Mission accomplished: the war in Afghanistan was good for business
America’s 20-year mishap in Afghanistan mirrors it. Its meaning depends on the viewer. It’s a humanitarian disaster, the last series of the Great Game of nearly 200 years between the imperial powers, a graveyard of women’s rights, and the best opportunity for happy and content “I told you” from every Skype remote shooter on the ring road. But for most Americans, the Afghan stage of the global war on terror is best understood as a giant ATM machine with appalling service charges in lives lost, time wasted and, more importantly, in some corners, of the money spent.
Imagine that the war in Afghanistan has “failed”. Brother, this was the best racket in 20 years since this country’s adventures in the Philippines and Central America! pic.twitter.com/7H07ymGJHT
– Chris Roberts (@_chrisroberts) August 13, 2021
Shameless versions of this take from former US Marine General Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racketeering” analysis, appeared in Interception and on Twitter feeds last week, since the US-funded and backed Afghan security forces melted, President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country (right?) and the Taliban have taken over. main street to Kabul.
It’s neither original nor nuanced – again, neither is the war – but here it is: in addition to at least 238,000 war dead – including 113,000 Afghan soldiers and civilians killed – the United States spent 145 billion dollars for civil engineering, agriculture and other nations. construction projects in Afghanistan since 2001. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has detonated $ 2.26 trillion total since September 2001 on the whole war effort: troops, trucks, planes, cafeterias, gym equipment, bribes, etc.
Where did all the money go? He did not stay in Herat (if he ever went that far). Look in your own garden (if you have one). As a professor of securities studies at Georgetown University, C. Christine Fair wrote in Foreign police, “Between 80 and 90 percent of spending actually returned to the US economy.” The money has returned, but not to you. That is: your tax money has been used to pay defense contractors, construction companies, anyone who seized an opportunity. Congratulations, my friend: the tax money you might prefer to fill a pothole or pay for your children’s school hasn’t lined a mullah’s pockets. It more likely helped fill an executive’s garage or shareholder pool.
Leftists will argue that the global war on terror was in fact a titanic shooter, a redistribution of public wealth into private pockets. A recent response, by Fred Kaplan in Slate, maintains that the war machine would have gone very well without Afghanistan; that most of the Pentagon’s spending is on fantastic new gadgets like stealth destroyers, the $ 1.7 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mess, new nuclear missiles, etc.
This is, of course, speculation – would defense contractors have done as well without this huge opportunity? We’ll never know, and arguing that just because Boeing, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin didn’t “need” Afghanistan to make money, Kaplan is ignoring the huge logistics expenses necessary to deploy an army for two decades on the other side of the world.
The United States is not “done” with Afghanistan. As OpenSecrets reported On Friday, the Pentagon awarded 17 companies additional contracts worth $ 1 billion to perform work beyond the original May 1 withdrawal date.
Right now, the United States must figure out what to do with the tens of thousands of Afghans who have provided translation services, served with Soldiers and Marines in remote valleys, or have simply decided to go find a job in Bagram or any other temporary town. have sprung up around an airfield or strategic junction in the high desert – many of whom are on the Taliban’s kill lists and flee or hide for their lives. Two thousand The US Marines, along with British paratroopers and what remains of the Afghan army, are currently providing security at Kabul airport.
After the “digital Dunkirk” comes the blame game. Trump henchmen like Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state and likely 2024 presidential candidate, are backing down as quickly as possible from their role in securing a deal with the Taliban and setting a date for it. withdrawal. Experts are raising the question of whether the Pentagon and President Joe Biden’s State Department reversed the US withdrawal (it appears to be the case) and whether Biden was right to do what every president since. Barack obama vowed to do and get out of Afghanistan (if not now, then when?).
Next is more of Great Game. Now China and Russia will enter the “void” left by the United States, although it is not clear what this means. The Belt and Road power plants using coal from Xinjiang in Helmand? The mercenaries of the Wagner group take over from the American entrepreneurs? Same project, different empire? It’s not clear. The Taliban received money and training from Pakistan with nuclear weapons; will this help continue? Will Afghanistan affect this country’s dance with India?
As an alternative to the blatantly corrupt, US-backed government in Kabul, the Taliban has behaved like the definition of a functioning state – collecting taxes, providing security. Whether they can hold together is an open question.
Clear signs that war and governance are not the same are already appearing, even as the evacuation continues.
Thursday in Kabul, 200 demonstrators carrying the tricolor red, green and black of the fallen Afghan government squared against Taliban militiamen carrying Kalashnikovs. As many regimes have demonstrated before, Afghanistan is mostly a state in name. No one seems able to rule the country as drawn for very long without outside help – and that includes the Taliban, recipients of material aid from Pakistan.
In a few years, if there is a rebellion against the Taliban, don’t be shocked if it turns out that the uprising is funded by the United States – using American weapons, paid for by American dollars – and the Grand Success begins again. In the meantime, the Taliban fighters will be traveling in American-paid trucks, using American-paid weapons – and they will need somebody’s gas and bullets.
The drawing above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: ATM (Noelle Gillies / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), taliban (Sailors / Flickr), mask (Phil Roeder / Flickr – CC BY 2.0)seal (DOD / Wikimedia), flag (MSGJ / Wikimedia), speakers (niels roza / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Kilroy (Le Martin / Wikimedia), Mi-35M (Yevgeny Volkov / Wikimedia – CC BY 3.0), MRAP (The American army), tactical vehicles (New Jersey National Guard / Flickr), A-29 (US Air Force), and the background (US Department of State / Flickr).