You probably heard in the news this week about the US pulling out of Afghanistan and the Taliban taking over…and I thought I would pass along Neil’s thoughts on that debacle since he used to be in the military and then the intelligence business.
Update from the home front first…not really much to report there. With the increase in COVID cases over the past couple of weeks…we’ve gone back to take out for Date Night the past couple of Mondays and are limiting our out and about activities as much as possible. We continue to go down to the Elks as it is a small group normally there and we’re all fully vaccinated…and we carry masks with us whenever we go out for those places that are now requiring them again. Although we don’t really need to protect ourselves since we’re both recovered and vaccinated…it’s possible we could get reinfected although the likelihood is low and the symptoms would be likely correspondingly low but we could shed virus if we were reinfected…so we’re complying with the wishes of businesses or whatever if they ask customers or visitors to mask up.
Connie’s off this morning to her district meeting for the Ladies of Elks and we were out to the board of directors meeting for the lodge last night but other than that it’s pretty much normal.
We did have a bit of excitement yesterday morning…she heard a noise out front which Neil later determined was the front screen door rattling on the hinges a bit…we’ve been keeping it about an inch ajar since the latch is broke and they hadn’t gotten around to installing the new one yet. When she opened the front door to look…she discovered a snake on the front porch…and it was definitely not a good snake as it was still alive. So Neil evicted it…turned out to be just a garter snake. He flipped it over to the edge of the street to get it away from the house and then it crawled out in the middle of the street…where at some point it got run over and was transformed into a good (i.e., squished and dead) snake.
Here’s a mugshot of this particular offender…it was still in the bad snake category at this point…it might look close but Neil took the shot with his 200mm lens fro about 5 feet away and he had verified that it wasn’t venomous by that point…but it’s still a bad snake. He feels like he gave it a chance by putting it away from the house but still near enough to the grass to hide…not his fault it crawled out into the street.
Yeah…I know that snakes are supposedly good things for some of ya’…but as far as Neil is concerned there is no such thing as a good snake. It goes back to his college days of cruising timber during the summer working for the paper company. Ya see…if you are a landowner with say 50,000 acres and you want to sell the timber you get the paper companies to bid for it and they bid so many dollars per acre. Now trees can become one of 3 things once the paper company buys them…they can become pulp wood for making paper and a pulp tree is worth maybe a quarter. Next up…they can be worthy of being lumber and that’s worth a few dollars per tree. Finally…if they’re good for making a telephone pole out of they’re worth about 20 dollars. So…as you can see the landowner says they’re all pole worthy and the paper company says they’re all pulp worthy…so the only way for the owner to get the maximum return and the paper company not to lose money on the deal is to count the trees. Yep…I said count the trees…but as you can probably imagine counting the trees on 50,000 acres is pretty much impossible so one turns to the miracle of statistics. Statistics says that for 50,000 acres if you count 1% of the land and multiply by 100 you’ll get a number pretty close to actuality…the percentage you need varies with the number of acres. So…a survey crew goes out and counts the trees on 1% of the the land…or in this case about 500 acres. In each area selected for counting they measure the diameter of the trees, the number of each, and whether they’re pulp, lumber, or pole and then go along to the next area selected. And therein lies the difficulty in cruising timber as it’s called and that whole snake thing for Neil. In order for the statistics to work at a 1% survey…the areas selected for counting have to be equally distributed over the whole area of the land in a grid like pattern. So…the crew starts at one edge of the property and then goes in a cardinal direction (N, S, E, or W) to the other side. Every 170something feet they stop and count the trees in a radius or something close to 30 feet…he can’t remember the exact numbers as it was 40something years ago. Then they go another 170something feet in the cardinal direction and repeat ad nauseam. On reaching the other side…they move left or right the specified distance and then go back the other direction repeating the previous measurements…and continue in these straight line treks until they run out of land and the numbers work out that they’ve counted trees on 1% of the total area. The problem is that whole go in a straight line in a cardinal direction thing. You don’t follow a trail or game track…you go in the cardinal direction no matter what’s in the way. One person on the 3 man crew stays still and the other two walk out pulling a long tape measure with them and when the distance gets to 170something feet the one left behind tells them to stop. He then winds the tape back up as he walks up to the other two. Meanwhile…one of the remaining two stands there with another tape measure and they measure out the 30 feet radius and the third guy walks in a circle at this distance measuring and classifying the trees inside the circle which the guy in the middle of the circle writes down.
So…as you do this for days on end…you naturally walk through the brambles and forest…and across the streams…and right into the arms of the waiting snakes…which in this case happen to be water moccasins, copperheads, and various kinds of rattlesnakes depending on exactly where you are (southern AL and MS in his case). Which means you end up walking up on all of those poisonous critters…who naturally defend themselves by striking you. It’s safe enough…you wear thick leather pants similar to a cowboy’s chaps over your jeans and high top boots so you never actually get snakebite…but frequently the snake’s fangs get stuck in your leather pants and you end up killing the snake as you beat him away from your leg with a stick. Neil says that when a snake hits your leg it’s not a love tap…but then figure the snake weighs 3-4 pounds and is traveling 20 miles an hour when it hits your leg. Anyways…after a summer of getting struck at repeatedly by snakes…he came to his completely accurate…for him…conclusion that there’s no such thing as a good snake.
OK…’nuff about that…so let’s talk about Afghanistan.
Neil read a piece this week that talked about the countries over in that region of the world written by an expert in the area…and it said that generally speaking you can divide the countries over there into the -ia countries like Serbia, Bosnia, etc…and the -stan countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all those others that are really hard to spell. Generally speaking…the -ia country population consider themselves as citizens of whatever the country is…while the population in -stan countries are generally much more tribal in nature and have loyalty to their tribe and clan but relatively little loyalty to whatever the current government calls the country. Nothing wrong with either of those approaches…they’re just different. This is what makes a lot of the -stan countries practically ungovernable.
So…should we have been in there in the first place? Who knows…we entered Afghanistan back in 2001 after 9/11 with overwhelming support from both political parties to root out Al Queda for the terrorist attacks…and we’ve been there through 5 administrations…Bush, Clinton, Obama, Trump, and Biden. The responsibility for still being there is shared by all of those administrations of both parties and each of them did some good things and some stupid things. So…arguing about whose fault being there is irrelevant.
The US policy there had several overall failures. First and foremost…the occupation was more political than military and the military was never turned loose to win the war…because that would have resulted in dead people and broken things and none of the administrations wanted that on the evening news…so just like Vietnam the military was hamstrung and given an impossible mission…win the war without killing anybody. Second…we tried to implement a US style democracy with country loyalty in an essentially ungovernable tribal region. Third…it turned out to be a guerrilla warfare situation…and just like Vietnam and the Soviet Union against the Mujahideen winning that war is not really possible unless you’re the guerrilla side.
So…back in 2020 the Trump administration decided to leave and executed the Doha agreement with the Taliban and without involving the Afghan government…which was stupid on it’s face as how can the occupier and the guerrilla forces have a peace treaty without involving the government? President Biden ran on the promise to “end America’s longest war”…which is just a lie since Korea is America’s longest war…it’s been going on since 1950.
Anyways…after Jan 20, 2021…President Trump was no longer in charge…President Biden was…and since his administration overturned almost everything the former administration said or did he could easily have tossed out the Doha agreement as well. However…he decided to continue the withdrawal…which frankly is the correct choice and we would have withdrawn no matter who won the election in Nov 2020.
The problem is that the withdrawal was completely FUBAR for those of you familiar with that military acronym. Let’s consider the Taliban. They’re known to chop your head off if you disagree with them…and are well known for treating women as chattel and stoning them to death for what they consider an offense…in other words…the Taliban are not good people. Now 10s of thousands of Afghan people believed the bill of goods they were sold and supported the US efforts in country as translators, helped with logistics and supplies, drove trucks, joined the Afghan armed forces, and so on. Anybody with half a brain clearly should have known that when we left those people and their families would be killed for their assistance to the “enemy”.
In a properly planned withdrawal…we would have done something like this. Choose a location…say the air base at Bagram for instance…and put sufficient forces into it to defend it from the Taliban if necessary. Tell the Taliban that we would use that air base to evacuate our friends in the population and our military equipment…and that when that was done we would leave. Tell them we would be flying helicopters over the country to transport those friends and equipment back to the air base…and that if the Taliban shot at our aircraft or attacked the base, our friends being evacuated, or our equipment we would respond with overwhelming force. All they had to do was leave us alone to get our people, friends, and equipment out and we would leave. Period…end of problem. At the end…the Taliban and the government forces could duke it out in their civil war over the future of the country…which as we saw this week meant that the government forces would essentially abandon the fight, the president would leave the country with $169 million in cash, and the Taliban would be in charge.
Instead…we screwed the pooch on just about the whole departure. Our friends were left behind due to the lunacy of how hard we made it to validate who our friends were before we got them out. Heck…we knew who they were already as we were paying them…so why all the administrative rigamarole? We screwed the pooch on getting US citizens out of the country…according to what I saw yesterday the only area we now control is the Kabul airport which is blockaded by the Taliban and there are on the order of 10,000 (more or less) US citizens outside the blockade with no way to get to the only way out of the country. Lastly…we abandoned huge numbers of military equipment…drones, Humvees, armored personnel carriers, small arms, and who knows what else…all of that is now in possession of the Taliban who can either use it against us or sell the technology to Russia or China or Iran. We actually used air strikes and drone strikes to destroy some of this equipment after it was left behind.
Now I understand that stuff was going to get left behind in the completely unorganized rout of an evacuation…but how in heaven were the administration, State Department, and Defense Department stupid enough to not have a plan to blow up whatever was getting left behind and to get our people, citizens, and friends out.
This is the part that is completely the fault of the Biden administration…once they took over…blaming the Trump administration for the problem is no longer an option. They continued (and actually delayed) the evacuation…and were responsible for carrying it out in a fashion that resembled a properly planned military operation…not the complete cluster-f*** that we happened.
As recently as a month ago…President Biden said that you would never see a helo evacuation from the roof of the embassy…and lo and behold we got one…photos all over the news. He said that it was highly unlikely that the Afghan government would collapse quickly…completely ignoring intelligence analysis that said that is exactly what would happen. Then he went on TV Monday…and said that he stood behind his decision…which I applaud him for since he took credit for continuing the withdrawal…but then he blamed everybody else except his administration for the debacle. When asked by a reporter about the Afghan civilians clinging to USAF planes as they departed and falling to their death…he said “that was 4 or 5 days ago”…when it was yesterday and the day before.
The administration completely bungled the evacuation and then completely bungled the PR fallout…and all of that falls completely 100% on them. Why we were there in the first place and why we stayed so long has plenty of blame to go around as I said above…but this past week is on them.
Even a lot of the liberal press is in agreement…as are most of our allies around the world. We simply didn’t consult them and abandoned our principles, people, friends, and equipment.
Disgusting. We’ve screwed ourselves out of the likelihood that in a future war…and you know there will be one, there always is…that the local population will buy into our assistance and do the things that the Afghan people did for us. And that’s a damned shame.
No interesting stuff from the internet this time…this is a serious subject and shouldn’t be lightened by anything humorous.