The Afghanistan Debacle
Since 1897 The New York Times has carried the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, and generally speaking that was appropriate over the years, save for a few times such as the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when it conveyed blatant bias in favour of the war and published what the appalling Trump would call “fake news”.
A year after the invasion the Times issued a half-hearted apology for its irresponsible journalistic fandangos which were intended to encourage the American public to support Washington’s war that destroyed countless lives and reduced the Middle East to chaos. In the end, the main reporter involved, a repulsive charlatan called Judith Miller, was forced to leave the newspaper (with a generous severance packet) after she had spent time in jail for having refused to divulge the name of yet another “source” for her information.
One of the intriguing things about the NYT’s lame apology is that it referred to a report that “A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq’s chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began.” The Times belatedly admitted that it “never followed up on the veracity of this source or the attempts to verify his claims.” And it seems that the Times continues to be reluctant to follow up on the reliability of some of its sources, because the latest Iraq-style scoop is an unverifiable ‘source-based’ story claiming that Russia paid the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
The Times refers relentlessly to “officials” as the sources of this extremely sensitive allegation, without the slightest intention of providing names or any sort of corroborative detail. There is not a shred of evidence supporting these explosive accusations because all the “information” comes from these ever-ready intelligence sources who feed attractively contrived drivel to willing patsies. As Ray McGovern put it, “the Times’ dubious allegations grabbed headlines across all media that are likely to remain indelible in the minds of credulous Americans – which seems to have been the main objective.” It certainly was, and although a multitude of independent observers have shredded the story, it was regrettable that the Times didn’t see fit to print the news that the Pentagon would not endorse it. On June 29 the Chief Pentagon Spokesman stated that “to date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
It is interesting that the Times story broke just five days after the Afghan National Security Council’s spokesman announced that “The past week was the deadliest of the past 19 years. Taliban carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces, martyring 291 ANDSF [security forces] members and wounding 550 others.” He didn’t mention the fact that 148 civilians had been killed and, bizarrely, it was the Times that recorded this, in its excellent “War Casualty Report” which appears in its magazine section each week. It was not stated how many of these civilians had been killed by government forces’ airstrikes, door-crashing home assaults or erratic mortar fire, but the UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan noted that “Civilian casualties attributed to the ANSF for April 2020 numbered 172 civilians, an increase of 38 per cent compared to April 2019 and 37 per cent higher than March 2020.”
Afghanistan’s security forces — its army, police, air force and swaggering special forces —are poorly trained and their motivation is open to question. The numerical strength of these services is not divulged, and in 2018 Reuters reported that the U.S. military had classified “for the first time since 2009, the actual and authorized total troop numbers and attrition rate for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF.” Suppression of bad or inconvenient news is a well-tried tactic in the propaganda playlist, and as observed by John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, “the American people have constantly been lied to” regarding the conflict in Afghanistan.
In the years of war, 18.8 billion dollars have been poured in to Afghanistan in aid and it has almost all been wasted — notably the vast sums that have been used to purchase luxury mansions, apartments and waterside villas in Dubai and many other sinks for corruption cash.
And the situation on the ground in war-torn Afghanistan is desperate, with the Council on Foreign Relations recording on July 1 that “according to official U.S. government estimates of 2019, only 53.8 percent of Afghan districts [were] under government control or influence, 33.9 percent contested, and the remaining 12.3 percent under the control or influence of the Taliban. The ANDSF continue to suffer heavy casualties and, while actual figures have now been classified by the U.S. military, senior Afghan officials estimate that for several months in 2018 as many as thirty to forty ANDSF personnel were killed every day.”
The government in Kabul is incompetent and incapable of directing affairs throughout the country, as was publicly stated by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo after he visited Kabul in March 2020. He harshly censured President Ghani and his power-sharing rival Abdullah Abdullah, saying “The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests. Their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonours those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country. Because this leadership failure poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests, effective immediately, the U.S. government will initiate a review of the scope of our cooperation with Afghanistan.”
It is extremely irresponsible for the senior foreign affairs representative of any nation to openly criticise the leaders of a supposedly allied country that is engaged in a civil war, because the opponents of the established government will be given the most massive boost in propaganda terms. There are no reports on how the Taliban viewed Pompeo’s monstrous blunder, but it was abundant confirmation for them that those purporting to lead Afghanistan had failed. Not only that but it was said that the president was actually posing a threat to the blustering ally that had invaded their country almost twenty years ago. It would be most surprising if the Taliban were not making maximum propaganda use of this absurd bloomer.
Of equal importance, it is obvious that Pompeo and all the other arrogant amateurs in Washington have totally wrecked U.S.-Afghanistan relations and destroyed whatever shreds of trust in America that may have been lingering in the Kabul government.
An investigation by the Washington Post disclosed that “senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” Given the combination of Washington’s deceit and insult, together with Kabul’s rampant corruption, its inability to govern in much of the country, and general incompetence, the picture is one of a disaster, a debacle of colossal proportions.
Washington should cease feeding the New York Times and others with fatuous tales about supposed plots involving bonuses for bodies and simply cut its (gargantuan) losses and get out now.
By Brian Cloughley
Source: Strategic Culture