POTUS Interruptus

The Withdrawal Method is Never without Risk

The risk of becoming pregnant whilst performing the withdrawal method of contraception perfectly is about four percent. And to get performance that high requires great self-control and a certain amount of skill on behalf of the gentleman involved. Because, if not, on average, one in five couples will get pregnant when using this technique as their primary form of birth control for a year. And, in time, all will fail.*

Likewise, in times of war, to withdraw puts those pulling out in a very precarious situation.

Afghanistan and the British Empire: 1842

At the height of the British Empire, the Russian Empire was their biggest imperial rival. Due to it being the jewel in their imperial crown the Brits feared that the Russians would attempt to take the southerly route through Afghanistan to conquer India, which was then under British control, or what was then known as the Raj.

So, in 1839, about 20,000 British and Indian troops marched into the Afghan city of Kabul without meeting any enemy combatants on the way and installed their own man, Shah Shuja, into power to protect their interests. However, the new government was supposed to be defended by two brigades of British forces, who were unprepared when an armed uprising took place in Kabul in 1841, and the British were surrounded in their own camp.

After the British leadership was murdered and the troops were inadequately able to defend their positions, a treaty was made for their retreat. On January 6, 1942, about 4,500 British forces and 12,000 civilians set out for India.

Within a few days, some of those fleeing had died from exposure to the brutal mountainous weather. Then suddenly, upon reaching the passage of Khourd Caboul, the troops and civilians alike were attacked from all sides of the mountain pass by the Afghanis. It was a shooting gallery.  

British Army Surgeon Dr. William Brydon was the only one, out of more than 16,000 people fleeing Kabul, to survive the attack; many people believe he was allowed to live only so that he could tell the tale.

A bunch of tribespeople had defeated the greatest empire on earth. It was all a bit embarrassing.

Afghanistan and the Soviet Union: 1989

Still a target of the former Russians (now the USSR: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), Afghanistan was identified as an expansion state. In 1978 the USSR helped the Afghan military overthrow the current president and brought in a regime more open to being controlled by the USSR.

However, the Afghans were not happy with this plan and throughout 1979 revolted against the Soviet-backed takeover. Therefore, the Soviets sent thousands of military advisors into the country to take on the insurgents. By early 1980 the soviets held all the cities in Afghanistan, but the guerrillas held 80% of the countryside.

For the next five years, the USSR floundered in the mountain passes and was prevented from taking key strategic ground by the guerillas.

The Soviet command also had to deal with another widespread issue among those on the side of the Afghan Army; i.e., they were very prone to desertion and leaving the Soviet Army alone to do the fighting.

So, no change there.

With this hopeless and seemingly never-ending war becoming a serious burden, the USSR decided to make its withdrawal. Another puppet president came and went in Kabul, and the Afghan people were done with dealing with the horror of it all. Therefore, by the end of 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev decided to get all the Soviet troops out of the quicksand-like suck in Afghanistan.

The signing of the Geneva Accords on April 14, 1988, meant the USSR gave the Afghani Government more than a year to prepare for the withdrawal of all Soviet troops. The first phase withdrawal of 50,000 troops took place between May and August 1988.

These troops were protected by artillery, tanks, and air support along the route as they left. They also paid off local guerillas with lots of cash not to open fire on them as they withdrew, which kept the attacks down to a minimum.

The second phase of withdrawal began in January 1989, and the other 50,000 troops were out by February 15, 1989.

For the Afghan Army, they left 3,000 trucks, 990 armored vehicles, 142 artillery pieces, 82 mortars, 321 air defense systems, and about 1,706 rocket launchers.  

More than 600,000 Soviet forces served in Afghanistan. About two-thirds caught serious diseases such as typhoid fever and hepatitis, more than 54,000 were wounded, and about 14,500 were killed in combat during the decade-long conflict. Further, it’s estimated more than a million Afghanis died during the war, with about 7.5 million fleeing the country as refugees.

However, unlike the British withdrawal, the Soviet pull-out was successful with a relatively small loss of life. But, the way in which the plans were announced in advance opened up power vacuums within Eastern Afghanistan while allowing the USA, for example, to further undermine Soviet efforts by increasing support and funding for the insurgents, including indirectly, as US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) claims, Osama Bin Laden. Which helped to destabilize the country for decades more.

Less than three years after being embroiled in this costly quagmire, the USSR dissipated into its component parts and was gone. It was a victory once more for the tribesmen.

Afghanistan and the United States of America: 2021

Nobody alive at the time will forget the sight of United Airlines Flight 175 crashing completely live into Tower Two of the World Trade Center in New York City at 09:03 on September 11, 2001.

Those moments of terror started a war that would last two decades. Children born on or not long after that day would fight and die in Afghanistan, never knowing a time their country was not at war. It was as if nobody in command had ever read a history book in their life.

After the terror attacks, POTUS#43 told the Taliban, who were ruling Afghanistan in all but name, to hand over Osama bin Laden. They said no.

Osama bin Laden was an independently wealthy son of a construction billionaire who disavowed the yacht owning lifestyle to live in a cave in the desert and plan the destruction of the Western World. He came to prominence when he set up his own mini-private army in Afghanistan to battle against the Soviet forces. Winning a significant victory at the Battle of Jaji in 1987.

Rumored to have been decisive in bringing down the power of the USSR in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was a hero in the Arab world when he set up al-Qaeda in 1988 as a warring group that would bring Islam to the world.

By 1996, bin Laden had declared war on the USA, and in 1998 issued a fatwã against the United States for the perceived occupation of Saudi Arabia, the location of two of Islam’s most highly sights—Mecca and Medina.

Five years later and al-Qaeda had brought down the Twin Towers. It would be another decade, i.e., in 2011, before the Administration of POTUS#44 caught and killed the terrorist.

So, the United States and allies, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, and Germany, took control of the country to curtail further terrorist attacks.

Once that mission was achieved, a coalition of 40 countries [including all NATO members] named the International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] fought alongside the Afghan Government to secure the country against Taliban rule.

However, in 2003, the Taliban made a comeback with yet another insurgency, especially in more rural areas.

By 2009, to get things under control, the ISAF troop numbers had reached more than 140,000, and the situation was getting out of hand. Therefore in 2011, after US Special Forces, i.e., SEAL Team Six had killed Osama bin Laden, NATO leaders attempted to develop a clear exit strategy to withdraw troops. On December 28, 2014, the ISAF ended combat operations in Afghanistan.

Like the British Empire and the USSR before them, the United States-led coalition forces realized their folly in achieving their goals through military force and decided instead to attempt diplomatic channels.

POTUS#45 and the Taliban make a Deal

Finally, after almost two decades of endless fighting with the Taliban, our former president seemed to be getting somewhere in diplomatic efforts. Or, so we hoped.

According to the US Department of State website, on February 29, 2020, a deal was signed with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country by May 2021.

On the same day of the signing, POTUS#45 referred to the deal at the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC].

Today, the United States, for years, they’ve been trying to do this, and today the United States signed a deal with the Taliban so that we can hopefully begin the immediate process of finally bringing our troops back home. … in exchange for the Taliban’s action against al Qaeda and other terrorists who could threaten us, we’re prepared to begin those force withdrawals.  And if the Taliban and the Afghan government live up to their commitments and they may or they may not, but I think we have a lot of reason why they will. I think they will. That means that the longest war in American history by far, it’s not even close, will be over. 

The former president was positive when asked later at a White House briefing when US troops would start returning home.

Today, they’ll start immediately

Not everyone was as excited, however. Backed up by 22 Republicans in the House of Representatives, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) wrote a letter to the administration expressing “serious concerns” that the Taliban “cannot be trusted.”

The concern was that the Taliban did not have the power nor perhaps the will to completely abide by the full text of the agreement.  

So, 22 Republicans sided with Cheney against POTUS#45 and his foreign policy decisions. Still, they practically expelled her from the party for wanting to look into the domestic insurrection of January 6, 2021, which was led by the same former president a year later?

The irony of it all boggles the mind.

POTUS#46 carries out POTUS#45’s deal with the Taliban

The United States has endured 2,361 military and civilian casualties in Afghanistan during the past two decades.

Most of these were during the administration of POTUS#44.

During the one-term i.e., 2017-2020, administration of POTUS#45, US casualties averaged 15 per year.

So far, in 2021, under POTUS#46, we have suffered 13 US casualties while withdrawing about 120,000 people out of Afghanistan by the deadline of August 31. If that number holds, as it should, it will be a triumph.

Compare that to the disaster of the British withdrawal or the casualties of the Soviet war. For a wartime SNAFU of this magnitude, it has been an amazing success.

Until the suicide bombing that sadly caused the loss of 13 US forces and about 170 Afghani civilians, what was curious was the lack of politicking being done by right-wingers in the United States. It was #45’s deal, and they were mostly waiting to praise him for getting the country out of a twenty-year war without incident.

Even the former president was complimentary back in April when he thought it was going well, and he was still likely to get some credit.

Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do. I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, said he also supports Biden’s decision to pull out all US troops.

The announcement has been a game-changer … I respect the president’s decision.

POTUS#44 also had a few words to say;

President Biden has made the right decision in completing the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan 

The Gamblers’ Fallacy

One of the criticisms I have heard from the right and left during the past few weeks is that the entire Afghanistan mission has been a waste of time and things are essentially still as we found them.

Okay. So? To not act or to double-down because things are going poorly is never a good idea. It is like continually betting on bad hands because you are bound to draw a good card eventually.

Not so. Vegas is filled with losers who don’t know when to quit and, therefore, go home even more broke than when they arrived.

Learning from history, from the withdrawal of the British and the USSR, and the clear issues the USA and allies were having in attempting to prop up a workable government in Kabul demonstrated that the best thing to do at this time is to fold the hand and stop the bleeding, especially as the pot was never that big to begin with.

Why did the USA leave Behind so much Gear?

Above is one of $10 million dollars worth of allied South Vietnamese Hueys being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing during Operation Frequent Wind on 30 April 1975. The arriving Cessna was bringing some of the very last evacuees from Saigon.

Withdrawing military forces tend to leave places quicker than they arrive.

First, the military simply doesn’t have the months and months to pack everything up and get it safely out of a landlocked country. Especially, if they are being attacked on their now prolonged departure, which was breaking their promise of a timetable to leave.

Second, it gives the Pentagon an excuse to buy a whole new batch of toys and give out many new military contracts.

Third, according to a report by NBC News, the extremely technical nature of modern military equipment means that without continuous servicing and maintenance, most of what is left behind will be useless within months.

The Afghan security forces rely heavily on U.S.-funded contractors to repair and maintain their fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles and a whole array of other equipment. But the roughly 18,000 contractors are due to depart within weeks, along with most of the U.S. military contingent, as part of Washington's agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all ‘foreign’ troops.

Without the contractors' help, Afghan forces will no longer be able to keep dozens of fighter planes, cargo aircraft, U.S.-made helicopters and drones flying for more than a few more months, according to military experts and a recent Defense Department inspector general's report.

Was it the Correct decision to Leave Afghanistan as per the deadline?

Yes. In a word, not that it counts for much, but yes.

The US forces were depleted by so much after the first stage of withdrawal under POTUS#45 that it would have been even more difficult to get everyone out on time if the agreed-upon schedule was not, pretty much, adhered to.

Imagine the attacks. Imagine the carnage if the US attempted to pull out all their gear slowly. And, for what? To end up stuck in the sand for another year or five? American boys and girls, and those of our allies, losing their lives. It had to end.

According to US diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s diaries, the former vice-president and now POTUS#46 said with regards to any responsibilities to citizens when discussing getting out of Afghanistan back in 2012;

Fuck that, we don’t have to worry about that. We did it in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger got away with it.

Well, his language may be a bit salty, but his message hasn’t changed. It is a tough decision and he has stuck with it.

Ultimately, I have a feeling that US history books are going to see this move as decisive and bold. Others may disagree. Molloy

*If this happens to y’all, I hope you’re not in Texas. And if you missed the subject of attacking a woman’s rights to body autonomy and why the Supreme Court may be a teeny bit biased, check it out:

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