Strung Out: Trump, Afghanistan and More War

Trump speech war

Since my typical writing style is stream of consciousness, you’re witnessing my real-time confusion over where to start my comments about President Donald Trump’s anticipated unveiling of his Afghanistan war plans tonight.

Hell, you should also be confused — America’s been fighting this war for SIXTEEN YEARS.

SIXTEEN YEARS. And for what useful purpose?

I’m immediately reminded of a few years ago, when I half-joked about how America’s so strung out that it can’t seem to stay away from whatever’s resting between Afghanistan’s thighs.

Let’s face it. SIXTEEN YEARS is a long time to be strung out over anything.

Didn’t the US started dropping bombs on Afghanistan in 2001 because the Taliban was hosting Osama Bin Laden — the Al-Qaeda leader and mastermind behind the World Trade Center attacks — in Afghanistan, and the Taliban wouldn’t hand Bin Laden over to the US?

Well, Bin Laden has been long gone and Al Qaeda has been bombed to relative insignificance in the country.

So, why is the US still fighting in Afghanistan?

Oh, right — the Taliban. I’ll get to that in a moment.

With Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda gone, isn’t there less of a reason to keep this war going for the past SIXTEEN YEARS?

Nope. Strung out.

America’s War on Terror that started with the war on Al-Qaeda, has magically transitioned to a war on the Taliban, where the objective has been to reduce the latter group’s footprint in the country.

But that strategy didn’t work. Afghanistan’s opium is flowing more than ever, and the Taliban has taken over more territory than they had before 9/11. Every military assessment I’m aware of says the Taliban has been fought to a stalemate, at best.

So, what the hell is between Afghanistan’s legs?

Has to be more than honor.

America’s been so strung out that it was willing to have talks with the Taliban. For the past TWENTY YEARS.

TWENTY YEARS. That’s is the part you don’t hear about.

Let’s explore these talks.

For starters, read this post by Counterpunch and this longform piece by Commentary Magazine to get the untold story about the US’s long and curious record of negotiations with the Taliban.

Mind blown yet? Wait until I paint the context.

The Clinton administration negotiated with the Taliban after the latter bum-rushed its way to power in the mid 1990s.

Negotiations took place with the Clinton administration’s full knowledge of the Taliban’s drug dealing, as well as its lethal problems with democracy and women.

Negotiations took place after Osama bin Laden, then a guest of the Taliban in Afghanistan, declared war on the US.

Negotiations also happened around the time of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

America and the Taliban appeared to have plenty to discuss during the days of Bush the Second, before and after 9/11.

And yes, America and the Taliban were negotiating during President Obama’s reign. Talks went so (relatively) well that the US not only ended up recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate political organization, but America also allowed the Taliban to open a political office in Qatar.

How’s that mind of yours doing?

Even the most myopic of partisan thinkers reading this post would be forced to look beyond whatever Trump has to say tonight, and ask a common sense question: what in the hell does the US and the Taliban have so much to discuss?

This is where familiar themes come in: fossil fuel, minerals, and America’s desire to secure them.

I’m not driven by conspiracy speculations and neither should you. The truth about America’s interest in negotiating with the Taliban lies in America’s view of Afghanistan as an important piece of real estate in Central Asia. That’s why you should read two important sources.

The first is a book by Zbigniew Brzezinski titled The Grand Chessboard. Brzezinski was national security advisor for the Carter and Reagan administrations, as well as an advisor to Team Obama. In his book, Brzezinski wrote that America’s position as a global power is all but assured if it can run the show in Central Asia. He also emphasized Central Asia’s importance as an energy provider to the world, given its “reserves of natural gas and oil that dwarf those of Kuwait, the Gulf of Mexico or the North Sea.”

Brzezinski’s reference leads us to the second source: a 1998 Congressional testimony by John Maresca, an executive from US oil giant Unocal, where he requested the US government’s help in dealing with Afghanistan. While I think you should read the entire testimony, I’ll provide a summary:

  • Unocal knows there’s huge amount of oil and gas in Central Asia.
  • Unocal has a plan to extract and transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea through a proposed pipeline that will run through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan (TAPI).
  • The planned pipeline will run through areas of Afghanistan that are controlled by the Taliban.
  • Unocal is fully aware of the Taliban’s mean streak, but the company hopes that the US government can create a politically stable environment in the region so that the pipeline can be built.

The oil and gas haven’t gone anywhere — and some of it is resting between Afghanistan’s legs.

This explains why the Clinton gang had so much to discuss with the Taliban — before the Twin Towers fell — and why it wasn’t so quick to retaliate against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the USS Cole attack. I suggest you first read the Commentary Magazine piece mentioned earlier to understand why the US’s behavior in this instance is so outrageous.

It’s also no secret that the former Soviet Union had some idea of the mound of riches between Afghanistan’s thighs. In field notes obtained by Scientific American, Soviet experts noted that Afghanistan has an enormous amount of rare earths — the elements critical for computing technology, communications, national defense, transportation and other vital industries.

In other words, Afghanistan’s has so much economic potential that the Soviet Union was willing to risk its empire to conquer it and America has been helplessly strung out for more than a decade and a half.

Shoot, you could argue that Afghanistan’s had America’s nose wide open for much longer than I indicated. Remember that the US spent over $1 billion from the late 1970s through the early 1990s arming and training the Taliban to expel the Soviet military.

So whatever Trump has to say tonight, you can be certain of two things: [1] he’s getting strung out too; and [2] he may not be down for talking with the Taliban — yet …

song currently stuck in my head: “willow weep for me” – wes montgomery

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