Will the Afghan War Ever End?

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.

U.S. 10th Mountain Division soldiers in Afghanistan. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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.

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McManus_2Mr. 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.


Afghan War Now 15 Years Old

Afghan War Now 15 Years Old 

by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus

In a recent posting by the Ron Paul Institute, Dr. Paul pointed out that 15 years have now passed since American forces were first sent to Afghanistan. The operation has become “the longest war in U.S. history,” the former Texas congressman noted. He concluded that there were no victory parades because there is no victory.

American troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the devastating 9/11 attacks. Why has this mission become so lengthy? (image from Flickr)

American troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the devastating 9/11 attacks. Why has this mission become so lengthy? (Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier Flickr, some rights reserved).

Troops were first sent to Afghanistan a few weeks after the devastating 9/11 attacks on our nation. Their original mission called for apprehending Osama bin Laden. Thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, bin Laden was discovered years later in Pakistan where he was killed during a Navy Seal team raid. The main target of the U.S. forces from the beginning, however, was the Taliban, the militant Islamic group that had actually been supplied by the U.S. during the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion of the war-torn nation.

Once in Afghanistan, U.S. troops found themselves battling against an enemy using left over U.S.-supplied weaponry. The casualty totals show that our nation has suffered the loss of more than 2,300 killed and almost 23,000 wounded in the 15-year struggle. And the Taliban now controls more of the country than it did when the U.S. forces arrived in 2001 under the label “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

The U.S. media never discusses the little-publicized influence of the United Nations in this ongoing debacle. That is key to understanding the disappointing results of this lengthy mission. In December 2001, the UN Security Council created the International Security Assistance Force to aid the Afghan government. The U.S. supplied most of the troops to carry out this mission. So, from the very beginning of the operation, the UN has had a major role in the effort. Fewer than two years later (September 2003), the task of aiding the Afghan government was formally turned over to NATO. But NATO is a UN “Regional Alliance” formed under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. America’s participation in this skirmish has been directed by the UN throughout the entire 15 years.

The Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than it did when U.S. forces entered the country 15 years ago. The various tasks given to U.S. troops have included destroying the country’s opium production, engaging in reconstruction of war-torn infrastructure, and training local forces. Some of those local forces have turned their guns on their U.S. trainers with deadly consequences.

If the UN’s NATO weren’t managing this curious war, America’s forces would likely have cleared the country of Taliban dominance years ago. Obviously that’s not what the UN wants. Governments, even the UN, always grow and become more influential during a war. America’s leaders, both political and military, who put up with this are betraying their oaths and putting good men (and some good women) in impossible circumstances.

There are many solid reasons why the U.S. should withdraw completely from the United Nations. The experience already suffered in Afghanistan certainly provides one. Members of Congress should be proclaiming loudly and clearly the slogan, “Get US out! of the United Nations.” Members of the House should be persuaded to co-sponsor H.R. 1205, the bill calling for U.S. withdrawal from the world body. U.S. forces should never be sent into a battle without victory being the goal. Anything less is a betrayal of the troops and even of the nation.

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McManus_2Mr. 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

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.

The New American was reporting on bin Laden long before 9/11. This cover is from its October 12, 1998 issue.

The New American was reporting on bin Laden long before 9/11. This cover is from its October 12, 1998 issue.

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.


Bergdahl is No Hero, According to His Fellow Soldiers

Bergdahl is No Hero, According to His Fellow Soldiers
by JBS President John F. McManus

One late June night in 2009, U.S. Army Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his unit in northeastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province. He left a note saying he was disillusioned with the U.S. military, could no longer support the mission he was tasked to participate in, and had left to start life anew. He had earlier sent his computer and some other belongings home to Idaho. In a letter to his parents, he concluded that “the horror that is America is disgusting.” Fellow soldiers recall him gazing at the mountains from the small base his unit had established and wondering aloud whether he could cross them and get to China. For months after his disappearance that was never considered a capture, the mission his unit sought to carry out dwelled instead on finding him and rescuing him from the Taliban who were thought to be holding him.

Now that he has been released, several of the men who served alongside him have spoken out with renewed anger. Joshua Cornelison, a former medic assigned to the same platoon from which Bergdahl bolted, told the New York Times, “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl.” That search turned out to be very costly when two soldiers were killed in an ambush within a week of the disappearance of their lost comrade. Cody Full, another member of Bergdahl’s unit, agrees with Cornelison that their fellow platoon mate ought to be court-martialed as a deserter.

Over ensuing weeks and months, another four to six Americans met death in efforts to find the missing private. For at least 90 days, the American forces in that area of Afghanistan were under orders to abandon whatever mission they were on if they had any indication that Bergdahl was being held nearby. Not only were ground troops searching, they were aided by helicopters, drones, and dogs trained to locate humans.

Now, after five years, Bergdahl has been released by the Taliban and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice say he is in poor health. (Why should anyone believe Rice after her false claim that the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi occurred because of a Los Angeles airing of an uncomplimentary rogue video?) The prisoner swap arranged by the Obama administration has to be of the most-lopsided exchanges in history. For Bergdahl’s freedom, the U.S. released five top Taliban officials from the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. All appear from news photos to be in excellent health. Each has a history of top service within the Taliban. Considered leaders of the forces that would impose the strictest form of Islam on their native country (and the world!), their release has led to the widespread conclusion that the Taliban will be energized and become more determined and deadly. Capturing more Americans and bargaining for the release could become a new tactic as the Americans prepare to leave the ravaged country.

Let’s put this into perspective by switching roles. Would it make any sense if we had exchanged a private in the Taliban for five colonels and generals in our armed forces?

The 5 for 1 deal arranged by the Obama team included mediation from the officials in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. It also included official contact with the Taliban, and implicit recognition of their legitimacy. The arrangement also requires Qatar, a Muslim-dominated country, to hold the five for a year and ensure that they will not engage in any contact with their Afghan comrades, all of whom are overjoyed at receiving what they consider excellent news. Will Qatar enforce such an arrangement?

Bergdahl will soon be back in the United States. Already the recipient of praises from President Obama and others, he will be feted as a “hero” by some but not by all – especially many who served alongside him. The Code of Military Justice governing military personnel states that “desertion or attempt to desert” is punishable during time of war with whatever a military court decides, even including death. There is no likelihood that Bergdahl will meet death or even that he will be court-martialed. Nor will there be any happy recalling of their loss by families of the men who died searching for a man who surely disgraced himself while wearing the uniform of his country.

But surely the greater disgrace is that the military continues to be used (and abused) to unconstitutionally fulfill the role of world policeman, “spreading democracy” by interfering in other countries affairs, unnecessarily expending blood and treasure. Bring them home — now.

Mr. McManus served on active duty as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years in the 1950s.