How Do I Feel About Afghanistan? Angry.
Updated: Aug 16
Over the last few weeks, and in particular the last few days, I have had many friends and family ask me what I think and feel about what’s transpiring in Afghanistan. Like many, I am scrambling to process it all.
Yesterday (August 15) I wrote an essay discussing my thoughts and feeling about what has transpired and posted it here. I subsequentely edited the essay and The Hill has published it here.
Since it has been published elsewhere, I had to remove the version here for 14 days. The revised version is a little less "about me" in tone, but it includes all of the critical analysis from the original piece. The following bullets were a little too scathing or personal for a D.C. publication and its audience and were not included in the published version:
I am angry at the unaccountable D.C. echo chamber of foreign policy “experts,” columnists, and pundits who spent 20 years pumping oxygen into the dumpster fire and selling Congress and the American people a false vision of what Afghanistan was and could be.
I am angry that the only ones better off as a result of the war in Afghanistan are the members of the military industrial complex and their stockholders.
I am angry that the United States continued providing military aid to Pakistan, which Pakistan turned around and provided to the Taliban to fight and kill U.S. forces.
I am angry at Karzai, Ghani, Dostum, Noor, Khan, Sherzai, and countless other Afghan politicians and power brokers who squandered the lives and dollars that the world laid at their feet to help them build a new Afghanistan.
I am angry that there hasn’t been enough discussion about the failures of the Afghans and the responsibility they bear for the current situation.
On a more selfish and personal note:
I am angry that I am not on the ground in Afghanistan right now chronicling the closing chapter.
I am angry that I did not do more in my time on the ground and at the Office of Inspector General to call out the fact that it was a house of cards all along and prompt policy changes that would let the air out more gradually instead of the tire slashing taking place right now.
So, between the piece published by The Hill and these remaining points, you get where my head is right now. I am also doing some reflection on my time in Afghanistan and thinking about what else I could have done to call out the fact that it was all a giant fraud and not violate journalistic ethics in the process.
It's a real quandry when you have soldiers and officers saying off the record that the Afghan forces are inept, unmotivated, under corrupt leadership, and will never be a self-sustaining, self-reliant force, and then on the record the same people will say, "they are making progress," or "they continue to improve and take on more responsibility." Those on the record statements were technically true, but completely misrepresented the fact that everyone knew the Afghan forces would crumble if they didn't have the coalition backstop.
That kind of thing was going on for 20 years--a "secret" narrative, and a public one. In hindsight, I could have done more to expose the secret narrative. Of course, there are a lot of obstacles to doing so. Still, even when the true narratives did come out, the military, senior officials, and foreign policy iluminati would throw their pixie dust and convince Congress and at least some of the American people that it would get better and that pulling the plug would mean more 9/11s.
It's amazing how much the U.S. government has been able to get away with by raising the specter of terrorism the last 20 years.