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Into the Afghan Abyss (Again)

Into the Afghan Abyss (Again)

Alfred W. McCoy

How a failed drug war will defeat Trump's Afghan adventure 

soldier in poppy field
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Perhaps Trump’s gold plated digs are no match for the rugs of desperation on which the young of the wild are taught to fight. An Afghan of meager resources may just have orders of magnitude more whatever-it-takes than the mercenaries of a naked emperor.

Ninety-nine years after armistice the trenches remain. Fewer bodies maybe, but progress? To those that gave their lives seeking peace, let’s give our utmost respect. To those selfish bastards that sent them, may they rot in hell.


Beyond the drug money nexus, is the absolute fool’s errand of training the Afghan army.

If you’re wondering what an unwinnable war looks like, I give you Afghanistan.

And I’ll bet dollars to donuts, that Hillary would be instituting a surge just like Trump.


As usual, Dr. McCoy seems to know more about this situation than everyone in this Administration combined. There is more and better information in this single essay than can be gleaned from all of the talking heads on all of the major cable and broadcast “news” outlets combined

Just as surely as Afghanistan brought the Soviet Union down, it will bring us down too, eventually. The only way to prevent this outcome is for the American citizenry to loudly say “enough”, and as things now stand, I don’t see that happening.

Wisdom from WiseOwl!

Near the end of the article, Dr. McCoy asks rhetorically, “So why has America’s ambitious $9 billion counter-narcotics program fallen into failure again and again?”

I’d suggest that it’s because heroin’s illegality artificially inflates its price, making it hugely profitable—and even more so because those profits are untaxed (well, except for the Taliban).

Decriminalize heroin and watch wheat farming in Afghanistan return to viability.

This is a weird twist in the illicit drug market and leading to a incredible increase in drug related deaths. Fentanyl from China is killing hundreds if not thousands.

Most history books about Afghanistan usually reference the ‘fierce independence’ that is characteristic of the ungovernable Afghan people. The only form of govt that successfully governed them was the monarchy, and all of the unsuccessful forms of govt were foreign-backed. For 16 yrs., a foreign-backed govt has been trying to rule over them with many Afghans acting in opposition to this rule. Perhaps the U.S. should leave and let the Afghans live how they’ve lived for centuries.

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I think it’s lots more complicated than that: Imperial projects (Britain, France, etc. and colonizers (US)) extract profits, and deform cultures and geography to their own profit and ends. When they leave, they leave a class (usually) of native people who acted as their clerical or governmental aides, setting up a more privileged, westernized class to conflict with the non-privileged. And while there in the country, the colonial power pitted one religion or movement against another. It’s not that they (Afghans) are “ungovernable”, or that monarchy (through colonial rule) made them governable. To write and think in this way, without seeing the deformities and tragic conseguences of imperial plunder, and colonial rule, is playing into a “white mans’ burden” kind of thinking. (I think).

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The US has a decades old failed war on drugs at home, but certainly we can impose our strategy on another country. There was no poppy cultivation when the Taliban was in charge. Perhaps we could inquire how they managed the problem.
Maybe if the corrupt politicians we support and their brothers (Ahmed Wali Karzai) were not heroin dealers it would help. And maybe if the CIA was not forever involved in drug smuggling to fund their heinous projects…
It’s all a friggin joke. Circle the wagons and bring the mercenaries home to rebuild our country. Then and only then will the Afghan heroin crisis begin to shrink.

You’re not Afghan. I am. You write as though Afghans were colonized by
Europeans. They were not. My great grandfather, Amir Abdur Rahman Khan,
started the Great Game pitting 19th Century superpowers against each other.
He knew how to manage the superpowers then. White man’s burden has zero
relevancy vis a vis Afghanistan. You seem to be confusing us with India.
You need to learn a lot more before telling me how complicated it is. Peace
building is the answer to Afghanistan Question. Thanks for your response,
albeit irrelevant to Afghanistan.

Why defame the dead? Walk Karzai is innocent until proven guilty. USAID spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring rule of law e.g. presumption of innocence is the American way. You must not be American, or if you are, you’re unAmerican comment is disturbing because you slander and libel the dead. Have you no decency?

It’s great to hear your perspective, as someone of Afghan heritage. And I misused the word ‘colonial’ in reference to Afghanistan. However, influence and deformity of culture and development did happen historically in Afghanistan, over a long time and into the present, especially by British actions, Russian actions, and now by US. “In 1838, the British marched into Afghanistan and arrested Dost Mohammad, sent him into exile in India and replaced him with the previous ruler, Shah Shuja. Following an uprising, the 1842 retreat from Kabul of British-Indian Forces, the Battle of Kabul that led to its recapture, the British placed Dost Mohammad Khan back into power.” “The second Anglo-Afghan War was fought over perceived Russian influence. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made the Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign an agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations especially with the later new state of Pakistan.” (Wikipedia, on European Influence in Afghanistan).
Learning how to and that one must play one western or Euro power off against another is a deforming and humbling experience I think. It might bolster the need for or set the stage for the necessity of warlords, for protection and sustenance of the people? And that has consequence.
All this war and long complex intrusions by Euros and the West must have created such upheaval, and kept the peaceful unfolding of a nation from proceeding, don’t you agree? (maybe all nations have been prevented, in many ways,at varous times,from peaceful unfolding: look at what the entering Euros in America did to Native culture and history). I hate the word ‘ungovernable’ as it suggests to me that someone is labeling another people as in some way, backward. I can see that you use it, perhaps, to mean independent and proud?

And thanks for your response, it made me think more about my words and try to see how I might convey my responses to someone elses, in a better way. Kathryn

Abdur Rahman received much funds for agreeing to the Durrand Line. It was
an agreement and not a foreign imposition. My great grandfather wanted a
border with India anyway because he was having problems with Yaghi (wild
and free) Pashtun tribesman, who often rebelled his authority, and so gave
them away to the British to try and manage. So, the Durrand Line wasn’t
imposed on Afghans, as European historians would like to believe, which
serves Eurocentric behavior.

Ungovernable means Afghans eschew attempts at imposed authority from any
sources, including our own. It’s part of being a tribe- self contained
socio-political, economic, military units. No need for additional control
from distant Qandahar/ Kabul. So Afghans are ungovernable by the very
definition of the word. Look at our history. We thwarted any attempts at
domestic and foreign control, except the monarchy knew how to control via
building of kinship with various tribes, e.g. king marrying women from
different tribes created some form of social cohesion. A Hazara leader
could say my grandchild is a prince living in the Darbar, or royal court.

Yes, Europeans, from Russia, British, now Americans, r negative influences
on Afghanistan, only because Afghans didn’t let them control. As my father
says, he wishes the British took over, then we’d be developed. It is the
Afghans who didn’t want this. So here we are today with the insurgency
holding up historical Afghan mythical legacy of thwarting foreign attempts
at control, while the Ghanis, Abdullahs, feeding foreign attempts at
control for own group gain.

This is very confusing to me. On the one hand you seem proud of Afghan resistance to foreigners; on the other you offer a quote from a relative that suggests admiration for the British version of ‘development’. Maybe foreign intervention and influence conveys a mixed and contradictory outlook to those on the receiving end of the influence?

Instead of discussing the historical dynamics of foreign influences, self
determination, and tribal politics, let’s find a way to bring peace to that
poor country. I mean, Afghans deserve it. Recall they won the Cold War for
the U.S. I believe the only practical way out for the U.S., is to forge
peace with the insurgency. Otherwise, history clearly suggests insurgents
will keep fighting until foreign presence is no more. Continued
conflict will continue to cost the U.S. so much in blood / treasure trying
in vain to eliminate safe haven for terrorists. The best way to eliminate a
perceived terror base is to bring peace, because conflict gives
insurgents/terrorists the military combat training and experience they

But the U.S. can disengage from Afghanistan in order to re-engage
it. Here’s how-
NUG announces withdrawal of U.S./NATO forces. Insurgency leadership attends
Loya Jirga, traditional Afghan way of resolving tribal and other disputes.
U.S. sets conditions for withdrawal, to wit: 1) insurgency renounces
violence; 2) insurgency leaders works with NUG to form new unity govt/draft
constitution.; 3) new Afghan govt. engages in counter-terrorism operations
(insurgents know best who and where bad guys are); 4) U.S. can re-engage by
offering technical assistance to new govt. on
counter-terrorism/development. It’s really easy to bring peace if foreign
political will dictates. And it’s very possible it will work. So, foreign
(U.S.) influences have a lot of impact on how the conflict can continue or
be resolved. However, looks like the U.S. is intent on winning an
unwinnable war - that’s exactly the type of stupidity that brought about
9-11 in the first place - U.S. abandons Afghanistan post-Soviet
to CIA-trained foreign fighters and Pakistan and gives them space and
time to grow their brand of extremism.

So that Afghanistan is in essence a casualty of superpower machinations,
powers that savagely advance their civilizations using poor nations/peoples
in their callous, cynical geo-politics. Interestingly Afghans have seen the
rise & fall of many empires.

I think we agree on this! What is to be done, that’s another huge issue and project. K