Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Peter Bergen, The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden

At Amazon, Peter Bergen, The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Following-up, "A Bitter -- and Angry! -- End to America's Longest War (VIDEO)."

Via the New York Post:

A Bitter -- and Angry! -- End to America's Longest War (VIDEO)

Certainly Americans are bitter --- and untold numbers of folks may very well be angry --- but it's the president himself who's the angriest of all.

And why? Well, he literally can't blame anyone but himself. And as most analysts now agree (on cable news, at least), this is the greatest military debacle in U.S. history. He's left to screaming his frustrations, blaming the pox of public opinion, for his failures, but it's all on him. What a craven and pitiful imitation of a man, gawd.

And angry? Shoot, I've been fuming with rage these last few days, and not just because he botched everything, but especially for the literally tens of thousands who've been left behind --- and don't be fooled, it's not just "100-200" Americans whom the administration's abandoned. Peter Bergen was on CNN a little while ago just hammering the president, excoriating him for leaving so many behind, and especially for turning Afghanistan into the #1 terrorist hotspot in the world, with Jihadis now surging into the country from around the globe.

And people are wondering if the U.S. is now vulnerable to a new attack on the homeland? Well duh, and it's all on Biden and the hypocritical and ghoulish leftists who put him into power --- and aren't Democrats supposed to be "antiwar" after all?

It's all horrifying and this country will reap the whirlwind of totalitarian Islam's rape, carnage, famine, and endless --- never-ending --- murder and terror. 

At LAT, "America’s longest war ends as last U.S. troops depart Kabul airport":

KABUL, Afghanistan — With the roar of a U.S. military cargo plane lumbering into the night sky over Afghanistan’s Taliban-held capital, the last U.S. troops departed the country at almost the stroke of midnight Monday, ending America’s longest war and leaving lasting but disparate wounds that cut across two nations.

The momentous final scenes played out in darkness. But Tuesday’s first light marked the dawning of incontrovertible knowledge: Afghans had once again been delivered into the hands of the Taliban, the medieval-minded Islamist group that horrified the world with its cruelties before being toppled in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

In a gesture by the Biden administration that was perhaps intended to bring closure to Americans but instead bestowed a bitter aftertaste of defeat, the final U.S. withdrawal came a dozen days before the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks carried out by Al Qaeda, which used Afghanistan as a staging ground.

Death stalked and circled until the very end. In a war that cost the lives of nearly 2,400 U.S. service members, a final round of bloodletting came Thursday in the form of a suicide attack by Taliban rival Islamic State that killed 13 young troops and left more than 170 Afghans dead.

So long did this war last that to many, if not most, Americans, Afghanistan had slipped in and out of consciousness, like a disappearing Instagram story, until it was all but forgotten.

The war was eclipsed by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, its aims morphing and muddying with passing years. It wore on amid a dramatic shift in American politics marked by rancor and division that led to the election of President Trump, who in 2020 signed a deal with the Taliban to pull out U.S. troops. The move undercut Afghanistan’s fragile government.

The conflict tested four American presidents, left thousands of soldiers maimed, plowed ahead even after the death of Al Qaeda’s chieftain, Osama bin Laden, and marked the latest devastating blow to the image of an America that believed itself a force for good in the world. That reckoning is still resonating at home and abroad, a stark reminder that U.S. forays into other lands often have lasting consequences — and end with a degree of humiliation.

For Afghans, the war brought countless fresh graves and frequent doses of abject misery. But also, notably in Kabul, the U.S.-led military presence heralded a generation of economic opportunity and freedom — especially for women, who came out from beneath burqas to work as journalists, teachers and human rights activists. All this is now in jeopardy, even as the Taliban attempts to convince the world that it will not rule as before.

Like much of the war, this denouement was a long time coming but unfolded in a headlong rush.

The leader of the U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. “Frank” McKenzie, said the last liftoff of an American military aircraft came one minute before midnight in Kabul — just before the start of Tuesday, the day set by President Biden as the deadline for the departure of U.S. troops.

Within moments of the final U.S. plane’s takeoff, Taliban fighters swiftly moved into Hamid Karzai International Airport, which had been the scene of a massive U.S.-led airlift that carried more than 116,000 people out of the country — and into uncertain lives — since the militant group seized power two weeks earlier in a quick but nearly bloodless offensive.

As if to symbolize the dizzying turnabout, the group’s foot soldiers surged onto the airfield wearing U.S.-supplied uniforms and carrying once-coveted U.S.-made weapons and gear such as night-vision goggles. They fired salvos into the air and shouted “Allahu akbar!’’

The final C-17 cargo plane to depart carried the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, and Ross Wilson, the acting U.S. ambassador, who stayed on at the airport after the embassy was shuttered two weeks earlier. Strings of tracers lit the sky as the last U.S. warplane — providing cover for the hulking C-17 below — flew toward the horizon, the sound of its engine fading.

Below, some of the arriving Taliban fighters appeared befuddled by their new domain; one walked up to a metal gate and fiddled unsuccessfully with the handle, then tried to bash it into submission. In cavernous hangars, the fighters unearthed odd finds: boxes of military MREs, or meals ready to eat, tool boxes and an especially large power saw.

One Taliban squad posed in front of an assortment of partially disassembled Chinook helicopters, calling for a Taliban cameraman to record the moment. The men lifted American M4 rifles into the air as they cheered...

Just awful. Biden's turned this great nation into a colossal, bumbling hegemon of despair. 

This is not the country I grew up in, and I'm sure I've said this before, but I just never --- I mean never --- could have believed how this country could be put so low.

I'm sure you're angry, too, dear readers. We can commiserate for a while, and then it's back to the front lines of resistance. This is not our destiny, and the American public knows it. A righteous repudiation of the president and his party is on the way, and it's going to the most awful and terrifying rebuke of rank political cowardice and perfidy in my lifetime.

Carry on...

Afghan Interpreter Who Helped Rescue Biden in 2008 Left Behind After U.S. Exit

I've been upset by this whole Afghanistan withdrawal, but nothing gets me more furious than this. 

The president and his party are enemies of the American people. Though, keep in mind, while Biden's approval numbers are tanking, it's still well over a year until the 2022 midterms, and voters generally have short memories. 

That said, I'll be gobsmacked if Republicans don't take the House next year, and if they don't they're blubbering idiots. 

In any case, an exclusive piece at WSJ, "Interpreter stranded in Afghanistan makes a White House appeal: ‘Don’t forget me here":

Thirteen years ago, Afghan interpreter Mohammed helped rescue then- Sen. Joe Biden and two other senators stranded in a remote Afghanistan valley after their helicopter was forced to land in a snowstorm. Now, Mohammed is asking President Biden to save him.

“Hello Mr. President: Save me and my family,” Mohammed, who asked not to use his full name while in hiding, told The Wall Street Journal as the last Americans flew out of Kabul on Monday. “Don’t forget me here.”

Mohammed and his four children are hiding from the Taliban after his yearslong attempt to get out of Afghanistan got tangled in the bureaucracy. They are among countless Afghan allies who were left behind when the U.S. ended its 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan on Monday.

Mohammed was a 36-year-old interpreter for the U.S. Army in 2008 when two U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters made an emergency landing in Afghanistan during a blinding snowstorm. On board were three U.S. senators: Mr. Biden, the Delaware Democrat, John Kerry, (D., Mass.) and Chuck Hagel, (R., Neb.).

As a private security team with the former firm Blackwater and U.S. Army soldiers monitored for any nearby Taliban fighters, the crew sent out an urgent call for help. At Bagram Air Field, Mohammed jumped in a Humvee with a Quick Reaction Force from the 82nd Airborne Division and drove hours into the nearby mountains to rescue them.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Biden, who was then running for vice president, often spoke of the helicopter incident and the trip as a way of burnishing his foreign-policy credentials.

“If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where [Osama] bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me,” he said on the campaign trail in October, just months after the February rescue. “Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down…in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.”

The trip to Afghanistan was on one of the many overseas trips the three senators took together... 

And for what? Biden Just. Does. Not. Care.

Afghanistan's slipping from the news cycle a bit, especially on cable news, but WSJ and NYT have prioritized coverage of the debacle, and I'm thankful.

In any case, keep reading here, and, as always, more later.

And thanks for reading!


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Dexter Filkins, The Forever War

Very prescient.

At Amazon, Dexter Filkins, The Forever War.

10 Marines Killed in Kabul Attack Hailed from Camp Pendleton

That's a huge toll. 

Not far from here, and these troops' families, wherever they may be, are grieving.

At LAT, "10 Camp Pendleton service members among 13 killed in Kabul airport attack":

SAN DIEGO — Nine Marines and a sailor based at Camp Pendleton were among the 13 U.S. service members killed Thursday in a suicide bomb attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Saturday.

The Thursday bombing killed 11 Marines, one soldier and one Navy corpsman — the deadliest single attack against U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 10 years.

[For the record: 11:31 a.m. Aug. 28, 2021A previous version of this story included incorrect service branches of troops killed. It has been updated with the correct numbers.]

It was the largest mass-casualty incident of the war involving the sprawling base near Oceanside, home to the 1st Marine Division, the oldest and largest in the Corps. Four of those killed were California residents.

Maj. Gen. Roger Turner Jr., the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, said those who died did so while performing a heroic mission.

“I extend my deepest, heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the 1st Marine Division servicemen who lost their lives while heroically safeguarding the evacuation of thousands of U.S. citizens and faithful allies from Hamid Karzai International Airport,” Turner said in a statement. “Nine Marines and one Sailor paid the ultimate price to defend our nation and extend the reach of freedom beyond our shores.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued a statement offering his condolences to the families of those killed.

“California joins the nation in mourning the tragic loss of 13 U.S. service members, including those from California, and many other innocent victims in this heinous attack,” Newsom said. “Our heroic troops gave their lives to protect others amid harrowing and dangerous conditions, and we will never forget their bravery and selfless sacrifice in service to our nation.”

At least 170 other people, including children, were killed in the explosion. It was triggered by a suicide bomber at an airport gate where U.S. troops were searching evacuees hoping to the leave the country. At least 18 other service members were injured.

The Camp Pendleton-based Marines and sailor were part of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. They are:

* Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City. Rep. Blake D. Moore (R-Utah) said on Twitter about the 2008 high school graduate: He “spent his last moments serving our state and nation, and we’ll never forget his unwavering devotion.”

* Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif. Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha. He joined the Marines in 2019 after graduating from Millard South High School, according to a statement from his family, and was with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. He liked hunting and the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team. “Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart,” his family said.

* Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.

* Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo. A Marine since 2019, he was on his first deployment, his father, Mark, told radio station KMOX in St. Louis. “I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming,” he said.

* Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas. He graduated in 2019 from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in Laredo and enlisted because he wanted to help other people, his mother, Elizabeth Holquin, told the Washington Post. “It was his calling and he died a hero,” she said.

* Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo. McCollum’s father, Jim, told the New York Times, “He was a beautiful soul.” He said his son signed enlistment papers on his 18th birthday. “He’s the most patriotic kid you could find. Loved America, loved the military. Tough as nails with a heart of gold.”

* Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

* Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

* Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio. He was a 2017 graduate of Edison High School, which released a statement about his death. On Instagram, his sister, Marilyn Soviak, wrote, “My beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives ... My heart is in pieces and I don’t think they’ll ever fit back right again.”

Two additional Marines and a soldier were also killed. They are:

* Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

* Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Sacramento.

* Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.

* Rosario Pichardo was assigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Bahrain. Gee was attached to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Knauss was assigned to the 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Family members began sharing their grief in media interviews and on social media after being notified this week.

Among those killed were two Marines from Riverside County, Lopez and Nikoui...

Keep reading

There's a photo of Marine Sergeant Gee at the article. She's holding a baby in the pic, and her story has been widely lamented on Twitter.

It's all so ghastly. Beyond words.

Pray people. Pray for all of them and their families --- and for our country.

It's Wasn't a Choice. Biden Just Abandoned U.S. Citizens to the Barbarity of Islamic Jihad

As yesterday's report noted, potentially millions could be left behind, to meet the possibly of murder and even mass slaughter of millions

At NYT, "All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan":

As the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan capping an ill-fated 20-year war turned uglier and deadlier in recent days, President Biden has stood by his decision but at the same time repeatedly singled out one person in particular to blame: his predecessor.

Because President Donald J. Trump struck an agreement with the Taliban last year to pull out, Mr. Biden has insisted that he had no choice but to abide by the deal he inherited or send tens of thousands of American troops back to Afghanistan to risk their lives in a “forever war.” It was, in other words, all in or all out.

But that reductionist formula has prompted a profound debate over whether the mayhem in Kabul, the capital, was in fact inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options that might have ended in a different outcome. The unusual confluence of two presidents of rival parties sharing the same goal and same approach has led to second-guessing and finger-pointing that may play out for years to come in history books yet unwritten.

In framing the decision before him as either complete withdrawal or endless escalation, Mr. Biden has been telling the public that there was in fact no choice at all because he knew that Americans had long since grown disenchanted with the Afghanistan war and favored getting out. The fact that Mr. Trump was the one to leave behind a withdrawal agreement has enabled Mr. Biden to try to share responsibility.

“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Mr. Biden said as the Taliban seized Kabul this month.

Critics consider that either disingenuous or at the very least unimaginative, arguing that there were viable alternatives, even if not especially satisfying ones, that may not have ever led to outright victory but could have avoided the disaster now unfolding in Kabul and the provinces.

“The administration is presenting the choices in a way that is, at best, incomplete,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush who oversaw earlier stages of the Afghan war. “No one I knew was advocating the return of tens of thousands of Americans into ‘open combat’ with the Taliban.”

Instead, some, including the current military leadership of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that keeping a relatively modest force of as few as 3,000 to 4,500 troops along with the extensive use of drones and close air support could have enabled Afghan security forces to continue holding off the Taliban without putting Americans at much risk.

“There was an alternative that could have prevented further erosion and likely enabled us to roll back some of the Taliban gains in recent years,” said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the retired commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former C.I.A. director who argued the mission was making progress while serving alongside Mr. Biden under President Barack Obama.

“With the Afghans doing the fighting on the front lines and the U.S. providing assistance from the air,” he added, “such a force posture would have been quite sustainable in terms of the expenditure of blood and treasure.”

But the White House rejected such a middle ground, contending that it amounted to more war. At her briefing on Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the only real choice was sending tens of thousands more Americans to “potentially lose their lives” or getting out.

“There are of course other options, but there are consequences to every option,” she said. “That is my point.” As for the critics, she said, “I think it’s easy to play back seat” driver...

The most cowardly and craven administration in U.S. history. I'm furious at what's happening --- and of course at a loss for all of those who've suffered with loved ones killed. 

Still more

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Biden Warns Another Attack in Afghanistan Likely as U.S. Begins Final Stage of Withdrawal

Yeah, and another, and another, and another -- ad infinitum.

Shoot, Biden might as well have campaigned on bringing the war to an end in 2099. *Eye-roll.*

At WSJ, "Pentagon says it believes two militants killed in U.S. drone strike; Kabul is on high alert":

Evacuation efforts in Kabul began to wind down Saturday as the Afghan capital was on high alert for possible terrorist attacks in the wake of a U.S. strike against Islamic State.

President Biden said that his military commanders informed him that another attack in Afghanistan is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.” Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack Thursday outside Kabul’s airport that killed nearly 200 people, including 13 members of the U.S. military.

“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. He said he directed military commanders “to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection.”

The U.S. and its allies have evacuated more than 117,000 people from Afghanistan in the two weeks since the Taliban toppled the Afghan government. About 1,400 people were inside the airport and waiting for flights on Saturday.

After the U.S. told partners that it was wrapping up evacuation efforts, thousands of people intent on fleeing but unable to get into the airfield began to shift their attention to other possible escape routes, including the land border with Pakistan.

The U.S. military carried out an airstrike on suspected Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan in response to Thursday’s suicide bombing, which targeted crowds of people hoping to get into the airport and seek refuge abroad.

The U.S. military said it believed the drone strike had killed two Islamic State militants and wounded one other. The Pentagon said there were no civilian casualties. Parts of Nangarhar province, where the strike occurred, have become a sanctuary for Islamic State’s regional offshoot, along with other spots in eastern Afghanistan.

In Nangarhar, Rahamunullah, a neighbor, said three people were killed and four others were wounded, including a woman.

The strike appeared to cause limited damage to a house. Video from the scene viewed by The Wall Street Journal showed a small blast hole outside the home next to a fire-charred auto rickshaw. The walls were pockmarked with shrapnel, and the windows of the building had been blown out. Clothes, sandals and furniture were tossed around the rooms.

Asked about the strike, the first that targeted Islamic State since the Taliban took control of the country, a Taliban spokesman said the group was looking into the matter. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. didn’t coordinate the operation with the Taliban. Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the U.K. wasn’t accepting any more applicants trying to leave Afghanistan and would evacuate only those already inside the airport.

The number of people flying out of Kabul has dropped significantly: American and coalition partners flew out about 6,800 on Friday, down from a daily high of nearly 22,000 earlier this week.

The Taliban tightened their security cordon around the Kabul airport as the throngs of Afghans crowding the gates subsided. Americans and a few others escorted by Qatari officials were allowed to come to the airport, according to people involved in the evacuation effort. But the Taliban turned back many people trying to leave the country.

Americans still trying to get people out of Afghanistan expressed frustration with the evacuation effort as the window of opportunity closed for most.

“A lot of people are being left behind,” said Kimberley Motley, an American attorney who was trying on Saturday to get four U.S. green-card holders to the Kabul airport. “It’s a reflection of our lack of preparation in making sure this was done in a responsible, ethical and moral way. We’ve put thousands, if not millions, of people at risk.” Western officials said they were on the lookout for another attack. The U.S. Embassy issued new warnings to Americans in Afghanistan on Saturday telling them to avoid the airport.

“Due to a security threat outside the gates of Kabul airport, U.S. citizens located in the vicinity of the Kabul airport gates should depart immediately,” the warning read. “U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid all airport gates at this time.”

In Kabul, the Taliban worked to extend their authority as they seek to form a functioning new government.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid directed women working for the Ministry of Public Health to return to work, offering one sign of their willingness to allow women to work—something the Taliban hadn’t allowed when they ruled the country in the 1990s.

The Biden administration appeared poised to stick with its Tuesday deadline to pull the last of the nation’s forces out of Afghanistan and end the 20-year war...

Pfft, the forever war is right --- and to think, the dolt Biden campaigned on this, that is, he campaigned on lies. 

And those Afghan women brought back to work? Once the new regime is fully established and functional, these same women will once again be locked down in burqas and nikabs. It won't be long. Back to the future of the Stone Age.

Still more.


Friday, August 27, 2021

Colin Clark, After the Caliphate

At Amazon, Colin P. Clark, After the Caliphate: The Islamic State & the Future Terrorist Diaspora.

Dumping the Browser Tabs

Hey dear readers!

I honestly haven't been able to blog.

Right now I'm doing heavy prep work. My college starts its fall semester on Monday and I'm teaching six classes. I'm excited, but the prep is exhaustive, as my school is once again mostly online for fall, and the Canvas (online learning) system takes time to revise from semester to semester.

By the end of this term (second week of December), I'll have taught almost two full years since the start of the lockdown in March of last year. More specifically, the spring term starts up in early February next year, so altogether, at that time, it'll be about 23 months since I've taught on campus.

Not only that, of course I've been glued to the TV in my remaining time this last few days, and of course I was completely glued to the set after the bombings yesterday at the airport. Things are so bad: It's astonishing what's happening, and events are moving so fast you shouldn't trust anyone claiming they know what's going to happen --- this weekend or years from now. 

So, I've have read a few articles I've been meaning to share. The old veteran blogger Jimmie Bise used to have a saying, something along the lines like "dumping the browser tab," as in my title to this post. Sometimes you read so many articles before you know it you've got a dozen tabs open, and that's too much to blog! You've gotta dump 'em! (And I see that Jimmie's doing very well, has published a recent book, and is interviewed at this podcast). Good for him!

At any rate, a few of my tabs:

At YouGov, "Americans who think the withdrawal from Afghanistan went poorly blame Biden." 

If his numbers are crashing now, it's going to be like a rockslide down Mt. Whitney before too long. Again, you can't predict the future. The best I can say is it's going to be a rough few years ahead, and I'd be surprised if the Democrats can hold on to their congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections (and if G.O.P. candidates are prepping new attack ads following the news out of Afghanistan --- these dolts need to get new campaign managers. *Sheesh.*

Also, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K)." 

This is a very good piece, and it's interesting because the New York Times is out with this today, "What Is the Islamic State Khorasan, a.k.a. ISIS-K?"

If you're not up on it, "IS-K" is definitely the preferable term. Note that "ISIS" stands for the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," but the group dominated that part of the world way back in 2014 --- almost eight years ago --- and since then they were completed routed by the Trump administration --- and if it weren't for the debacle in Afghanistan they'd still be long forgotten. (Not by me, but almost all of the American public, of whom most are more concerned with domestic affairs --- like the economy --- than U.S. incursions in hotspots around the world. It's been that way a while, and political science research going back decades has established this point as fact. (But note this 2014 piece on the topic at the Washington Post . More, a 2015 Gallup Poll found that just 21 percent indicated that foreign policy was a top concern. See here and here, too, for more examples.)

In any case, top analysts for a while have preferred simply the "Islamic State." The goal of this organization, perhaps the most violent, merciless, and indiscriminate terrorist group in the world, is a global caliphate. That is, the group's interpretation of Islam is totalitarian, in more ways than one, but especially in that its ideology calls for Muslim domination of the entire world. All non-believers would be placed under the yoke of extremist Islamic rule, and no one would be safe --- frankly, I hesitate to say it, but if such a thing were to ever to come about, it's not out of the realm of the possible that Islamic jihad could murder more innocent people than the Nazis during WWII.

Finally, read this great piece from Henry Kissinger, who at 98 years remains one of the most important international relations scholars ever. See, "The future of American powerHenry Kissinger on why America failed in Afghanistan."

That's all for now. Thanks for reading and check back soon for further updates. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Candace Owens, Blackout

At Amazon, Candace Owens, Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation.

The Last Neocons

I rarely post from the American Conservative, as it's a controversial publication with views I frequently find repugnant. 

That said, neoconservatives are on the defensive now, big time, so this is interesting.

See, "The Last Neocons on the Island":

If you want to understand the delusions that permeated the early-stage war on terror, pick up a copy of An End to Evil by Richard Perle and David Frum. Published in 2004, it reads like a fever dream one might have after playing Age of Empires on fast mode right before bed. Iraq? Saddam indicted not just himself “but all Arab tyrannies and all of their supporters.” Syria? “Why have we put up with it as long as we have?” (The entire country, apparently.) Everyone from the South Koreans to the peacekeepers in 1994 Rwanda are presented as appeasers for having failed to sufficiently confront evil.

Against all this criminality and cowardice, there can be only one tonic: a whole lot of American bicep-flexing. “When it is in our power and our interest,” Frum and Perle declare, “we should toss dictators aside with no more compunction than a police sharpshooter feels when he downs a hostage-taker.”

The difference, of course, is that sharpshooters tend to not get trapped for the next 20 years in the office buildings they help clear. So it is that even most hawks don’t talk this way anymore. Frum spends his time on Twitter pretending An End to Evil never happened. The antiwar blog LobeLog, meanwhile, noticed a few years ago that Perle had effectively vanished from public life. Some of their fellow neocons have gone and reinvented themselves as realists, asserting that American empire is a hardheaded necessity rather than an idealistic choice. Others have even moderated a bit.

Yet there remain a few stubborn holdouts, those stranded on the island who really do believe the “long war” is still going on. And it is they who have yelped the loudest as President Biden finally withdraws from Afghanistan. This is best illustrated not by a single personality but by an argument, heard from hawkish quarters in recent days. It goes like this: Why shouldn’t the United States remain in Kabul when we still have troops in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, decades after those conflicts ended?

It’s a sloppy comparison for several reasons. In none of those three theaters did America face an active civil war 20 years after the occupations began. And in none of those cases did the government we helped build turn out to be a weak, dysfunctional, on-the-take narco-state. It is also hardly a credit to the interventionist cause to point out that America still has military bases in the most powerful country in Europe and the third largest economy on earth 75 years after World War II ended. It tends instead to confirm what their opponents have said all along: occupations encourage dependence and mission creep.

But more important is the mentality that runs beneath this contention...

Keep reading.


Country Beauty

On Twitter.

Also, Victoria Justice.

And Lauren Gray.

Candace Owens on Slavery (VIDEO)

At Prager University:

How Many Remain in Afghanistan?

I've been thinking about this, especially the number of Americans are deadly risk of being left behind.

At the New York Times, "How Many People in Afghanistan Need to be Rescued? The Number Remains Elusive":

WASHINGTON — More than 70,700 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan as of Tuesday evening. Nearly 6,000 American troops are protecting the international airport in Kabul, the capital. And additional U.S. flights are leaving every 45 minutes.

The Biden administration has provided a stream of updates about its airlift of Americans, Afghans and others since Aug. 14, when the Taliban closed in on Kabul. Yet U.S. officials are reluctant to offer an estimate of the one number that matters most: How many people ultimately need to be rescued.

That tally has never been more critical, with the American government preparing to wind down evacuations as the U.S. military begins its final withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, President Biden reaffirmed his plan to remove all American troops by Aug. 31, although he left room “to adjust the timeline should that become necessary.”

But U.S. officials believe that thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan, including some far beyond Kabul, without a safe or fast way to get to the airport. Tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. government over the last 20 years, and are eligible for special visas, are desperate to leave.

And refugee and resettlement experts estimate that at least 300,000 Afghans are in imminent danger of being targeted by the Taliban for associating with Americans and U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Recounting his conversations with other world leaders, Mr. Biden said Tuesday evening at the White House that they had agreed to “continue our close cooperation to get people out as efficiently and safely as possible.”

“We’re currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st,” Mr. Biden said. “The sooner we can finish the better.”

But other senior U.S. officials doubt the evacuations will be complete by then.

“Americans want us to stay until we get our people out, and so do our allies,” Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, said Tuesday. Mr. Biden, he added, should “tell the Taliban we’re getting our people out however long it takes.”

Administration officials say the numbers are changing on an hourly basis, if not minute-to-minute, especially since other countries have their own evacuation operations.

But the American effort is unquestionably the largest. Given the resources and risk the United States is putting into the evacuation, how can the government not know how many people it is planning to fly out?

“Very good question! We are wondering the same,” said James Miervaldis, the chairman of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that advocates the relocation of Afghan interpreters to the United States. Here is what we know...

Keep reading.


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Carter Malkasian, The American War in Afghanistan

At Amazon, Carter Malkasian, The American War in Afghanistan: A History.

Desperation Sets In

The U.S. issued a warning on Afghanistan today, and of course, hopes have been shattered among the people.

At NYT, "Desperation sets in for Afghans after return of Taliban":

For many Afghans, desperation is deepening. At least a quarter of a million people have fled their homes since the end of May as the Taliban marched steadily across the country. About 80 percent of them are women and children, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

At a park in central Kabul on Saturday morning, people who had escaped the Taliban’s march across northern Afghanistan in recent weeks were stuck in dust-blown makeshift settlements, washing their clothes in a stream and unsure of where to turn.

Days after they reached Kabul, the Taliban seized the city of six million, and now they may be stranded without assistance as international aid groups try to evacuate staff members who they worry are at risk of Taliban reprisals.

Known for barring girls from school and chopping off the hands of thieves when the group led the country in the late 1990s, the Taliban have presented conflicting signals of how they intend to govern this time. Top leaders have pledged to protect the rights of women and the free press, even as fighters beat protesters and search for supporters of the former government or its Western allies, according to the United Nations and witnesses.

The former insurgents have also demonstrated little aptitude for administering basic services in a country that is heavily reliant on foreign aid...

Keep reading.



Today's cover.

And you know, even in defeat the Britain triumphed and Churchill roused the nation with his "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech to the House of Commons, June 4, 1940.

And the U.S. today, well, you can fill in the blanks ____________________.

You Will Wear Masks Forever

Well, at least in California. And nationwide, well, frankly, I thought I saw a headline somewhere this last week saying the Biden administration is considering one.

Masking and vaccinations by force. Surely, not America?

Well, at least in California.

At LAT, "Delta variant likely to bring a fall and winter of masks, vaccine mandates, anxiety":

The rise of the Delta variant has upended previous optimistic projections of herd immunity and a return to normal life, with many health experts believing mask mandates and tougher vaccine requirements will be needed in the coming months to avoid more serious coronavirus surges.

While there are promising signs that California’s fourth COVID-19 surge may be starting to flatten, the fall and winter will bring new challenges as people stay indoors more often and vaccine immunity begins to wane.

The rapid spread of Delta among the unvaccinated — and the still relatively small number of “breakthrough” cases among the vaccinated — shows that significant increases in inoculations will help stop the spread. In fact, officials are now preparing to provide booster shots to those who already got their first series of vaccinations, saying the extra dose is needed to keep people protected.

Still, “the vaccines themselves are not going to likely be sufficient. And during times of increased transmission, we’ll need other tools available to protect all of us — and particularly those who, at this time, can’t be vaccinated, like our children,” said UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

California is in a better position than other states because of relatively higher vaccination rates, and there is little appetite for a return to stay-at-home orders. But in settings where more people gather, strategies that can be used to keep COVID-19 controlled include ensuring people are either vaccinated, have a recent negative coronavirus test or both, Bibbins-Domingo said.

“There will be a time when we have our masks off again as transmission goes back down. But I think we’re going to have to be prepared that if we’re in an environment when there’s more virus around, that it is sensible that we have another layer of protection — and that will be masks,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “And I don’t think we’re going to be totally throwing our masks away anytime soon, frankly.”

Policies like mandatory masking and requiring vaccines or regular testing in workplaces “are going to be very important if we are ever going to get over this pandemic,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a medical epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

It was once thought that as soon as 70% to 85% of a population was vaccinated, communities would reach a high enough level of herd immunity that the threat of COVID-19 would be mostly behind us. Now, “that’s out the window,” Bibbins-Domingo said, and computer models suggest the coronavirus will be with us for the foreseeable future. “Almost certainly, we’ll be dealing with it this winter.”

How long the pandemic will last depends on any new variants that emerge, the ability to adapt the vaccines to them and temporary measures that may be needed to tamp down surges, Bibbins-Domingo said.

There are several key factors that have altered what we previously understood about COVID-19 and underscore just how far off the end of the pandemic still is.

The first is the emergence of the Delta variant — at least twice as transmissible as the previous dominant variant, Alpha, and capable of producing a viral load up to 1,000 times greater in the upper throat.

“The big challenge with Delta is that it’s so much more transmissible than the original strain. ... And really, this is possibly an unprecedented change in terms of the amount of the” shift in the so-called R-naught, or the basic reproductive rate of the coronavirus, Shane Crotty, a vaccine researcher at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, recently told a forum at UC San Francisco.

Originally, a person infected with the ancestral strain of the coronavirus spread it to 2.5 other people on average. But the Delta variant is estimated to spread to five to eight other people. That means that within 10 cycles of transmission of the virus, in a population with no immunity to the virus, instead of fewer than 10,000 people being infected, more than 60 million will be infected, Dr. Carlos del Rio, an Emory University epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert, said at the same UC San Francisco forum.

This is why vaccine mandates will become more important, especially at places of employment, del Rio said. “I think the going phrase that we’re hearing over and over is: ‘No jab, no job.’ And I think mandates are going to make a big difference,” he said.

Second, breakthrough infections — in which fully vaccinated people become infected with COVID-19 — are still uncommon but no longer rare. “I think vaccinated persons are much safer than unvaccinated persons, but they’re not completely safe. Breakthrough infections occur often enough with Delta that you will see them,” del Rio said.

While a vaccinated person with a breakthrough infection can transmit the virus to others, he or she is likely to be infectious for a significantly fewer number of days, del Rio said. “And therefore your contribution to transmission is much lower if you’re vaccinated than if you’re not.”

And that’s why wearing masks indoors remains important. Del Rio said many infectious-diseases doctors never stopped masking indoors, even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it wasn’t necessary for fully vaccinated people.

Vaccinated people with breakthrough infections have much more mild illnesses because the body is already equipped to defend itself against the virus and likely can avoid lung illnesses or hospitalization, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, a deputy health officer for Orange County. But without prior immunity, the virus can lodge deeper into the body and cause more severe illness, eventually making it very difficult to breathe...


They're Liars and Hypocrites, But You Knew That Already

Very passionate essay, from Caitlyn Flanagan, at the Atlantic, "The Week the Left Stopped Caring About Human Rights."

Friday, August 20, 2021

Steve Coll, Directorate S

At Amazon, Steve Coll, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Besieged in the Culture Wars

 At NYT, "The School Culture Wars: ‘You Have Brought Division to Us’":

July and August are supposed to be the quietest months of the school year. But not this time.

In Williamson County, Tenn., protesters outside a packed, hourslong school board meeting last week shouted, “No more masks, no more masks.”

In Loudoun County, Va., a debate over transgender rights brought raucous crowds to school board meetings this summer, culminating last week with dueling parking lot rallies. The board approved a policy that allows transgender students to join sports teams that match their gender identity and requires teachers to use transgender students’ pronouns.

And, in a particular low point for school board-parental relations, a woman railed against critical race theory during a meeting in the Philadelphia area, yelling, “You have brought division to us.” After the allotted time, the school board president walked off the stage, into the audience, and took the

As summer fades into fall, nearly all of the major issues dividing the country have dropped like an anvil on U.S. schools.

“The water pressure is higher than it has ever been and there are more leaks than I have fingers,” said Kevin Boyles, a school board official in Brainerd, Minn., who said he recently received 80 emails in three days about face masks. He described being followed to his car and called “evil” after a board meeting where he supported a commitment to equity. Another time, a man speaking to the board about race quoted the Bible and said he would “dump hot coals on all your heads.”

“You are just trying to keep everything from collapsing,” Mr. Boyles said.

Schools were already facing a crisis of historic proportions. They are reopening just as a highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is tearing through communities. They need to create a safe environment for teachers and students, while helping children who have been through major trauma.

And then there are the education gaps that must be made up: For many of the country’s 56 million schoolchildren, it has been a year of lost learning and widening inequities.

But at this critical moment, many school officials find themselves engulfed in highly partisan battles, which often have distracted from the most urgent issues. The tense environment comes amid a growing movement to recall school board officials, over everything from teachings on race to school closures. Nationwide, there have been at least 58 recall efforts targeting more than 140 officials this year, more than the previous two years combined, according to Ballotpedia.

As a superintendent in Albany, Ore., Melissa Goff first noticed pushback when her district closed classrooms during the pandemic; a slate of candidates ran for school board largely on a platform to open schools.

But by the time students returned this spring, a new flash point had emerged: Should police officers welcome students back to campus? Though it was a local tradition, some parents said their children, sensitive after a year of Black Lives Matter protests, felt afraid.

Ms. Goff asked the police to pull back. Dozens of people — including a school board candidate riding on a military vehicle — protested at the district office, some calling for her resignation.

Then in May, Ms. Goff said she came under fire for a plan to hold vaccine clinics at local high schools. Though she said the clinics were intended to reach low-income families and people of color, Ms. Goff said some people saw the effort as “making kids

get vaccines.” By the summer, a new school board had taken over and Ms. Goff was fired without cause. The school board chair, in an email, said Ms. Goff was not fired for her position on equity and diversity, but pointed to “divisiveness” and “underlying problems created by the district administration.”

Ms. Goff, who has worked in education for 26 years, said she had never seen so many political issues converge on schools. There was not just one contentious issue, she said. “It was every place you turned.”

This is hardly the first time the classroom has become the center of civil strife. From the teaching of evolution in the 1920s to the push for school desegregation in the 1950s, schools have often been a nexus for major societal conflicts.

“Schools are particularly fraught spaces because they represent a potential challenge to the family and the authority of parents,” said Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, an associate professor of history at the New School in New York City.

The two biggest divides in schools today are also highly volatile because they challenge fundamental narratives of what it means to be an American. The debate over mask mandates puts two values into conflict, collective responsibility versus personal liberty. And an examination of the country’s history of racism challenges cherished ideas about America’s founding...

This is mind-boggling to me, but no surprise. The tension at my college is the highest it's ever been in over twenty years.

 Still more.

Theresa May Speaks Out (VIDEO)

She's a backbencher now, and, frankly, I'd forgotten about her since her resignation in 2019.

Obviously, she's not too pleased with the debacle in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: What Went Wrong?

Almost everything, it seems. 

At LAT, "News Analysis: What went wrong in Afghanistan?":

WASHINGTON — Twenty years ago, the mission seemed direct, clear and just: Invade Afghanistan and pursue, capture or kill Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and his armed band of followers.

Achieving that goal also included overthrowing the Taliban, and steadily the mission morphed into a vast, complicated experiment to reshape a society that few Americans understood.

After a war stretching over four U.S. presidencies and costing more than a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives, the once-routed Taliban has retaken power in a swift march across Afghanistan, barely meeting resistance, occupying the presidential palace and driving the remaining U.S. troops to a single redoubt: an airport now swamped with Afghans desperate to flee.

Despite its military might, expertise and investment, the United States badly miscalculated the speed and absolutism with which the Taliban would overtake Afghanistan and is handing a battered country back to the very people the U.S. sought to defeat, with any gains in nation-building, education and civil rights in jeopardy.

Why? And who is to blame?

The Afghan army “chose not to fight for its country,” U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday, hours after Taliban militants entered the capital, Kabul, and occupied the president’s residence.

On Wednesday, as criticism of the withdrawal mounted, and finger-pointing and postmortems began, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred while also recognizing broader blame.

Afghan security forces “had the training, the size, the capability to defend their country,” he said at a tense briefing at the Pentagon. “This comes down to the issue of will and leadership. I did not, nor did anyone else, see a collapse of an army that size in 11 days.”

In fact, the reality is much more complicated. Putting all of the blame on the Afghan army, government and people ignores U.S. directives, policy and lack of knowledge. It’s also a hollow analysis of what the United States was trying to do in Afghanistan in the two decades since President George W. Bush launched the initial invasion.

The invasion For years, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network thrived in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which then ruled most of the country. Shortly after Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people, Bush dispatched American troops to Afghanistan to hit the terrorist group where it lived.

It took a decade to finally assassinate Bin Laden, in 2011, in Pakistan. One distraction during that decade was Bush’s ill-fated decision to launch a second war in Iraq, despite the country having no relation to the Sept. 11 attacks. Today, military officials and analysts say the threat from Al Qaeda is diminished but not gone. Al Qaeda franchises have sprung up in parts of Africa, for example, where they did not operate previously. Moreover, according to the United Nations, the Taliban never completely severed its ties to Al Qaeda, despite its pledge to do so.

The Taliban surrendered in December 2001, although many of its forces hid in impenetrable mountain ranges or in neighboring Pakistan and other countries. But the U.S. mission was just beginning. It shifted to “nation-building,” an attempt to construct democratic institutions, to open civil rights for all, including women, and to fashion a system of freedom familiar to the West but unknown in Kabul.

It included missteps, many experts say, that the U.S. military and its civilian partners have often made — misjudging local cultures from Vietnam to Bosnia-Herzegovina, botching realistic goals and making serious errors.

Creating a dependent army

Many observers now are questioning how an army built with nearly a trillion dollars in U.S. and NATO funding over two decades and tons of materiel — from rockets to Humvees — could so quickly collapse. It appears that as the Taliban marched across the country in the last couple of weeks, its fighters met little resistance from the U.S.-trained military.

Reports from several provincial capitals said local elders and tribal chieftains negotiated with advancing Taliban troops, agreeing not to raise arms against them in exchange for a peaceful resolution. Some Afghans say that arrangement extended nationwide.

“The leadership at one point gave up and told the security forces not to resist,” Roya Rahmani, until last month the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., said this week. “Over the last few weeks, they continuously received calls from Kabul asking them to surrender, asking them not to resist.”

Afghan security forces and ground troops were operating without the air power that had been vital in staving off Taliban advances. At some point — it is not clear when — supportive airstrikes stopped. In recent weeks, the U.S. declined to provide most air support, leaving Afghan troops on their own.

Under U.S. tutelage, the Afghan army became increasingly dependent on its American patrons, so withdrawal of that support was devastating.

“They baked dependency into the Afghan forces,” said Laurel Miller, former acting special envoy for Afghanistan now at the International Crisis Group, describing the U.S. strategy.

She said U.S. efforts too frequently ignored facts on the ground, underestimated the sway of powerful regional warlords and failed to sufficiently take into account vast corruption and the collapse in morale among the rank and file as well as deficiencies in Afghan leadership and command.

Miller and others also gave some credit to the Taliban as fighters — fiercely dedicated and zealously motivated. Strategically, the Taliban, as it sought to regroup, concentrated many of its operations in northern Afghanistan, preventing a resurgence of the so-called Northern Alliance — militias that helped initially to defeat the Taliban. It continued to grow stronger even during a massive, temporary troop surge ordered by President Obama.

The U.S. military made a major mistake in trying to create an army replicating U.S. standards, which made little sense in Afghanistan, said James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander with responsibility for Afghanistan.

“I believe we probably trained them in a way that did not prepare them for this kind of moment in the sense that we tried to make them a mini version of ourselves,” he told MSNBC. “Dependent on intelligence, dependent on air cover, that was not as it turns out the force that was needed to defeat the Taliban.”

The levels of corruption in the Afghan military and government were something U.S. officials never came to terms with.

The Biden administration has repeatedly asserted that the Afghan army was a fighting force of 300,000, dwarfing the Taliban. But the payrolls of the Afghan military and police contained thousands of “ghost” soldiers, fighters who did not exist but were listed so officials could abscond with their payments.

A government watchdog, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, in recent years found a gap between recorded and actual strength levels in the tens of thousands of personnel; in southern pro-Taliban provinces, 50% to 70% of police positions were filled by people who did not exist, the agency found.

The widespread corruption also served to demoralize the Afghan fighting forces, which by many accounts were formidable and relatively professional...

Keep reading.


'I Can't Help Myself'

Described by Billboard as a "spirited, fast -paced wailer performed in unique style."

The Four Tops. A phenomenal hit

Another live version here, even more excitedly upbeat.

U.S.-Allied Afghan Forces Are in Hiding


Every day I get more and more disgusted with Biden — and that’s saying a lot.

At NYT, "Hunted by the Taliban, U.S.-Allied Afghan Forces Are in Hiding":

Columns of Afghan soldiers in armored vehicles and pickup trucks sped through the desert to reach Iran. Military pilots flew low and fast to the safety of Uzbekistan’s mountains.

Thousands of Afghan security force members managed to make it to other countries over the past few weeks as the Taliban rapidly seized the country. Others managed to negotiate surrenders and went back to their homes — and some kept their weapons and joined the winning side.

They were all part of the sudden atomization of the national security forces that the United States and its allies spent tens of billions of dollars to arm, train and stand against the Taliban, a two-decade effort at institution-building that vanished in just a few days.

But tens of thousands of other Afghan grunts, commandos and spies who fought to the end, despite the talk in Washington that the Afghan forces simply gave up, have been left behind. They are now on the run, hiding and hunted by the Taliban.

Continue reading the main story

“There’s no way out,” said Farid, an Afghan commando, in a text message to an American soldier who fought with him. Farid, who agreed to be identified by his first name only, said he was hiding in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, trapped after the regular army units surrendered around him. “I am praying to be saved.”

Accounts of the Taliban searching for people they believe worked with and fought alongside U.S. and NATO forces are beginning to trickle out, offering a bloody counterpoint to the kinder and gentler face the militants have been trying to present to the world.

The militants are threatening to arrest or punish family members if they cannot find the people they are seeking, according to former Afghan officials, a confidential report prepared for the United Nations and American veterans who have been contacted by desperate Afghans who served alongside them. Most spoke on condition of anonymity to protect friends and loved ones still hiding in Afghanistan.

The officials said the Taliban had been combing through records at the ministry of defense and interior and the headquarters of Afghanistan’s spy service, drawing up lists of operatives to search for. And there are more and more reports that the militants are exacting swift and fatal revenge when they are found.

One former interpreter for American Special Forces said he saw another man gunned down feet from him on the mere suspicion that he had worked with foreign forces.

In the southern city of Kandahar, video posted on social media last week by RTA, Afghanistan’s public broadcaster, showed dozens of bodies left by the road, many of them reportedly Afghan soldiers and officials executed by the Taliban. RTA itself is now in the hands of the Taliban.

How many Afghan soldiers and security officials are on the run is unclear. Dozens of Afghan pilots escaped to Uzbekistan, where 22 planes and 24 helicopters carrying nearly 600 men arrived on Sunday, according to Uzbek officials; an unknown number made it to Iran, former Afghan officials said.

On paper, the Afghan security forces number around 300,000. But because of corruption, desertion and casualties, only a sixth of that number were actually in the fight against the Taliban this year, U.S. officials say.

Thousands surrendered as the Taliban rolled through the country, laying down their weapons after being promised they would not be harmed. The Taliban so far appears to have stuck with those deals — historically a common feature of Afghan warfare — and the militants seemed far more focused on the 18,000 Army commandos, many of whom did not surrender, and officers from the country’s spy service, the National Directorate of Security...

Alexis Ren, Ashley Tavort, and Caroline Vreeland

It's a good day!

Ms. Alexis is on Twitter.

Ashley Tavort is here.

And also Caroline Vreeland here and here.

Clarissa Ward Reporting from Afghanistan (VIDEO)

 He's either foolish or brave. 

Either way, it's been doing phenomenal reporting, even heroic,

At CNN, and Melissa Mackenzie below:

Kamala Harris Goes to Ground

She's upside-down in a recent poll.

See, NYP, "Kamala Harris tanking in poll as she goes to ground on Afghan withdrawal."

'The Night House' Review (VIDEO)

Super, scary, scintillating.

A modern-day psychological thriller, and worth your time.

At the L.A. Times, "Review: Rebecca Hall keeps the tension building in ‘The Night House’."

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Douglas London, The Recruiter

At Amazon, Douglas London, The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.

London was the CIA's Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southwest Asia befoe his retirement in 2019.

Tucker Carlson Slams Biden on Afghan Refugees (VIDEO)

CNN was hammering Tucker today during their programming. It's like a night and day contrast: CNN's boosting the Democrats (for example, in its reporting on the serious threat from Larry Elder to Governor Newsom in next month's recall election) and Fox News (especially the evening opinion segments, though not exclusively, i.e., Bret Baier) has been eviscerating Biden on the disastrous crisis in Afghanistan.

Below is the long segment that got the folks over at CNN all hot and bothered. Indeed, Don Lemon took on Tucker in last night's segment. These goobers are shaken.

I should note that I'm not against accepting Afghan refugees, as long as they've been comprehensibly vetted for terrorist activity (or any of the slightest collaboration with the Taliban, al Qaeda, or any or all of the many other totalitarian jihadists across the international system). And to note, apparently even President Trump has flip-flopped on the issue of accepting Afghan refugees to the U.S.

At Fox News:

Protests Threaten Taliban Rule (VIDEO)

That's the New York Times' take. 

But if the Taliban are a truly totalitarian force, they won't stand for these protests too long. They'll arrest, torture, imprison, murder, assassinate, and slaughter any and all opponents of the new regime. 

See, "As demonstrations spread, the Taliban face growing challenges in running the nation."

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bernard-Henri, Levy Who Killed Daniel Pearl?

At Amazon, Bernard-Henri, Levy Who Killed Daniel Pearl?

Liz Cheney on 'This Week' (VIDEO)

The defeat in Afghanistan will certainly resonate in international politics for years to come. I'm still gobsmacked yet fascinated about this whole thing, especially how swiftly things fell apart, and the shape of the future for the nation. The Afghan people are worthy of your prays. 

I'm also interested in it from a policy perspective. I'm neoconservative, a dreaded "neocon," to listen to all these pro-isolationism and "Never Trumpers," the majority of whom were warmongering boosters just a few years ago. I saw former Breitbart writer John Nolte on Twitter ragging about how awful U.S. policy has been, but I'd bet if you check the archives there from, say, a decade ago, you'd find all kinds of attacks on President Obama and his own pledge to surge the troops with a firm deadline for a troop withdraw, to say the least.

To be honest, the fact is each and all the last four presidents bear responsibly, but clearly, none more than President Biden.

What to do now? I mean, if I were in charge of course U.S. troops would have stayed. The U.S. would have maintained bases and prisons, and would have had robust air-power to support ground operations, including throughout the hinterlands across the country. A number of commentators have noted that just keeping U.S. forces in country, with no announcement of a troop withdrawal, would have been preferred, and of course we could have temporarily surged troops if things got out of hand. 

Now we'll have to continue fighting there, for one thing, to prevent a humanitarian and regional security nightmare from taking place. This may not be a popular position right now, but it's stupid to argue that the U.S today is more secure today than it was just a week or so ago. 

At the video, Liz Cheney argues that instead of ending the war, U.S. policy --- in both the Trump and Biden administrations --- has guaranteed the war there will continue.

She's not a popular figure in her party, and it'll be interesting to see how she fares in the 2022 midterms, but she's firm and consistent in her positions, and I think she's great.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Afghan Women Fear for Their LIves

Tragic, but no surprise, at all. 

At NYT, "For Afghan Women, Taliban Stirs Fears of a Return to a Repressive Past":

As Afghan women remained cloistered at home in Kabul, fearful for their lives and their futures, a starkly different image played out on Tuesday on Tolo News, an Afghan television station: a female presenter interviewing a Taliban official.

Sitting several feet away from Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a member of the Taliban’s media team, the host, Beheshta Arghand, asked him about the situation in Kabul and the Taliban’s conducting house-to-house searches in the Afghan capital.

“The entire world now recognizes that the Taliban are the real rulers of the country,” he said, adding: “I am still astonished that people are afraid of Taliban.”

But many are deeply fearful, among them the millions of Afghan women who are afraid of a return to a repressive past, when the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, and barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. In 1996, a woman in Kabul had the end of her thumb cut off for wearing nail varnish, according to Amnesty International. In recent months, some women have been flogged by Taliban fighters for having their faces uncovered.

In the two decades after the U.S. invasion toppled the Taliban, the United States invested more than $780 million to encourage women’s rights. Girls and women have joined the military and police forces, held political office, competed in the Olympics and scaled the heights of engineering on robotics teams — things that once seemed unimaginable under the Taliban.

Now, however, a central question remains: Will the Taliban once again trample over women’s rights with the same velocity they captured the country?

The Tolo News interview was part of a broader campaign by the Taliban since taking power to present a more moderate face to the world and to help tame the fear gripping the country. They are encouraging workers back to their jobs — and have even encouraged women to return to work and to take part in the government.

“The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims,” Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press, using the militants’ name for Afghanistan. “They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”

Still, worried about running afoul of local Taliban officials, many women have remained shuttered at home. Kabul residents have been tearing down advertisements showing women without head scarves in recent days. In some areas of Afghanistan, women have been told not to leave home without being accompanied by a male relative, and girls’ schools have been closed.

And, despite their pledges of no reprisals, there have already been reports of Taliban seizing property, hunting down government workers and journalists and attacking crowds of civilians.

At the same time, the Taliban was showing indications that it was, at least for the moment, adopting a more tolerant stance regarding the role of women and girls. Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s organization, said one of its representatives met a health commissioner on Monday in Herat and reported that he requested that women who work for the health department return to work.

That made the work of Tolo’s female journalists, including a reporter out on the street, all the more notable.

Matthieu Aikins, a journalist who has reported widely on Afghanistan, described the Tolo interview as “remarkable, historic, heartening,” although he pointed out that during recent peace talks in Qatar, the Taliban had given access to female journalists from Afghanistan and other countries.

Afghanistan observers said that while it is not unheard-of for the Taliban to grant interviews to female journalists, including international correspondents from CNN and other outlets, they are rare inside the country... Yeah, CNN's Clarissa Ward, apparently stuck behind enemy lines. I literally pray she has security. I watched her segment yesterday, and Wolf Blitzer finished off that part of the discussion admonisher her to stay safe...

Such a beautiful, beautiful woman, and wearing a burqa, as all Afghan women will be wearing now that the nation's in Taliban hands.

I shake my head and say to myself: I must pray.


Norman Podhoretz, World War IV

At Amazon, Norman Podhoretz, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism.

War in Afghanistan Ends in Ignominy and Shame

At NYT, "For America, and Afghanistan, the Post-9/11 Era Ends Painfully":

An era that began two decades ago with the shock of hijacked planes flying into American skyscrapers drew to a close this week with desperate Afghans clinging to American planes as they tried to escape the chaos of Kabul. Some fell; one was found dead in the landing gear.

A colossal bipartisan investment of American force, treasure and diplomacy to defeat a hostile ideology bent on the creation of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has failed. Over four presidencies, two Republican and two Democratic, more than 2,400 Americans gave their lives, and more than $1 trillion dollars was spent, for shifting Afghan goals, many of which proved unattainable.

The curtain came down on the post-9/11 era, with the Taliban retaking control of the country that served as the base for the attack on America, a full-circle debacle for the United States that will engrave Afghanistan painfully in the national memory.

Mistakes and illusions and a particular American naïveté, or hubris, about remaking the world in its image led to the swift Taliban takeover almost two decades after its defeat, but a more fundamental factor also played a part. With China flexing its muscles, the nation’s priorities shifted. The relative power of the United States is not what it was 20 years ago.

The country’s capacity and inclination to commit resources to faraway struggles ebbed. Absent the Cold War, Americans have little appetite for the kind of open-ended military commitment that cemented democracies in Germany, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere.

“As president, I’m adamant we focus on the threats we face today, in 2021, not yesterday’s threats,” President Biden said Monday, defending his decision to proceed with a rapid military withdrawal.

“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves,” Mr. Biden said.

Yet if there has been a single thrust to Mr. Biden’s presidency, it has been the defense of democracies at an “inflection point” with repressive forms of governance spreading, and the reassertion of American values.

“America is back,” has been the refrain. But the question will now be raised: To do what? A planned summit in December conceived to reinforce democracies looks far less credible now that Afghan schools may be closed to girls again and Afghans who believed in freedom are desperate to flee.

“For decades Afghanistan has been the victim of people who wanted to do it good,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat who served as United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan and Iraq. “At this point there was no good time to leave, so this was as good — or as bad — as any,” he added.

The chaos in Kabul as the United States and its allies scrambled to evacuate their nationals, and the Afghans who had helped them, has inevitably been compared to the desperate scenes in Saigon in April 1975 as North Vietnamese troops took the city. Then, as now, a homegrown guerrilla insurgency undid a superpower’s designs.

The analogy should not be overdrawn, however. The United States was bitterly divided over the Vietnam War. Today most Americans want out of Afghanistan. Their priorities are domestic.

As Mr. Biden said, an overriding American objective was achieved: Islamist terrorism, in the form of Al Qaeda, was largely defeated over the past two decades. But the political Islam embraced by the Taliban has retained its magnetism as an alternative to secular Western models of governance.

It remains to be seen whether a newly savvy Taliban, honed by diplomatic experience that may have cooled something of the zealous ardor of the seminary, will honor promises to prevent Afghanistan becoming a terrorist haven again...

C'mon. No one believes the Taliban won't renew their global jihad. It goes without saying U.S. national security is more a risk than it was just last week.

And it's all on Biden, and he's getting hammered for it.

Still more.  

Human Remains Found in Wheel Well of C-17 Military Plane That Departed from Kabul

Absolutely horrifying. 

At ABC News, "The discovery was made after a day of chaotic evacuations from Kabul's airport":

A U.S. official has confirmed that human remains were found inside the wheel well of a C-17 military plane that had been swarmed by hundreds of people on the tarmac as it took off at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

The discovery was made upon landing at al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on Monday.

A dramatic video taken earlier Monday showed some people clinging to the plane as it taxied down the runway in Kabul.

A defense official said the individuals swarming the plane had breached the runway from the civilian side of the airport. At the airport in Kabul, there is a side for military operations and another side for commercial flights.

Air operations were suspended for hours at the airport Monday because of the crush of Afghan civilians desperate to leave Kabul. Operations resumed after the U.S. military, Turkish forces and other troops forcibility removed 15,000 Afghan civilians who had breached the runway, a U.S. official said...

Keep reading.