So, Afghanistan has "collapsed". This is hardly surprising, since we've1
spent two decades propping up corrupt incompetents; without the prop, they cannot stand.
I'm with Hobbes: the worst thing is civil war. Our prop sustained eternal civil war, as we didn't have the resolution required to end it, so leaving was the best thing to do2.
The speed of collapse surprised me, as well as people who should have known better. So the system was even more rotten than we thought. OTOH, we had warning of this, in the sense of an example, ISIS in Iraq, had we thought to think of it. However, that the system would collapse was obvious; sadly, I neglected to write that down in advance.
This is distinctly Hard Luck for a variety of Afghans who would prefer a more Western lifestyle, aka freedom and the Great Society rather than Tribalism. OTOH, such people don't seem prepared to fight for what they want; they seem to have acquired our fatness and rather forgotten the blood-of-patriots bit alongside the tree-of-liberty bit; preferring (I extrapolate from very limited information) to leave the fighting to the proles.
I've seen various saying that it is sad that it comes to this, after we "gave them freedom"; but I don't think you can really "give" people freedom; they have to take it.
As to the shambolicity: meh. Possibly it could have been done well, but I think that was asking too much. So much of USA-in-Afghanistan (and Iraq) has been done appallingly badly - indeed, everything other than the initial inevitable military victory - that expecting something better than bad is unreasonable.
Words are cheap, predictions are hard. So these will be wrong, but they might be in the right direction. I think all the current panic - which effectively says that anyone who ever talked to a Westerner needs to leave now to avoid being strung up or worse - will turn out to be just so much panic. The Taliban will string up few if any, at least for past "crimes", because: why should they? They have won, at least for now. They don't have a long-term strategy (do they want to remain a local tribal theocracy, or join the league of nations? They don't know). Women's rights... are unlikely to get better quickly and are likely to get somewhat worse (but my suspicion is that WR were only ever improved in urban areas and remained poor in most of the country) but if the country can have peace, will improve in the long-term. Peace will also improve everyone's right not to get blown up or be otherwise killed or be poor (recall Smith). If the West avoids meddling - as it should - then the Panjshir valley stuff
will fizzle out to overall Taliban control.
From the West, we seem to be tying ourselves into knots: we've classified the Taliban as terrorists (even though, as far as I can tell, they aren't (they have blown people up in Afghanistan, of course, but that was in the course of a civil war)) and have blocked their money, and somehow we're going to have to unwind that position. Doubtless we will, in time. We will continue to pontificate pointlessly about Rights.
Other people's bad takes
* We entered Afghanistan amid wide public support in response to the al-Qaeda attack on America launched from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan: this isn't true. The USA got twatted, and the public wanted to twat someone back, so they did. But that was the extent of public support. It was easy for aggressive pols to parlay that into boots-on-the-ground, and doubtless a poll at the time would have seen Joe Public thumbs up, but really support was ignorant and shallow.
* We convinced ourselves that ultimately the re-establishment of terrorist bases could only be prevented by transforming Afghanistan into a modern state with democratic institutions and a government that ruled constitutionally
: which is what they always do. Because (as big K fails to think through) they have no other plan. Having twatted the govt, they needed to replace it. They could not replace it with a structure that would have reflected the actual tribal power structure (waves hands: don't mistake me for an expert on Afghanistan) because that would be undemocratic; they have nothing else to fall back on. K refs himself in 2010 saying the attainable outcome is likely to be a confederation of semi-autonomous, feudal regions configured largely on an ethnic basis, dealing with one another by tacit or explicit understandings
but his only idea towards that is regional diplomacy
rather than national: thin stuff, and no longer mentioned in 2021.
Weirdly, the Afghan army doesn't blame itself, if a three-star general in the Afghan Army writing in the NYT
can be believed. But of course it is the same old excuses all over again: It’s true that the Afghan Army lost its will to fight. But that’s because of the growing sense of abandonment by our American partners and the disrespect and disloyalty reflected in Mr. Biden’s tone and words over the past few months. The Afghan Army is not without blame. It had its problems — cronyism, bureaucracy — but we ultimately stopped fighting because our partners already had
. This fails to understand that the Afghan army had to be the primary in all this; not (what it actually was) some dangling appendage of the USA that gave up when the USA "disrespect"ed it. But, he gets some points for mentioning corruption.
: After Afghanistan, where next for global jihad?
The biggest danger is in poor, unstable states where insurgents already control territory. But as they themselves say: Bad government creates an opening for jihadism. When a state is unjust, its citizens may imagine that one run by jihadists might be better. Even if they do not take up arms, they may quietly support those who do. Many rural Afghans decided that Taliban justice, though harsh, was quicker and less corrupt than government courts, and that Taliban checkpoints were less plunderous
... The long-term solution is to build less awful, less exclusive states... Donors can offer advice and cash, but ultimately it is up to locals to build institutions that work
. I think that last bit is wrong: that all the West should offer is advice and cash. The advice is ignored, the cash is stolen. Something better, more forceful, is required. But the force must be to build good govt, not to prop up bad.
Other people's good takes
(p 72): It has been observed again and again how the morality of savage tribes decays and disintegrates when they are confronted by the utterly alien moral code of their "civilized" conquerors. They lose respect for their old moral code before they acquire respect for the new one. They acquire only the vices of civilization. The moral philosophers who have preached root-and-branch substitution, in accordance with some "new" ill-digested and oversimplified principle, have had the effect of undermining existing morality, of creating skepticism and indifference, and of making the rules by which the individual acts "a matter of personal taste."
Update 2021/12: they are clearly short of stuff so I gave the British Red Cross £100 to spend there. 2022/12: and another £100.
* History is not a master but a teacher
. It is full of evil. It is addressed to free men who choose among its examples. Like experimental science – in which many unsuccessful experiments prepare the way to discovery.
* [2023/05] Life under the rule of the Taliban 2.0: For half of Afghans the mullahs’ regime is less bad than feared
- Economist: The Taliban have improved economic-law enforcement across the board... “The core competency of the Taliban government is the enforcement of laws and orders... If we find you are doing corruption and we implement Sharia laws on you, you will not do corruption again.” To acknowledge such progress is less a tribute to the Taliban’s harsh methods than an indictment of the corrupt, nato-backed governments the Islamists replaced
1. "We" means the Cold West, but of course mostly the USA.
2. "best" but not good. One might perhaps attempt to argue that only now two decades have passed is it obvious how useless the Afghan elite are; but I think it was obvious at least a decade ago.