OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Anonymous Veteran, with Gregg Dieguez —
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We SUCCEEDED in Afghanistan – at least in terms of our original purpose for going there, which was:
- Degrade Al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan – we succeeded
- Kill Osama Bin Ladin – we succeeded (albeit 10 years later)
- Prevent future terrorist attacks against the United States launched from Afghanistan – up to now, we have succeeded
- After having accomplished the above, get out of Afghanistan – we just succeeded, thanks to President Biden
- (this is the difficult and emotional one to discuss): Accomplish all the above with a minimal loss of life of American soldiers.
Not too be too “Dr. Strangelove” but there is in fact a necessary calculation when you decide to go to war – people are going to be killed and injured on both sides. That is unavoidable. Go to war equals – unavoidable – people will die (and be injured). If you don’t want to lose young Americans, don’t go to war. I will not analyze the financial cost of the war. Wars are expensive. Go to war – spend money. That’s the way it works. (And really, tell me, had we not gone to Afghanistan, would we have otherwise spent those trillions of dollars on our infrastructure, on poverty, homelessness, mental illness etc? OK, if so, now we are out of Afghanistan, so just think of all that money just waiting to be diverted to those issues from here forward. Ready, set….go! I’m waiting. Let’s see what happens….)
Back to the important issue – loss of human life: There is no such thing as a “war” that involves no fatalities. With the thought in mind that we were boots on the ground in Afghanistan for 20 years – not to diminish in any way the tragedy of the loss of a single son or daughter, which of course is an enormous tragedy – the loss of 2,305 U.S. personnel (1,893 to hostile action, 412 non-hostile – not to include or disregard the sacrifice also of our coalition partners), is fairly minimal. 20 years of war…..2,305 American dead.
That is fewer than we lost on 9/11 in a single day – which was the justification for our invasion. That is also fewer than we lost during a single year on highways in the State of California to motor vehicle deaths, which was 3,723 in 2020. And that is less than we’ve been losing every 2 days after almost 2 years of Pandemic. Comparing statistics, how many lives have we lost in the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic due to the self-delusion and denial of “anti-vaxers?” (You take my mask away and the next thing is you are going to take my guns away and then make me get a shot, and Bill Gates is going to insert a microchip so I can be tracked! What childish lunacy. Who in the world would want to track such people with microchips?).
I won’t talk about Iraq. That’s another story.
So statistically, let’s not talk about: “How we lost in Afghanistan; what went wrong.” There WAS an enormous loss of life in Afghanistan – amongst Afghan civilians… and amongst the Taliban, but not numerically, of Americans. (But I attended some of those “ramp ceremonies,” and it was hard.)
Something DID, however, go wrong. Clear to everybody. Once we got there, we changed our mission. And the result of our REDEFINED purpose for being in Afghanistan, Nation Building, was, admittedly, a failure.
There never were 300,000 fully trained ANF and ANP (Afghan soldiers and police). That was always an inflated figure. A percentage of those who were “trained” never existed. They were “ghost soldiers.” And of those who showed up, about 25% at any given time (from my viewpoint) were stoned. Understandably. Some of the Afghan soldiers we were funding and training were guarding poppy fields.
To be clear, there WERE many heroic and dedicated Afghans, soldiers, police, citizens, interpreters, judges, prosecutors and human rights advocates, and other support personnel who assisted ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). Some of those people were brave and competent. Some of them were my friends. Some gave the last full measure. There in my view, is the tragedy.
Roads were built to nowhere, so that American commanders could claim statistics about roads built and infrastructure enhanced. Schools were built that often ended up as empty shells, not attended by the kids from the local villages because the schools were too far to walk to, not properly centered to service populations, and lacked teachers, (because who wants to be a secular teacher in Uruzgan when night falls, and the Taliban knocks on your door?)
So let’s be plain about it, and show some backbone, and stop whining about how we…”Lost.”
We decided to go in. I believe that going in was the right thing to do. In terms of our original purpose for going, we succeeded. Should we have gotten out earlier? Um. Maybe. But there is no point getting involved as a superpower in an asymmetric war in a country involved in its own civil and tribal wars with a raging local insurgency, unless you are willing to stay for 20 to 30, or more, years. And that is a valuable lesson (that we failed to learn from Vietnam), that hopefully we have finally learned going forward.
The Taliban (as did the Vietnamese) knew all along that we would not remain forever. Even with the outrage of 9/11, we do not possess that kind of resolve for that kind of mission.
To paraphrase a comment made in a recent popular movie called “Arrival,” “There are no victors in war, only widows.”
Let us put our resolve now to useful things, if we can find some kind of consensus on… anything, and stop whining about how we “failed” in Afghanistan.
To say we “failed” in Afghanistan devalues the sacrifice of so many who worked to accomplish the items I listed above, which were our stated goals for going there, and it is self-defeating.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Others saw this coming, as far back as 2011. For example: “Americans Have the Clock, But the Taliban Have the Time“.]
 International Security Assistance Force
The International Security Assistance Force was a multinational military mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. It was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 pursuant to the Bonn Agreement, which outlined the establishment of a permanent Afghan government following the U.S. invasion in October, 2001.
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding. >>
<< The Anonymous Veteran was a Captain in U.S. Army Special Forces during the Vietnam War; after military service became a Deputy District Attorney, then served a full career with the FBI. After retirement from the FBI he was an embedded (in U.S. military) Law Enforcement Professional, for 1 year in Iraq in 2009 and for 3 more years and multiple deployments to Afghanistan during the period 2010 to 2014.