In a half-hour interview on Afghanistan Tuesday I mused about how Washington’s generals and Pentagon-subservient policymakers thought the U.S. might be able to be the first outside nation to prevail in Afghanistan. And, prevail or not, what the MICIMATT saw to gain in waging this "endless war."
Generally, it was hard to put it better than Ron Paul already has:
The military industrial complex spent 20 years on the gravy train with the Afghanistan war. They built missiles, they built tanks, they built aircraft and helicopters. They hired armies of lobbyists and think tank writers to continue the lie that was making them rich. They wrapped their graft up in the American flag, but they are the opposite of patriots.
Defeat No Surprise
But how to explain the ignominious events of recent days? I offered two speculative possibilities:
(1) When top US generals were ordered to withdraw completely from Afghanistan they decided deliberately to make the withdrawal as messy as could be. How better to demonstrate that "civilian authority" does not know what it is doing and might even have to send some of the withdrawn military units, or new ones, back into Afghanistan.
Nine weeks ago, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command announced that the US would not conduct airstrikes to support Afghan security forces after it withdraws its remaining troops from Afghanistan, the head of US Central Command. McKenzie said the US will conduct airstrikes in Afghanistan only when plans to conduct terrorist attacks against the American homeland, or those of its allies, have been uncovered.
“That would be the reason for any strikes that we do in Afghanistan after we leave,” he told Voice of America while aboard a military plane headed for the Middle East. “[It] would have to be that we’ve uncovered someone who wants to attack the homeland of the United States, one of our allies and partners.”
Tipping Off the Taliban?
The Taliban knew only too well what that would mean for the ease with which they could cut deals with the celebrated "300,000"-man, well trained and equipped Afghan Army. (It is impossible to believe that McKenzie knew less.) So the Taliban and marched on one provincial capital after another, arriving at Kabul Sunday. Things got messy right quick.
(2) Or, the US generals could not see beyond their benighted confidence that there would be ample time for a more orderly withdrawal. Support for this view comes from the feckless way the generals got us into Afghanistan in the first place. In yesterday’s interview, I alluded to some very basic things, drilled into me at Infantry Officer School at Fort Benning and Intelligence Officer School (then at Fort Holabird). Could the generals have forgotten the basics: as in the requirement to perform an "Estimate of the Situation" before launching an operation into places like Afghanistan?
"The Estimate of the Situation"
Here are the key elements of this necessary step, as I remember them:
A – Enemy: number, disposition, weaponry, motivation, morale, etc.
B – Terrain
C – Weather
D – LOCS: Lines of Communication and Supply
Not taking these key factors into account is largely why Afghanistan is deservedly known as the "graveyard of Empires." The armies of Persia, Mongolia, India, England, the Soviet Union already learned this the hard way. Only Alexander the Great was smart enough to turn around and go back to Asia Minor where he knew what he was doing.
Is it possible that the image of another shining star on the shoulder (not to mention lucrative post-retirement sinecures on the Boards of Lockheed, Raytheon, and/or with MSNBC and CNN) blinded our generals into skipping the mandatory "Estimate of the Situation" – both as the US got into Afghanistan and now out?
The interview ended with a brief discussion of the implications of the recent events in Afghanistan for attitudes abroad – in key places like Taiwan and in Europe, for example.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).