan decision not to “win” in Afghanistan
and to never mention the word “victory.”
This piece of genius will permit the Taleban‘s return to power
and the continued basing of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
And the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan —
when added to our earlier departure-without-victory in Iraq —
is likely to galvanize the rising generation of young Muslim males
in a pro-jihad direction,
just as the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan in 1989
galvanized bin Laden’s generation.

[I am not sure how Scheuer reconciles the above request
with the one below.
Scheuer, in his two books Imperial Hubris and Marching to Hell,
has, it seems to me, quite clearly stated that
an eventual de facto Taliban victory in Afghanistan is inevitable.]

For two administrations’ willingness to extend
what should have been a 12-to-15-month punitive expedition
into a 13-year lost war
that wasted every American life and dollar that was spent in its pursuit
and has left U.S. interests far more vulnerable to Islamist militants
than they were in 2001.

For Obama’s decision
to keep U.S. and British soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan
after he decided to concede America’s defeat there,
a decision that has allowed
the U.S.-and-British trained Afghan army and police personnel
to shoot their trainers,
as happened to the British last week and to our soldiers this past weekend.

For Democratic and Republican election-year deceitfulness
in claiming that the war against al-Qaeda and its allies is being won,
when a quick look at the data and any map of the world
will show that Islamist forces are far more numerous, well-armed —
thanks to the Arab Spring, and much more geographically dispersed in 2012
than they were in 2001.

For the continuing bipartisan political, academic, and media lie
that holds the United States is being attacked by Islamist fighters
because of its freedom, elections, and gender equality.
All leaders in these fields know the Islamists are waging war on America
because of the impact of
Washington’s interventionist foreign policy in the Muslim world.
The politicians, journalists, and academics prefer, however,
not to rock the boat
that brings them benefits from domestic and foreign lobbies
and so push the lie
that will ultimately cause the United States to bleed to death in terms of lives, money, and prestige.

Benghazi is bad, but Obama’s Afghan surrender is much worse
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2012-10-22

The mujahedin’s tactical victory over the United States in Benghazi
is significant, but its importance pales in comparison to
the strategic victory Obama and his predecessors
have handed to the mujahedin in Afghanistan.

As justifiable furor continues
over the Obama administration’s blatant negligence in Benghazi,
the Washington Post, on 19 October 2012,
helpfully published an OpEd entitled
The U.S. isn’t losing in Afghanistan,”
a disingenuous piece that tries to assist Obama
by portraying as success
the president’s abject willingness to accept — and even assist —
America’s strategic defeat in Afghanistan.

The author is a man named John Nagl,
a former Army officer, a self-proclaimed “expert” on insurgency,
and now a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.


The [situation described above] amounts to utter defeat,
and Mr. Nagl’s assertion that America can control
the now-growing threat in Afghanistan
with air power and Special Forces after the U.S.-led coalition departs
is quite simply a self-serving, American-killing piece of nonsense.
The commonsense bottom line is that
U.S. counterterrorism doctrine failed in Afghanistan.
We have lost the war there, and, soon after next January’s inauguration,
our new president will find that
  • the Islamist threat to America
    is greater and geographically broader
    than it was at 9/11;
  • that the U.S. military and its equipment are worn out,
    while the mujahedin are thriving with upgraded weaponry;
    and that
  • American parents are becoming decidedly less eager
    to contribute their sons and daughters to die
    in wars our presidents and generals never mean to win
    and apparently do not mind losing.


A Memorial Day postscript, more Obama-made death is delivered to the U.S. military
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2014-05-28


On the day after his trip to Afghanistan to try to fool us into believing
that he and his party care about the lives of America’s soldier-children,
[President] Obama announced that]
he is going to leave about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the main body withdraws.
These troops are going to train the Afghan army —
which spends much of its time killing U.S. and NATO troops —
and conduct “counter-terrorism missions” against the Taleban and their allies,
to whom Obama and his party are giving Afghanistan back
as a base from which to attack the United States.

Now tell me, what does Obama think that 10,000 U.S. troops —
of whom, at best, 1 in 3 is a shooter —
can do to stem the coming, Obama-ensured Taleban tidal wave
that will soon control Afghanistan,
when an army of 125,000 U.S. and NATO troops could do nothing but lose
to the Taleban and its Islamist allies.
The idea that 10,000 troops —
being attacked from the Taleban in front and the anti-U.S. Afghan army from behind —
can do what 125,000 could not
is a conclusion that only a reality-averse, Harvard-educated ideologue
could come up with.
Obama is deliberately consigning the 10,000 stay-behinders
to a slow-motion nightmare of death and maiming
in the name of a democratic regime in Kabul
that does not now and never will exist.
This decision presents Obama, more than ever, as our murderer-in-chief.

And so why is Obama marooning 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan,
a place where we have no friends and which is bigger than Texas?...

[I do not agree with everything Scheuer says or infers in the above,
but I reprint those statements in my blog as a point-of-view worth considering.
In particular, I agree that it is very questionable
whether the Taliban insurgency can be defeated,
and if it can not, then why are we asking our troops
to suffer the casualties and injuries, physical and mental,
that they will inevitable incur if they remain in Afghanistan as targets of the Taliban?
What can they actually accomplish?

I am quite certain that that is a central cause of
the discipline and morale problems the Army is now having
(just as it did in the Vietnam War, and for some of the same reasons
(some, but not all, since this is not a drafted Army)),
brought to light by the New York Times article about
the problems in POW-captive Bowe Bergdahl's platoon.]


Rescue America by leaving Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to Mr. Putin
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2015-10-18

So why is the U.S. military staying longer in Afghanistan to keep bleeding
in a war that was lost long ago?

Why do we care what happens in Afghanistan after already losing the war,
wasting the lives and limbs of several thousand U.S. Marines and soldiers,
and expending a trillion wasted dollars, a goodly part of which cannot be accounted for?

The answer to each of these questions is that President Obama and his party
(and apparently many Republicans and the Joint Chiefs of Staff)
do not give a tinkers’ damn about the lives of our military personnel —
in Afghanistan, Iraq, or the hospitals of the Veterans Administration —
because most do not vote Democratic and because the Democrats will soon have in their thrall
millions of illegal-immigrants made into illegal-voters by the Democratic criminals who govern California.
The latter issue, and the 2nd Amendment’s role in it,
is a story for another time, but there is an answer to Afghanistan
and it goes as follows.

First, acknowledge that the Afghan war is irretrievably lost.
The Joint Chiefs are now headed by a Marine general, Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.,
for whom truth, courage, regard for his troops’ lives, and frank manliness ought to be second nature,
and who has been taught that the best generals know victory when they see it,
but also know and admit when they are beaten and prefer to stop the waste that is the only product of reinforcing defeat.
He should publicly say what he knows to be true and then resign his post.

Second, welcome and act to immediately exploit the tremendous opportunity to escape Afghanistan
presented to the United States by Russian President Putin.
Putin already has the Russian military positioned to further intervene in the Ukraine.
He also has started what will be a long, costly, and losing war in Syria,
a place that holds a potential threat to Russian security because of the thousands of Russian and CIS Muslims –
up to 7,000 the Russian media claim —
who are fighting there alongside the Islamic State.
The real and immediate Islamist threat to Russia and the CIS states, however, is Afghanistan.

Third, recognize that the Afghan threat that Putin’s Russia now encounters is far more formidable than the one from Syria.
Afghanistan has a long and relatively undefended border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan,
and each of these Central Asian states — add Kyrgyzstan to the three noted —
has a restive and increasingly militant Muslim population;
all four also have contingents of their nationals
fighting with the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
This is a problem in itself for Moscow, but Russia’s outlook is further darkened by
the growing power of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan — note the recent battles in Kunduz —
and the fact that much of the currently non-Taliban population of the northern region are ethnic Central Asians,
many of whom fought as mujahedin against the Red Army in the Afghan-Soviet War (1979-1992)
and still seek revenge on the Russians for their barbarity in that war.

Fourth, conclude that the Taliban’s growing strength in the north is bad enough for Russia,
but that the arrival and quick numerical growth and geographic dispersal of Islamic State (IS) forces
gives Moscow, the Central Asian regimes, and China a near-term and deeply unsettling nightmare.
IS forces, of course, are in Afghanistan to try to displace the Taliban
as the primary Sunni Islamist organization in the country and region.
They also are there, however, to try to expand the IS’s caliphate
into Iran, India, and Pakistan, but most especially into Central Asia and western China.
This is a reality that Putin, the Central Asian leaders, and Beijing cannot ignore.
They would have to fill the Afghan void created if the U.S. military presence and U.S. funding are terminated
because neither the Kabul government nor its military are viable
without substantial and prolonged foreign military protection and money.

Fifth, regard any U.S. politician, pundit, reverend, or academic who whines that
a complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would betray “our Afghan allies”
as a person to be netted and packed off to an asylum.
[The news media, and her fellow Democrats, really need to pin down Hillary Clinton
on that issue.
I doubt if they will do that,
but let her escape with the remark that
"we'll have to see how things go.
It all depends".
Yeah, right.
Anybody sane and competent knows exactly how "things will go".
Feminism will never be viable in Afghanistan
without foreign military involvement to support it.]

The Afghan regime will not fight, cannot govern, stole tens of billions of U.S. dollars, traffics in heroin,
and is asking Russia for military and financial assistance.
Clearly, the United States can only gain by losing this ally.

In their totality, these five factors demand
a quick and complete termination of the U.S. military presence in and funding for Afghanistan.
Such an action will get U.S. Marines and soldiers out of harm’s way,
save the bankrupt U.S. Treasury from borrowing billions more from China to give to the thieves in Kabul,
and, most important, leave Putin mired in expensive, lengthy, highly lethal, and losing interventions.

Unlike mindless, democracy-mongering U.S. interventionists, moreover,
Putin must stay the course and try to win militarily in each theater
because each poses a genuine national security threat to Russia;
the strategically vital Crimea cannot be returned to the U.S.-EU-created, anti-Russia regime in Ukraine;
the many thousands of Islamist fighters from Russia, the North Caucuses, and Central Asia now serving with IS in Syria/Iraq
cannot be ignored until they return home as skilled and veteran mujahedin;
and Central Asia cannot be allowed to be inundated by IS-led Islamists
who will recruit numerous local fighters and civilian supporters
and wage war against the four Central Asian regimes,
none of which is much if any better than the Afghan regime in terms of governing capabilities and military prowess.

With the stroke of his fabled pen — and, for once, constitutionally —
President Obama can turn over Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to President Putin
and let him supply the immense amounts of soon-to-be wasted money and blood
that have heretofore been provided by U.S. taxpayers and their soldier-children.
Putting this mess on Putin’s plate should keep Russia stuck and bleeding lives and resources for years
and would intensify the Shia-Sunni war that is an unmerited godsend for the United States —
and perhaps for Europe, if it can muster enough manliness to evict unarmed, unwanted, and social-cohesion destroying refugees.

The only effective U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, then, is to immediately and totally withdraw;
stop berating Putin as he tries – but will fail — to defend Russia’s genuine national interests in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan;
quietly rebuild the worn U.S. military for use in decisively closing the southern border;
and silently observe and learn from Russia the immense costs involved in necessary and losing foreign interventions,
while reflecting on the enormous human and monetary costs the U.S. governing elite has incurred
with its always bipartisan, always unnecessary, and always losing overseas interventions.


President Trump: Afghanistan is your easiest task — GET OUT
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2017-02-17

[This seems a really excellent historical summary of the problems
the British, Russian, and NATO forces have had fighting Afghans over the years.
It is far too long to be reprinted in this blog,
but is well worth following the link and reading it at its source.]

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