Saturday, August 28, 2021

"Like Ordering Pizza"

Thomas Meaney in the LRB.  

Your cause is right and God is on your side!

Zbigniew Brzezinski, US national security adviser, to the Afghan mujahedin, 3 February 1980

I have benefited so greatly from the jihad in Afghanistan that it would have been impossible for me to gain such a benefit from any other chance, and this cannot be measured by tens of years but rather more than that.

Osama bin Laden, March 1997

Once, the Kabul Zoo housed ninety varieties of animals and got a thousand visitors a day, but in the era of fighting that followed the fall of the Soviets and then of Najibullah, the people stayed away, and the animals found themselves in a place more dangerous than any forest or jungle. For ten days, the elephant ran in circles, screaming, until shrapnel toppled her and she died. As the shelling went back and forth, the tigers and llamas, the ostriches, the elephant, were carried away to paradise. The aviary was ruptured and the birds flew free into the heavens from which the rockets rained.

Denis Johnson, 1 April 1997

Let’s step back a moment. Let’s just pause, just for a minute. And think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.

US Representative Barbara Lee, 14 September 2001

This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.

President George W. Bush, 17 September 2001

The Taliban regime already belongs to history.

Jürgen Habermas, December 2001

I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld, 8 September 2003

I will venture a prediction. The Taliban/al-Qaida riffraff, as we know them, will never come back to power.

Christopher Hitchens, November 2004

The markets for defence and related advanced technology systems for 2005 and beyond will continue to be affected by the global war on terrorism, through the continued need for military missions and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related fiscal consequences of war.

Lockheed Martin Annual Report, 1 March 2005

Well, it was a just war in the beginning.

Michael Walzer, 3 December 2009

RAMBO IN AFGHANISTAN. A screening of Rambo III at the Duck and Cover. Wear a headband for $1 off drinks.

Email chain invitation, US compound, Kabul, 2010

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanising the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German and other European women could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe towards the ISAF mission.

CIA Analysis Report, 11 March 2010

The overthrow of the Taliban was the ennobling corollary of a security policy; it was collateral humanitarianism.

Leon Wieseltier, 24 October 2010

Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear. Children don’t play so often now, and have stopped going to school. Education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.

Zubair Rehman, 13-year-old Pakistani student, 29 October 2013

I think his legacy in terms of his country will be a strong one.

US Ambassador James B. Cunningham on Hamid Karzai, 23 September 2014

While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures.

President Barack Obama, 15 October 2015

When [Afghans] leave, they break the social contract. This is an existential choice. Countries do not survive with their best attempting to flee. So I have no sympathy.

President Ashraf Ghani, 31 March 2016

He reads books on the transition from socialism to capitalism in Eastern Europe, on the Central Asian enlightenment of a thousand years ago, on modern warfare, on the history of Afghanistan’s rivers.

George Packer on Ashraf Ghani, 4 July 2016

It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture.

Senior NSC official, 16 September 2016

We’re getting along very, very well with the Taliban.

President Donald Trump, 10 September 2020

This is manifestly not Saigon.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, 15 August 2021

The disarray of the past weeks needs to be replaced by something resembling coherence, and with a plan that is credible and realistic.

Tony Blair, 21 August 2021

Laura and I, along with the team at the Bush Centre, stand ready as Americans to lend our support and assistance in this time of need. Let us all resolve to be united in saving lives and praying for the people of Afghanistan.

George W. Bush, 16 August 2021

...The real war in Afghanistan was waged far above ground. In the early days of the conflict, an Allied patrol would need to draw fire before calling in air support, but by the end, as the rules of engagement relaxed, it was only necessary to have a sense of where a Taliban position was to radio in a drone or a fighter jet. ‘It got pretty ritualistic,’ a former US Marine pilot told me last week, ‘like ordering pizza.’...  

In 2009, when he dissented from Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, it was less in the cause of devolving America’s global projection of force than of refining it. Biden wanted over-the-horizon capability then, and he wants something like it now.  The killing of thirteen US Marines at Kabul airport has not diverted that desire: a reduced US troop presence will provide fewer targets for local militants, Biden has argued, and those militants will be ‘hunted’ for retribution by more remote means. Biden was even more sanguine than Obama about the promise of drones and special forces to fight America’s enemies. He isn’t so much the undertaker of the war on terror as its McKinsey consultant.

The Taliban nearly eradicated heroin production in Afghanistan in the 1990s, but the Allies did everything in their power to push poppy cultivation into Taliban-held territory, and then, by destroying supply elsewhere, to raise prices. They have made the Taliban appear a better prospect to many Afghans than a government that was a byword for crookedness. The departing president, Ashraf Ghani, who in the 2019 election won the vote of 2.5 per cent of the population, who wrote his dissertation at Columbia on state failure, and who fled Kabul in a chopper (according to some sources, with piles of cash onboard), has now joined the ranks of Washington’s failed proxies: Ngô Đình Diêm, Ahmed Chalabi, Nouri al-Maliki, Hamid Karzai. The corruption of the Afghan government is dwarfed only by that of the American operation itself, which constituted a massive wealth transfer to US defence industries.

Will the Taliban behave? They have entered a very different Kabul – one with beauty salons and shopping malls – from the one they left twenty years ago. In the interim, they have developed the ambition to run a state,...

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