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The only truth about US disastrous Afghanistan war is that it was all based on lies

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Let me begin with full disclosure – I have never set foot in Afghanistan. I have zero skin equity in this current debacle. I have lost very close friends to the conflict that tore that country apart these past 20 years, and I do mourn their loss. What I lack in on-the-ground warfighting resume entries, however, is somewhat compensated by a more intellectually based approach toward the conflict in Afghanistan.

As a historian, I have studied the tribes of Afghanistan, especially their penchant for conflict against ruling authority which deviates from what they expect from their leaders. My specialty was (and is) the Basmachi resistance to Soviet authority in the 1920s and 1930s. More specifically, my studies focused on those elements of Basmachi which settled in Kabul and northern Afghanistan, and who helped overthrow an Afghan King and later were defeated by a Pashtun tribal army.

Not too many Americans are familiar with the names of Ibrahim Bez, Fuzail Maksum, Amanullah, Habibullah, and Nadir Khan, or the military campaign of 1930-31 to secure northern Afghanistan from the Basmachi. If they were, however, they would have a foundation of understanding when it comes to the complexity of Afghan tribal politics, and why any effort to impose a foreign system by force could never succeed.

I spent two years studying Afghanistan from the perspective of a military intelligence officer, in my role as the lead analyst for the 7th Marine Amphibious Brigade on the Soviet war in Afghanistan (the 7th Brigade was the Marine component of the Rapid Deployment Force, and Afghanistan was part of our area of operations). I watched in real time as the various Soviet campaigns targeting the Afghan Mujahideen were defeated on terrain that, years later, would play host to US military forces fighting the very same enemy.

I was in the Soviet Union when Moscow, admitting defeat, finally pulled its troops out of that nation. My reporting based upon interviews with Afghan war veterans on the tactics of the Mujahideen were valued by the US military attaché office in Moscow. I read the Russian newspaper reporting and the first generation of Russian war memoirs to get a fresh take on the Russian experience in Afghanistan, and later used this foundational knowledge to better absorb Western assessments of Russian military performance such as Lester Grau’s outstandingThe Bear went over the Mountain.”

I have also served in tactical, operational, and theater commands in war and peace, and understand the intimate limitations of “ground truth” as experienced by junior enlisted and officers alike, and the absolute disconnect from reality that exists in higher commands. A sergeant or captain doesn’t know what the colonel and general know about the strategic picture, just as the colonel and general do not know what the sergeant and captain have experienced from the perspective of the tip of the spear. Having never served in Afghanistan, when seen in this light, is a liberating factor, since I am not constrained by the prejudices accrued from either perspective.

By way of this introduction, I offer the following assessment of........

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