Brown tint to the air this late-afternoon Wednesday here in California’s Central Valley, and with it a most-definite scent of burnt wood in the small breeze wafting about in the trees — fire is for sure aflame somewhere off in the distance.
There are no major blazes close by, but up north several big ones are burning wildly and I guess smoke from them are blowing our way.
Fire on the mountain and in Afghanistan, which needs more comfortable confusion talk from Joe Biden. In an interview today with ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos, Biden was at a loss:
“We’ve got like 10 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now. Right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out is out?” Stephanopoulos asked Biden.
“Yes,” Biden replied.
The president cautioned that his focus is on completing the mission by Aug. 31, but when pressed by Stephanopoulos, conceded the mission could take longer.
“So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond Aug. 31st?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No,” Biden replied. “Americans should understand that we’re gonna try to get it done before Aug. 31st.”
“But if we don’t,” Stephanopoulos said, “the troops will stay –“
“If — if we don’t,” Biden interrupted, “We’ll determine at the time who’s left.”
“And?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“And if you’re American force — if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” Biden said.
Biden was just the bad-timing guy — supposedly, no one knew:
Gen. Mark Milley: "The timeframe of a rapid collapse; that was widely estimated and ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days." pic.twitter.com/hafKNpCc7x
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 18, 2021
Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claims no one he knows saw the Afghan army/government collapsing as shit-quick as reality showed the last few days. Soft-soaked bullshit, Mark (Yahoo News):
He told reporters that “there are not reports that I am aware of that predicted a security force of 300,000 would evaporate in 11 days, from 6 August to 16 August, with the capture of 34 provinces and the capital city of Kabul,” explaining that no one saw an army of that size falling apart that fast.
“The intelligence clearly indicated multiple scenarios were possible: one of those was an outright Taliban takeover following a rapid collapse of the Afghan Security Forces and the government,” Milley explained.
“Another was a civil war, and a third was a negotiated settlement.”
“Timeframe of a rapid collapse,” he said, “that was widely estimated and ranged from weeks, months, and even years following our departure.”
A senior intelligence official told Voice of America Wednesday afternoon that US intelligence “consistently identified the risk of a rapid collapse of the Afghan government,” explaining that “we also grew more pessimistic about the government’s survival as the fighting season progressed.”
The official acknowledged, though, that “the Afghan government unraveled even more quickly than we anticipated.”
However, The New York Times yesterday reported the situation more like a collection of stupid-ass confusion, though, there was a small heads-up on just how fast the Afghan army/government could go to pieces — some high points:
One report in July — as dozens of Afghan districts were falling and Taliban fighters were laying siege to several major cities — laid out the growing risks to Kabul, noting that the Afghan government was unprepared for a Taliban assault, according to a person familiar with the intelligence.
Intelligence agencies predicted that should the Taliban seize cities, a cascading collapse could happen rapidly and the Afghan security forces were at high risk of falling apart.
It is unclear whether other reports during this period presented a more optimistic picture about the ability of the Afghan military and the government in Kabul to withstand the insurgents.
One senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified intelligence reports, said that even by July, as the situation grew more volatile, intelligence agencies never offered a clear prediction of an imminent Taliban takeover.
The official said their assessments were also not given a “high confidence” judgment, the agencies’ highest level of certainty.
Intelligence agencies have long predicted an ultimate Taliban victory, even before President Donald J. Trump and Mr. Biden decided to withdraw forces.
Those estimates provided a range of timelines. While they raised questions about the will of the Afghan security forces to fight without Americans by their side, they did not predict a collapse within weeks.
But in recent months, assessments became ever more pessimistic as the Taliban made larger gains, according to current and former officials. The reports this summer questioned in stark terms the will of Afghan security forces to fight and the ability of the Kabul government to hold power.
With each report of mass desertions, a former official said, the Afghan government looked less stable.
Dumb-ass bullshit — after 20 fucking years?
And in the long-term lies the blame:
SIGAR’s new Lessons Learned report, What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of #Afghanistan Reconstruction, examines the past two decades of the U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistanhttps://t.co/59SOd9qCML pic.twitter.com/iPeZtok50Q
— SIGAR (@SIGARHQ) August 17, 2021
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has existed for 13 years, issuing reports quarterly on the status of Afghan reconstruction in all its aspects — and the last one, yesterday, was a pisser, but foreshadowed the crumble.
Dave DeCamp at Antiwar.com summarizes:
The report reads: “The US government consistently underestimated the amount of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption and reduced the effectiveness of programs.”
SIGAR said Washington’s view on the project led to “short-term solutions,” such as the surge of troops that started in 2009 during the Obama administration.
The report said the US created unrealistic timelines for transforming areas the US captured from the Taliban.
“US officials created explicit timelines in the mistaken belief that a decision in Washington could transform the calculus of complex Afghan institutions, powerbrokers, and communities contested by the Taliban,” the report said.
Ultimately, the timelines created “perverse incentives to spend quickly and focus on short-term, unsustainable goals that could not create the conditions to allow a victorious US withdrawal.”
Nothing demonstrated the futility of the US’s nation-building projected better than the speed at which the Taliban took over Afghanistan and how quickly the Afghan military rolled over.
The SIGAR report reads: “When the United States began withdrawing its final forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, the Taliban took the opportunity to seize more than a quarter of the country in a matter of weeks, as Afghan security forces abandoned their posts or were overrun. Thus, what Ambassador Nicholas Burns observed about the war’s early years has remained true ever since: The Afghan government ‘cannot survive without us.’”
And now it’s all history, except for the blood of the average Afghan…
All to end in a bad scene:
And here we are, again…
(Illustration: MC Escher’s ‘Old Olive Tree, Corsica, 1934,’ and found here).