Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #314 - Afghanistan's Future and the Global Chessboard
9-11 was planned in the safety of Afghanistan by Pakistan and its allies in that quagmire of terror-land. The American response since is a lesson. What does the future hold? Let us dive in.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ― Marcus Aurelius , Meditations
Sometimes wars are not about winning. They are about creating chaos. Because the war was never the objective. Profit was.
Profit is maximized in chaos.
Higher the risk, the higher the profit.
Managed chaos, with most players in one’s hands, means most profit.
Wars are orchestrated by the speech-writers and journalists then. They, with their morality-laced metaphors and non-sequiturs, create the narratives for profits.
And “We the People” who are looking for “good” in every scenario lap up linear moral nonsense to delude ourselves that the world is still worth believing in.
The soldier who fights for his flag and the humanist who serves people are merely cogs. They just don’t know yet.
Practiced compassion is a weapon that leaders use to camouflage their game of profiting from our naïveté.
That is all there is to Afghanistan.
Poof they vanished!
When Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the US on October 7, 2001; the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. No one could walk on the street without following the strict Sharia rules imposed by the Islamic Jihadi regime.
When the American forces had taken over and since then in the last 20 years, not one Taliban leader was ever found in the country. Not one.
Where did the entire Taliban leadership and the administration that monitored the streets in that country suddenly vanish?
In an interview with the renowned journalist Seymour Hersh (probably the only honest American journalist in the last 40 years), a RAW senior analyst asked the same question.
In the Indian assessment, thirtythree hundred prisoners surrendered to a Northern Alliance tribal faction headed by General Abdul Rashid Dostum. A few hundred Taliban were also turned over to other tribal leaders. That left between four and five thousand men unaccounted for. “Where are the balance?” the intelligence officer asked. (Source)
November 25th, 2001. Just 5 weeks after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. One man was rampaging through the territories and the forces of the Taliban.
His name was Ahmed Shah Massoud.
By November 25th, Massoud’s men had taken Kunduz and captured 4000 fighters of Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The next day US President George Bush announced:
“We’re smoking them out. They’re running, and now we’re going to bring them to justice.”
Vicarious sense of bravado!
By then, however, reports had started coming out in the papers about a mind-bogglingly strange operation.
Passage to Evil
It was called “Airlift of Evil.” The Kunduz Airlift!
Personal note: I still remember reading about it in Hindustan Times for the first time. Probably leaked by an Indian intelligence source. A week later, it was reported by BBC via their lady correspondent in that area. Within days she was sent back to England. I could not find the relevant sources to corroborate this but had to share from recollections of that time. By December 2001, I would tell my quizzically looking American friends that the Afghan war was just a farce and American soldiers were just another collateral damage for the establishment’s greed!
For several nights, Pakistani Air Force planes operated flights from Kunduz to Pakistan within an air corridor provided by the US Forces to take out Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Pakistani personnel from Kunduz. While the Northern Alliance was busy defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The very “evil” that the US was apparently fighting to make them pay for the attacks on 9-11.
One has seen many military personnel being misused by the unabashedly unscrupulous establishments in many countries. But the reckless manner in which the American government leaders enable the butchering of their own troops while providing air-tight security to their own enemies is without another parallel in the annals of modern war history.
It wasn’t just a few of the Pakistani Army officers, intelligence advisers, and citizens fighting alongside Taliban and Al Qaeda who were evacuated, as was the plea from the Pakistanis, but at least 4000 people were taken out in what quickly became a free for all operation.
In interviews, however, American intelligence officials and high-ranking military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety, in a series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus. “Dirt got through the screen,” a senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment. (Source)
“Dirt got through the screen”. That’s freaking cute!
That “dirt” provided Pakistan with a treasure trove of Jihadi fighters and terror trainers. Déjà vu, anyone?
The Northern Alliance, accomplishments of whose valor Bush was packaging as those of the US forces, was furious!
The lies.. heck lies and delusional narratives
The American “think-tanks” meanwhile were furnishing nonsensical drivel laced with official lies.
In 2010, 91,000 documents collected from across the U.S. military in Afghanistan covering the Afghan War between 2004 and 2010 were released by Wikileaks. They showed something “alarming” as per many US analysts who chose to play ignoramuses. But these documents showed the duplicity of not just the Pakistani establishment but the American establishment. After all, remember that the decision on handing over the entire Taliban and Al Qaeda brass to the Pakistani Army during the Kunduz airlift when these terrorists were facing certain death at the hands of the Northern Alliance was taken by the top leadership in the White House just weeks into the Operation Enduring Freedom!
The Times reported the documents showed Pakistan actively collaborating with the Afghan insurgency. "The documents ... suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders," the Times said. (Source)
This leak happened at the time of President Obama. how do you think his administration responded?
The White House responded immediately with a strong condemnation of the disclosures by the organization WikiLeaks, saying it could threaten national security and endanger the lives of Americans and those of its allies. But Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, said the leak would not affect "our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan." (Source)
The Pakistanis - far from the claims of how amazingly Musharraf and the Pakistani establishment had been working with the Americans - were sending the very fighters that the American establishment had helped save via Kunduz airlift to kill - American soldiers.
When this came out, the Obama administration blamed the messenger - Wikileaks - and wanted to “deepen its partnership with Pakistan.”
Does that make any sense?! The tone-deaf American “analysts” (if one even wants to call that bunch of clueless community that!), the establishment (both Republican and Democrat), the world bodies and agencies. Everyone has been lying and obfuscating the reality even while facilitating the deaths of citizens from Western countries.
Refreshing honesty marred by needless buffoonery
That is why when Donald Trump looked at the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he saw glaring inconsistencies that made no sense. He was neither beholden to the established forces of intelligence or statecraft - which had hitherto supported Pakistan’s treasonous behavior while thrusting ignorant US troops into the battles with Pakistan’s sidekicks, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda. Both Pakistan and the US establishment had been lying through their teeth. Afghan citizens, the US troops, and the world at large were the unsuspecting victims.
On January 1, 2018, President Trump tweeted: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”1 The president’s message was clear: the United States will no longer tolerate Pakistan’s policy of aiding and abetting militant groups, specifically the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. (Source)
If only Trump had acted Presidential and not like a buffoon, he would have gone down in history as one of the most successful US Presidents!
‘Know they are coming’
Let us go back to 2001 and see what transpired to further underscore the spectacular betrayal of the world by the Pakistani and the American establishments.
The Northern Alliance lost their leader - the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmed Shah Massoud - in the lead up to 9-11.
Even after he had warned about the coming death and its ramifications on the US - audacious terror attack! - this amazing person was allowed to be killed. In vain. Because his warnings and specific link between his death and the attack on the US didn’t go anywhere.
On September 9, 2001. The attack on the US: September 11, 2001.
“…if they kill me, then you know they are coming. That will be your signal.”
The man, who was the only resistance to Pakistan-backed Taliban and Al Qaeda, knew that to attack the US, these Jihadis had to kill him so they wouldn’t face any retaliation.
And their fear was right. Even without their leader, their Lion, the Northern Alliance ripped through the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. They had captured 4000 of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.
Northern Alliance was just inches away from the end-game for terrorism in Afghanistan.
By mid-November, it was clear that the Northern Alliance would quickly sweep through Afghanistan. There were fears that once the Northern Alliance took Kunduz, there would be wholesale killings of the defeated fighters, especially the foreigners. (Source)
Until the US stepped in and saved the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their backer, the Pakistani Army, and intelligence.
To call it a betrayal is not even fair.
Close to 2500 US soldiers, 3900 US contractors, 66000 Afghan national military and police, 1,144 other NATO soldiers, 47000+ Afghan nationals and 72 journalists have died in Afghanistan since those fateful days in November 2001. (Source)
Deaths that could have been prevented. If the US had not facilitated the evacuation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters along with their backers - the Pakistan Army regulars fighting and guiding them.
It’s the Money stupid!
Of course, the US citizens were riddled with a handsome debt of $2 Trillion that could have been used within the country for the American citizens.
IN December 2001, World leaders met to devise a plan for Afghanistan’s future. Part of which was the mobilize and strengthen the Afghan forces. Forces, which have repeatedly been characterized as weak, cowardly and not good enough.
Which is strange.
Because the central core of these forces made up of the Northern Alliance soldiers had all but destroyed the Taliban and Al Qaeda out, until the US establishment betrayed them in November 2001.
So why were the Afghan forces so vulnerable? Because they were facing the entire power of the Pakistani forces as well.
The American generals knew. The Pakistani-backed Al Qaeda and Talibani terrorists may have been somewhat sympathetic to the American forces, for they did not fully want to upset the cart, but the Afghan forces were their main targets. Al Qaeda and its constituent the Haqqani group were called a “veritable arm of the Pakistani intelligence services” by Admiral Mike Mullen.
In a strong and public condemnation of Pakistan, America's most senior military officer has said the Haqqani network is a veritable arm of the country's intelligence services. Admiral Mike Mullen told US senators that the militant group planned and conducted the recent assault on the US Embassy in Kabul with the help of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service. (Source)
In 2008, the policy advisor to President Obama, Bruce Reidel, who was later the chair of a White House review committee formed to overhaul U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote in an assessment about Pakistan’s actions and relationships with the Jihadi terrorists.
Pakistan almost uniquely is both a major victim of terrorism and a major sponsor of terrorism. It has been the scene of horrific acts of terrorist violence, including the murder of Benazir Bhutto, and it has been one of the most prolific state sponsors of terror aimed at advancing its national security interests. Over the course of the past three decades, Pakistan's army has built a complex network of relationships with numerous jihadist terror groups, including the Taliban, and with terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Fear of India is the driving force behind the army's pursuit of these relationships. For the next American president, there is no issue or country more critical to get right, which means developing a policy that will move Pakistan away from being a hothouse of terror. Engaging Kashmir should be part of that new approach. (Source)
When all this was known, why is it that the US kept pumping money and weapons into Afghanistan?
Part of that answer may lie in where the money actually went.
As of June 30, the United States has spent about $144.98 billion in funds for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since fiscal year 2002, including $88.61 billion for security (including $4.6 billion for counternarcotic initiatives); $36.29 billion for governance and development (including $4.37 billion for counternarcotic initiatives); $4.18 billion for humanitarian aid; and $15.91 billion for agency operations. Although these numbers are staggering, much of U.S. investment did not stay in Afghanistan. Because of heavy reliance on a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, Washington banditry, and aid contractors, between 80 and 90 percent of outlays actually returned to the U.S. economy. Of the 10 to 20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. Although corruption is rife in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption by U.S. firms and individuals working in Afghanistan. (Source)
The main beneficiaries of the largesse that the US government - bureaucracy/establishment whatever you may want to call it - were the contractors who made a killing. 80-90% of that went to them and came back to the US. The obvious question for a discerning analyst would be - were the players who were creating the situations for the war to continue and become more complicated while not bringing the central villain - Pakistan - to task, getting a cut?
The other beneficiary of this whole drama in Afghanistan was - well - Pakistan.
Billions of dollars later the US felt the Pakistani betrayal in Afghanistan even more acutely!
In CATO Institute’s paper “Policy Analysis”, Sahar Khan wrote an article titled “Double Game” that discusses the background of President Trump’s rather impatient looking - but extremely accurate and for a change refreshingly honest (from a US leader/establishment) tweet on Pakistan on January 1st, 2018!
The reason was that Pakistan was rubbing the humiliation into the US establishment.
There has always been an inexplicable level of masochist self-delusion on the part of the US in dealing with Pakistan and the entire action in Afghanistan. What could be the reason for that? Until now, unfortunately, no one has asked that question within the US. For, most citizens don’t even know the damage that Pakistan has wrecked on the US over the years.
Treason and Backing the Devil
Pakistan lifted parts of nuclear plants that it installed from the US with full knowledge and connivance of the Reagan administration. It was in the late 1980s that Richard Barlow (please do research about him!), an awarded CIA analyst who later lost his job and career, made a startling discovery – that the State Department was not only keeping the intelligence inputs back from the nation and Congress, but it was also actually FACILITATING the Nuclear Proliferation to Pakistan. What the Commerce Department had refused to clear due to proliferation issues, was given clean approval by the State Department to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Worse was then discovered! That someone – someone VERY high up – was actually tipping the Pakistani authorities and their allies IN the US about the operations of CIA and US Customs. The example that Barlow gave was that the CIA knew how Pakistanis used a company in Oklahoma but before they could raid it, everyone had flown out! So, someone with secret clearance to view the very confidential CIA operational material WAS the source for these TIP OFFS!!
Dick Kerr looked over the evidence. Abraham Sofaer for State reviewed it too. Both had little appetite for another inquisition, and yet the men accused of blowing the Pervez (Arshad Pervez) sting were extremely close to the White House: Robert Peck, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, and another official at the under secretary level. The accusations were devastating. The lawyer dryly put his thoughts to a criminal investigator working for the State IG, “I am fully aware of the cable traffic and documents on this issue”. There was cold proof of sabotage from within the State Department.
The State Department’s lawyers considered their position, and eventually would argue that a Justice Department probe into Peck or his colleague would necessitate the spilling of state secrets and possibly invoke an independent counsel’s investigation. While they dumped the probe, the president made his annual Pressler amendment certification to Congress in December 1987, saying, “Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device”. (Page 167 and 169 - Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons by Adrian Levy)
Of course, we have shared details of how Pakistan intelligence ISI’s Chief Lt Gen Mahmud wired $100,000 to Mohammad Atta via Omar Saeed (the man who killed Daniel Pearl) prior to 9-11 hijackings. Not only did all the hijackers get that money, but Atta also wired the remaining money back to Omar Saeed! Please read Issue #122 - Who REALLY carried out the 9-11 attacks? for details.
Again, when you ask the question - Why is the US doing this to itself? Even the most connected are baffled. Tucker Carlson asks this question to Lara Logan, and she is as flummoxed and then thinks it’s the bureaucracy that goes across the Presidents who may be responsible.
What about Afghanistan now?
As the Taliban entered Kabul, Ashraf Ghani left Afghanistan with so much cash that he couldn’t even take it all with him.
Russia's embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported. Ghani, whose current whereabouts are unknown, said he left Afghanistan on Sunday as the Taliban entered Kabul virtually unopposed. He said he wanted to avoid bloodshed. (Source)
Meanwhile, the US forces left behind a bounty of weaponry for the Taliban, which they have taken possession of. As per one interesting post, it is said that the Taliban have more Black Hawks than 166 other countries! (Source) Doesn’t matter how many countries have so many Black Hawks or not. The fact is that the Taliban does now. And by proxy does Pakistan.
Another official said that while there are no definitive numbers yet, the current intelligence assessment was that the Taliban are believed to control more than 2,000 armoured vehicles, including US Humvees, and up to 40 aircraft potentially including UH-60 Black Hawks, scout attack helicopters, and ScanEagle military drones. (Source)
As Laura told Tucker, many of these are being dismantled and taken to Pakistan.
Put another way - That was the American weaponry for Pakistan without any Congressional approval!
Amrullah Saleh, the erstwhile Vice President (and protege of Ahmed Shah Massoud) who has now declared himself as the Afghan President, has now started gathering his troops.
The anti-Taliban resistance forces have captured three districts of Bano, Pule Hesar and Deh Salah. According to the Eastern Herald, Parwan province just north of Kabul is now under the control of President Saleh’s brigade. Saleh has 10,000 soldiers under his command, and they all were part of aggression against the Taliban during the war. Amrullah Saleh’s resistance force has got the support of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who has moved into Afghanistan along with fighters from Uzbekistan. Prior to establishing control over the Parwan province, Amrullah Saleh’s forces along with those of General Dostum had regained control of the Charikar area in Parwan province. Control over Charikar would enable Saleh to land militia of Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum’s reinforcements. A strategically important road passes through Charikar via the Salang Tunnel, which connects Kabul with Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in northern Afghanistan and once held by Dostum. Further, it would also put Saleh’s forces within striking distance of the massive Bagram airbase complex. (Source)
If the script of the movie has to play differently this time, as opposed to the Kunduz airlift disastrous days, then the forces on the ground which are fighting with Saleh will need to be ruthless and uncompromising. Those who are backing them right now cannot let the corrupt and delusionally masochist American establishment bail out the evil Pakistani establishment with even more blood of the American citizens. And that of others.
If the Amrullah Saleh’s mentoring under Ahmed Shah Massoud has been good, which one can believe it was, and the fighting force that Massoud created and Saleh has worked on is anywhere near what it was earlier, this movie is not over yet.
Players and their interests
The relevant players in this battle will remain Pakistan, the US and the new ones will be China, India, and Russia. Apart from the Arabic countries.
China: Will be worried that Taliban and Al Qaeda may target the Uighur areas despite their assurances to the contrary. That can make the Chinese Western side very unstable going forward.
USA: Those who still care about American lives in the US will know that a new 9-11 style attack will be brewing starting now. The US cannot escape that eventuality. The lobbies that have managed the bureaucracy to create the situations that they do while backing Pakistan, will obviously salivate at the very thought of another terror attack followed by a full-scale war against “someone”. Doesn’t matter who though.
Pakistan: There are many parts to the Taliban now. Though Pakistan still holds the strings for many factions, there are components that may prove difficult to manage for Pakistan. Pakistan will look for the “strategic depth” it had lost along with the much-needed money from the opium trade and other means. Booty that the Americans left behind will help tremendously. As difficult as the Taliban will be to handle for Pak establishment now, this is a much-needed lifeline for their economy.
India: Nothing will come easy in the new scenario for India. This means Pakistan’s attacks on India will get more teeth and American weaponry will be used against the Indian forces. It happened in Kargil War when the Indian Mi -8 helicopter was shot down by the Stinger missiles by the Pakistani forces, who blamed it on the Jihadis. India won’t be a silent spectator this time. Saleh is India’s natural ally in Afghanistan. There may be other groups within and outside of Pakistan that could be mobilized for a larger battle.
Here is something worth pondering on: Amrullah Saleh, the erstwhile spy chief of Afghanistan and now leading the charge against Taliban had told the US about where Osama was hiding accurately (Abbottabad) (Source), he knew what Pakistan was doing in Afghanistan via their terror network (Source) based on his extensive spy network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How the heck could he have missed the entire plot of the US/Taliban/Pakistan (and possibly China) group to pay off the Afghan National Guard commanders to run away without a fight?
Either he is toast, or he is the key to dismantling the curse of Pakistani terror from the region because he has planned ahead and was letting go of “dead-weight”.
The games have just begun.
market corner: 10 quick bytes
Indian startups raised USD 6.5 bn funding in Q2 2021, 11 new unicorns were created (Source)
USD 17.2 bn infused in Indian startup ecosystem by venture capital firms during Jan-July (Source)
Cabinet approves Rs 11,040 cr National Mission on the edible oils-oil palm with focus on Northeastern region (Source)
Tata Realty to invest Rs 4,000 cr in residential, commercial projects (Source)
Income tax portal: FinMin summons Infosys CEO Salil Parekh over persistent glitches (Source)
Payroll data by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) showed 1.28 million net new subscribers were added in June, 0.5 million more than in May.(Source)
Facebook launches collateral-free loans for small businesses in partnership with Indifi (Source)
India’s exposure to US securities jumps over $20 bn in 3 months; touches $220.2 bn in June (Source)
FM to launch 4-year national asset monetization plan - where Rs 6 trillion pipeline of assets can be monetized. (Source)
483 infra projects show cost overruns of Rs 4.43 lakh crore (Source)
China targets $1 trillion Afghan Minerals treasure: The resources include bauxite, copper, iron ore, lithium and rare earths, according to a January report by the US Geological Survey (USGS). The country's untapped mineral riches have been estimated at $1 trillion by the USGS, though Afghan officials have put it three times as high. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights in 2007 to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit for 30 years and extract 11.5 million tons of the commodity. The project to tap the world's second-largest unexploited copper deposit has yet to start operations "due to safety issues", according to Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times. (Source)
Osama banned Biden Assassination: According to reports, a 48-page letter written by Osama bin Laden, which was recovered along with a series of documents from the 9/11 mastermind, has reportedly shown that Osama bin Laden had banned Al-Qaeda from assassinating Joe Biden as he believed that he would turn out to be an “incompetent President”. Osama bin Laden had written the letter to an aide identified as ‘Brother Shaykh Mahmud’ or Atiyah Abd al-Rahman. In the letter dated May 2010, Osama bin Laden had told his followers that he has no plans to assassinate Joe Biden because he deemed him “totally unprepared” to lead the United States. The letter was found in a trove of documents at the Pakistan compound where US special forces killed him in 2011. (Source)
Deaths during US pull-out: A NATO official has said at least 20 people have lost their lives at Kabul airport during the evacuation process that began after the Taliban militants seized control of the capital city last week. “The crisis outside the Kabul airport is unfortunate. Our focus is to evacuate all foreigners as soon as we can,” Reuters quoted the official, who didn’t wish to be named. (Source)
Lithuania faces China’s Wrath: The United States has agreed on “bilateral coordination action” to help Lithuania withstand the diplomatic onslaught from China after it allowed Taiwan to establish an embassy under its own name in the Baltic country. US secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke with Lithuania`s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Saturday, weeks after China threatened to withdraw its ambassador to Vilnius and asked the latter to recall their envoy from Beijing. (Source)
video corner: Amrullah Saleh
We have talked about Amrullah Saleh in our post today. Here is an interview that Laura Logan had with Saleh 10 years back. It is worth listening to.
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