As the United States nears completion in its withdrawal from Afghanistan, it leaves behind a legacy of failed policies and ghastly abuses marred by two decades of ruthless occupation. Even now, despite the rhetoric of the wars “end”, TFTP has already illuminated the slight-of-hand behind the word games, and the fact that the conflict, while changing, will not actually cease.
Yet from its very outset, the US incursion into Afghanistan was a doomed escapade of problem-reaction-solution politics.
Whether we look at the 1998 report by the neoconservative think tank Project for A New American Century that eerily predicted “some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor” to justify an assertive Middle East policy — coincidentally just prior to the attacks of September 11th, 2001;
The countless lies that have unraveled, eviscerating the official story of 9/11 since;
Or the stunning 2007 admission by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, that all of the US expansionism in the Middle East of the past two decades were pre-planned in the highest offices of the military industrial complex before the turn of the millennium…
These are just a few points exemplifying that the American war machine manufactured a 7,300 day catastrophe fighting an enemy that they themselves created, via the CIA’s clandestine funding and arming of the mujahedeen, under the control of none other than Osama Bin Laden, throughout the 1980s.
Beyond this, the US destabilization of Afghanistan that created such a quagmire is vast. A history, which is concisely articulated in the thirty minute documentary Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy, by veteran journalist Abby Martin, of The Empire Files.
The pillaging of Afghanistan was a warmongers wet dream, as billions of dollars were reaped in profit from corporations – who pay almost no taxes – benefiting from a war subsidized by American taxpayer dollars involuntarily extracted in the name of senseless slaughter and lives of the poor and patriotic.
As American occupying forces finally retreat from their post as quickly as they set up shop 20 years ago — let’s take a look at some of the legacy that this abysmal campaign has left behind.
Looking at the financial side of things, according to Business Insider, the two-decade war in Afghanistan has cost American taxpayers approximately 2.26 trillion dollars. For context that is $2,260,000,000,000. When divided evenly over the course of the last twenty years that equals out to three hundred million dollars ($309,589,041 exact) EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Mind you, that’s only accounting for Afghanistan alone, the number is exponentially higher when factoring in America’s countless other conflicts.
$215,000 a minute, for 20 years.
An absurd incline adding to what is already a grotesquely obese national debt currently contributing to our worsening economic deterioration.
If this country had to spend that much money on something, couldn’t they think of anything more productive than neocolonial occupation and mass murder? In one of many cost comparisons that can be made, it is estimated that homelessness in the United States could be eradicated for approximately 10 billion dollars. So for the cost of the Afghanistan war, our government could have prevented any American from ever being houseless for the next two hundred years.
Instead, after sending Americans off to kill and be killed in needless wars of aggression, after all these years all it’s gotten us is an exploding epidemic of homeless veterans who the government couldn’t care less to lift a finger to help.
Next, at the mention of America’s forsaken veterans it seems only fitting to acknowledge the real tragedy — roughly 22 American servicemen commit suicide every day. A statistic that is a direct result of the war on terror and the barbary that human beings on all sides are subjected to at the behest of political and corporate interests.
Bold and brash young adults bamboozled into thinking they’re fighting for “freedom” are sent away as expendable pawns in a rich man’s game — and come back bloody and broken, most often psychologically. It shows, as our generations multiple conflicts have created an explosion of post-traumatic stress disorder never seen before.
A recent study pointed out since the start of the war on terror, approximately 7,057 service members have died in a theater of war, 2,442 in Afghanistan alone. This number becomes significantly higher when factoring in the number of private security contractor fatalities — which often times exceed active duty military.
In contrast, 30,177 servicemen from the Afghanistan timeline have died from suicide. Over four times the amount of combat related deaths from all combined theaters.
Of course, the statistics of the domestic consequences are only comparable to the countless casualties left abroad. The most recent analysis from Brown University’s Costs of War Project estimate the civilian death toll from Afghanistan to be 47,245. It must also be noted that this is a conservative estimate only factoring civilian dead from direct military action. Not counting the numerous civilian casualties of those displaced, forced into famine or other detrimental circumstances, or killed by other Coalition forces or militants.
A 2020 UN report placed the total number of dead and wounded at over 100,000 in the last ten years.
“Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
As harrowing as these statistics are, they pale in comparison to the casualties of an often less acknowledged consequence of the US / Afghan obtrusion — The opium epidemic.
It has been plainly noted since the US invasion of Afghanistan that opium production in the country increased by more than 3,500 percent; from 105 metric tons in 2001 to 6,400 in 2015. Later estimations from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime placed it at over 9,000 metric tons — becoming the largest producer and exporter of opium poppy in the world under the watchful eye of US forces.
It is difficult to calculate the number of Americans that have died from opiate overdoses in the last 20 years, either from the use of illicit drugs like heroin, or the misuse of prescription medication but the number ranges upwards in the hundreds of thousands.
Of course this account would be remiss without mentioning the surge of war crimes and other human rights abuses committed in Afghanistan as well. In actuality since the invasion of Afghanistan was never approved by Congress, as the United States Constitution states that all wars should, the entirety of the US occupation has been illegal. Thusly any aggressive action taken in the country should, technically, be considered a war crime.
In February of this year, a report released by the United Nations found the widespread torture of detainees to be occurring in prisons throughout Afghanistan. This however has been a mainstay policy of American occupiers and the regime they established there since the beginning of the onslaught.
As far back as 2004, Human Rights Watch published a report decrying what it found to be ongoing abuses of non-combatants by US forces.
In 2016, TFTP documented the FOIA release of a trove of photos exhibiting the victims of torture from within US detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq. The photos released were only 10% of a much broader collection that the DoD still refuses to declassify due to the explicit nature of the crimes they display.
Worse than torture however is outright murder. Due to the escalation of haphazard bombing campaigns in addition to an already overly aggressive approach to the population, it was revealed in 2019 for the first time that the US and it’s Afghan government allies had slaughtered so many innocents that the civilian death toll of the coalition surpassed even that of the Taliban.
Even worse still are the documented acts of extrajudicial executions. In November 2013, a mass grave was discovered on the outskirts of an inactive US military base in Wardak province. The investigation that followed revealed a sickening atrocity know as The A-Team Killings. An investigation revealed US Special Forces engaged in kidnapping, “disappearing”, and executing local villagers all outside the rule of law and rules of engagement. Far from the only time this has occurred, heinous acts such as this have been carried out time and again.
Unbelievably, these war crimes aren’t even the worst to mention. As horrendous as it may sound, a 2018 exposé by The Intercept documented that death squads in Afghanistan under control of the CIA, kidnapped and executed children as young as eight years old. Their twisted logic attempted to justify this by saying that they MIGHT grow up to become Taliban fighters.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, for what could be a worse way to deter armed militant opposition than murdering children in the middle of the night? The US continues to create their own enemies.
The imperial incursion into Afghanistan from conception to conclusion has been a catastrophe characterized only by blood, broken bodies, hearts, and spirits. A boon for the wickedly wealthy corporatists who thrive on conquest — and a tribulation for everyone else. This is attested to perfectly by the declassification of The Afghanistan Papers. These documents, above all else, should condemn the Pentagon’s policies in Afghanistan, as they proved without a shadow of a doubt that the military brass was entirely aware that the war was unwinnable. Yet still they persisted, unable to admit their own folly — continuing to cover up and orchestrate one of the worst blights of the 21st century.
Their incompetence evident by the fact that even before the US withdrawal has completed, the Taliban has already retaken most of its former territory.
This shouldn’t be brushed over as an afterthought. They knew the war was doomed from the start. They lied, and continue to lie about any semblance of progress. They slaughtered and sacrificed countless lives needlessly. Completely aware of the futility. These are the actions of a cabal of psychopaths.
Finally, the argument can be made with some validity, and many scholars may agree, that in many ways the Afghanistan war can be aptly compared as our generations version of Vietnam — a senseless conflict of occupation and war crimes, a fervent antiwar movement.
The parallels between The Pentagon Papers and The Afghanistan Papers can’t be understated, nor the South Pacific opiate trade compared that of the Middle East, both exacerbated by US aggression. A mighty empire once again staved back by ragtag militias of AK toting farmers.
We have reached our Saigon.