Posts Tagged ‘taliban’

Economic Consequences Of America’s Strategic Defeat In Afghanistan

August 14th, 2021 Comments off

Sheldon Filger-blogger for





As the world watches  the total and unmitigated defeat of the United States in Afghanistan, pundits will no doubt offer their multitude of post mortems. Historical reflection is a long process, and decades into the future historians and political scientists will still be offering their explanations. However, in this piece  I want to focus on the economic consequences of the Taliban triumph, a topic that has not received much commentary.

1.Instability in South Asia. The renewal of an extremist, uncompromising Islamist emirate will greatly exacerbate external and internal tensions with-and within-the countries bordering Afghanistan. Iran, though also governed by an Islamist theocracy,  is viewed as  a Shiite heresy by the Taliban . China is seen as an oppressor of Sunni Muslims , in particular the Uighurs. Then there is Pakistan, a longtime supporter of the Taliban, especially stemming from its intelligence services, the ISI. It has its own domestic divisions. and the Taliban victory will embolden its Islamist extremist elements. As Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state, this does not bold well for global stability. Instability  in this region will disrupt the already fragile economic recovery from the global impact of the Covid pandemic. Expect to see major price fluctuations in many key commodities and within the global supply chain as a direct consequence of the Taliban victory, further exacerbating already deepening inflationary trends.

  1. Loss of confidence in America’s ruling elites. After the attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001 the U.S. had one legitimate and essential strategic objective in Afghanistan: ensure that this country would never again serve as a launching pad for an attack on the United States by Islamist extremist non-state actors. Not nation-building, or transforming cultural and tribal behaviors in Afghanistan that have existed for a millennium. Yet, that is what America’s ruling elites tried to do. Rather than focus on the one essential goal of protecting American national security, they decided to remake this feudal land into a Westernized, pluralist democracy. What was worse, they made this effort on the cheap. The collective military deployments by the U.S. and its NATO allies were a fraction of the minimum required to achieve this elusive and ill-conceived objective for even a short-term  period. The failure of this ill-defined mission  is a shattering, unmitigated defeat for the elites that rule the United States. It is a staggering reverse, far worse than the Vietnam experience, for America’s defeat in 1975 did not have long-term negative strategic  consequences.  This will be viewed by the world, correctly, as not only a national humiliation, but also a clear indicator of decline, rooted in the ineptitude of America’s ruling class. The loss of global confidence in America’s political leadership will have long-term effects on collective  trust in the United States as a stable economic power. The benefits of previous confidence in American stability-access to cheap loans through foreign purchases of U.S. government debt instruments-will diminish, leading to higher borrowing costs at a time of unprecedented annual government deficits and an overall national debt that is spiraling out of control.
  2. New phase in “War on Terror.” The intellectual bankruptcy that characterizes the political rulers of the U.S. has been on full display as the Afghanistan debacle unfolds. Reacting in stunned fashioned, the American political elites give one the impression of being pathologically disconnected from reality. For example, with the Taliban at the very gates of Kabul, the spokesperson for President Biden and others in his administration have urged this Islamist extremist movement to think of their “international reputation,” and have warned that economic aid to Afghanistan would be “reduced.” Anyone who knows anything about the Taliban understands that this movement does not do international reputation building or economic development. It has one agenda only: to establish the strictest interpretation of Sharia law , not only in Afghanistan but in any other land it can impact. This means that Al-Qaeda will once again  have complete access to Afghanistan to launch its global assault on the infidel powers, especially the United States. Al-Qaeda’s rival in the Islamist radical world, ISIS, may also be permitted safe space in Afghanistan by a resurgent  Taliban. All these forces, operating within  an Islamist mindset, will view  the defeat of the U.S. as a sure sign from divine providence that their global jihad must be renewed and intensified. Inevitably this will result, at some point , in another severe attack on the American homeland. As with 9/11, this will lead to a substantial increase in  defense spending and collateral damage to the American economy. There will  be one important difference this time. Twenty years ago, in relative terms,  the American economy was much stronger, and government finances were vastly healthier, with much lower deficits and an overall national debt far lower than at present, even factoring in the effects of inflation. This means that the anti-American  global jihadists, already invigorated by the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan, will conduct their new attacks on the U.S. at a time of great economic instability. Any new Al-Qaeda or ISIS attack on the American homeland will likely trigger severe negative economic  aftershocks, which, in the context of already deeply negative trends created by the Covid  pandemic, could lead to a long-term recession or even an economic depression. In other words, the next stage of the “War on Terror” must be factored in as a consequential  economic event.


Can the U.S. Win the War in Afghanistan? No, According to Jomini’s “Art of War”

June 9th, 2009 Comments off
For nearly eight years, the United States has been engaged in a low intensity conflict of high stakes in Afghanistan. Prior to 9/11, this impoverished, mountainous nation was regarded by Washington as an anachronistic backwater, ceasing to be a strategically important entity since the withdrawal of the Soviet Union’s army of occupation, followed soon after by the demise of that former superpower. It was only with the realization that the Taliban regime in Kabul had furnished a non-state actor, Al-Qaeda, with an operational base for planning the onslaught that killed thousands of Americans in New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania that U.S. geopolitical calculations involving South Asia were transformed.
Ironically, even after 9/11, the Bush administration still considered Afghanistan somewhat of a backwater theatre of operations, choosing to mount its major military effort in Iraq, a country that did not attack America. For most of the last 8 years, the battle against a resurgent Taliban has been fought by a small contingent of U.S. troops, reinforced by a dozen or more NATO allies involving a multitude of microscopic deployments, each with its own unique rules of engagement. The opposition to the Islamist forces in Afghanistan can best be described as a multi-headed hydra mounted on a small body. Military specialists, especially those with expertise on counterinsurgency and partisan warfare, would not be surprised at the current negative character of the war in Afghanistan, which has spilled over into Pakistan, in the process destabilizing that nuclear-armed state.

President Barack Obama has long been opposed to the military adventure in Iraq, on the grounds that it had dangerously distracted the United States from focusing on crushing Al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan. History has already validated Obama’s assessment on what the correct priority should have been for the U.S. armed forces. The question now facing Obama and his administration is what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. The fragments that have emerged so far seem to indicate two trends; modestly reinforce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, while linking the Taliban and Al-Qaeda presence in neighboring Pakistan to the overall theater of operations.

Will President Obama’s approach on Afghanistan prove more efficacious than that of George W. Bush? The lessons of history raise doubts that deserve serious reflection. The United States has not had a stellar record in winning wars against determined insurgents fighting a fierce guerrilla war. Vietnam is a conspicuous reminder that even hundreds of thousands of American troops, backed by massive technical means and a powerful airforce, cannot guarantee victory.

There is a voice from the distant past who has something to say that is highly relevant to the military challenges facing the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The Swiss military theoretician, Antoine Henri Jomini, served as a senior staff officer in Napoleon’s army during the Peninsular War. This brutal, conflict, fought on the Iberian Peninsula, began with the occupation of Spain by the French army. The population revolted, leading to a savage conflict that gave rise to the term “guerrilla war.” The British sent a small but well disciplined professional army to aid the Spanish insurgents, under the command of the Duke of Wellington. In five years the combined army of Spanish guerrillas and British regular troops utterly defeated the French. Napoleon’s defeat in the Peninsular War, combined with his forced retreat from Russia, brought about his ultimate downfall.

When writing his seminal work, “Art of War,” Jomini applied the lessons he had learned during the Peninsular War to form general principals and doctrine on guerrilla and insurgent conflicts. The principals he laid down align with the American experience in Afghanistan with chilling relevance.

“When the people are supported by a considerable nucleus of disciplined troops, the difficulties are particularly great,” wrote Jomini. “The invader has only an army, whereas his adversaries have both an army and a people in arms, making means of resistance out of everything and with each individual conspiring against the common enemy.”

With centuries of virtually uninterrupted warfare, including a brutal Soviet occupation that the Afghans successfully resisted, a large component of the country’s male population is well trained in small arms tactics, making expert use of their land’s barren and mountainous terrain. Just as Wellington’s troops added stiffening to the ranks of the Spanish guerrilla fighters, there exists a large corps of veteran fighters, including commanders, that multiplies the effectiveness of the younger insurgents joining the ranks of the Taliban in sufficient numbers to extend the conflict indefinitely.

Jomini provides a description of what he learned about insurgencies in the Peninsular War, lessons that are applicable two centuries later in the mountains of Afghanistan:

“These obstacles become almost insurmountable when the country is difficult. Each armed inhabitant knows the smallest paths and their connections; he finds everywhere a relative or friend who aids him. The commanders also know the country and, learning immediately the slightest movement on the part of the invader, can adopt the best measures to defeat his projects. The enemy, without information of their movements and not in a condition to reconnoiter, having no resource but in his bayonets and certain of safety only in the concentration of his columns, is like a blind man. His combinations are failures. When, after the most carefully concerted movements and the most rapid and fatiguing marches he thinks he is about to accomplish his aim and deal a terrible blow, he finds no signs of the enemy but his campfires. So while, like Don Quixote, he is attacking windmills, his adversary is on his line of communications, destroys the detachments left to guard it, surprises his convoys and his depots, and carries on a war so disastrous for the invader that he must inevitably yield after a time.”

Unless President Barack Obama restores the military draft, raises an army of several hundred thousand soldiers to occupy and guard every vital installation in Afghanistan, and convinces the American people that they must sustain such a massive occupation for possibly decades, and accept substantial casualties and massively increased military expenditures, he will lack the means to challenge the insurgency in a decisive manner. As commander in chief, therefore, Obama is faced with two choices. He either maintains the status quo with slightly more troops, which will mean only prolonged stalemate. Or he can refocus U.S. objectives on the limited goal of ensuring Afghanistan never again allows its territory to be used as a base to attack the United States.

The first choice only promises a higher list of dead and maimed Americans, and frightful expenditures at a time of profound economic and financial crisis. The latter choice opens up the possibility of a negotiated resolution of the conflict, leading to the attainment of U.S. national security objectives without the permanent occupation of a land historically hostile to all foreign armies.



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