…two wrongs don’t make a right…that’s what they say…& that makes sense…in fact…to quote the final lines of a poem about an altogether different conflict, many wars ago…maybe if the consequences of certain actions were harder to ignore
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
…but some days (& today is one of them) I can’t help but feel like it might be that wrongs do make “the right”…because here we have the thing the news is full of
The rapid reconquest of the capital, Kabul, by the Taliban after two decades of a staggeringly expensive, bloody effort to establish a secular government with functioning security forces in Afghanistan is, above all, unutterably tragic.
This longest of American wars was code-named first Operation Enduring Freedom and then Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Yet after more than $2 trillion and at least 2,448 American service members’ lives lost in Afghanistan, it is difficult to see what of lasting significance has been achieved.
It is all the more tragic because of the certainty that many of the Afghans who worked with the American forces and bought into the dream — and especially the girls and women who had embraced a measure of equality — have been left to the mercy of a ruthless enemy.
It was tragic, too, because with the bitter political divide of today’s America, efforts to draw critical lessons from this calamitous setback have already been enmeshed in angry recriminations over who lost Afghanistan, ugly schadenfreude and lies. Within hours of the fall of Kabul, the knives were already out.
The Afghanistan papers published in The Washington Post — including a confidential project to identify “Lessons Learned” conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency created by Congress — painted a devastating picture of corruption, incompetence, lack of motivation and other flaws among the Afghan forces that the United States and its allies were trying to mold into a serious military.
One Navy official said Afghans viewed their police as “the most hated institution” in Afghanistan. Other officials described systematic looting by soldiers and officers, as well as Afghan casualties so huge — 60,000 killed since 2001, by one estimate — that the government kept them a secret. The corruption was so rampant that many Afghans began to question whether their government or the Taliban were the greater evil.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/15/opinion/afghanistan-taliban.html
Intelligence officials, meanwhile, have been pushing back on the charge that they should have been able to anticipate the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the Taliban advance. Accounts differ about when, exactly, the spies expected that to happen.
Doug London, a former senior CIA officer who ran counter terrorism operations in Afghanistan before he retired in 2018, told NBC News it was well understood within the intelligence community that Kabul could fall within weeks if the U.S. withdrew the bulk of its military and intelligence assets.
And a Western intelligence official who could not be named speaking about sensitive matters added, “There absolutely was intelligence reporting that it could happen this fast. This was not a surprise.”
The official said it was always clear that the Afghan military could not hold up without U.S. air support, and that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accelerated his own demise by disregarding the advice of U.S. and British officials who urged him to make deals with potential allies.
But a Congressional official briefed on the matter, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that while intelligence officials always warned of a potential catastrophic implosion of the Afghan military, no U.S. agency warned it could happen in days.
A senior defense intelligence official told NBC News that the worst-case scenario in an intelligence assessment from last month indicated that Kabul could fall before Sept. 11.
“No official estimate has been pessimistic enough” for how this has played out, the official added.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/taliban-s-afghanistan-takeover-raises-big-questions-for-u-s-security-chiefs
…& although you can quibble with what joe had to say about standing by his decision
Clearly, it was not supposed to end like this. For the British, once combat operations ended in 2014, the focus was on training the Afghan army, with initiatives such as the “Sandhurst in the sand” officer training academy founded with £75m of taxpayers’ money. But the reality was, as military analysts observe, that the Afghan army was not effective without residual US air and ground support.
Nick Reynolds, a land warfare analyst with the thinktank Rusi, said the collapse of the Afghan security forces was predictable, exacerbated by corruption and a lack of local legitimacy. “Even basic issues such as ensuring that soldiers received regular pay and were properly supplied and equipped were not entirely resolved,” he said.
Such insights either eluded politicians or were set aside by the US and the UK, which were ready after 20 years of military engagement to exit with haste. The result is a collapse that has left scenes of chaos at the international airport as desperate Afghans try in vain to cling to US air transport planes – and extraordinary propaganda value for those who want to argue western military power is limited when, if 2,500 US troops had stayed on, the Taliban takeover would not be happening.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/16/swift-taliban-takeover-proves-us-and-uk-analysis-badly-wrong
…or “squarely behind” as the case may be
When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, just a little over three months after I took office. U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country. And the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/16/us/politics/biden-taliban-afghanistan-speech.html
[…for them as want to that’s a link to the full transcript of those remarks]
…one way or another it seems like there’s a lot of people very happy to rush to judgement
And when news consumers have been tuned out of a story — as they are, unfortunately, with most international coverage — this quick-take journalism can be damaging and misleading.
Evidence of this nuance-deprived, overstated coverage was obvious throughout big and small news organizations over the weekend and across the political spectrum.
The situation is tragic, no doubt, and the images of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on Sunday are stunningly memorable, but the blame has to be spread much more evenly. Biden has been in office for just over seven months; the always untenable Afghan war — and its sure-to-be-terrible ending — has been a disaster for decades. It cuts across political parties: begun by a Republican, George W. Bush, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and presided over by two Obama terms and four years of Trump.
Throughout, the American government has lied to the American people about how well things were going in America’s longest war, as The Washington Post’s important 2019 project, “The Afghanistan Papers,” made abundantly clear. Sometimes compared to the Pentagon Papers that chronicled a secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, it relied on more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and lawsuits to drive home its conclusion.
“Senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame. [WaPo]
As always, the media moves too quickly to the blame game, allowing the most extreme punditry to carry the day. When history is in the making, as it surely is here, that’s far from the best approach.
…but…at the risk of being exactly that lazy…given there seem to be a lot of men who think they have the answer
Female Afghan journalists tell of a once free and bustling Kabul now filled with silence and fear as they destroy traces of their identity and work to avoid Taliban militants.
Aaisha is one of dozens of female Afghan journalists who have communicated with the Guardian over the past weeks, documenting the fall of their nation to share the devastation with the world. Now they fear that reporting without fear or favour will be the very thing that costs them their future.
They constantly receive death threats from the Taliban, and from others who agree that women should not be treated as equal.https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/16/we-see-silence-filled-with-fear-female-afghan-journalists-plead-for-help
…it’s a little difficult to understand what they think is the question
…& while we’re at it…maybe consider the part where I keep seeing references claiming there were some 2,500 US troops left for biden to bring home…which is roughly half of the taliban forces that a certain someone sent in the other direction
…which brings me back to the part about how wrongs make the right
…but then…what do you expect?
…it’s like they’re on autopilot
The US government has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot partially automated driving system after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/aug/16/teslas-autopilot-us-investigation-crashes-emergency-vehicles
NHTSA says it has identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control have hit vehicles at scenes where first responders used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards. The agency announced the action on Monday in a posting on its website.
…I guess it’s a question of priorities
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has sued the US government over Nasa’s decision to award a $2.9bn lunar lander contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
In a court filing, the company said it was challenging “Nasa’s unlawful and improper evaluation of proposals”.
Last month, the federal Government Accountability Office sided with Nasa over its decision to pick a single lunar lander provider, rejecting Blue Origin’s protest.https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/aug/16/blue-origin-sues-nasa-spacex-jeff-bezos-elon-musk-space-contract
…& possibly something about throwing stones while living in glass houses
The state is currently one of 13 that allow children under 16 to wed, according to Unchained at Last, a nonprofit organization that advocates ending child and forced marriages in the US. Nine of those states have no set minimum age, the group says, relying instead on case law or a judge’s ruling.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/15/north-carolina-child-marriage-new-bill
A study by the International Center for Research on Women, a research institute and rights group for women and children, estimates that nearly 8,800 minors under the age of 18 were listed on marriage licenses in North Carolina from 2000-2015 – placing the state among the top five with child marriages during that period. The group said that 93% of the marriage applications it reviewed for the years 2000-2019 involved a marriage between a minor and an adult.
…because people’s patience isn’t the only resource that’s drying up
With climate change and long-term drought continuing to take a toll on the Colorado River, the federal government on Monday for the first time declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, one of the river’s main reservoirs.
“As this inexorable-seeming decline in the supply continues, the shortages that we’re beginning to see implemented are only going to increase,” said Jennifer Pitt, who directs the Colorado River program at the National Audubon Society. “Once we’re on that train, it’s not clear where it stops.”
The Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Interior Department, declared the shortage as it issued its latest outlook for the river for the next 24 months. That forecast showed that by the end of this year Lake Mead, the huge reservoir near Las Vegas, would reach a level of 1,066 feet above sea level. It hasn’t seen a level that low since it began to fill after the completion of Hoover Dam in the 1930s. The lake will be at 34 percent of capacity.
The mandatory cuts, referred to as Tier 1 reductions, are part of a contingency plan approved in 2019 after lengthy negotiations among the seven states that use Colorado River water: California, Nevada and Arizona in the lower basin, and New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming in the upper basin. American Indian tribes and Mexican officials have also been involved in the planning.
The shortage announced Monday affects only the lower basin states, but the Bureau of Reclamation may declare a similar shortage for the upper basin, perhaps as early as next year.
The shortage declaration will reduce Arizona’s supply of Colorado River water, delivered by a system of canals and pumping stations called the Central Arizona Project, by about 20 percent, or 512,000 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is about 325,000 gallons, enough water for two or three households for a year.)In a First, U.S. Declares Shortage on Colorado River, Forcing Water Cuts [NYT]
Lake Mead now contains about 12 million acre-feet of water, far below its capacity of nearly 30 million acre-feet. The last time it was anywhere near full was two decades ago.
Arizona will be hardest hit, losing nearly a fifth of the water it receives from the Colorado River. In Pinal county, farmers and ranchers will see the amount of water they get from the river drop by half next year, and disappear altogether by 2023, when the federal government is projected to enact even more severe cuts. Farmers, who have already had to make some land fallow, will probably have to continue to do so in the coming years and rely increasingly on groundwater.
“This is a very big deal, because there’s never been a shortage like this over the almost 100-year history,” said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. “The immediate impacts of this will not probably be felt by most people. But it’s a big, giant red flag telling a region that is dependent on Colorado River water that we need to adjust to a drier future.”
Cutbacks and conservation efforts – though crucial – are unlikely to reverse the reservoir’s decline in the near future. When it’s full, Lake Mead’s elevation sits at about 1,221ft above sea level. But by next year, the lake’s level is expected to drop to 1,065ft, below the 1,075ft cutoff that triggers first-tier water reductions. By 2023, federal officials and water experts expect a tier 2 shortage. And when the lake’s level dips to 1,025ft, a tier 3 declaration will trigger supply cuts to cities and tribal lands.
Lake Mead, which was formed after the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, has been declining faster than many experts predicted, amid a devastating drought and intense heatwaves that have resulted in less water trickling down from the Rocky Mountains into the Colorado River. The dam, which provides power to about 1.3m people in Nevada, Arizona and California, has seen its efficiency drop by 25%, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/16/lake-mead-drought-reservoir-water-level-cuts