Finally, a piece of good news from Afghanistan

While the news media is fixated on more turmoil in the White House, Defense Secretary Mad Dog Mattis was in Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday he believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible — not necessarily on the battlefield but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government.

Mattis spoke shortly before arriving in Kabul, where security concerns were so high that reporters traveling with him were not allowed to publish stories until his party had moved from the Kabul airport to the U.S.-led military coalition’s headquarters. That was the first such restriction on coverage of a Pentagon chief’s visit in memory. Mattis said he would be meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and top U.S. commanders.”We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” he said, adding, “Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation” with the Taliban, which has achieved a stalemate in recent years and shown little interest in conceding to the Kabul government.Mattis, a retired Marine general who commanded U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan in the opening weeks of the war in 2001, said getting the Taliban to reconcile en masse may be “a bridge too far.” So the emphasis is on drawing in Taliban elements piecemeal.He described this approach as an effort to “start peeling off those who are tired of fighting,” after more than 16 years of war.

“We know there is interest on the Taliban side,” he said.

This is huge!
Finally admitting the obvious - that the Taleban are going to fight us longer than we can - is the best possible thing that we can expect out of Washington.
The door is open to declare victory and go home.

I pointed out last week that we are losing in Afghanistan by every metric. Recent reports show that Afghanistan is already “a safe haven for terrorist plots against the U.S. homeland.”
Thus proving that a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives were wasted. What's more, their lives were wasted in silence.

Consider this: At a Senate hearing this past week on top U.S. security threats, the word “Afghanistan” was spoken exactly four times, each during introductory remarks. In the ensuing two hours of questions for intelligence agency witnesses, no senator asked about Afghanistan, suggesting little interest in a war with nearly 15,000 U.S. troops supporting combat against the Taliban.

Speaking of fighting wars in silence, do you remember Somalia?
Yeh, Somalia. You might be surprised what we have more troops in Somalia than in Iraq.

The United States’ war on terror is not slowing down. With more boots on the ground in Africa this past year, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, acknowledged the increase in troops and associated it with the escalating conflict in Somalia at a recent House Armed Services Committee meeting.
The total number of troops grew from 6,000 in 2017, according to AFRICOM, to nearly 7,500, including 1,000 contractors, as of today.
...While American forces have increased, so have the number of airstrikes. The U.S.’ airstrikes “rose from 14 to 35 in 2017,” Vice News reported according to data from the Bureau of Investigation Journalism.
At the House Armed Services Committee, Waldhauser was questioned whether the U.S. was at war in Somalia.

Functionally, I would argue that we are at war in Somalia, is that an accurate reading of the situation there?,” Rep. Beto O’Rourke from Texas said.

But Waldhauser rebutted O’Rourke’s comment.

Congressman, I would say it’s an accurate reading,” Waldhauser said. “I wouldn’t characterize that we’re at war. It’s specifically designed for us not to own that.”

Uh, do you think they might want to tell the American public if and where we are at war?
Or have we gone Full Empire?

Finally there is mixed news from Syria.
On one hand there is our warmongering.
This didn't go over well with Syria.

Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, said terrorists had conducted chemical attacks on civilians and staged them to make it look as if the Syrian military were to blame. He faulted foreign governments for supporting some rebels.
“Isn’t it enough what they’ve done in Vietnam, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen, invoking very cheap lies?” he said.
Jaafari ended by quoting Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz: “They are liars. They know they are liars. And they know that we know they are liars. However, they still lie, and very loudly so.”

I'm going to have to agree with Jaafari until proven otherwise.
Russia wasn't impressed either.
On the other hand, Russia appears to be playing the long game against us...and winning.

Russia and Iran want to secure the future of President Bashar al-Assad, which requires them to control the northern part of the country and push U.S. forces out. Therefore, Russia has given a green light to Turkey to attack the Kurds to weaken the U.S. position in the country, Ghavami wrote .
...“Putting pressure on the Kurds in Afrin may result in Kurdish decision makers accepting any proposals presented by Russia,” Ghavami said.

A Kurdish commander said: “Russia and Assad are willing to help the Kurds in Afrin on certain conditions. They want us to ask the U.S. to leave Syria, and hand over non-Kurdish territories held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in return for making Turkey leave Afrin.”

Yeh, that sounds like a good plan.
If the Turkish assault on the Kurds keeps up, eventually the Kurds will have to give in to Damascus and Moscow. That'll leave us out in the cold...with the exception of Al-Tanf.

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I sent this poem to my Republican relatives. They never spoke to me again.

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,

- Rudyard Kipling

Meanwhile in northern Iraq.

Turkish-Iraqi relations had become extremely tense until the decision by Massoud Barzani, former president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to hold an independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan. Barzani's ill-fated move made fast friends of Ankara and Baghdad. Now, it appears that Turkey and Iraq have found further common cause, this time for joint military action against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
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CB's picture

This area is key to controlling Eurasia. It borders upon Iran, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan. It is smack in the crossroads of the Chinese BRI.

I believe the US will try to buy the Taliban and use them to disrupt Chinese and Russian economic initiatives in the region. The only way to get the TAPI pipeline functioning is to make a deal with the Taliban who are open to talks due to immense profits to be gained. This takes us right back to the 90's when Taliban representatives visited the US for talks in 1997.

Afghanistan - A Pipeline, Peace And Many Spoilers

March 02, 2018

Peace negotiations in Afghanistan had long stalled. But that recently changed in a surprising way. Secret negotiations between many parties must have taken place to suddenly achieve these two results:

Taliban Vows to Protect TAPI Gas Pipeline Project - VOA, February 24
Afghanistan's Ghani offers talks with Taliban 'without preconditions' - Reuters, February 28

In addition, there are trillions of dollars worth of mining interests - especially the rare earths - to be found here.

Mad Dog understands the importance of gaining full control of Afghanistan, one way or another. Time is running out - the Chinese are now on the doorsteps. If the Afghan government can't do it, then they will use the Taliban. If that doesn't work then the US will turn the country into a shithole - again - "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs".

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@CB

Mad Dog understands the importance of gaining full control of Afghanistan, one way or another.

...that no one in history since Alexander the Great has ever done this.
At least no one has ever been able to keep control of Afghanistan.
Getting into Afghanistan is easy.

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CB's picture

@gjohnsit

"At least no one has ever been able to keep control of Afghanistan."

That, in a nutshell is what the problem has been. The British, followed by the American Empire want to control the country. The country had begun to prosper during the 50's and 60's when the Soviets got involved with investments in the nation. This was subsequently destroyed by western powers.

Historically, China and Afghanistan didn't have a bad relationship. Both profited. They could so in the future. Also, Russia is not the old Soviet Union. Both China and Russia depend more on economic diplomacy than American style gunboat diplomacy.

China Builds Military Base in Afghanistan

The Afghan province of Badakhshan borders China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It used to be part of an artery between the East and West known as the ancient Silk Road. Today, that road is being revived as an element of China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, which has prompted major infrastructure construction in Afghanistan and Central Asia, designed to fuel Beijing’s interest in the province.
...
The question is: how far is China prepared to go? Until now, it has limited its military activities to special-operations teams patrolling the Wakhan Corridor. A military base in Badakhshan would be an important move demonstrating that Beijing is ready to expand its presence in the country and provide an alternative to the United States. China has a trump card the US lacks - its good relations with Russia and Pakistan. Beijing represents the SCO, a large international organization that includes actors such as Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, and the countries of Central Asia. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the initiative to restart the work of the SCO Afghanistan Contact Group. Those activities had been suspended in 2009. Russia advocates opening up direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban as soon as possible. Beijing also supports the idea. The two nations are in the same boat. Moscow has said it is ready to host a conference on Afghanistan.

The SCO can make the peace process a real, multilateral effort. It will weaken US clout in the region, but strengthen the chances for finding a settlement to the conflict. Cooperation and diplomacy might open a new chapter in the history of Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, I doubt the US will allow peace in Afghanistan if it benefits either Russia or China. The US still has the mindset of Zbig's Grand Chessboard or Britain's Great Game.

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arendt's picture

@gjohnsit

I believe the US will try to buy the Taliban

With what? When the Petro-Yuan comes online, the dollar will start to plummet. The Chinese have way more liquid assets and gold than we do.

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CB's picture

@arendt
The Chinese will trade money, development and jobs for resources. The Russians will trade military security for access and resources. The US is and has always been "my way or the highway".

The Petro-Yuan will not in itself collapse the US dollar - especially as the US becomes more and more self sufficient for hydrocarbons. What it will do is gradually decrease the amount of $US's in global circulation thus decreasing American financial domination in the world. It is not in China or Russia's interest to collapse the dollar quickly and they have no intent to do so. Both countries make an enormous amount of money with the current system. As long as the US continues to buy their stuff, they will continue to lend it money.

Eventually, the US will no longer be the economic powerhouse it once was so Russia and China are preparing an alternative, parallel financial system that will be able to continue functioning.

(Note Russia's decline in share at the demise of the USSR when the country was brought to its knees. But, it wasn't destroyed and it is holding its own against massive US pressure.)

I believe the biggest crimp to American domination will come within a decade when China's domestic economic consumption and it's nominal GDP surpasses the US. China already exceeds the US in GDP(PPP) and is now the world's largest trading nation.

The Russian-Chinese relationship is a marriage made in hell - for the US. Russia has the world's largest source of resources and China will be the world's largest source of human technological expertise within a half generation. They both have large numbers of students in engineering enrollment in their universities (China 4 times that of the US and Russia 2 times in actual numbers). They are both pivoting their economies into research and high tech at a very rapid rate with state funding. Russian military expertise is now a formidable match to the US and they share it with China.

These countries no longer trade in the US$ and they have alternate banking systems, including SWIFT.

In addition, China and Russia are not joining the aggressive American arms race. They are merely keeping abreast for their own protection. The US is putting a ridiculous amount of money into their defense offense department. Probably 50% of this money disappears in legalized corruption and waste. This will be its Achilles heal as it reflexively doubles down. The more it spends, the weaker the country becomes. This is one of the main reasons why empires eventually decline.

If I was a betting man, the US is going to hit a major depression by 2020. It will not fully recover before China becomes the world's foremost economic powerhouse by about 2025-2028.

The real danger is will the US decline peacefully or will it try to take the world with it? There some extremely malevolent Strangelovian characters within the US government.

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