I spent a lot more time in Holland, France, Turkey, Morocco, Thailand... that I did in Afghanistan but I write more about Afghanistan because so few others have, other than people stationed there in the military, which... well, has a very different and very unique perspective. You probably don't know many people who were busted with 50 kilos of the best Mazar hash and tossed into an Afghan jail-- nor someone who spent a winter in a Hindu Kush hamlet that had 2 families. But probably the main reason I write so much about Afghanistan is because it made such a deep impression on me. I always felt that going there-- twice-- was not just traveling in space but also in time... like back into Biblical times. That hamlet for example... no one had ever experienced electricity or heard of the U.S. or had a clue what the moon is. What a place for a 20 year old!
When the U.S. invaded and occupied I argued with several members of Congress about it. "No," I would say, "we are not going to rescue the women" and "no," we are not going to teach them democracy. You may wish it and be ready to pour billions of dollars into it but it will not happen and nothing good can come of it. I lost some friends that way. Of course, I was right and they were wrong. Yesterday Zalmay Khalilzad, institutional America's one Afghan "expert," was on Face the Nation, and he admitted the U.S. Afghanistan project-- at least the social end and generally designed by himself-- was exactly what it was always destined to be: an abject failure. Khalilzad has always been a crook and a money launderer and always used his positions to enrich himself, something Republicans never seemed to have a problem with and certainly nothing that has kept him from being lionized by U.S. corporate media, just as CBS News did today.
Like the hash I got busted with, Khalilzad is from Mazar in Balkh which was, at least when I was there, Afghanistan's 4th biggest city after Kabul-- the only actual city-- Kandahar and Herat. It was near the Soviet border (today the Uzbek border). There was no airport-- or even a traffic light-- when I was there. Khalilzad is from a Pashtun family and they moved to Kabul when he was a child. He got a doctorate from the University of Chicago and became an acolyte of anti-Russian psycho warmonger Zbigniew Brzezinski in the 1980s. Khalilzad worked for the Reagan administration advising the U.S. how to oppose the Soviets in Afghanistan, including arming and legitimizing local terrorists, a nightmare still playing out today. He then worked for George H.W. Bush, then the Rand Corporation and then George W. Bush. He was always a neoliberal hawk pushing the U.S. to attack everywhere in the Middle East. His advice has always been toxic, horrible, ideologically-motivated and wrong in every single way. Khalilzad was a disaster for American foreign and defense policy and served-- disastrously as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and eventually to the UN-- the thinking by the Senate that anyone would be better than Bolton. He was, though not much, pushing for war with Iran instead of Russia this time.
Obama fired him in 2009 and he started a corporate consulting firm for companies looking to exploit Afghanistan and Iraq. Predictably, Trump hired him back into government and, laughably, Biden-- who bought the hype-- kept him on. You know all the blame Biden gets for not realizing the completely obvious, that the Taliban would take over Afghanistan in days not months? That came from Khalilzad, a smooth-talking, diplomatic professional liar, who is proud that millions of Afghans now have cell phones.
Anyway, the idiots at CBS never mentioned any of this and allowed him to get away with all his usual bullshit, just a week after he was finally fired by the Biden administration. "I think with regard to terrorism, we largely have achieved that objective. On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan-- I think that did not succeed. The struggle goes on." What a clown! "The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year." Margaret Brennan approached the interview from the same perspective my American friends approached Afghanistan-- imaging it as a place like Germany or even Turkey, not as a country under the control of a disorganized medieval gang of war lords and theocrats. Her questions were almost all absurd.
A better way to get a grip on what's going on in Afghanistan would be to seek information from anyone but Khalilzad. Reuters published a worthwhile-- less ideological-- report on Saturday morning. "Afghanistan will shortly collapse into chaos unless the international community acts rapidly, Swedish and Pakistani ministers warned on Saturday. Per Olsson Fridh, the Swedish development minister told Reuters on Friday that Afghanistan "is on the brink of collapse and that collapse is coming faster than we thought."
He said economic freefall could provide an environment for terrorist groups to thrive, but that Sweden would not channel money through the Taliban, instead boosting its humanitarian contributions through Afghan civil society groups.
Many countries and multilateral institutions have halted development assistance but increased humanitarian aid since August, reluctant to legitimize the new Taliban rulers.
Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry later told Reuters that direct engagement with the Taliban was the only way to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, and called for billions of dollars of Afghan assets frozen overseas to be released.
"Are we going to push Afghanistan into chaos or are we going to try and stabilize the country?" he said in Dubai.
Engagement would also encourage the protection of human rights and the establishment of an inclusive, constitutional government, he said.
Pakistan has deep ties with the Taliban and was often accused of supporting the group as it battled the US-backed government in Kabul for 20 years-- charges denied by Islamabad. Sweden's Fridh said the Taliban had so far failed to prove they had shed the oppressive policies that marked their previous period in power from 1996-2001.
He also said conditions were not right for European countries to reopen embassies in Kabul.
Instead, more diplomatic activity would take place in Qatar, an important interlocutor between the West and the Taliban.
...But Chaudhry said it was time the United States, China and other major powers set out a framework for formal recognition of Afghanistan's new rulers and for the removal of United Nations sanctions on Taliban members, including some members of the new government.
This, together with direct economic assistance, was the only way to avert instability, he said, adding: "The watch on this bomb is already clicking."