There May Well Have Been an Intelligence Failure in Afghanistan

Almost as quickly as Republicans and Democrats rushed to blame the other for the humiliating fall of Afghanistan, and as quickly as bipartisan NeoCons and bipartisan anti-Imperialists blamed the other for victory of the Taliban, the Intelligence Community and DOD have rushed to blame each other.

This story is just one example, but there are many.

In 2019, U.S. spy agencies delivered a sweeping assessment known as a National Intelligence Estimate of the conflict that warned many of America’s often-stated objectives were in jeopardy even with a continued U.S. military presence, and without direct American backing all but destined to collapse.

“We would run into really serious battles with the Pentagon, which would say, ‘We’ve got boots on the ground, we know the truth,’ ” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official.

The diverging views on the war were a reflection of the institutional predispositions of military planners groomed to accept even the most daunting missions and find ways to deliver results.

In Afghanistan, “you had good people who tried mightily believing they could do it,” the former intelligence official said. “And in the end are forced to face the reality that they couldn’t.”

One thing all these parties are fighting over is whether there was an intelligence failure.

Mike Morell, like many of the spooks being interviewed, says it wasn’t his fault.

Michael Morell, the former acting and deputy director of the CIA wrote on Twitter: “What is happening in Afghanistan is not the result of an intelligence failure. It is the result of numerous policy failures by multiple administrations. Of all the players over the years, the Intelligence Community by far has seen the situation in Afghanistan most accurately.”

And he’s right: Anyone who didn’t know, going back well over a decade, that an Afghan regime would collapse without US backing simply wasn’t paying attention.

That said, just days ago the most dire intelligence predicting that the Afghan government would fall to the Taliban spoke in terms of a month, not a weekend.

The Biden administration is preparing for Afghanistan’s capital to fall far sooner than feared only weeks ago, as a rapid disintegration of security has prompted the revision of an already stark intelligence assessment predicting Kabul could be overrun within six to 12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity, said Tuesday that the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month. Some officials said that although they were not authorized to discuss the assessment, they see the situation in Afghanistan as more dire than it was in June, when intelligence officials assessed a fall could come as soon as six months after the withdrawal of the U.S. military.

At the same time, spooks saying that they didn’t know the effect that a quick withdrawal would have on the timing, even though others note the timing has always been known — including by the Taliban and our regional adversaries. That is, the IC didn’t fail to warn about how fragile the Afghan government was, but they seem to have been surprised by the snowball effect.

There are discrete decisions that do require accountability, such as the decision — apparently made by Mark Milley — that keeping Bagram running until we exited was not “tactically necessary.”

[Congressman Doug] Lamborn asks if it is “at all possible” for the United States to keep open Bagram Airfield. Gen. Milley responds that it is not tactically necessary.

If things get really bad in the days ahead, it will be because US armed forces rushed in to maintain order while the US evacuates are working at the airport rather than Bagram, which is far easier to secure.

But I do wonder whether there was not, in fact, a really dire intelligence failure having largely to do with how Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders were paid off to cede power.

On top of weakened morale and lack of air support, the best explanation for the Taliban’s quick success has to do with “surrenders” that became the only viable option for Afghan soldiers after Trump’s deal with the Taliban last year.

The spectacular collapse of Afghanistan’s military that allowed Taliban fighters to walk into the Afghan capital Sunday despite 20 years of training and billions of dollars in American aid began with a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials.

The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.

Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.


The negotiated surrenders to the Taliban slowly gained pace in the months following the Doha deal, according to a U.S. official and an Afghan officer. Then, after President Biden announced in April that U.S. forces would withdraw from Afghanistan this summer without conditions, the capitulations began to snowball.

As the militants expanded their control, government-held districts increasingly fell without a fight. Kunduz, the first key city overrun by the militants, was captured a week ago. Days of negotiations mediated by tribal elders resulted in a surrender deal that handed over the last government-controlled base to the Taliban.

Soon after, negotiations in the western province of Herat yielded the resignation of the governor, top Interior Ministry and intelligence officials and hundreds of troops. The deal was concluded in a single night.

This, too, was obviously known and knowable.

What I wonder is how far up in the Afghan government such discussions went, and if that was also known.

A really worthwhile thread from Afghanistan’s former Central Bank Governor, Ajmal Ahmady, describes rumors that the decision came from higher up.

There were multiple rumors that directions to not fight were somehow coming from above. This has been repeated by Atta Noor and Ismael Khan. Seems difficult to believe, but there remains a suspicion as to why ANSF left posts so quickly. There is something left unexplained

It describes how he kept going to work even while learning that Ghani had fled. 

On Saturday night, my family called to say that most government had already left. I was dumbfounded. A security assessment accurately forecast Taliban arrival to Kabul within 36 hours and its fall within 56 hours I got worried & purchased tickets for Monday as a precaution


Saw VP Danish leaving – reportedly for Qatar. By then it was rumored that VP Saleh had left. Ministers + others were waiting for a Fly Dubai & Emirates flights. Both were cancelled I secured a Kam Air flight Sunday 7pm. Then the floor fell: the President had already left

Almost immediately after Ghani fled, Russian news sources reported that he had taken mountains of cash with him.

Russia’s embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

That’s not unlikely — it’s just rather curious that Russia was the first to know of it.

Even as and because that happened, a diplomatic effort to negotiate a transitional government failed.

The weeks leading up to Kabul’s collapse saw a flurry of diplomatic activity by the U.S. and its allies in Qatar aimed at heading off exactly the chaotic scenes in the Afghan capital that have so horrified the world and put Joe Biden’s presidency on the defensive.

Among those efforts was a tantalizing agreement that could have guaranteed calm. Afghan and Taliban negotiators tentatively reached a deal in which all sides would declare a two-week cease-fire in exchange for President Ashraf Ghani’s resignation and the start of talks on setting up a transitional government, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

That opportunity, which hasn’t been previously reported, was lost when Ghani fled the country, according to the people. Ghani’s decision to leave Afghanistan — he said he did so to avoid a bloodbath — surprised his negotiating team in Doha, American diplomats and even his chief of staff and other top aides, said the people.

This, it seems to me, is where the real intelligence failure begins. Not even Ghani’s own ministers, according to current reports, knew he was going to flee, possibly with a chunk of cash.

And that has repercussions that may explain the rest. In his speech on Afghanistan last night, Biden described Ghani refusing to do any of the things Biden asked for in June and July. Of particular interest, Ghani seems to have refused to engage with the diplomatic effort that was undermined by Ghani’s capitulation.

I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.


When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations.  We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people.  We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically.

They failed to do any of that.

I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban.  This advice was flatly refused.  Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

No one can claim to be surprised that the Afghan military folded. That it would has been clear for over a decade.

There are real questions, though, about whether the intelligence community knew how far up the Afghan government the plans to capitulate in exchange for payment went. And that question drives further intelligence questions. Ashraf Ghani has been privy to our Afghan intelligence collection. Hamid Karzai, who is playing a clear broker role but it’s not yet clear with and for whom, likewise was privy to a lot of our intelligence collection. The Taliban have had twenty years to learn how to evade our surveillance. Russia has been stealing key technical data for the last decade, focusing closely on our Afghan operations, and they seem quite chuffed with recent events.

If some or all those people have been working in concert, and may well have been since Trump acceded to this plan last year, it would be child’s play for them to hide from US intelligence how far up the chain of command would cede to the Taliban, if not actively disinform US intelligence. And that, in turn, would make it far easier to take over the country so quickly that the Taliban were even shocked.

If that happened, then it was a real intelligence failure that explains why the US wasn’t better prepared for the collapse of the Afghan government, even without excusing self-serving claims that the Afghan military might have lasted a week or a month or a year longer than they did.

150 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Given how the CIA spread money amongst the mujahideen to frustrate the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, I’m sure Russia was happy to take a page from Langley’s playbook and return the favor. The question, as you note, is how far up the governing chain they took it.

    • Rugger9 says:

      That payback point was something I’d noted yesterday, but Ghani’s activities might be the key here. Would he be liable to have his money confiscated in Uzbekistan, since I’m reasonably sure it was ours to begin with? Heck, I’d even give the Uzbeks a finder’s fee. How much did Russia support the Taliban here, even allowing for the obvious religious question (Orthodox or atheist, which is worse in the eyes of a hyper-Sunni Muslim) regarding the alliance?

      If this narrative is correct then it went to the top and at that point there was no hope for a delay much less a fight. Looking back (with care, the situations aren’t identical) to Vietnam, we also had Westie’s sunny reports before the Tet Offensive (which was a strategic failure, wiping out much of the Viet Cong) opened American eyes watching it on the TV every night. Farther back Gallipoli went on as long as it did because of Sir Ian Hamilton’s highly optimistic dispatches.

      Getting the truth from a war zone is an old problem, even for governments. I would also speculate that much of the howling from the press is intended to protect what the courtier press most prizes: access to the people in power. So, this is so much kabuki designed to let the military brass know they’ve got cover.

      The note about GEN Milley making the decision to shut down Bagram without ensuring Kabul was ready to go is (if correct) something where Biden should ask for and get Milley’s resignation as JCS Chairman. In short, this type of planning is his job, period. Since he didn’t get it done, Milley needs to go. That would also include Milley’s failure to get the interpreters out. Depending upon the fallout, this may also take out the CENTCOM and theater commander as well.

      • Silly but True says:

        Ghani isn’t the first to try this.

        I think his success in keeping the money will relate to 1) how well Taliban sells itself as legitimate government and not illegal coup; and 2) how well Ghani convinces people he’s using Afghanistan’s money appropriately to administer the legitimate government-of-Afghanistan-in-exile vs. a fleeing oligarch who pilfered Afghanistan’s coffers from the inside.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        I agree completely about Milley. Additionally he was either complicit, or too feckless to see he was being used at Trump’s Lafayette Square debacle. Either way it was hardly the behavior you would expect from a JCS Chairman. He did a lot of attempted image repair after that but I didn’t buy it.

        I don’t believe that the military ever intended to evacuate most of the Afghans who have assisted us for the last 20 years. The application process has been absurdly complicated for a reason.

        • subtropolis says:

          Milley has been quite frank about the Lafayette Square episode. He says that he did not understand where they were going and for what purpose. Once it became clear he wasn’t able to simply shoot Humpty Dumpty the finger and walk away. He’s a frigging general, after all. Any suggestion that he should have done so also ignores the very real threat that he might have been replaced with some shitbag who was willing to go along with creating a fascist United States. The failure to understand that is surprising, given all that we’ve seen since last November.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I understand what you are saying, and agree with you, but why did he show up in fatigues at Lafayette Square ? That I would like an explanation for.

        • Rugger9 says:

          It could have been his working uniform that day, no different than me being in khakis most of the time. It hides spilled coffee better than whites.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I’m giving GEN Milley a mulligan for Lafayette Square until something surfaces that shows he was more involved in that fiasco.

          However, the point about the withdrawal planning still stands, and it should also be observed that Biden gave him more time than DJT did to get it right, which Milley failed to do.

        • madwand says:

          Yep you got it. So any evacuation that we do depends on the permission and allowance of the Taliban. All we own is the military side of the one runway airport which could be a little bit like being at the Battle of Isandlwana or the Battle of Kabul Pass if the Taliban so wanted. The plan as articulated is that evacuations will continue until August 31 at roughly 5000 a day or 70,000 people total by that time. They only do that with a firm agreement and cooperation from the Taliban. The agreement allows the US to continue to control the airspace and the Taliban have to cooperate in allowing Afghans who want to depart safe passage on the roads to the airport. Already there are reports of people being beat up on their way to the airport and the Taliban is also forbidding certain people safe transit and are putting them on house arrest with armed guards, so it is problematic as to whether we will get 70,000 out or where the cutoff point will be, but it will come is the only certainty.

        • J R in WV says:

          “The application process has been absurdly complicated for a reason.”

          The whole process was clearly designed and built with the clear intention to prevent any and all Muslim applicants from being approved for entry to the US, on the orders of then president DJT, a famous hater of everyone not blond and blue eyed, and especially those Islamic believers who worked for our various services in the ‘Stans.

          No one to blame there but Trump and his minions. Biden’s administration 7 months in hasn’t yet had a chance to rewrite those rules and to fire the un-American fascists who implemented Trump’s orders.

          I will blame the military command for utterly failing to maintain an infrastructure to extract our people regardless of the urgency needed at the end of this unfolding catastrophe. Not keeping a heavily armed military air field… plain old stupid!

          And I was just an E2 draftee a thousand years ago.

        • harpie says:

          “absurdly complicated for a reason” >>>

          [From someone who was there]:

          11:29 AM · Aug 20, 2021

          There were cabinet mtgs about this during the Trump Admin where Stephen Miller would peddle his racist hysteria about Iraq & Afghanistan. He & his enablers across gov’t would undermine anyone who worked on solving the SIV issue by devastating the system at DHS & State. (1/7)

          I tracked this issue personally in my role during my WH tenure. Pence was fully aware of the problem. We got nowhere on it because Trump/S. Miller had watchdogs in place at DOJ, DHS, State & security agencies that made an already cumbersome SIV process even more challenging. (2/7) [THREAD]

          Booby trapped [as EoH says below]

    • rip says:

      How are these payoffs made? Rubles? US real dollars or counterfeit ones? Crypto-currencies?

      Obviously several 100-million in US currency (max $100 bills) might take up some room on a copter. IOUs from a former KGB officer in rubles – not so much room or worth.

      I’ve long heard stories that the Iranians (and I’m sure the neo-Soviets) are adept at minting US currency. Why wouldn’t they be?

  2. zeke says:

    Trying not to be overly cynical, but I find it impossible to believe that the Americans are surprised that the government collapsed and/or were not better prepared. This was always going to be the outcome, and it was obvious to anyone who spent more than two days there (and wasn’t benefiting from maintaining the status quo. Looking at you, Generals). Maybe they really did think it would take several months rather than several hours, but it ultimately doesn’t matter IMHO. It doesn’t excuse the absolute immorality of leaving the way that they have, with seemingly no plan to fulfill the promises made to the Afghans that did support the Americans and no regard for the refugees that this is creating. But any government or military official that was involved in this mission that claims to be surprised at what is happening is either lying or too stupid to participate in polite society. (Yes, I’m biased and yes, this story struck a nerve. Sorry. Not really, though).

    • emptywheel says:

      This post says that the collapse was not surprising, the speed was, and the speed appears to have been driven by choices made by Ghani, and THAT may well have been a surprise.

      Biden could have accelerated SIV visas.

      Milley could have retained Bagram.

      I’m not sure what other options there were that were missed.

      • Zeke says:

        My argument is that the speed of the collapse isn’t relevant since I don’t believe that the situation would be any different if it had taken six months for the government to fall rather than two days. As for Ghani’s decisions, those should not have been a surprise given what has been apparent for years. There was no reason to believe that he was going to try to hang on and fight the good fight after NATO left, as he demonstrated repeatedly that he was every bit as corrupt and duplicitous as Karzai (but less clever). Keeping Khalilzad on as the Special Envoy made zero sense and following his advice made less so, as it was obvious how conflicted he was. It is obviously quite complicated and I do give Biden credit for acknowledging and finally ending this incredibly stupid mistake of a war, but it seems clear that there was no plan for dealing with the consequences of leaving and the end game required something more thoughtful than just pulling the military and embassy staff and fast-tracking visa applications.

      • Yancy Faith says:

        Who is ultimately responsible for SV1 visas? If the State Department is, Pompeo had gutted the department and very well may have left a monkey wrench or a ticking time bomb for the incoming Secretary of State.

        Which cabinet officials refused to allow the transition teams to come in?
        State IS and

        Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans – Who Were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government

        Afghan SIV Program Update
        The Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021, as enacted on December 27, 2020, authorized 4,000 additional SIVs for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 26,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014. The Department of State’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, will continue until all visa numbers allocated under the Act are issued.

  3. BobCon says:

    The intelligence failure wasn’t failing to predict that the government would fall this weekend

    The failure was failing to notice that the government had already fallen months ago.

    • Peterr says:

      When Trump and Pompeo negotiated a deal with the Taliban, without the Afghan government in the room, that signaled the fall of the government.

      • subtropolis says:

        The writing was on the wall, for sure. That, more than anything, likely moved Biden to take this decision. What Trump &co. did was to hasten the inevitable withdrawal. There was no going back from that, other than to sharply ramp up the troop presence once again, which was clearly out of the question.

  4. OldTulsaDude says:

    Wasn’t it clear when a withdrawal was negotiated with the enemy and the government being protected was not invited to the talks?

    • Rugger9 says:

      It would be the clearest signal that something very bad was afoot, and note that those negotiations were with DJT, not Biden.

      Soldiers aren’t stupid, and these ones voted with their feet (h/t Trotsky).

      Your observation may also help explain why Ghani kept everyone in the dark about his plans, why would he be interested in negotiation when he’d already been sold out by DJT? Shades of Munich, where the Czechs were not invited to the conference taking the Sudetenland out of Czechoslovakia.

      • Rugger9 says:

        The Trotsky reference reminded me of the USA’s intervention in North Russia in 1918 – 1919 using the 339th Regiment (the Polar Bears) mostly from Michigan. It was on a much smaller than Afghanistan but with many parallels as well as the same outcome. The name of the first book on this escapes me at the moment, but my grandfather (who was a Canadian vet, though not in Russia) kept a copy that came to me.

  5. madwand says:

    I think your premise here is spot on, this is how they do it in Central Asia and Afghanistan I would argue is more of a Central Asia country than a ME one. Afghanistan is essentially a tribal country with the tribes uniting and disbanding with frequency as their differing priorities take hold. Alliances and betrayals are all in a days work. So after Trump made his deal the Taliban went up the chain, convinced many that they were going to win and paid off the losers. Supplying the troops (poorly supplied armies rarely win) was less of a priority, morale weakened and many simply gave up took a bounty for their weapon or disappeared into the country side, the Taliban walked into Kabul without having to fire a shot, the point being made that Saigon was fought over for 11 days before surrendering and did allow for an airlift.

    So the question is if these things were happening should our intelligence have known about it. So we were played, we were trusting this DOHA negotiation not paying attention to the facts on the ground and got burned.

    Richard Engle has been making the consistent point on NBC that they have known months ago that the schedule had been accelerated. He has talked to both junior and senior officers within the US military and says they were all aware of it and that they passed it on. Where it went from there and how it was washed are unknown, but I tend to agree that Milley’s decision to abandon Bagram is significant also and shows the intent of the US to get out on the cheap. Hence the bind we find ourselves in now.

    Another factor affecting the Afghan forces was ghost soldiers which we paid for and for which SIGAR has reported on for years. Recently there was a downsizing of the Afghan army as many ghost soldiers were eliminated.

    Most of that cash Ghani carried out was US not Russian.

    • P J Evans says:

      I keep wondering how much of that cash was intended to pay the Afghan army and never got to them, as there are reports that they hadn’t been paid or fed in a long time.

    • Nord Dakota says:

      My great grandparents homesteaded in NW Minnesota. My dad told me when the railroads were being built local farmers worked on them. To keep themselves with work, as soon as one RR got ahead of the other they’d quit and work for the other one.

      In The Forever War (don’t have author on hand right now, NYT reporter I think) the tribal groups would switch to whatever side was ahead. Sometimes there would be family reunions when attacks occurred.

      • madwand says:

        Yep and oftentimes such switching of sides has a long term effect on the history of the world as when the Tang expansion into Central Asia was checked by the Umayyad Arab Caliphate expansion at the Battle of Talas in 751. “After five days of intense fighting, the Battle’s result was determined by the Karluks’ (Turkic nomadic tribe) defection from the Chinese to the Arab side, which consequently led to the destruction of the Chinese forces.”

        This marked the furthest expansion of the Chinese ever and I know you’re thinking this stuff has been going on a long time, and its also very notable the Chinese, Russians and Taliban have been talking, so that is another indication the American withdrawal was seen as a foregone conclusion.

        • skua says:

          “… Tang expansion into Central Asia …”
          There goes my ignorant, convenient and naive belief that the Middle Kingdom is inherently non-expansionist.

  6. Marinela says:

    At least now we can put to bed the question that Trump is in charge running the country now. Some Magats are convinced Trump is the President now.

    Magats will gladly accept now Biden is in fact the active President, otherwise they would need to accept that Afghanistan failure happened on Trump’s “watch”.

  7. Raven Eye says:

    About four years ago the staff in my office in the Pentagon (military, civilian, and contractors) was offered a classified briefing by one of our colonels — who was a very thoughtful guy and a pleasure to work for. He’d done tours in Afghanistan and was recently back from a short-term assignment there. We trooped down to the briefing room that we regularly used for formal briefings as well as general all-hands, retirements, award ceremonies, promotions, etc.

    For the next hour or so the situation on the ground was laid out for us. No cheerleading. No gloom and doom. Just a calm walk-through of the situation: Task organization, friendly forces, opposing forces, geography, lines of communications and transportation, logistics, the intelligence situation, the locals, etc. And how operations were conducted, and what they actually achieved.

    The room was full, and it got pretty quiet in there. And the walk back to the office was very, very quiet.

    There were and are thousands of people in the intelligence community, the military, and certain executive departments for whom that briefing wouldn’t have have generated any real surprises. That covers staffers kinda in the middle — between the senior civilian and military leaders (including the politicals) and the folks at the execution level where you can’t think too far ahead.

    Some smaller number of those middle folks are likely to have been tasked over the years with projects to try and figure how to get out of that mess. But the yarn ball got too tangled and although you can see all the different colors, finding the ends got more and more difficult as we got deeper and deeper into that mess.

    You can pick out a number different targets for blame. I don’t know who is going to do a credible analysis, and if that analysis would change any policies in the future.

  8. Epicurus says:

    Coincidentally I am reading a 2001 book by Joseph J. Trento titled “the Secret History of the CIA”. The Afghanistan operational intelligence failure (developing and turning viable intelligence into best situational action) fits the profile of the CIA the author draws. It seems we never learn our lessons as George Santanyana prophesied.

    • subtropolis says:

      I recommend that you next turn to his 2005 book, Prelude to Terror, in which he delves further into the machinations of Ted Shackley and others in response to Carter’s attempt to reign in the CIA. Trento credibly makes the case that a large portion of the US spook biz went semi-private* in the late 70s and early 80s, funded and directed in part** by the Israelis and Saudis and their secret alliances with the Reagan administration. Besides delving into what led to 911, he covers the mystery of Edwin Wilson and others who’d _apparently_ been playing footsie with Gaddafi and Idi Amin. But, nothing was ever what it seemed.

      * I make the distinction between international spookery and the domestic Haunting of America by private spooks, which had developed long before that.

      ** That’s not to suggest that they were running things. But they conveniently made possible all kinds of capers kept hidden from the majority — but not all — of Congress.

    • Robert I says:

      It is easy to fall into the confirmation bias trap. Information that is comforting and/or supports organizational goals gets heavily weighted while contrary information is discounted.

      I have a recollection that, early in the Vietnam war, the CIA was claiming that Viet Cong activity was declining. This was based on the observation that reports of VC activity were drying up. However, that was because the VC were quietly taking over villages. Naturally, the VC weren’t going to submit reports about their activities.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Further to BobCon’s point upthread, the Afghan government seems to have failed when Trump concluded his deal. That Ghani would depart with cash seems as sure as his departure. I assume the Russians are happy to bank it for him, which gives them continuing control over his network – for however long that’s useful.

    His departure with boatloads of cash, however common among former dictators, would be a crime, which makes it certain Ghani will steer toward the more famous money laundering capitals and those which do not have knotty extradition treaties. I assume he’s fluent in Russian.

      • skua says:

        A quick spray with Glen20 and invest it in the Queensland AU property market alongside the corrupt Chinese money already there.
        “Been criming? Stash your loot in the Lucky Country.”

        • gmoke says:

          Michael Hand, of the Nugan Hand Bank, seems to be living under the name of Michael Jon Fuller in Idaho Falls, Idaho. His expertise might be useful.

  10. Dutch Louis says:

    “How did you go bankrupt?” “Gradually, then suddenly”.

    The Berlin Wall collapsed within 12 hours. We saw it coming slowly, but then one night were hit by surprise.

    The failure in Afghanistan lies in the start, not in the end.

    • bmaz says:

      Meh, it lies at both the start and end, and all points in between. Just limiting it to “the start” is overly simplistic and not accurate.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Someone would have to understand that a girl from Tribe A married a boy from Tribe B, and everyone was elated, because that meant they didn’t have to fight anymore, then Tribe A and Tribe B were able to unite the political power and make a better deal with the opium exporters, then someone’s uncle’s cousin, who lived in Village C got a job with the provincial government which gave him the right to approve/deny travel permits, and that meant…

        No American military officer thinks like that. You might find a sergeant from a small town who can kinda-sorta get it, but if you don’t understand all the tribal and personal relationships you might as well shoot people at random.

        • P J Evans says:

          They’d have to have a degree in medieval history, I think. (This kind of connection is why my genealogy files go out to second cousins of in-laws. People are *connected*.)

        • John Lehman says:

          “You might find a sergeant from a small town who can kinda-sorta get it, but if you don’t understand all the tribal and personal relationships you might as well shoot people at random.”

          So true…so easy to get lost in complex discussions and debates and forget about the dynamics of…simple human relationships.

          Sometimes ivory towers get to stuffy and convoluted.

        • Peterr says:

          I don’t know about that, Troutwaxer. It sounds a lot like the informal structure of relationships that often lies beneath the promotions process. Soldier A served under Major B, and rose in rank as Major B rose to become a Colonel. Soldier A was then transferred to a different command, under Colonel C who was a classmate of now-Colonel B and had a very low impression of Colonel B’s gifts for leadership. Suddenly, Soldier B’s upward trajectory came to a halt . . .

          Or think about various units. Seals can argue with Rangers about their groups own superiority when it comes to special forces operations, but they will unite in their contempt for the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds who just sit on their asses in cockpits and the only dirt on their uniforms comes when they soil themselves . . .

          Or just ask General Anthony Henderson, USMC, an African-American who was passed over for promotion three times before finally getting his star earlier this year. From the NYT last August:

          When he received command of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2014, the prevailing wisdom in the Corps — especially among African-Americans — was that here, finally, was a Black Marine who was going to make it to the top.

          Except it didn’t happen. Once he was within sight of his first star, Marine officials started saying that Colonel Henderson was difficult to work with. There is nothing in Colonel Henderson’s official record that suggests that, according to interviews with white, Black and Asian Marine officers. But in the corridors outside promotion board conference rooms, that was accepted as conventional wisdom.


          “Tony is a straight shooter, who says what he thinks,” said Mr. Whitfield, the retired gunnery sergeant who went on to self-publish a book this year called “African-American Senior Marine Corps Leadership: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.” “And that is what they are fearful of.”

          Mr. Kennedy, a Marine combat veteran who is white, echoed that view. “The things not in his record” are what have kept Colonel Henderson from getting that star, he said in an interview. “I think weak souls do not hold up against Tony Henderson. The guy is smart, forceful, not a braggart, but when you are in his presence, he is very confident, and probably withering to certain people, and they feel intimidated.”

          Black Marines point to what they consider an uneven standard when it comes to promotions for white Marine officers compared with their African-American counterparts.

          Brig. Gen. Rick A. Uribe, who is white, is up for promotion in September to major general, despite a rebuke in 2018 for treating his aide like a personal servant while he was deployed in Iraq.

          That year, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported that General Uribe violated ethics rules when he requested or allowed his aide to pick up his laundry, deliver meals, arrange for delivery of his prescription toothpaste to Iraq and handle his personal correspondence. On multiple occasions, General Uribe also ordered her to stand next to gym equipment to reserve it for his use, sometimes making her wait up to 40 minutes.

          To get ahead in the Marines, many Black senior officers “have to adjust themselves in a way that’s nonthreatening to whites,” said Mr. Hobbs, the retired Marine colonel.

          To be clear: I have never served in the military in any capacity. But I’ve had military members and veterans in my churches, with ranks from top to bottom. The pictures they’ve painted for me over the years says that the military knows the tribal mentality you describe very very well.

        • John Lehman says:

          “ It sounds a lot like the informal structure of relationships that often lies beneath the promotions process.”

          Yep, simple human dynamics.

          Justice of it to be determined.

        • John Lehman says:

          Think Troutwaxer‘s point was that the military structure has trouble making the connection of how the Afghani’s are as human as they ( the military) are.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          I think I’m saying more generally that there’s a vast cultural difference. And you have to either understand how that culture works (and that it works) or you have to give people very careful and forceful lessons in how to have a different culture, and I don’t think we did either.

        • Peterr says:


          I’m rather sure we didn’t do either, broadly speaking. Yes, individual soldiers/contractors probably did, but taken as a whole, the US forces didn’t.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          I have a memory of the Bush admin really not understanding the difference between Shia and Sunni back when they decided to go into the ME big time…

          Names like Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith come to mind…

        • John Paul Jones says:

          To put it in (probably simplistic) terms: they are not modern. To a modern person, certain ways of organizing groups, of thinking about tasks and tools are second nature. To someone from an ancien regime type society, none of that plays. You might be able to get them to see that it makes sense, but they still would resist acting that way because the backbone of their reasoning process is patriarchal and familial, which is to say, from a modern perspective, entirely outside the law, almost entirely lacking in task-oriented rationality. The only things about modernity they like and habitually use are weapons and phones. (In the words of one academic, they are reactionary modernists, exactly like out own home-grown fundamentalists.) Apologies for the pessimism, but the persistence of reactionary modernists means that for the world in general, things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.

        • John Paul Jones says:

          Eh, you’re right. Partly carried away by my own rhetoric. But the germ of the idea was that for pre-modern societies the idea of rule of law doesn’t make any sense. Problems are dealt with by the patriarch, or between patriarchs, and the official law of the land is there to supply some patriarchs with graft rather than act as an overarching arbiter. Fundamentalists tend to operate in similar ways, that is, they bow down to the great patriarch (god) but don’t believe that any state has the right to go against the GP(G), thus they have a built-in a mandate to disregard any laws they choose, for example, sniping at and murdering doctors who provide abortions. But I admit, the notion was not well worked out or stated in the heat of the (rhetorical) moment.

        • bmaz says:

          I could care less about intertribal marriages which may, or may not, accomplish anything and, even if they do, it is likely transitory. That was not even close to my comment, which was simply that it was a clusterfuck from start to finish, not just the start. Faulty presumptions, faulty strategy, disbanding the army and much of the police, to brutal operations by soldiers, to the IC, military and every administration straight up lying to the US people about the status on the ground and politically on the part of the Afghans, to that disastrous first three days of “evacuation” starting last Friday.

          Things have smoothed considerably by all appearances now, but they still do not appear to have the necessary capacity to evacuate all who should be, nor the ability to help people get to Kabul. As Marcy noted, the Bagram decision was extremely ill taken as was not being better up to speed on the visas and having alternate 3rd country options pre-arranged. Also, I don’t know what the Biden WH was reading, but reports on the lack of pay, poor morale and mass desertion in the Afghan army have been legion for a long time, and the same for the hollow status of the Ghani government. That they folded and ran immediately is not surprising in the least.

          Evacuation was never going to be truly smooth and seamless, but it could have been a lot better on numerous fronts, including starting it all earlier.

        • Marinela says:

          From January 20 to March 31, it is a short time to plan for US pulling out in addition to the mountain of things Biden admin had to do.
          Let’s remember that the transition period was not extremely helpful to Biden.

          They got the August extension first, once Biden administration decided to follow up with the plan.
          Trump’s Taliban “peace deal” didn’t have good options for US troops. US had to leave as I understand, intelligence was predicting Taliban would start fighting US troops.
          Intelligence knew Taliban was consolidating power.

          Feel really bad for the Afghanistan people, they deserve better.

          Let’s hope no more people get killed while this evacuation occurs.

        • bmaz says:

          Absolute baloney. The deal to leave was signed by Trump on February 28, 2020. Biden said from the start he would honor it, including during the campaign. So he and his Admin had all the transition period, plus every day since his inauguration to plan and prepare how they would handle it. That was a HUGE deal. If they can’t walk and chew gum, they should not be in office. Of course there were better things that could have been done, and planned for. Most are described in this thread and Marcy’s post.

        • madwand says:

          Yep and last night they reported that the Mullah Baradar number two behind the original founding Taliban was released from jail in Pakistan upon US request in order to participate in those “negotiations” in Doha which the government in Kabul was not. Yesterday Baradar arrived back in Afghanistan and was touted as the new number one or the figurehead, it’s unclear which. I’m sure there are a few smart guys in the Afghan National Army who at the time realized what the presence of Baradar meant and by extension the intentions of the US government. Biden could have repudiated the Doha agreement which would have meant bringing US troops back in. That was the deal and he elected not to confirming US intentions; and the intelligence failures + rapid collapse + deliberate bureaucratic nightmare for Afghans left all involved hanging on US Gov failure to plan for the evacuation back in the Trump administration and certainly as soon as Biden took office. In the round of finger pointing this am the military is saying that they wanted to evacuate months ago but were prevented by the White House. My own opinion is this denial would have come straight from the National Security Advisor if true. White House is now saying IC reports did not come with high confidence and the IC has refused to comment. Clusterfuck for sure

        • bmaz says:

          Baradar’s return sure looked pretty celebratory. No clue whether he is more than a titular head, and that is a great question. Either way, he is an important presence. And probably a more old school hard line one, but who really knows?

          And to be fair to the WH, you’d have to assume there are some kind of talks going on behind the scenes about extending the evacuation period and making it smoother. But no way to know that, or the status of it if so. It is all a mess.

          Believe it or not, Petraeus on CNN this morning said we ought to get them to agree to us temporarily reopening Bagram and Kandahar airports to speed up the leaving. A smart idea, though probably zero chance of that happening. I guess we’ll see what happens over the next 13 days.

        • timbo says:

          Yeah, the idea that they’d give back Bagram is laughable. Kandahar maybe. But the symbolism of controlling Bagram is not lost on anybody.

        • J R in WV says:

          But the whole immigration / refugee process was designed and implemented by Trump’s government and appointees. Designed and intended to make it impossible for any Muslim applicant to successfully apply for asylum, even if a trusted employee of our own government for many years.

          To imagine that Biden’s newly installed government, delayed for months by illegal refusal to begin the transition / transfer of power by Trump’s administration, could have instituted a new, legal, fair process for refugees and asylum seekers is to believe in unicorns farting gold coins as they fly about the District of Columbia.

          Trump and his fascist appointees are solely responsible for the impenetrable process for asylum seekers, the design of the process to intentionally exclude Muslim refugees who fought alongside our own soldiers, marines and special operators.

          Biden and his administration haven’t had time to be held responsible for any of the Cluster Fuck we are seeing right now in Afghanistan.

        • skua says:

          ‘bama’s time included AIUI double tap drone strikes on Taliban.

          Take out the first responders – sure to win the hearts and minds of the local populace. /s
          Random shootings may have been slightly less very stupid acts.

        • bmaz says:

          I think if you are going to intentionally slur President Obama, you should at least have the courtesy to capitalize the freaking B.

        • Leoghann says:

          Irish Muslim doesn’t have quite as much fearsome ring when it’s repeated for the billionth time on Newsmax.

        • bmaz says:

          Let’s note that it works though. Obama’s roots have been traced back to Moneygall in County Offaly, Ireland

      • Silly but True says:

        In the start, we can lament not testing sincerity of Taliban offer to try Osama bin Laden in neutral third-party nation. We criticize the view that in not turning bin Laden over to US when demanded, that the Taliban (whom at its worst of allegations turned a blind, carefree eye towards al Qaeda) was then magically just as equally bad as bin Laden and al Qaeda; a view which does not stand scrutiny for culpability, justice, fairness, or righteousness. We can wonder about the war’s execution, troop levels, commitment. We can wonder about the execution of the nation building. We can criticize the neo-liberal, neocon goals for the War in Afghanistan.

        But most immediately, surely we can criticize the abandonment of 5,000-10,000 Americans and American-allies — all of those outside direct US employment — at the end, mostly to rely on the purported mercy and grace of the Taliban.

      • Dutch Louis says:

        Of course my statement is too simplistic, I agree. But my point is, this was a useless and stupid war from start to finish despite all the lies and fairy tales in between. So don’t concentrate on the bitter end, because that is always chaotic.

        • bmaz says:

          That’s fair, but it need not have been that chaotic. It does seem to be running smoother now, though 14 days is dicey for enough time to get it fully done.

        • Raven Eye says:

          And perhaps the Taliban should practice a little Kabuki theater and be glad for any evacuations that the U.S. does perform. Those being evacuated would most likely be the “trouble-makers” if they stayed in Afghanistan. The Taliban have to decide to what extent harsh repression and slaughter are a benefit to what they want to get done in the next 90 days or so. Be strong enough to make sure people are wary, but don’t get bogged down in the actual operations to the extent that you are wasting resources.

          Remember all the cartoonish Taliban-mocking videos and memes we saw posted/shared starting around ’95? It could be a mistake to ignore the possibility that they have become more world-wise and sophisticated over the past 25 years. It could also be a mistake to give them too much credit as strategic planners. But I doubt, in 2021, that they are the rubes that many think. Somewhere in the middle…

        • P J Evans says:

          I understand they’re amazed by 2021 Kabul – it’s nothing like what they left behind 25 years ago.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Hmmm. That would surprise me. One of the ongoing assumptions for Afghan officials, U.S. forces (and allies), various government agencies, and NGOs would be that the Taliban had completely infiltrated Kabul — all the governmental, economic, and social layers. Perhaps the foot soldiers of the Taliban would be surprised, but the leadership and planners?

        • bmaz says:

          Right. Just how they have handled Kabul so far seems to indicate some of that. Not everything, because some of the reports of searching for cooperators seems credible. Maybe the US should have engaged them in talks about streamlining this well ahead of time. And, maybe they did and it is just not known. But, yeah, it is in their interest to get rid of all the Americans and collaborators that might work against them.

        • Leoghann says:

          There have been several reports of the new leadership in Kabul and other urban areas stating publicly that they’re the “kinder, gentler Taliban” now, and they welcome women and dissident voices. Seeing is believing, but twenty or even ten years ago, that would have been unthinkable. Part of that may be by necessity. Despite their strength in some of the provinces, the Taliban has never been anything but an occupying force. Now they have a country to run. And their success at governance and organization in many areas they’ve occupied suggests they will take that seriously.

        • Dutch Louis says:

          Just one last detail. Los Angeles Times, 1989: “The Soviets have left Afghanistan, making the collapse of the besieged puppet regime in Kabul just a matter of time.” written by: Ashraf Ghani.

  11. Yargelsnogger says:

    Since all the money Ghani fled with was probably siphoned off of the aid US taxpayers sent to Afghanistan, any chance it would be recoverable (legally, that is)?

    • Mike Sax says:

      BTW I wouldn’t be too impressed over those NBC posts like I linked to throwing cold water on Russia paying the Taliban-it was by Ken Dilianian

  12. Greg Hunter says:

    So if the collapse was negociated then so are the extraction contracts?

    We spilt treasure and Russia/China inherit a compliant Taliban?

    It the failure is so poor, then what is the outcome?

    Do the Taliban adopt more sophisticated ways of Sharia?

  13. bmaz says:

    For any that think it is peachy and the Biden Administration did all they could, check out this. There are 10,000 to 15,000 Americans they plan to abandon:

    “According to the aides, the administration officials — from the State and Defense departments, as well as the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff — also told the assembled Senate staffers that there is no plan to evacuate Americans who are outside Kabul, as they do not have a way of getting through the Taliban checkpoints outside the Afghan capital.”

    • P J Evans says:

      Maybe the Taliban will feel kind and let them get to Kabul. But I sure wouldn’t count on it. (I don’t see much that the US could do now. But they should have been doing stuff a lot sooner, and I want to know why they didn’t start moving people in MAY.)

      • bmaz says:

        Yes. But why not negotiate with the Taliban over this? It either works, and you get your people, or it doesn’t and you prove their duplicity on the spot. You can’t just throw up your hands and say “oh well, nothing we can do”. And maybe something like that is indeed going on, who knows?

        • P J Evans says:

          I hope so. I don’t think we should say “nothing we can do” and abandon people who may show up in Kabul next week or next month.

    • Dizz says:

      Does the 10,000 – 15,000 figure include Americans within Kabul, who they plan to evacuate shortly? From the link:

      Officials did not specify how many Americans are outside Kabul, the aides said. The briefing, which was held Tuesday morning and attended by aides representing a wide swath of Senate offices, lasted half an hour.

      I read this as they are negotiating:

      A few hours later, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the Taliban has “informed us that they are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment.” He did not elaborate but said the process could go on until Aug. 31.

      I am not a fan of the author, but Mr. Friedman counsels a longer-view of the last few days:
      Biden Could Still Be Proved Right in Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2021:

      Here I’d invoke one of my ironclad rules about covering the Middle East: When big events happen, always distinguish between the morning after and the morning after the morning after. Everything really important happens the morning after the morning after — when the full weight of history and the merciless balances of power assert themselves.

  14. GKJames says:

    And no evidence that the US ever leaned on Pakistan, without whom the Taliban would not be an effective force.

    • timbo says:

      lol. The Taliban might never had existed if the US hadn’t help bankroll and train the Muhajadeen in Afghanistan when it was occupied by the Russians.

  15. Neil says:

    It has amazed me over the years that more effort wasn’t put into “outing” the Taliban (and Hezbollah for that matter) as major drug dealers, and going after the cash flows (not burning crops). I know this is very difficult, but how better to make it totally clear to the devout that these groups are not even close to devout, for all their on-the-ground sharia rules.
    Without taking more space, I personally think this is the huge failure. Getting most of the world to treat them as criminals rather than political factions would have been better than e.g. the taliban leadership sitting cozy and safe in the Gulf and having national representatives come knocking at their door for talks.
    It just stinks.

    • John Paul Jones says:

      Their argument would probably be along the lines that the drugs are only being sold to the takfir (apostates) and kufar (unbelievers) so in that sense they would claim to be doing god’s work, that is: Let the unbelievers do to their bodies as they wish. We don’t encourage them, but neither do we prevent them because in any case, god’s word is always available to them. The older of the two Boston Bombers, Tamerlan, apparently never stopped selling weed, but when he became more obviously salafi, he did stop using weed.

  16. Savage Librarian says:

    Marcy, thank you (and all others) for pointing us in the direction of this article. Well worth the read! And, as we can see, $$$$ is, indeed, the universal language.

    “How Afghanistan’s President Helped His Brother and a U.S. Contractor Secure a Lucrative Mineral Processing Permit” – Margaux Benn and Zack Kopplin 28 April 2021

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Remind me again why the US military abandoned Bagram Air Base six weeks before attempting to stage a rapid withdrawal of tens of thousands of people from all of Afghanistan.

    • bmaz says:

      Could ask the same of the Khandahar airport, though that may have been tougher to protect than Bagram I understand. Both are absolutely huge compared to Kabul.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A lot of shit went down there over twenty years beside the coming and going of aircraft, making it a political liability. And it might have been too big to protect, given the number of troops they were willing to commit, which is a related question. But why expose yourself to a single point of failure: one working airfield?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A useful reminder: the planning and policy development process required to execute this retreat was done by organizations pillaged of talent by Donald Trump. Trump hates competence, despises process, and measures every action as a reflection on personal loyalty to him. His cabinet picks even more so. That left State and DoD, in particular, bereft of talent.

        The problem could not have been fixed since the start of Biden’s administration (at these or at any other agency). Biden has been slow at this, hampered, in part, by a razor-thin Senate majority. It would have left these agencies with less than a Rumsfeldian level of talent to carry out a difficult job.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          And, yet… Five hours ago,

          US just changed their extraction rules. Now all applicants need referral letter from senior US official.

          One more high hurdle to leap before extraction means more people die, are imprisoned, or otherwise suffer owing to US actions. If true, is this part of the intentional cruelty from the prior regime? Are the left and right hands working at cross purposes – or the same purposes?

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah. This is truly a bad move, because if the Taliban catches you with such a paper, things might not go well.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yea, yea, the buck stops with Biden, no matter how tattered or counterfeit it is when he gets it. I’m more of a fan of Warren and AOC than Joe, but he was still dealt a dud hand.

    • Rugger9 says:

      That’s a question I think for General Milley as well as CENTCOM, especially considering that Biden had extended the deadline from May 1. Today, the UK Parliament was summoned back into session to debate the withdrawal. I didn’t listen too long but the Express has a highlight reel liveblog. What it appears from the narrative is that the Tories wanted to continue on, and many of them parroted Faux News points. 457 soldiers died for HM the Queen. 150 k had their turns in country. A couple of veterans (now MPs) are demanding an inquiry which should be done. It does not seem (as an additional question for Milley) that the coordination with the MoD troops was effective.

      We’ll see how the polling proceeds in the UK, noting that the press is notoriously partisan (e.g. the Express is a Conservative tabloid) so I think we will get more out of the UK reporting than ours.

      • Silly but True says:

        While Pence is engaging in a dogpile-on, and Monday-morning quarterbacking needs to be taken with grain of salt, he notes the trigger for Taliban to move on Kabul was in reaction to when the deadline was pushed back; i.e., Pence asserts US reneged on withdrawal so Taliban moved on Kabul. That’s for Biden to reconcile if that sequence is true.

        However, regardless of which timeline, there was ample time between Jan. 20 and July — let’s even tighten the window due to Afghan winter — there was ample time between March 30 and July 2 for US to have completely moved as much as 70,000 Americans plus some 40,000 Afghanistan allies and their families prior to shutting down Bagram. That’s on Milley.

    • madwand says:

      Austin and Milley avoided that question this afternoon in the Pentagon briefing by saying it would be part of an AAR (After Action Report) whenever that will be commissioned, however I tend to think it may be intended for a rabbit hole but for a moment it was nice to see them squirm. They really don’t have an answer.

    • Raven Eye says:

      The thing about IGs is that they are not the “Good Idea Fairies”. Their focus usually starts with how an organization’s activities and actions comply with statutes, codes, directives, policies, etc. If you draw continued bad marks from the IG, it is because you continued to not comply.

  18. Leoghann says:

    The inspector general’s report, 11th in a series, presents a bleak evaluation of these two decades worth of official American involvement. Since Jenny already posted two links, I’ll pass on a short article from Axios,, which is where I learned of it. Also, here’s the full 140-page report, which probably confirms all of our grimmest theories (well, maybe not all).

  19. Wm. Boyce says:

    Good article. The NYT reported today that there were U.S. intelligence agency assessments that predicted accurately what just happened. Problem was, (according to them) that was not the lead, happy, rosy-picture assessment that was the official position. That was that the Afghan government could hold up to two years in a civil war.
    I don’t blame in the least the president, he told Stephanopolous today that the U.S. expected chaos no matter what they did. He lived through the fall of Saigon, and this was no different. Blame W, and Uncle Dick, and every member of Congress of 2001 save Barbara Lee for this catastrophe. They voted in anger and vengeance, and it was a profoundly stupid foreign policy.

  20. Epicurus says:

    The President never told the American people in those words ahead of time what he told Mr. Stephanopolous he believed ahead of time – we expect ensuing chaos no matter what we do. People can make up their own minds about why he didn’t.

    This was different from the fall of Saigon simply because all the responsible people were well aware of the fall of Saigon and, consequently, could have anticipated and planned better in many different ways. They ignored the caveat of the fictional Jack Reacher – plan for the worst and hope for the best.

    President Biden seems a muddler. He muddles through things. Some things turn out okay, some don’t. This is just the latest example.

    • Rayne says:

      Americans have to be pretty goddamned stupid if a massive economic suckhole 20 years long launched by Bush+Cheney didn’t already communicate all along this was a losing battle in a boneyard of empires. Anybody who was sentient in 2001-2003 already knew it was going to be a money pit cum graveyard. Some of us — me, for example, in 2002 — started blogging our protests because we could see this day coming.

      The only thing which wasn’t clear to the public was just how badly Trump and his minions, the Taliban, and a few other countries including Russia had set up this debacle. We won’t know for some time and can’t expect Biden to know right now either when the Trump admin deliberate obstructed the transition process to ensure we and Biden wouldn’t know. We don’t yet know exactly how much theft was involved in this deal and who was paid off; we don’t know who all the moles are. Yet.

      Go push your anti-Biden narrative someplace else. You sound like a bloody naïf.

      • P J Evans says:

        I still have a copy of the letter I emailed to the WH in 2003, about Iraq.
        Biden was handicapped by not getting a full transition period – and that’s on the former guy’s administration.

        • Rayne says:

          That lack of a full transition is one layer; the bad faith and obstruction is another. And then the corrupt acts on top of it — it’s all made me want to rip my hair out while screaming.

          It’s the same thing Team Trump did with the vaccine roll-out — they didn’t allow a full transition, they destroyed what little planning they did, waiting until the last minute to turn over nothing at all but empty promises to Team Biden, while they continued to profiteer (like DeSantis releasing vaccines to a Florida neighborhood where a key donor lived and you just know Team Trump got a cut). Same corrupt playbook over and over.

          And the mainstream corporate media, hungry for scandal, blames Biden. *screaming*

      • harpie says:

        As EoH says above: BOOBY TRAPPED.
        This is all

        Afghan crisis reveals broken US confirmation process
        ‘The entire process is broken,’ Biden transition advisor.
        Laura Rozen, 8/19/21

        […] Despite the emergency and risk to thousands of lives, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) apparently persists in having a blanket hold on all State Department and USAID nominees […]

        9:20 AM · Aug 19, 2021

        “Flying Chernobyl”. As we deal with crucial issues of arms control,nominees for Assistant Secretaries for @StateDept Bureaus including Arms Control, Nonproliferation, Europe, East Asia & South/Central Asia are not confirmed. How do we run a government? The Senate is in recess…

        • bmaz says:

          That article is garbage. If they could get to the airport, it is NOT that they can’t afford a flight, there are supposed to be US Govt flights they could get on for free. It is that they cannot get there. This is gaslighting bullshit.

    • Wm. Boyce says:

      “This was different from the fall of Saigon simply because all the responsible people were well aware of the fall of Saigon and, consequently, could have anticipated and planned better in many different ways.”

      You’re dreamin, bro, this was the same old American chutzpah being kicked in the ass by people who wanted us out of their country and outsmarted us. And that seems increasingly easy to do, we live in a nation of idiots.

      • timbo says:

        You seem to be ignoring the possibility that we “outsmarted” ourselves. The people who live in Afghanistan have a culture of waiting for the latest foreign backed regime to collapse. Are you saying that we didn’t know that when we went in there and we don’t know it even now? Because that would not indicate that this is about outsmarting anyone, just that we were plain ignorant to begin with.

        • Wm. Boyce says:

          As one of the former North Vietnamese military men said after the “American War” was over: “We were all Viet Cong.”

          We aren’t smart.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    More than 100 guards at the British embassy in Kabul have been told they are not eligible for UK government protection because they were hired through an outsourced contractor, the Guardian has learned.

    This is typical of British policy. Ask the Nepalese Gurkhas, tough mountain soldiers, who were the preferred protectors of the most important imperial outposts, only to find their pensions amounted to peanuts and their right of abode in the UK on retirement to be illusory.

    That these Afghans – who supported the Brits, at the risk of putting a price on their heads – have no right to support or to emigrate is a fig leaf that should embarrass even the impossible-to-embarrass Boris Johnson. But then, his immigration, health, education, and social policies are as intentionally cruel as anything thought up by a Trumpista. Funny that, given that many of his cabinet posts – the execrable Priti Patel, for example – are staffed by people of color, whose families once emigrated to Britain from elsewhere in the empire.

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