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Terrorists Aren't Born, They're Made: NYT Writeup of US Afghanistan War Ignores US Atrocities


The New York Times has a 4,000 words long piece about the war on Afghanistan. It tries to explain why the Taliban won the war.

How the Taliban Outlasted a Superpower: Tenacity and Carnage

It is also a remarkable attempt to ignore the factual history:

[The Taliban] have outlasted a superpower through nearly 19 years of grinding war. And dozens of interviews with Taliban officials and fighters in three countries, as well as with Afghan and Western officials, illuminated the melding of old and new approaches and generations that helped them do it.

After 2001, the Taliban reorganized as a decentralized network of fighters and low-level commanders empowered to recruit and find resources locally while the senior leadership remained sheltered in neighboring Pakistan.

That is simply wrong. Between the end of 2001 and 2007 there were no Taliban. The movement had dissolved.

The author later acknowledges that there were no Taliban activity throughout those years. But the narrative is again skewed:

Many Taliban commanders interviewed for this article said that in the initial months after the invasion, they could scarcely even dream of a day they might be able to fight off the U.S. military. But that changed once their leadership regrouped in safe havens provided by Pakistan’s military — even as the Pakistanis were receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in American aid.

From that safety, the Taliban planned a longer war of attrition against U.S. and NATO troops. Starting with more serious territorial assaults in 2007, the insurgents revived and refined an old blueprint the United States had funded against the Soviets in the same mountains and terrain — but now it was deployed against the American military.

Even before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan the Taliban had recognized that they lacked the capability to run a country. They had managed to make Afghanistan somewhat secure. The warlords who had fought each other after the Soviet draw down were suppressed and the streets were again safe. But there was no development, no real education or health system and no money to create them.

When the U.S. invaded the Taliban dispersed. On December 5 2001 Taliban leader Mullah Omar resigned and went into hiding within Afghanistan. For one day the Taliban defense minister Mullah Obaidullah became the new leader. From the The Secret Life of Mullah Omar by Bette Dam:

The next day, Mullah Obaidullah drove up north to Kandahar’s Shah Wali Kot district to meet with Karzai and his supporters. In what has become known as the “Shah Wali Kot Agreement”, Mullah Obaidullah and the Taliban agreed to lay down their arms and retire to their homes or join the government. The movement effectively disbanded itself. Karzai agreed, and in a media appearance the next day, he announced that while al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were the enemies of Afghanistan, the Taliban were sons of the soil and would effectively receive amnesty. For the moment, the war was over.

The Taliban fighters went back to their home villages and families. Most stayed in Afghanistan. Some of the leaders and elder members went back to the tribal regions of Pakistan where their families had been living as refugees since the Soviet invasion in 1979.

The Taliban did not plan a longer war of attrition - at least not between 2001 and 2006. The movement had simply ceased to exist.

The big question is then why it came back but the New York Times has little to say about that:

From the start, the insurgents seized on the corruption and abuses of the Afghan government put in place by the United States, and cast themselves as arbiters of justice and Afghan tradition — a powerful part of their continued appeal with many rural Afghans in particular. With the United States mostly distracted with the war in Iraq, the insurgency widened its ambitions and territory.

No, the 'corruption and abuses of the Afghan government' were not the reason the Taliban were reestablished. The abuses of the U.S. occupation recreated them. The publicly announced amnesty Karzai and Mullah Obaidullah had agreed upon, was ignored by the U.S. commanders and politicians.

The CIA captured random Afghans as 'Taliban' and brutally tortured them - some to death. U.S. Special Forces randomly raided private homes and bombed whole villages to rubble.  The brutal warlords, which the Taliban had suppressed, were put back into power. When they wanted to grab a piece of land they told their U.S. handlers that the owner was a 'Taliban'. The U.S. troops would then removed that person one way or the other. The behavior of the occupiers was an affront to every Afghan.

By 2007 Mullah Omar and his helper Jabbar Omari were hiding in Siuray, a district around twenty miles southeast of Qalat. A large U.S. base was nearby. Bette Dam writes of the people's mood:

As the population turned against the government due to its corruption and American atrocities, they began to offer food and clothing to the house-hold for Jabbar Omari and his mysterious friend.

It was the absurd stupidity and brutality with which the U.S. occupied the country that gave Afghans the motive to again fight against an occupier or at least to support such a fight.

At the same time the Pakistani military had come to fear a permanent U.S. presence in its backyard. It connected the retired Taliban elders  with its sponsors in the Gulf region and organized the logistics for a new insurgency. The Taliban movement was reestablished with new leadership but under the old name.

The old tribal command networks were reactivated and the ranks were filled with newly disgruntled Afghans. From that point on it was only a question of time until the U.S. would have to leave just like the Soviets and Brits had to do before them.

By December 2001 the war against the Taliban had ended. During the following five years the U.S. fought against an imaginary enemy that no longer existed. It was this war on the wider population that by 2007 created a new insurgency that adopted the old name.

A piece that claims to explain why the Taliban have won the war but ignores the crucial period between 2001 and 2007 misses the most important point that made the Taliban victory possible.

The will of the Afghan people to liberate their country from a foreign occupation.

Originally appeared at: Moon of Alabama