August 18, 2018

After 17 bloody years, the longest war in US history continues without relent or purpose in Afghanistan.

There, a valiant, fiercely-independent people, the Pashtun (Pathan) mountain tribes, have battled the full  might of the US Empire to a stalemate that has so far cost American taxpayers $4 trillion, and 2,371 dead and 20,320 wounded soldiers.  No one knows how many Afghans have died. The number is kept secret.

Pashtun tribesmen in the Taliban alliance and their allies are fighting to oust all foreign troops from Afghanistan and evict the western-imposed and backed puppet regime in Kabul that pretends to be the nation’s legitimate government.  Withdraw foreign troops and the Kabul regime would last for only days. 

The whole thing smells of the Vietnam War.  Lessons so painfully learned by America in that conflict have been completely forgotten and the same mistakes repeated.  The lies and happy talk from politicians, generals and media continue apace.  

This week, Taliban forces occupied the important strategic city of Ghazni on the road from Peshawar to Kabul.  It took three days and massive air attacks by US B-1 heavy bombers, Apache helicopter gun ships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and massed warplanes from US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and the 5th US Fleet to finally drive back the Taliban assault.  Taliban also overran key military targets in Kabul and the countryside, killing hundreds of government troops in a sort of Afghan Tet offensive.

Afghan regime police and army units put up feeble resistance or ran away.   Parts of Ghazni were left in ruins.  It was a huge embarrassment to the US imperial generals and their Afghan satraps who had claimed ‘the corner in Afghanistan has finally been turned.’

Efforts by the Trump administration to bomb Taliban into submission have clearly failed.   US commanders fear using American ground troops in battle lest they suffer serious casualties.  Meanwhile, the US is running low on bombs.

Roads are now so dangerous for the occupiers that most movement must be by air.  Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan.  That number would rise to 100% were it not for omnipresent US air power.  Taliban rules the night.

Taliban are not and never were ‘terrorists’ as Washington’s war propaganda falsely claimed.  I was there at the creation of the movement – a group of Afghan religious students armed by Pakistan whose goal was to stop post-civil war banditry, the mass rape of women, and to fight the Afghan Communists.  When Taliban gained power, it eliminated 95% of the rampant Afghanistan opium-heroin trade. After the US invaded, allied to the old Afghan Communists and northern Tajik tribes, opium-heroin production soared to record levels.  Today, US-occupied Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, morphine and heroin. 

US occupation authorities claim drug production is run by Taliban.  This is another big lie.  The Afghan warlords who support the regime of President Ashraf Ghani entirely control the production and export of drugs.  The army and secret police get a big cut.  How else would trucks packed with drugs get across the border into Pakistan and Central Asia? 

The United States has inadvertently become one of the world’s leading drug dealers.  This is one of the most shameful legacies of the Afghan War.  But just one.  Watching the world’s greatest power bomb and ravage little Afghanistan, a nation so poor that some of its people can’t afford sandals, is a huge dishonor for Americans.

Even so, the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj.  The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.

Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan.  One hears talk of minerals, women’s rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense.  A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup.  They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims. 

Interestingly, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ supposedly found in Afghanistan in 2001 were actually guerilla training camps run by Pakistani intelligence to train Kashmiri rebels and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.

The canard that the US had to invade Afghanistan to get at Osama bin Laden, alleged author of the 9/11 attacks, is untrue.  The attacks were made by Saudis and mounted from Hamburg and Madrid, not Afghanistan.  I’m not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks. 

My late friend and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave shared my doubts and insisted that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to a court in a Muslim nation to prove his guilt or innocence.  

President George Bush, caught sleeping on guard duty and humiliated, had to find an easy target for revenge – and that was Afghanistan. 

Copyright  Eric S. Margolis   2018

This post is in: Afghanistan, USA


  1. I, too, watched the PBS documentary on the Vietnam War, which incidentally did not address the question of the influence of the military-industrial complex in the way the military campaign was carried out. But, as was the case with the Vietnam War, the US has no end game or strategy to win. Even Trump must know in his own mind that this war is unwinnable for the US and its puppet government in Kabul. His administration might well look for an early truce / ceasefire of some kind that would allow the Americans to beat a quick retreat and open the door for the Taliban to complete its takeover of the country.

    • Mike Smith says:

      One of Trumps campaign promises was to disengage and move out of Afghanistan… of course until the deep state type started advising him… Season Six of Homeland is starting to look almost like a documentary the way ” senior advisors ” control intelligence information to guarantee the outcome they want to see… it is amazing that US intelligence was budgeted ( on paper not including hidden funding ) at 59.9 Billion while Russia has a Defense budget of 61 Billion. Should be the military-industrial-intelligence complex…

  2. Mike Smith says:

    Looks like Russia will be hosting peace talks with the Taliban and regional players… I noticed they said nothing of US involvement…

  3. In December 1998, Former US Defence Secretary Ash Carter, US Undersecretary of Defence John Deutch and Philip Zelikow, Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, colluded to write this in Foreign Affairs Journal,

    A successful attack with weapons of mass destruction could certainly take thousands, or tens of thousands, of lives. If the device that exploded in 1993 under the World Trade Center had been nuclear, or had effectively dispersed a deadly pathogen, the resulting horror and chaos would have exceeded our ability to describe it. Such an act of catastrophic terrorism would be a watershed event in American history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented in peacetime and undermine America’s fundamental sense of security, as did the Soviet atomic bomb test in 1949. Like Pearl Harbor, this event would divide our past and future into a before and after. The United States might respond with draconian measures, scaling back civil liberties, allowing wider surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and use of deadly force. More violence could follow, either further terrorist attacks or U.S. counterattacks.

    I find it curious it happened just like that 3 years later, and one of the Authors was able to control what information the 9/11 Commission was able to see?

    It was within weeks of 9/11 the US came out with WAR PLANS to change regimes in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and at THE END, Iran.

    Republican Bush did Iraq in 2003.
    Democrat Obama did Libya and started the Syrian Regime Change phase of the 2001 US WAR PLAN in 2011.
    Trump is following that same 2001 US WAR PLAN leading to THE END with his Declaration of Economic Warfare against Iran to destroy their Economy before using bombs.

    With that History, maybe there really is a US Deep State pulling the strings behind the Republican/Democratic/Trumpian facade?

  4. The word on the street; I asked a contract pilot recently returned from tours in Afghanistan: Why is the US still there? His response: “To keep China from getting control of rare earth minerals.” And then: What about the opium trade. “To prop up the government.” He couldn’t understand why the local army troops could be seeing mixing and having tea with the Taliban. The “Great Game” continues with different players. The current US foreign policy seems to be to be give allies a continuuous bloody nose if they don’t comply, whereas China wraps itself around a country (with roads and rails) like a boa constrictor in a symbiotic relation: Don’t resist and we won’t squeeze. The Pashtuns seem to operate on their own code of honor, whereas the US projects none. Churchill wanted to bomb the “tribes” a 100 yrs ago to pacify them, it didn’t work then and drones won’t work now. Graveyard of Empires describes the situation exactly.

  5. Mike Smith says:

    ” I’m not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks ” I am very glad someone is still saying this… Also doesn’t the story that they killed bin Laden and dumped his body in the ocean smell as well ? A public trial would have been so interesting… considering so much of the ” evidence ” was either heresay or altered.

    • My understanding is that he had absolutely nothing to do with the 9-11 attack. I understand that he was pleased that it happened, but planning and execution were done by others.
      The FBI suspected him of bombing a consulate, but, that’s it; they did not believe he was connected with the twin towers… Most Americans think he was responsible… the state of their news agencies.

  6. Cal McKerral says:

    Dear Mr. Margolis

    You may not classify the Taliban as a “terrorist” group, but their many victims and victim survivors. might disagree. Setting off a truckload of explosives in a marketplace might fit the definition.

    As a longtime and faithful reader I love the clarity and perspective you bring along with your years of experience.

    Keep up the great work!

    Cal McKerral
    Orleans, ON

    • Mike Smith says:

      What is the difference if those explosives were in a truck, or dropped from a plane, or fired in a missile ? von clausewitz defined war as foreign policy by other means… if he was around today he might well describe terrorism as war by other means…

    • To me, there’s not much difference between carpet bombing a bunch of civilians from 30,000 feet, or detonating a bus.
      Same mentality and same end result… the survivors likely never thought of the similarity.
      A couple of years back, there was a guy causing problems for a bus rider that was wearing a headscarf… his son had been killed in Afghanistan. I stepped in an told the fellow that she had nothing whatsoever to do with his son’s death, and to leave her alone. I ended the conversation with a statement, “Did you ever question why your son was over there?”


  7. You forgot USSR from the defeated invading armies list.

    • geofromnj says:

      Excellent point. The Soviet empire collapsed as a result of the nine year Soviet-Afghan war which cost the Soviets 14,500 dead, 53,700 wounded. and minimally 18b rubles.

  8. I think your article has two grievous errors. First, I don’t think it is possible to shame the Americans; they are the bullies on the block and have no concern about world opinion. Secondly, I don’t think it is possible to embarrass the Americans. They shrug off their actions realising that, for economic reasons, no power will stand up and ‘point a finger’.
    The Pashtun, are not only tough and ‘wirey’ (I mean them no racial disrespect), but have a strong sense of honour. With Bin Laden, he was a guest and they refused to hand over someone that was invited. A sense of honour, unknown to the Americans. They had offered to give him up to a country that would treat him fairly, once the Americans had provided them with proof. This was not forthcoming, because there was no proof… ,and, everyone is familiar with the results, extrajudicial murder, for lack of a better term. So much for ‘Rule of Law’.
    Being the ‘graveyard of the Empires’, the Americans have joined a noble following as you note. They are not yet done, and, I’m not sure why they remain. I’m hesitant to consider the Chinese joining this list.
    Unless the Mafia has infiltrated the US government, and, they were concerned about their heroin supply, there is nothing that can be gained. The US mobilised shortly after the opium production was reduced to nearly 100%, not 95%. Since the Americans have ‘taken over’ the opium production is at an all time high. It’s odd that the Taliban can be accused of dealing in opium, when they did their best to eliminate the poppy production. Newspapers have to stop ‘parroting’ the information they are fed, else, it will spell an end to newspapers.
    I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but, it seems to be oddly coincidental. The Americans have paid a heavy price for ‘nothing’. They don’t even ‘own’ the peasants they employ… maybe a loose ‘rental’. If the Americans were to depart today, the Taliban would take over by the end of next week.
    The number of American casualties pale in comparison to the Afghan loss. Like Iraq, the numbers will never be known. That the number is kept secret, speaks volumes. That the rest of the world and the UN says nothing, does the same.
    “Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan.” I’ll see if I can dig up the source, but, I had heard the number was closer to 70%.
    “…and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.” The Chinese would not be pleased. They could retaliate by setting up camps for training Hawaiians.

  9. Afghanistan is where Yankees and Cowboys finally meet their true match, the Afghan-Pashtuns.
    America’s heavy handed approach to foreign policy has produced the fail state of Afghanistan which is dragging down the American empire with it: Ever since the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S in 2001, America had begun its gradual but visible down fall; Economically, Diplomatically, Militarily, Technologically, in almost every metrics, America is much worse off today than 18 years ago – which was incidentally the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency,

    In January 2000, the American Empire reached the pinnacle of its capitalist success; the Boom and stock market delivered their all-time-highs along with full employment and high standard of living in the U.S and Western Europe; one couldn’t help noticing the overall sense of optimism, prosperity and security that had overwhelmed America and its western alliance; the U.S had won the cold war, Russia was in turmoil and China’s global ambition well under the U.S. control.

    But the ascension of Neocons in Washington and the election of George W. Bush put an end to all of that, the neocons cabal have hijacked the U.S. Government; they have engineered a “New World Order” and imposed their own worldviews on all Americans and the Western Alliance; the Afghan war and invasion of Iraq were the starting point of the “Neocons’ New World Order” which has been dragging down the American Empire since 2001.

    Afghanistan is where the Yankees and Cowboy meet their true match; the Afghan-Pashtuns who have historically defeated every invading empire from Alexander the Great to British-India and the Soviet Union, Pashtuns will remind the Yankees and the Cowboys that Afghanistan is indeed the Graveyard of Empires and mighty U.S. Empire is no exception.

  10. Eric’s comparison of the war in Afghanistan with the Vietnam War is quite valid. The way the Afghan war has been fought is not dissimilar to what the US did in Vietnam, where American troops would go out and fight to take particular hills or other pieces of land, then retreat to their encampments and re-fight the same battles days or weeks later. In Vietnam, the US troops aimed only to secure the major cities and towns, but little else, leaving the Vietcong to roam the countryside with impunity, much like the Taliban have been allowed to do in Afghanistan. Like the Vietcong, the Taliban have waged guerrilla warfare quite effectively and US troops are no match for them. Remember how the towns and cities supposedly secured by the American and S. Vietnamese armies were regularly infiltrated by the Vietcong, especially during the famous Tet offensive in early 1968? Much the same thing has happened in Afghanistan over the past 17 years.

    The US generals are certainly aware, much as were the top military brass during the Vietnam War, that the Afghanistan war is utterly unwinnable for the Americans. Given how the US carried out the Vietnam War and how it has waged the war in Afghanistan, without any real strategy to win either war, one could readily come to the conclusion that the actual aim of both efforts was / has been to justify the huge Pentagon budget and to keep the US military machine alive and flourishing. Indeed, the entire US economy ultimately depends on the health of the huge military-industrial sector, without which the US would almost certainly have slid into an outright depression during the 2008-2009 banking crisis. So, we can expect the Afghanistan war to continue with no end in sight, unless the current or a future US president does what Nixon did with Vietnam: come to a truce of some kind and basically walk away from the entire fiasco.

    • Mike Smith says:

      Afghanistan is more of a tragic parody of Vietnam… so much similar, yet blown up to an even further level of hypocrisy. I have recently watched the excellent documentary ” The Vietnam War ” and the movie ” War Machine ” on Netflix… Vietnam you had winnable engagements with no end game… Afghanistan it seems you get punished for even trying to accomplish the publicly declared mission.

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