Y’all have heard me say this previously, and often, quoting George Santayana: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
And this recent report makes me really nervous about the United States about to repeat a very bad lesson from history. I’m talking about Afghanistan, a place that some call the graveyard of empires. We can ask Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviets about their endeavors there…and we are on year 16 of our engagement. I spent two-and-a-half years there myself stationed in Kandahar province, named after the great Macedonian conqueror, Iskandar.
As reported by the Washington Times, “Top U.S. military commanders and diplomats are weighing a proposed strategy shift in the Afghanistan War centered on expanded military collaboration with Russia.
On separate occasions this week, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, spoke publicly on Washington and Moscow’s shared interests in the fight that could also align with each country’s larger regional security goals.
“There may be opportunities for cooperation in Afghanistan. We’ve not yet come to what that might be, but we’re talking about it,” Mr. Tillerson said Tuesday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
Analysts say such a partnership would signal a dramatic reversal for the Pentagon, but Washington and Moscow are having behind-the-scenes military communications at the highest level more regularly than have been reported.
Pentagon officials told The Washington Times that Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has spoken roughly a dozen times over the past year with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, a close confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They last spoke on Tuesday of this week,” said Col. Patrick Ryder, Joint Chiefs spokesman. The discussions have generally not been publicized because the two generals “have agreed to keep the details of those conversations private,” Col. Ryder said. He stressed that the two generals focused on avoiding clashes on the battlefield in Syria, where both countries have forces on the ground, but a U.S. official familiar with the calls said it is “not beyond the realm of possibility” that Gen. Dunford and Gen. Gerasimov could share notes on Afghanistan.
Russia provided logistical support and supply routes for the U.S. and its allies in the early years of the Afghanistan War after 2001, but that assistance waned as U.S.-Russian relations worsened. Reports earlier this year — not denied by Gen. Nicholson on a trip to Kabul in April — said Russians may be supplying weapons to the Taliban, the Islamic insurgent movement fighting the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, as a way to contain the growing threat of Islamic State in Afghanistan.”
Uh, let me get this right. Back in 1979-1989, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and fought a brutal war there. We sided against the Soviets and aided the Mujahideen, Islamic warriors, to include a fella named Osama bin Laden, with weapons and support. Then the Mujahideen takes over Afghanistan after a brutal civil war via a fundamentalist Islamic group called the Taliban.
During the Clinton administration we recognize the Taliban, and even have their foreign minister in the White House. Osama bin Laden creates an Islamic terrorist group called al-Qaeda and attacks the United States…the Taliban gives Osama safe haven in Afghanistan from which he trains and launches attacks. Al-Qaeda is responsible for the 9-11 attacks in America, from their base of operations in Afghanistan, so we decide to go after Osama and invade the country.
Osama bin Laden escapes to Pakistan, a country to which we provide foreign aid, which also is a nuclear power and the cradle of Islamic jihadism in southwest Asia. We kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The Russians make a profit in private sector aviation companies — a joke — that use former Soviet military aircraft to fly in supplies to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Then the commander in Afghanistan says the Russians are supplying the Taliban against the United States…turnabout is fair play one would suppose. And now, we’re supposed to believe the US and Russia have shared interests in Afghanistan?
Okey dokey folks, this is why foreign policy can drive someone to drink mass quantities of alcohol — the utter inconsistencies.
Let me be clear, we have no shared interests with Vladimir Putin. What I do get a sense of is a trade…much as what happened as an aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. The Soviets did indeed withdraw their missiles from Cuba, as we did from Turkey. So, could it be that there’s some insidious quid pro quo going on regarding Syria, and the Russian support and influence there?
And let’s understand something: there are two nations the Afghan people REALLY do despise. One is the British, and the other, the Russians. The Brits have a little bit of colonial history to overcome there in Afghanistan, and the Afghans still blame the Brits for the Durand Line of 1896 which punished the Afghans and basically created the artificial country of Pakistan. Folks do not forget those things…and of course the atrocities of the Russians, the Soviets, will never be forgotten in Afghanistan.
What can be done in Afghanistan? Well, first let’s admit that nation-building is a failed endeavor. Then let’s focus on one thing: defeating the incursion of Islamic jihadism and the establishment, once again, of a base of operations in Afghanistan. We must finally embrace the idea that there will be no success in Afghanistan unless we confront the growing cancer of Islamic jihadism that has a foothold, a safe harbor, in Pakistan.
But, seeking out a relationship with Russian, Vladimir Putin, will only serve to strengthen Putin and convey the belief that the United States is weak and incapable of defeating this enemy. And Putin is not a fella to be trusted, not whatsoever.
“The possible U.S.-Russian collaboration in Afghanistan was discussed this week as implementation of the Trump administration’s strategy for American forces hit the 100-day mark. Gen. Nicholson told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that American and NATO-supported counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan coincide with not only Russia’s security goals in the region, but with those of Iran as well.
“We have shared interest with Iran and Russia in Afghanistan. So we have the shared interest of counternarcotics, the shared interest of counterterrorism,” the general said in a briefing from NATO headquarters in Kabul. Noting that heroin processed from Afghan poppy crops that flood drug markets in Eastern Europe “kills tens of thousands of Russians every year,” Gen. Nicholson said the authorities granted by the White House to go after Taliban drug networks “is precisely what the Russians and Iranians want.”
Again, there are no mutual interests between the United States, Russia, and Iran. This may be a matter of convenience to leverage in some other area, but to believe we share interests in delusional.
And here’s what America and the rest of NATO should do with the opium trade: buy it ourselves. We can convert the opium into morphine and it can become a product sold and used in third world hospitals. We don’t need Russia or Iran in order to turn the opium trade into a positive. The Afghan farmer doesn’t really care who buys the poppy; he just wants to make a living and care for his family. The Taliban has found the best advantage as the corrupt Afghan government is not eradicating the opium trade; instead they’re using this as a means of eradicating competition amongst certain drug lords. Until we find a replacement crop for these farmers, the Taliban will provide the protection, purchase the poppy, and use the drug trade as a financial boon to support the global Islamic jihad.
All we need do is buy them out, and we can then burn the poppy or convert it…this is something I proposed to the State Department rascals back when I was there in Kandahar province back in 2005-2007. Ten years later, we are still fiddle-fuddling around with the issue. Foreign policy is not a hard thing, it’s just about recognizing the previous failures evidenced in history. It’s also about understanding the long-term goals not of your allies so much, but especially of your adversaries. This is something that cannot be done in soundbites, tweets, or in election cycle politics. It’s visionary and requires principled leadership.
We ain’t had that in dealing with Afghanistan…and truthfully, going back to Jimmy Carter and his fateful decision allowing the reentry of Ayatollah Khomeini, we’ve been screwing the pooch for quite a few years now — like forty.
This would be another in a long line in a cacophony of bad decisions…Russian military partnership anywhere.
[Learn more about Allen West’s vision for this nation in his book Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom]