Counterpunching the Lies on Afghanistan

In anticipation of President Trump’s announcement this evening on Afghanistan I had the following essay published on Counterpunch:

“There has never been progress by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, unless you are asking the U.S. military contractors or the Afghan drug barons, of whom an extremely large share are our allies in the Afghan government, militias and security forces, there has only been suffering and destruction. American politicians, pundits and generals will speak about “progress” made by the 70,000 American troops put into Afghanistan by President Obama beginning in 2009, along with an additional 30,000 European troops and 100,000 private contractors, however the hard and awful true reality is that the war in Afghanistan has only escalated since 2009, never stabilizing or deescalating; the Taliban has increased in strength by tens of thousands, despite tens of thousands of casualties and prisoners; and American and Afghan casualties have continued to grow every year of the conflict, with U.S. casualties declining only when U.S. forces began to withdraw in mass numbers from parts of Afghanistan in 2011, while Afghan security forces and civilians have experienced record casualties every year since those numbers began to be kept by the UN.

Similarly, any progress in reconstructing or developing Afghanistan has been found to be near non-existent despite the more than $100 billion spent by the United States on such efforts by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR). $100 billion, by the way, is more money than was spent on the Marshall Plan when that post-WWII reconstruction plan is put into inflation adjusted dollars. Oft repeated claims, such as millions of Afghan school girls going to school, millions of Afghans having access to improved health care and Afghan life expectancy dramatically increasing, and the construction of an Afghan job building economy have been exposed as nothing more than public relations lies. Displayed as modern Potemkin Villages to visiting journalists and congressional delegations and utilized to justify continued budgets for the Pentagon and USAID, and, so, to allow for more killing, like America’s reconstruction program in Iraq, the reconstruction program in Afghanistan has proven to be a failure and its supposed achievements shown to be virtually non-existent, as documented by multiple investigations by SIGAR, as well as by investigators and researchers from organizations such as the UN, EU, IMF, World Bank, etc.

Tonight, the American people will hear again the great lie about the progress the American military once made in Afghanistan after “the Afghan Surge”, just as we often hear the lie about how the American military had “won” in Iraq. In Iraq it was a political compromise that brought about a cessation of hostilities for a few short years and it was the collapse of the political balance that had been struck that led to the return to the violence of the last several years. In Afghanistan there has never even been an attempt at such a political solution and all the Afghan people have seen in the last eight years, every year, has been a worsening of the violence.

Americans will also hear tonight how the U.S. military has done great things for the Afghan people. You would be hard pressed to find many Afghans outside of the incredibly corrupt and illegitimate government, a better definition of a kleptocracy you will not find, that the U.S. keeps in power with its soldiers and $35 billion a year, who would agree with the statements of the American politicians, the American generals and the pundits, the latter of which are mostly funded, directly or indirectly, by the military companies. It is important to remember that for three straight elections in Afghanistan the United States government has supported shockingly fraudulent elections, allowing American soldiers to kill and die while presidential and parliamentary elections were brazenly stolen. It is also important to remember that many members of the Afghan government are themselves warlords and drug barons, many of them guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses and war crimes, the same abuses of which the Taliban are guilty, while the current Ghani government, and the previous Karzai government, have allowed egregious crimes to continue against women, including laws that allow men to legally rape their wives.

Whatever President Trump announces tonight about Afghanistan, a decision he teased on Twitter, as if the announcement were a new retail product launch or television show episode, as opposed to the somber and painful reality of war, we can be assured the lies about American progress in Afghanistan will continue, the lies about America’s commitment to human rights and democratic values will continue, the profits of the military companies and drug barons will also continue, and of course the suffering of the Afghan people will surely continue.”

Recently, I’ve also done two interviews on Afghanistan:


Finally, at the very end of this post you will find my first contribution to Will Griffin’s The Peace Report. Will’s Peace Report now has nearly 90,000 followers on Facebook!


Last Friday, I was invited by Maggie Martin, the co-director of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), to head to Charlottesville, VA to link up with Maggie, other IVAW members, The Ruckus Society and local Charlottesville organizers and residents as they met up with students from Howard University. The students from Howard University, about fifty young men and women, nearly all African-Americans, traveled down from Washington, DC to pay their respects to the city of Charlottesville, and to Heather Heyer and the many people who were injured in the violence of the previous week. IVAW members and local Charlottesville residents, all of whom were white, were asked to walk in solidarity with the students, and to escort them, as the fear of the students being harassed or attacked was an honest and present reality. We were honored to do so, and together, as a group, I really do feel that we all waged a bit of Peace together last Friday in Charlottesville.


I took some video for Will and he put together a short film to highlight the students from Howard University as they visited Charlottesville, the site of the attack, and the renamed Heather Heyer Park.

Here’s a link to the video on Facebook and here it is on Youtube:


RIP Heather.

Wage Peace.


I would not change anything I said about Afghanistan


From an interview I did in the summer of 2011 on Afghanistan with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This may be the most complete summation of my views on the war in Afghanistan, on counter-insurgency, and on American political and military decision making. I do not believe anything I said in this interview differs from what I said in 2009 when I resigned from my State Department position in Afghanistan and I don’t believe I have said anything different in the past four years as I have worked against these policies. Sadly, I think the results of our military and political policies in Afghanistan delivered the consequences I feared so greatly.

I am also horrified, four years later, that my t-shirt was showing during this interview…

The program that aired in Australia can be found here:

In Their Sights…

The web page for the program also has other extended interviews with some of the other commentators on the program, including Major General Nicholson, whom I remember meeting and speaking with a number of times in Kandahar, I always liked him. Please give them a watch and let me know what you think. I am not looking to be told I was right,  I am just looking to be told I am not crazy.



Bitter Lake

The simple stories they tell us don’t make sense anymore.

This is superb, maybe the best film I have seen to explain the war in Afghanistan and our post WWII policies that have led to such chaos and death throughout the Muslim world.

It is a bit odd in its editing and sequencing of video clips, but it is brilliant, brave, haunting and, at times, hypnotic.


Full film:



The Death of a General and the Racket of a War

From the Huffington Post yesterday:

Five years ago this month, the New York Times, under the bylines of James Risen and Mark Lander, published a front-page profile of Marshal Mohammad Fahim, a notorious and bloody Afghan warlord and druglord, who had long been involved in the theft of American aid money. Fahim was about to become the Vice President of Afghanistan, for a second time. Risen and Lander explained in great detail not just Fahim’s crimes, but also the acknowledgement and acceptance of Fahim’s crimes, past and ongoing, by senior American officials in both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Despite the obvious and clear illegality of President Hamid Karzai’s re-election in 2009, the first of three fraudulent national elections in Afghanistan over the last five years, including this year’s presidential election, an election with still no outcome, whose fraudulence pushes Afghanistan towards an ever greater political abyss, the United States backed Fahim’s position once again as Vice President.

In December of 2009, President Obama sent an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan to assure Karzai and Fahim’s positions in power, escalating the war and eliminating any sincere chances of political reconciliation in Afghanistan. Tens of billions of dollars more for Karzai and Fahim’s amazingly kleptocratic government to continue to steal were sent from America’s Treasury. During this time, the United States government continued to turn a blind eye towards the Afghan government’s heavy and integral involvement within the Afghan drug trade, allowing Afghanistan to produce record numbers of drug exports on a near annual basis since 2001. Reports of American Marines and soldiers in southern Afghanistan guarding poppy fields are not exaggerations nor are the stories of helicopters and planes given to the Afghan Air Force being used to ferry drugs.

Fahim passed away in March of this year from a heart attack. He was never held accountable for his immeasurable human rights atrocities nor did American officials ever challenge his drug business. The millions of dollars he stole from American taxpayer funded reconstruction assistance has never been recouped. Thousands of American soldiers died to ensure his power and profit, while tens of thousands more were wounded and hundreds of thousands will be haunted by psychiatric wounds for the rest of their lives. Rather, after Fahim’s death, the American Ambassador to Afghanistan eulogized his “crucial role” and relationship with the US, the United Nations called him a “good and trusted partner,” and the Afghan Military Academy, constructed with US taxpayers’ money, was renamed in his honor.

Last week we learned of the latest American to be killed in America’s longest and most unpopular war. Major General Harold Greene undoubtedly will not be our last death in a war that so long ago lost its purpose and became, as the former British Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2007-2010, Sherard Cowper-Coles described to the Los Angeles Times in 2011, as “one big bright shining lie.”

General Greene is the most senior American killed in our wars since 2001. He was gunned down as many Americans before him in Afghanistan, in what are known as “insider attacks.” These killings happen not on the battlefield, but in an office, a hospital or a school, and are not committed by a recognizable enemy, but by someone supposedly on our side, often a member of the Afghan army or police. For several years these attacks were epidemic, but over the last year or so they have been managed, primarily by reducing our troops’ time with their Afghan counterparts or making sure our officers aren’t in the same room as Afghans with loaded weapons. These limitations on American forces interactions with the very Afghan men they were supposed to be training in order to deliver victory in Afghanistan is one of the many absurdities that characterize the madness of the war into which our troops have been committed.

So, in a very cruel, yet perversely fitting injustice we see the most senior American officer to be killed since the Vietnam War to have been murdered at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul. After thirteen years of war, after all the violence, all the theft, all the lies, are we so naïve and so closeted to be surprised at this death? Can we not see the symbolism intertwined in the murder, the money and the location’s namesake?

General Greene’s death at the Marshal Fahim National Military Academy, while of no greater or lesser importance than the previous 2,340 American deaths in Afghanistan, or the 4,486 killed in the equally senseless and failed war in Iraq, may be the most illustrative death. Perhaps the only thing more glaring than the limits on American power overseas may be our own unwillingness to acknowledge our short-comings, recognize our own failures and admit our inability to live up to our own values.

And somehow, someway, as if we are living in some cosmic, divinely inspired farce, our airwaves are inundated now, not with just calls to keep our troops and money in Afghanistan, but to return to Iraq. So it goes.