Feature image credit: Barat Ali Batoor /Birds in Flight
I appreciate Mr. Harstook’s opinion on Afghanistan, but there is solid evidence that the nation building operation in Afghanistan was a fool’s errand. I believe that by highlighting three Afghan whistleblowers we can understand why this was the case.
Matthew Hoh spent four years in Iraq, half of that as a Captain in the Marines. He then worked as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan. Hoh was the first U.S. official to resign in protest over the Afghan war when he published his resignation letter in 2009. He argued “Like the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people.” He pointed to the “Glaring corruption and unabashed graft” of the Afghan government and it’s “President whose confidants and chief advisors comprise drug lords and war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law…” Hoh later revealed that he was “repeatedly asked not to resign and was offered a more senior position within the State Department” and claimed that US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, said his “analysis was one of the best he had encountered”. But the D.C. swamp ignored his observations.
Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, Ret. served in a total of four combat tours beginning with Iraq in 1991, where he earned a Bronze Star Medal for Valor, and ending in Afghanistan in 2011, where he earned his second Bronze Star. He published a report in 2012 detailing how U.S. military and civilian leaders were lying to both the American public and Congress that we were winning the war when the reality on the ground was the opposite. He “saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people.” and “…observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency.” He described a visit to the Kandahar province where “To a man, the U.S. officers in that unit told me they had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area…” He wrote that “No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect- and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve- to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.” But Congress continued to fund the Afghan war while our media failed to accurately the reality in Afghanistan.
While Sergeant Charles Martland, an Army Green Beret, wouldn’t consider himself a “whistleblower”, his story highlights a hidden problem with our Afghan “allies”. Martland beat up an Afghan militia commander, Abdul Rahman, after discovering that Rahman had a teenage boy chained to his bed. Martland was prosecuted by the U.S. Military, until being exonerated in 2016, after 305,000 Americans signed a petition and representatives in Congress advocated on his behalf. This incident brought to light the widespread cultural practice of what Afghans call “bacha bazi”. American’s have tried to downplay this practice, even recently, when a play that tried to romanticize it was made available for streaming online during the pandemic by the LGBTQ company, Diversionary Theatre. What is it? Bacha Bazi translated, is “boy play”. Teenage boys are sold, kidnapped, or “rented” to dress up as women and dance for adult men in parties that end in child abuse. Evidence suggests that up to half of all men in the Pashtun tribal areas in southern Afghanistan engage in bacha bazi and that a significant amount of Afghan weddings include the practice. However, the Taliban prohibit the practice and assign the death penalty to any men caught in the practice.
When the U.S. allied with the enemies of the Taliban, taxpayers ended up subsidizing the many predators in charge of Afghan police and militia. The U.S. government disregarded and downplayed the widespread abuse due to a policy of “cultural sensitivity”. The corporate media’s feminist view of our military occupation preferred to report on girl’s educational progress while ignoring the exploitation of teenage boys. By choosing our Pashtun tribal “allies” over the Taliban we doomed a generation of boys to the brutality of child abuse which did nothing but fuel resentment towards our country.
Charles Martland provides an example of the clash of cultures that could not be reconciled in Afghanistan. Afghan “leaders” were not willing to give up their unethical and corrupt cultural practices regardless of how much money we gave them. Daniel L. Davis alerted the public that we were being lied to. Matthew Hoh chose to sacrifice his career rather than pretending we could rebuild Afghanistan. These aren’t a bunch of anti-war hippies who tried to tell America the truth.
The American public should have known the withdrawal from Afghanistan would lead to the collapse of the Afghan government. Former editor of The American Conservative, Kelly Beucar Vlahos, pointed out in 2017 that – “The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) reported in January that Afghan commanders continue to pocket the salaries of “ghost soldiers,” troops who exist on the books but not in reality and could number in the “tens of thousands.” Not surprisingly, only 63 percent of the country’s districts are under government control today, with 15 percent ceded to the Taliban last year… Meanwhile as much as half of U.S.-purchased fuel for the military is being siphoned off somewhere.”
The reason why conservatives weren’t aware of the failed mission in Afghanistan is because our news media preferred to hide the truth from viewers and both Republican politicians and pundits didn’t want to be seen as “against the troops”. It would have benefited Americans to listen to those paleoconservatives and libertarians who didn’t shy away from pursuing the truth about our 20-year war.
The March 2018 book “Fool’s Errand” by Scott Horton should be mandatory reading for any Colorado conservative running for Congress. Someone who had read the book would have not been surprised that the Afghan government we had propped up would collapse so easily. The primary issue isn’t about Biden’s withdrawal, it is that the Neo-conservatives who advocated nation building overseas will almost always be wrong and are willing to lie to us about the reality of military missions. The fact we stayed in Afghanistan for two decades demonstrates that we cannot trust our media or government officials to tell us the truth.