Will the Afghan War Ever End?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
From the mid-14th century until the middle of the 15th century, British and French forces fought what has always been termed the “Hundred Years War.” That struggle actually lasted 116 years. Which means that the U.S.-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan must continue fighting for one hundred more years to exceed the duration of the famous British-French encounter. It almost seems like the two sides are trying.
Already the scene of over 2,400 American dead, the on-going war in Afghanistan began shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out by four hijacked airplanes. Initially, the goal sought to take on Al Qaeda for its role in the enormous 9/11 murder and destruction. This meant breaking up the Taliban, the militant Islamic forces that had seized control of portions of the country and were suspected of sheltering Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden. But the Taliban proved to be a tougher foe than expected and defeating it has been unachievable to date. Instead, this supposedly weaker brand of Islamic militancy has grown stronger. And finding bin Laden turned out to be impossible. (He was later discovered in Pakistan where daring American raiders killed him.)
Taliban forces have been using weapons given to them to oppose Russian invaders who stormed into their country in 1979. After ten years, the Russians gave up and went home. The guns and ammunition still in Taliban hands have then been employed to fight Americans.
Military leaders soon adopted a new and completely different strategy involving an effort to rebuild the war-torn country. Other nearby nations – Russia, Pakistan, India, even Iran – had their own designs which were not always similar to what the U.S. forces were told was their mission. When those conflicting goals were added to ethnic domestic combativeness, the turf-protecting warlords, and the ineffectiveness of the nation’s political leaders, the effort began to appear unsolvable. And that was only a few years after the first U.S. forces arrived in the land-locked nation.
U.S. forces then found themselves assigned to destroy the country’s lucrative opium production along with training local forces, all the while combating crooks and incompetents posing as Afghan leaders. Many of the trainees turned out to be enemies within their ranks. An American soldier would spend days, maybe weeks, teaching an Afghani how to be a good soldier only to have the newly trained individual turn his gun on the man who taught him how to use it.
Along the way, NATO assumed supreme command of the operation. Without doubt, many of the coalition forces have no idea that NATO, a UN subsidiary led by a European politician, is calling the shots. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has recently aired a new strategy that will take aim at Taliban sanctuaries. Doesn’t this mean that Taliban bases were previously untouchable? Is that any way to wage a war? A retired Marine Corps general, Mattis also seems to be violating a cardinal principle of warfare: Don’t let an enemy know your plans. Doing so destroys the element of surprise, always a key feature of warfare. But no more will the U.S. forces fight Taliban only after being attacked. And more forces will be added to those already in Afghanistan.
Will this new strategy lead to victory? Or will more years be added to the agonizingly victoryless campaign of the past 16 years? A hundred year war isn’t likely, but with the UN ultimately in charge and knowing that limited war serves the overall drive to create a world government, we should hardly be surprised if – new strategy or not – this war will continue for many more years.
Be a part of the driving force to Get US Out! of the United Nations! Learn more at The John Birch Society’s Get US Out! of the UN action project page.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.
The UN’s Afghanistan Debacle
by JBS President John F. McManus
On September 11, 2001 (widely known simply as 9/11), hijackers of four commercial airliners attacked the United States. Two of the planes crashed into New York City’s Twin Towers leveling both; one slammed into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia; and one crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 Americans perished, including the hijackers, passengers, and crews on the ill-fated planes.
Three days later, on September 14, 2001, the U.S. Congress passed legislation carrying the name “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.” As have his predecessors for more than sixty years, President George W. Bush chose not to seek a declaration of war and, instead, speedily formed an international coalition of forces from several dozen nations. The targeted enemy was Afghanistan’s Taliban, the Islamist force believed to be harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was presumed to have masterminded the attack. President Bush demanded that Afghanistan deliver bin Laden for prosecution and also that the nation expel Al Qaeda even though no proof has ever been supplied that bin Laden and the Al Qaeda group he led were responsible for the attacks on 9/11.
On October 7, 2001, U.S. and British forces launched the invasion into Afghanistan known as Operation Enduring Freedom. As many as 40 other nations sent token forces (28 sent less than 100) while the U.S. total exceeded that of all of the others combined. On December 20, 2001, the United Nations Security Council created the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to serve as the overseer of all the action in Afghanistan. In 2003, the UN’s regional arrangement known as NATO (see Articles 51-54 of the UN Charter) took over leadership of ISAF. Which means that, except for a very few days after 9/11, the United Nations has been in charge of the multi-nation effort against the Taliban.
It is now 13 years later and, although bin Laden was killed in a raid at his hideout in Pakistan, the Taliban has gained control over large portions of Afghanistan. No opposing forces of any kind dare travel one hour away from the nation’s capital city, Kabul, for fear of attack by Taliban forces. The Afghan government’s army, trained by the NATO coalition, refuses to confront the Taliban. And some within this army turn their guns on their trainers. In other words, the Taliban are winning and the entire nation could soon be under their control. What does the Taliban seek? An Islamist caliphate similar to what ISIS seeks over much of Syria and northwestern Iraq.
American forces have lost 2,350 dead during these 13-plus years. The UK suffered 453 killed, and all of the other nations combined have lost a total of 677. The number wounded, many very seriously, amounts to at last five times the number who paid the ultimate price.
What has been gained? Sadly, the answer is nothing, or next to nothing. The Taliban rule large portions of the nation and are poised to establish complete domination when the remaining foreign troops depart. No one doubts that the plotters of the 9/11 tragedy should have been brought to justice. But only Osama bin Laden, whose responsibility for the attacks that cost the lives of 3,000 Americans and more thousands of military personnel is dubious, has been dealt with.
The Afghan operation and the ten-year campaign against Iraq that is now unraveling have one thing in common. It is that the United Nations has been in charge. The Iraq War was authorized by the UN from its inception. Keep in mind that whatever the world body authorizes, it oversees. And the War in Afghanistan has been controlled by the UN subsidiary NATO from its earliest days.
No American soldier, sailor, or marine should ever be sent into war without a declaration of war issued by the U.S. Congress. If Congress won’t issue such a declaration, then troops should not be sent into any battle. But if Congress had taken that step, as the U.S. Constitution grants it sole power to do so, then the outcome of each of these struggles would have been a clearly recognized victory. Until the 1950-1953 conflict in Korea (still not completely settled), the U.S. had never lost a war. Now, with UN oversight, wars aren’t won.
All of this is one more reason why the U.S. should withdraw from the UN. The sooner the better.
Mr. McManus joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966 and has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and now President. He remains the Society’s chief media representative throughout the nation and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs. Mr. McManus is also Publisher of The New American magazine and author of a number of educational DVDs and books.
Leaving Afghanistan After Its Enormous Costs
By JBS President John F. McManus
President Obama’s announcement that U.S. forces will be pulled out of Afghanistan must have stimulated many somber memories among the families and friends of the 2,300 Americans who died there and the 19,770 who brought home wounds. Same for British families whose losses included 1,100 dead along with a smaller number from Germany and Italy. The U.S. sent forces into this war-torn country in November 2001, only two months after the 9/11 terrorist attack. At the peak of our nation’s commitment, 100,000 were on duty and 32,000 remain today. It is the longest war ever fought by our nation’s forces.
The president’s new plan calls for withdrawing half of the 32,000 by the end of 2014, drawing down to 9,800 by the end of 2015, and removing all but enough to guard our embassy by the end of 2016. Why not bring all but the embassy detail home immediately is a question few seem willing to ask.
The Obama timetable will allow the president to keep his promise to end the war by the time he leaves office in January 2017. If that’s his goal, he deserves utter contempt for having a personal political goal while continuing to jeopardize the lives of those still on station. If, instead, national security interests form his motivation, the slow withdrawal makes no sense because whatever threat remains will still be there for several additional years. His announced plan also counters sound military doctrine which has always held that a combatant should never signal an exit date to his enemy.
Unaddressed by the president, members of Congress, and our nation’s media is the role NATO has played in the decision to withdraw. The overall direction of the military effort in Afghanistan has been the prerogative of NATO for many years, and NATO is a United Nations subsidiary. The UN Charter mandates that all actions taken by NATO must be cleared by the UN.
Will pulling out from Afghanistan lead to the same type of chaos that Iraq has experienced since troops were withdrawn from that nation? Will the plan to continue training Afghan forces during the next two years lead to more trainees turning on their trainers, with deadly results for our troops? Why do forces from America and other nations have to spend lives and treasure keeping peace among the Afghans who have long been mired in tribal or religious wars? Will the overall mission change again as it has so often during the past 13 years – from chasing Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, to pacification of villages, to destroying poppy fields, to combatting the Taliban?
Immediately after 9/11, Congressman Ron Paul recommended that Congress use its constitutionally authorized power to issue letters of marque (seize) and reprisal (destroy) aimed at those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks. But President George W. Bush decided instead to go to war without the required congressional declaration of war – and Congress allowed him to proceed.
Now that the end of the Afghan tragedy is in sight, it would be comforting to see that those who arranged such a fiasco might be brought to account for what has long been a monumental tragedy.
To learn more about how terrorism is used as a tool to grow the federal government and the security state, visit our Terrorism issues page.