Tag Archives: Taliban

Afghanistan: Will it get better?

A young friend of ours came over this afternoon to wish us a happy 50th anniversary.

We sat in the living room and he turned back to face me and asked: What do you think about Afghanistan?  He meant the withdrawal, of course, which he described as a “mess.”

I didn’t know quite how to respond. I did not — I do not still — want to offend our young neighbor; he is too sweet of a young man and I don’t want to end up on his “bad side.”

All I could come up with was that the commander in chief, President Biden, had no choice but to end a war that had dragged on for two decades. “To what end does he stay in the fight?” I asked. I reminded our young friend that we had fought there for more than two decades. Do they keep fighting?

My friend smiled. We both changed the subject.

The inglorious end to an inglorious war is bound to bring friends to a rhetorical dead end when the subject comes up. My young friend and I agreed that it will take time for this post-Afghan War period to sort itself out.

I will continue to hope for the best outcome, which I hope means we can keep our eyes and ears dialed in to the nth degree and listen and look for any signs of trouble from the Taliban or any terrorist organization that seeks to do us harm.

My hope, then, is that we keep the drones armed and ready to strike.


Taliban ‘declare victory’

It is worth asking: Will the Taliban, who have “declared victory” against the United States, assume a more charitable relationship with their former battlefield adversary … in the manner that Vietnamese have done with former American servicemen and women?

Our military engagement in Afghanistan has ended. The Taliban have pranced around Kabul and other cities proclaiming that they “defeated” the United States. I get how they can make that declaration, even though their battlefield losses were horrific during the 20 years we fought them. Then again, so were the Vietnamese pounded on the battlefield back then, too. Yet they persevered and were able assume control of a government we fought to defend and preserve.

The Taliban have declared victory. Now they must reckon with a country freefalling into chaos (msn.com)

I don’t know about any parallels between then and now. The Taliban are driven by a deep religious fervor steeped in Islamic fundamentalism. The North Vietnamese were driven by a communist ideology that had nothing to do with religion. 

In 1989, I had the honor of returning to Vietnam 20 years after I reported for duty in that long-ago war. The editors with whom I was traveling and I flew from Bangkok to Hanoi for the first leg of our Vietnam tour. We then flew a few days later from Hanoi to what once was known as Saigon but is now called Ho Chi Minh City … named after Uncle Ho.

I remember getting off the plane, boarding a bus and then riding to our hotel. I got off the bus and was greeted — along with my traveling companions — by a gentlemen who asked some of us if we had served there during the Vietnam War. Some of us said “yes,” to which the gentleman said — while smiling broadly — “Welcome back to our country.” 

I found that to be a moving welcome and it portended the kind of relationships we were able to build during our brief time touring Vietnam.

Will any of that be available over time to returning Afghan War vets? Time will tell. I hope for their sake they are able to return to a country that so saw much hell over the span of time we fought there.

That will depend, of course, on whether the Taliban can set aside their religious fervor. Therein lies a fundamental difference between then and now.


Rumor hot spots keep flaring

As the United States moves into a post-war world now that it has pulled out of Afghanistan, the Biden administration is left to extinguish right-wing-generated rumor-mill hot spots.

Such as the one about us supposedly leaving $83 billion worth of military equipment for the Taliban to use, possibly against Americans or our allies.

The rumor is false.

That won’t stem the fake news coming from the mouths of conservative politicians and media personalities. They keep harping on the equipment left behind. They suggest that the Taliban is now the second-best equipped military force in the world — behind the U.S. of A.

According to The Associated Press:

Their $85 billion figure resembles a number from a July 30 quarterly report from SIGAR, which outlined that the U.S. has invested about $83 billion to build, train and equip Afghan security forces since 2001.

Yet that funding included troop pay, training, operations and infrastructure along with equipment and transportation over two decades, according to SIGAR reports and Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight.

“We did spend well over $80 billion in assistance to the Afghan security forces,” Grazier said. “But that’s not all equipment costs.”

In fact, only about $18 billion of that sum went toward equipping Afghan forces between 2002 and 2018, a June 2019 SIGAR report showed.

FACT FOCUS: Trump, others wrong on US gear left with Taliban (msn.com)

Is that the end of it? Hardly. It only goes to underscore the public-relations battle that awaits the Biden team as it tries to keep this withdrawal in its proper perspective.

Recalling an expert on Afghanistan

Charles Nesbitt Wilson’s name isn’t likely to pique many people’s interest.

If you say “Good Time Charlie,” or just plain ol’ “Charlie Wilson,” then we’re talking. I am thinking of Charlie Wilson today as the nation watches its longest war end in Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson was a Texas Democrat and a bona fide expert on Afghanistan, its politics, its people and its struggles against foreign powers. He died in February 2010 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I knew Wilson because of my work from 1984 until 1995 as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. Wilson represented the Second Congressional District, which at the time included vast stretches of Deep East Texas territory where the newspaper circulated. Thus, he was one of our sources for issues relating to Congress. He and I knew each other well. I respected him greatly; I hope he thought well of the work I did on behalf of our readers.

Before he died, and before he retired from Congress in 1996, Wilson spent much of his career in public life seeking federal assistance to fighters seeking to rid themselves of Soviet domination of Afghanistan.

Wilson rode donkeys through the Khyber Pass with fighters who — regrettably — became the precursors to al-Qaeda. They were called the mujahadeen. They wrote a book and later produced a film called “Charlie Wilson’s War”; indeed, Wilson told me he was thrilled to be portrayed by Tom Hanks in the title role.

In the days after 9/11, I called Wilson at his East Texas home to get his reaction to what happened to us on that terrible day. We spoke for a long time over the phone and Wilson warned me at the time that we were in for the fight of our lives if we chose to go to war in Afghanistan. He knew of which he spoke. He sought congressional aid for the fighters doing battle against Soviet soldiers who invaded their country to prop up the Marxist government.

What might he say about the end of our war in Afghanistan? I am guessing he wouldn’t be shy about saying something like: I told you so. I told you it would be a hard fight. I told you that the Taliban wouldn’t just surrender and disappear from face of the planet.

Charlie Wilson wasn’t particularly bashful about imparting the knowledge he accrued over his years in Congress. I bear him no ill will. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Rep. Wilson earned the right to rub our noses in it.


It’s over … finally!

Say whatever you wish about the end of the Afghan War.

That we can declare an end to our fighting there is in itself a moment worth saluting. Our longest war came to an end this morning when the last C-17 transport jet took off from Kabul airport, cleared Afghan air space and we declared an end to our evacuation of all U.S. citizens and allies who wanted out.

I have said since we went to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago that there could be no way for us to “declare victory” in the way we were able to do, say, at the end of World War II. Our military brass accepted the terms of surrender of enemy forces in 1945; the fighting stopped and we danced in the streets from coast to coast.

There would be no such celebration after the Korean War, certainly not after the Vietnam War, nor after this war.

Indeed, our war against terrorism is likely to persist, but without the hackneyed “boots on the ground” fighting a cunning enemy.

I will stand with President Biden’s decision to end this war. He knew what his three presidential predecessors — George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump — couldn’t understand. It was time to end a war that had gone badly not long after it started in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

President Bush went to war after 9/11 intending to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban government. He succeeded. He vowed to get the men responsible for the attack on New York and Washington. That task fell eventually to Obama’s national security team that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Trump’s team got the leader of the Islamic State.

One thing remained constant. The Afghan War kept on going.

Joe Biden took over in January. He assessed the return on the investment we were getting in Afghanistan and determined it was time to end it. Now! So … he did.

Those who write the history of this big day will need time to evaluate all the nuance attached to it. I am going venture out on that limb and presume that history will look more kindly than President Biden’s critics are viewing this landmark day in real time.

It’s over. Thank God in heaven!


Mission nearly accomplished

You may not include me among the critics of President Biden who are suggesting, without foundation, that our withdrawal from Afghanistan is a botched deal.

That it is a defeat. That we should be embarrassed. Ashamed. That we were whipped.

None of that happened on the battlefield.

Our evacuation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghans wanting out of the country is almost complete. The president is warning us of possible — and possibly likely — terrorist attacks as we complete our withdrawal.

I’ve heard some right-wing talking heads refer to the 1940 evacuation of British soldiers at Dunkirk as the way this kind of operation should go. They pillory Biden for what has happened in Afghanistan. I won’t go there.

The president made it clear that we would remove anyone who wanted out. From my vantage point it appears that we are about to achieve that goal.

Twenty years of combat in Afghanistan degraded al-Qaeda’s terror network. Yes, the Taliban seized control of the country more quickly than anyone imagined.

Ending a war cannot be done cleanly and without some hazard. We have learned to our great dismay that is the case as we end the Afghan War. The Islamic State has struck us; ISIS well might hit us again. The president has issued orders to the Pentagon to ensure maximum protection of our forces who are helping facilitate the evacuation.

So the evac plans will continue until the middle of next week. Then we will be done.

I am one American who wants the war to end. Accordingly, as soon as we get our forces out of there I will consider the mission has been accomplished.


Terror group assumes new ID

The new No. 1 terrorist enemy of this nation — apart from the domestic goons who want to overturn an election — has morphed into a version of an old enemy.

The Islamic State today claimed credit for two explosions at Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan. Thirteen U.S. service personnel died in the blasts. I understand 12 of them were Marines; one of them was a Navy corpsman.

This nation is in the midst of an evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies who aided us during the two decades we fought the terrorists.

Now comes a group called ISIS-K, an offshoot of the monstrous ISIS. ISIS=K is thought to be an enemy of the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalists who are taking control of Afghanistan as our forces get set to leave.

President Biden spoke strongly, earnestly and with outward conviction. Those who are responsible for the act today — one of the deadliest in the entire Afghan War — should understand that “we will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.

Well, the last time we made that pledge — after the 9/11 attacks — we made good on it with the SEAL/CIA commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

I doubt seriously it will take us a decade to find the monsters who did this deed and “make them pay.”

I cannot know this for certain, but I am willing to lay down the wager of a lifetime that President Biden today got on the phone with Army Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of our special operations command, and delivered the order to hunt down the ISIS-K terrorists … and take them out.

But … first things first. Our crack intelligence team needs to find these creatures; it needs to confirm their location; then the strike needs to be planned and then executed.

My heart is broken today as we mourn the deaths of our service personnel. It does, though, appear to give credence to President Biden’s insistence that we exit the battlefield in just a few days. He said he feared terrorist attacks on our forces the longer we stay in the country.

Well, it happened.


Deadline may be extended

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden’s plate of critical decisions is piling up and spilling onto his lap.

Here’s another one that looks more imminent each passing day: The Aug. 31 deadline for pulling out of Afghanistan might be delayed a while longer. Why? Because the president has promised to get every American and Afghan ally who who wants out of the country safe passage to freedom.

My strong hunch is that the project won’t be completed by Aug. 31.

Does that mean our troops who have been sent back to help with the evacuation will remain permanently? Hardly. It means that Joe Biden’s pledge to end our involvement in an Afghan civil war will have be set back until we can get everyone out of there.

Congressional Republicans are threatening impeachment if Biden leaves anyone behind. Frankly, that is the rhetoric of tinhorns. Yes, our withdrawal has gone badly. President Biden is seeking to correct it and we are sending an accelerated number of evacuees out of the country each day.

But the deadline for an end is a week away. Can we finish the job in that short span of time? I doubt it. Keep the troops on call, Mr. President, until the mission is accomplished.

Do we stay or do we go?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Public opinion polls have had their hands full in the past few days.

They are scurrying around the country asking Americans whether the Afghan War was worth the fight. A significant majority of Americans are telling them “no,” it wasn’t worth it.

And yet …

Congressional Republicans continue to pound President Biden over his decision to bring our troops — all of them — off the battlefield. A consequence has been the Taliban takeover of a country our forces fought to protect against the terrorists’ retaking control of the country.

I want to reiterate a key point. President Biden ended what his immediate predecessor started, which was a negotiated settlement to end our fight. That fact has been lost on GOP critics of Joe Biden, one of them being U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, my congressman, who said this in a statement: “Reminiscent of Saigon, President Biden naively chose to conduct an ill-advised and poorly planned withdrawal from Afghanistan despite warnings from national security experts and continuous violations from the Taliban.”

Huh? Eh? Taylor said Biden should have done “nothing.” His decision to end the fight, Taylor said, leaves “America and Americans worse off for it.” He calls this one of the president’s “reckless decisions.”

Hmm. I will disagree respectfully with the congressman.

Americans didn’t want to keep fighting an unwinnable war. POTUS No. 45 sought to negotiate a deal with the Taliban, remember? Do you also recall how he invited the Taliban to Camp David — on a date commemorating the 9/11 attack on our nation?

I agree that the withdrawal should have been planned better. Then again, there should have been an end-game strategy on the day we launched the Afghan War after 9/11. There wasn’t.

By my way of thinking, “doing nothing” about Afghanistan was not an option. President Biden had two choices: staying or leaving. He made the right call.

Historical perspective in order

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

While we waste our breath, our emotional energy and valuable time bashing President Biden over the end of the Afghan War, I want to offer this bit of perspective for y’all to ponder.

Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked us on 9/11. They had safe haven in Afghanistan. The Taliban sheltered them and kept them hidden from view. President Bush then led a united country into war in Afghanistan.

It was a conflict doomed more than likely from the very beginning.

For 20 years we fought the Taliban. Our special forces killed the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, who we found hiding in Pakistan. Yet the fight continued. It was going to go on forever had we allowed it to happen.

President Biden said, in effect, “Enough of this!” He ended the war. Just as he said he would do.

Let’s understand that Joe Biden took control of our military as it was drawing down its presence in Afghanistan. He merely finished an unwinnable task begun two decades ago by George W. Bush.

Let’s also be clear. The war did produce some victories for our side. We degraded al-Qaeda, killing many of the organization’s leaders. Our national attention was yanked away from the Afghan fight when we went to war in Iraq for reasons that stand as an example of supreme deception.

The Afghan War had to end. President Biden ended a conflict that President Bush launched.