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Afghanistan: Victory Was Never the Objective

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

President Biden during his tightly orchestrated press conference on March 25th was asked if we will get out of Afghanistan by May 1st of this year. He obfuscated and muttered, “It is not my intention to stay there for a long time. We will leave. The question is when we leave.”


Truth be told, the three previous occupiers of the White House never intended to win in Afghanistan. Biden has now assumed that failed agenda.

Why would we go to war, fight, lose lives, and expend largely unaccounted for trillions of dollars while lying to the American public? Follow the money to see the evolution of the truth of why we have actively sought not to win in Afghanistan. We have been at war in Afghanistan for now 20 years. We have expended an estimated $ $2.7 trillion (precise accounting of this is purposefully obscured), more than 2,300 military deaths, 1,700 U.S. Contractor Deaths, and 20,000 wounded in action.

No Clear Objective and End State:  I graduated from four branch career courses, two Command and General Staff Colleges, and the U.S. Army War College, where I taught following my graduation. After I retired from the military, I served two voluntary combat tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. I can tell you that throughout the Afghan War no clear and consistent strategy, viable operational objectives and a realistic consistent End State (when the objectives of the military action have been achieved) were never planned, articulated, executed or circumspectly adjusted over time to the changing realities of the war and our need for the armed intervention.

Initially, the war mission was to deprive Al Qaida of an operating and training base as well as eliminate the funding of the Taliban and their Afghan allies derived from the largest opium crop in the world to fund further attacks on the US homeland or our allies following 9/11. That objective was quickly achieved by the immediate action of the Pentagon at George Bush’s orders. With that initial objective achieved by December of 2001, we could have and should have pulled all our military from Afghanistan. We did not.


Instead, we naively decided to attempt to institute a western-style democratic government in Kabul to rule the country in accord with our view of world order and governance. That was not culturally conducive with Afghan culture, society or history. That mission I initially believed was noble, righteous and to some extent, achievable. The more time I spent in Afghanistan, worked closely with the Afghans, the less I believed in that ephemeral mission.

American cultural ignorance or selfish and willful disregard of the facts:

To most all of us serving and advising and often fighting the indigenous population in both Iraq and particularly Afghanistan, it was obvious that those “nations” are artificially historically bound areas created by individuals foreign to the subject peoples consisting of a myriad of strictly tribal enclaves governed by Sheiks who are warlords. The central governments of both Iraq and Afghanistan are extraordinarily corrupt, largely incompetent, and widely disrespected by the people they “govern.” These conditions are severe in Iraq, but much worse in the more geographically isolated, internally dependent, and woefully ignorant and illiterate populous.

Democracy of the western variety such as that which is rapidly being destroyed by the left in the USA is not realistically possible or even desirable in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. I vividly remember as Chief of Policy (linkage between the coalition military and the U.S. Embassy) for Multi-national Force – Iraq, in the summer of 2004, a nation-wide survey of the Iraqi public, their needs, perceptions and the progress of the coalition, produced their regularly monthly report based on data from 4,000 Iraqi citizens. In one question the Iraqis were asked if they preferred the evolving democratic government to the previous dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. Eighty-four percent of the respondents said they felt more comfortable with a dictator. Likewise, the Afghans, a number of whom I spoke to when on combat patrols in Zabul Province in 2007 with Special Forces and Afghan Army troops told me they would prefer to be locally governed by their own tribal leaders with some difference to the central government in Kabul. However, they realistically could not do so they told me. The reasons were that if they demonstrated allegiance with local leaders who were not Taliban or the central government opposed to the Taliban, that the Taliban would kill them, their families and destroy their farms and shops…simple, realistic, life-preserving choices.


Money drives the war:

As President Eisenhower prophetically warned the nation in his farewell address of 1961:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."

The primary reason that the war in Afghanistan will continue in some form for the foreseeable future, is that too many influential Americans profit to the tune of many billions of dollars from the war directly or indirectly. Those contractors are major contributors to the politicians who continue the war. There are also many military officers who have contributed to the excessive duration of the war because they seek and secure lucrative positions in those same firms of the defense suppliers and contractors following their military retirement at higher ranks than they would have realized without the excessive perpetuation of the war.

Military self-serving perpetuation of the war:

It is well known among the ranks that the war is good for military promotions, longevity, and reputations to enhance employability by the defense industry following military service. The bloated Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism Fund, an out-of-control slush fund that was established to expedite the attack on terrorist organizations following 9-11, continued annually, for example. This since 2001, and continuing this year, has totaled more than $2 Trillion. This astonishing amount is outside of and in addition to the DoD budget and has long out-lived its purpose.


It may seem obvious that senior officer and General Officer billets, particularly command assignments, are coveted and significantly career enhancing. General Officer billets are finite and specified by Congress and for the most senior assignments, by the White House. However, there is much flexibility with those assignments within the military in theater with minimal congressional oversight. Quite obviously these war billets, so attractive to generations of the military brass, would not exist if there is no war of long duration.

The Vietnam War has striking similarities to the Afghanistan War, much of what is written here can be equally applied to our strategic loss in Vietnam. Keep in mind Vietnam was the second longest U.S. war now exceeded only by Afghanistan. The aforementioned career perpetuation and enhancement aspects of the Vietnam War was famously and crassly stated. It is often repeated in military ranks that when a senior officer of the time was asked what he thought of the Peace Movement so prevalent in the 1960s, he replied, “F--- the Peace Movement; It’s the only war we’ve got!”

For all these and more self-serving reasons, do not expect the politicians supported by their now dangerously Woke, Social Justice and mission-distracted DoD, to end the Afghanistan War. There is simply too much to be gained by those in power in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon to end the Afghan war any time soon.


Bill Wenger is a retired commercial real estate executive, college professor, and U.S. Army Infantry Airborne Ranger Colonel. He voluntarily served four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan after initial military retirement. He served 42 years commissioned service. He earned five Master’s Degrees and has taught National Strategic Planning, the Operational Level of Warfare, business and U.S. History. His latest book is on Amazon: The Key to American Independence: Quantifying Foreign Assistance to the American Revolution.

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