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Afghanistan 2021 . . .

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18 May 2021

Zalmay Khalilzad

Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan said:

“I personally believe that the statements that their forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken,” Zalmay Khalilzad told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whose members expressed deep worry that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw by September will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.

Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. He recently met with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, as part of a round of consultations with interested parties.

He said the Taliban have not interfered in any substantial way with the U.S. military withdrawal, and added, “We expect that to continue.” He said diplomatic efforts are under way to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to able to respond to future threats.

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26 August 2021

Behind bombing at Kabul airport: ISIS-K info


19 August 2019



Authorities have made at least eight arrests in the United States linked to the IS affiliate in Afghanistan. One was Martin Azizi-Yarand, the 18-year-old Texan who plotted a 2018 attack on a suburban mall and who said he was inspired by IS and was preparing to join the affiliate.

The group’s brutal tactics have been on vivid display inside Afghanistan for years. Residents who fled areas captured by the group describe a reign of terror not unlike the one seen in Syria and Iraq at the height of IS’s power.

The Afghan affiliate has been based in eastern Nangarhar province, a rugged region along the border with Pakistan, but it also has a strong presence in northern Afghanistan and has of late expanded into neighboring Kunar province, where it could prove even harder to dislodge. The mountainous province provided shelter for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden for nearly a year following the Taliban’s ouster from power in late 2001, and U.S. forces struggled for years to capture and hold high-altitude outposts there.



In recent months the Taliban have said they have no ambitions to monopolize power in a post-war Afghanistan, while IS is committed to overthrowing the Kabul government on its path to establishing a global caliphate.

The Taliban and IS are sharply divided over ideology and tactics, with the Taliban largely confining their attacks to government targets and Afghan and international security forces. The Taliban and IS have fought each other on a number of occasions, and the Taliban are still the larger and more imposing force. They’re currently at their strongest since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and effectively control half the country.

Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in recent months in a bid to end America’s longest war. The two sides appear to be closing in on an agreement in which the U.S. would withdraw its forces in return for a pledge from the Taliban to keep the country from being used as a launch pad for global attacks.

But a deal could prompt an exodus of more radical Taliban fighters to join IS. That process is already underway in parts of northern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have attacked IS only to lose territory and fighters to the rival extremist group.

Edited by Boydstun
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From David Brooks NYT

27 August 2021 “This is How Theocracy Shrivels”



. . .

By 2006, in an essay called “The Master Plan” Lawrence Wright could report in The New Yorker how Al Qaeda had operationalized these dreams into a set of sweeping, violent strategies. The plans were epic in scope: expel the U.S. from Iraq, establish a caliphate, overthrow Arab regimes, initiate a clash with Israel, undermine Western economies, create “total confrontation” between believers and nonbelievers, and achieve “definitive victory” by 2020, transforming world history.

These were the sorts of bold dreams that drove Islamist terrorism in the first part of the 21st century.

To the terrorists behind Thursday’s bombing outside the Kabul airport, the murder of more than a dozen Americans and scores of Afghans may seem like a step toward that utopia. The humbling American withdrawal from Afghanistan may to them seem like a catastrophic defeat for Western democracy and a great leap toward the dream of a unified Muslim community.

But something has changed over the past several years. The magnetic ideas at the heart of so many of these movements have lost their luster.

If extremists thought they could mobilize Muslim opinion through acts of clarifying violence, they have failed. Across 11 lands in which Pew surveyed Muslims in 2013, a median of only 13 percent had a favorable opinion of Al Qaeda.

. . .

But even in more moderate places, political Islam is losing favor. In 2019, The Economist surveyed the data and concluded “Across the Arab world people are turning against religious political parties and the clerics who helped bring them to power. Many appear to be giving up on Islam, too.” Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi of Iran noticed the trend in his own country: “Iranians are evading religious teachings and turning to secularism.”

Globally, terrorism is down. Deaths from attacks fell by 59 percent between 2014 and 2019. Al Qaeda’s core members haven’t successfully attacked the U.S. homeland since 9/11. In 2017, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, began a process of marginalizing radical Wahhabism.

Experts see Islamic extremism’s fortunes slipping away. “The past two decades,” Nelly Lahoud in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “have made clear just how little jihadi groups can hope to accomplish. They stand a far better chance of achieving eternal life in paradise than of bringing the United States to its knees.”

. . . as the Taliban takes power in Afghanistan and ISIS still spreads mayhem, it’s obvious that even local conflicts can create incredible danger. But the idea of global glory — a fundamental shaking of the world order — that burst on the world stage roughly 40 years ago has been brought low.

The problem has not been eliminated by any means, but it has shrunk.

We blundered when we sought to defeat a powerful idea through some decisive military victory. But much is achieved when we keep up the pressure, guard the homeland, promote liberal ideas and allow theocracy to shrivel under the weight of its own flaws.

The men and women, in and out of uniform, who have done this work over the past 40 years, and are still giving their lives to it, deserve our gratitude and admiration.


Extemporaneous from Pres. Biden on last minute question of news conference of 26 August 2021



Q    And you said that you still — a few days ago, you said you squarely stand by your decision to pull out.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I do.  Because look at it this way, folks — and I’m going to — I have another meeting, for real.  But imagine where we’d be if I had indicated, on May the 1st, I was not going to renegotiate an evacuation date; we were going to stay there.

I’d have only one alternative: Pour thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won, relative — is why the reason we went in the first place.

I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan — a country that has never once in its entire history been a united country, and is made up — and I don’t mean this in a derogatory — made up of different tribes who have never, ever, ever gotten along with one another.

And so, as I said before — and this is the last comment I’ll make, but we’ll have more chance to talk about this, unfortunately, beyond, because we’re not out yet — if Osama bin Laden, as well as al Qaeda, had chosen to launch an attack — when they left Saudi Arabia — out of Yemen, would we have ever gone to Afghanistan?  Even though the Taliban completely controlled Afghanistan at the time, would we have ever gone?

I know it’s not fair to ask you questions.  It’s rhetorical.  But raise your hand if you think we should have gone and given up thousands of lives and tens of thousands of wounded.

Our interest in going was to prevent al Qaeda from reemerging — first to get bin Laden, wipe out al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and prevent that from happening again.

As I’ve said 100 times: Terrorism has metastasized around the world; we have greater threats coming out of other countries a heck of a lot closer to the United States. 

We don’t have military encampments there; we don’t keep people there.  We have over-the-horizon capability to keep them from going after us. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end a 20-year war.





Edited by Boydstun
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I was pleased with the shift in US foreign policy delineated in the President's speech of 31 August. I was disappointed, however, to see that we shall be sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through the US government. We do not owe them anything collectively in the sense of pertinent causal responsibility. It is not the US war there that caused, in the responsibility-sense, the coming dire straits of that country. Many countries, including Afghanistan, have the potential to produce enough to feed themselves and advance themselves were their country to wake up one morning and find that all the other countries in the world had vanished, leaving only ocean around the globe beyond their own borders. Also, I'd bet that such humanitarian aid that well-off countries give to other countries is very often meted out in such a way as to reinforce power of the particular political regime of the day, not merely to fill needs of all people equally. And of course, because of the coercive way in which governmental charities are funded and because we are not and should not be an empire (such as the old British Empire) and because the proposition that governmental foreign humanitarian aid improves protection against foreign attacks on the US is a falsehood and a lie: governmental humanitarian foreign aid is wrong in complete generality.

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19 hours ago, tadmjones said:

And a disgrace that the upper echelon of military command is more than tolerant of as there has not been one resignation, aside from a Marine Commander asking for accountability.

Biden is the Commander in Chief and as such is responsible. He can make speeches trying to shift the blame, but he is still the one responsible, especially for his own lies. 

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Christopher Klein

“Early on the morning of April 29, North Vietnamese troops shelled Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Air Base, killing two U.S. Marines guarding the defense attaché office compound. Corporal Charles McMahon and Lance Corporal Darwin Judge were the last of approximately 58,000 American servicemen killed in action in the Vietnam War. After surveying the air base damage, Martin conceded the time had come to leave Saigon, but with sea lanes blocked and commercial and military aircraft unable to land, the ambassador’s delays forced the United States into its option of last resort—a helicopter airlift.”

“While plans called for the extraction of only Americans, Martin insisted that Vietnamese government and military officials and support staff also be evacuated.”

“While approximately 10,000 people clamored outside the embassy gates, marine guards faced the unenviable task of deciding who would be saved and who would be left behind.”

“With some pilots flying for 19 hours straight, the American military had carried out an incredible evacuation of 7,000 people, including 5,500 Vietnamese, in less than 24 hours.”

“Hours after the departure of the last helicopter from the embassy, North Vietnamese tanks smashed through the gates of the Independence Palace. . . . officially ending the two-decade-long Vietnam War.”


One poster here was in US military service in that war. It was from him years ago I learned the quip from Mark Twain:

“History does not repeat itself. But it rhymes.”

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