No, the War in Afghanistan Did Not End

Yesterday afternoon, an AP article proudly announced to us that the war in Afghanistan has ended:
AP hed

Unfortunately, the AP headline is total bullshit. There was indeed a ceremony in Kabul yesterday. And yes, it did mark (for the second time), the end of the international force called ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) assembled under NATO as the lead in the war in Afghanistan. The new NATO mission, dubbed Operation Resolute Support, also under NATO leadership, is proclaimed most often to consist only of training and support to Afghan forces who will do all the fighting.

The problem with that description is that it is a lie. Just over a month ago, Barack Obama “secretly” expanded the role of US troops remaining in Afghanistan:

President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

But to AP, the only message worthy of being in their headline and lede paragraph is that the war has ended:

The war in Afghanistan, fought for 13 bloody years and still raging, came to a formal end Sunday with a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul that marked the transition of the fighting from U.S.-led combat troops to the country’s own security forces.

The reader has to hang in there for another dozen paragraphs or so before reaching the admission of the expanded role of US troops and the reason for that expansion:

Obama recently expanded the role of U.S. forces remaining in the country, allowing them to extend their counter-terrorism operations to the Taliban, as well as al-Qaida, and to provide ground and air support for Afghan forces when necessary for at least the next two years.

In a tacit recognition that international military support is still essential for Afghan forces, national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar told the gathered ISAF leaders: “We need your help to build the systems necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the critical capabilities of our forces.”

More than ten years after starting our “training” mission, Afghan troops remain unable to defend the country on their own and must rely on US troops.

Of course, the military knows that they have this expanded role. Here is the video the military provided on the transition ceremony:

Note that at around 38 seconds, the narrator says “combat by American forces on counterterrorism operations will continue”. You can bet they will.

Oh, and for a righteous rant on this whole charade, scroll back to yesterday on James Risen’s Twitter feed.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

12 replies
  1. TarheelDem says:

    Shhhh , Jim. It’s time to give the veterans their victory parade; otherwise, there will be yet another Dolchstoßlegende to rally the guys in their camos who never served and who are rushing to buy more AR-15s at each announcement the President makes.

    Let’s just declare a holiday in early spring and give them the big parade they always wanted and call it the Victory in Vietnam Finally parade. The first Wednesday in April sounds like a wonderful day to celebrate this victory in every small town in America, don’t you think? U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A. And go long on the bunting manufacturers and flagmakers.

    Next question is for Congress. If we’re out of there, what are the appropriations for? Oh, is it the US minders?

  2. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    The primary source of opiates on this planet is Afghanistan. There is a decent chance that the heroin addicts in your city can trace the heroin they inject back to Afghanistan. The havoc this addiction visits on our people dwarfs any terrorist activity that originates in Afghanistan. Last month the UNODC in their 2014 Annual Opium Survey reported that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan had increased by 7% over 2013 and opiate production had increased by as much as 17% during that same period. NATO’s program to eradicate poppy cultivation is a total failure. Guess who is taxing and profiting from this cultivation: the Taliban. Mission accomplished my ass!

    • RUKidding says:

      No offense intended, but the whole deal with opium production in Afghanistan IS “Mission Accomplished.” One THE first things that happened once we had boots on the ground there was the CIA re-establishing poppy cultivation and then opium/heroin production. Not kidding. Pretty established fact.
      *
      My understanding (not sure) is that the Taliban – after the Soviet War – had pretty much eradicated poppy/opium production amongst the various tribes, but once the CIA became large & in charge, that changes STAT.
      *
      My *speculation* is that the CIA managed to get the Taliban “on side” with this renewed “industry” by sweetening the deal by giving them a cut.
      *
      Done and done. CIA has long been in the drug and gun running “business.” Just ask Gary Webb… oh wait… you can’t. CIA made out like banditos during Viet Nam due to production in the Golden Triangle. Same old in Afghanistan.
      *
      It’s likely that it was Afghani horse that killed Phillip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year. The addiction of US citizens is a happy by-product. More citizens on the nod, less useless eaters bitching.
      *
      Mission Accomplished!!

  3. Don Bacon says:

    The NATO Secretary-General didn’t get the memo:

    At the end of this year, we complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and open a new chapter in our relationship with Afghanistan. The security of Afghanistan will be fully in the hands of the country’s 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police. But NATO Allies, together with many partner nations, will remain to train, advise and assist them.

    But, see, the US operations will be “counter-terrorism” and not war, because the war on terror is not really war, well some of it has been, but now it’s not….it’s so confusing.
    .
    SecDef Hagel

    In Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the United States will pursue two missions with the support of the Afghan government and the Afghan people. We will work with our allies and partners as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to continue training, advising, and assisting Afghan security forces. And we will continue our counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al-Qaeda to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to stage attacks against our homeland.

    .
    .
    Obama: “On this day,” Obama said in a statement, “we give thanks to our troops and intelligence personnel who have been relentless against the terrorists responsible for 9/11 — devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives. We are safer, and our nation is more secure, because of their service.”
    .
    General Dunford estimated 50-75 al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
    But Long War Journal takes a different view.

    One of the arguments used by the Obama administration for a rapid drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2016 is that the US and the Coalition have reduced al Qaeda there to “remnants.”
    .
    To the contrary, however, a study by The Long War Journal of International Security Force press releases detailing raids against al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan shows that, since ISAF began reporting on these raids, jihadist groups have maintained a persistent presence in the country. ISAF’s data is generally backed up by independent press reports, as well as al Qaeda and allied groups’ own propaganda on their operations throughout Afghanistan.

    .
    Anyhow it’s another turning point, of dozens, for the US.–
    Dec 15, 2014: Obama: So, stepping back for a moment, we’re at a turning point [in Iraq and Afghanistan].
    .
    PS: The Taliban didn’t get the message either. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called Sunday’s Kabul event a “defeat ceremony” and said his forces would keep fighting.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    “Together … we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future,” US Gen. John Campbell told assembled NATO troops. “You’ve made Afghanistan stronger and our countries safer.”
    .
    The ceremony was arranged in secret due to the threat of Taliban strikes in the Afghan capital, which has been hit by repeated suicide bombings and gun attacks over recent years.–AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

  5. Don Bacon says:

    In the blue and white gymnasium on ISAF’s main headquarters, a small brass military band played in the corner as US General Joseph Campbell rolled up the green flag emblazoned with ISAF for the International Security Assistance Force, he has commanded since August.
    .
    He unfurled a green flag with RS on it – the new colors as the military call them, of the NATO Resolute SurrenderSupport force that takes over on January 1.
    .
    The two new US stooges supposedly running the country were unable to attend.
    .
    The Taliban said today that the fact coalition forces had to hold a small withdrawal ceremony in a secure location proves that they’re won the war after 13 years.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    “Together … we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future,” US Gen. John Campbell told assembled NATO troops. “You’ve made Afghanistan stronger and our countries safer.”
    .
    For you “turning point” fans — you know who you are — the present US commander over there in the graveyard of empires giving us this BS spoke to that on a previous tour of duty.
    .
    May 9, 2011: MajGen John Campbell: “But I really do think that as people look back, and they’ll say 2010 was the year in Afghanistan. It’s the year that we finally put more resources in here. We had the right leadership, the right strategy. And I think that was a turning point.”
    .
    The “right leadership” from July 4, 2010 was…..David Petraeus. So Campbell was sucking up back then. He still is, because that’s how he got to be a general and he can’t change. –“We have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future,”
    .
    Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan
    brown,
    For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the
    Christian down;
    And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of
    the late deceased,
    And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the
    East.”
    .
    Campbell is certainly a fool, like most generals, so he’s made for the job.

  7. Don Bacon says:

    some amusement, from Reuters:
    “Retired Afghan leader meets, advises successor ‘almost daily'”
    .
    Or, two Afghans on US payroll discuss things, like how to increase the payroll.

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