I read Scott Horton’s book with a mixture of admiration, horror, nostalgia, and disgust. I have lived much of the history he recounts in this book in a very personal way. I joined the Army almost exactly one year before September 11, 2001. I was deployed to Egypt sitting in a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) cage when the towers fell. I was all in for the war, any war, back then. In 2007, I had recently finished the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course) and I was an eager young Special Forces soldier deployed to Afghanistan on an ODA. At first, I think I actually believed that by working hard, developing rapport with the Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, killing Taliban, and providing medical aid and comfort to the Afghan civilians, that I could single handedly turn Afghanistan into Sweden. It was bound to happen. My great leader George Bush told me so.
That 2007 deployment removed most of my childish fantasies. After a few of your good friends die, you start to ask yourself some hard questions. What are we over here for? Are we doing any good? Can this war be won? Is it all worth it? The answers that I found to those questions were all negative. Many will disagree with me, but I can’t think of any good reason for US forces to be in Afghanistan. I was so disgusted with the whole situation, that when my time came to leave active duty honorably, I took the chance, ending my active duty career with eight years in. Since then I’ve gone to Afghanistan as a contractor. What I saw as a contractor only confirmed my previous decision. No good was coming from US involvement in Afghanistan. Scott Horton took my feelings and suspicions, and put them in a well researched book. Now I’ve got hard facts in print to back up my personal experiences of the Afghan War.
In Chapter One Scott gives a brief overview of the horrid foreign policy decisions that led us to 9/11 and the modern wars in the Middle East. He focuses on the lead up to the Afghan war with our meddling in Afghanistan pre-Soviet invasion, and our extreme meddling in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. He describes how we supported and trained several people who would go on to be our enemies in the War on Terror. Interestingly he later mentions that during our invasion of Afghanistan, we mostly chose to ally with former Soviet approved Afghan generals against our new enemies that had been allies such as Osama bin Laden. The whole thing is such a mess and Scott points out several places where the US went wrong all over the Middle East.
In Chapter Two Scott documents the invasion. He points out that the US never had to invade at all, that the Taliban were going to give up Bin Laden, but Bush wouldn’t allow that. He also relives the scene when the CIA and Delta Force had Bin Laden cornered, but were basically forced to depend on Afghan militias to catch him. One of these Afghan militia commanders later bragged about taking money from the CIA for the capture of Bin Laden, and then escorting Bin Laden safely into Pakistan. It seems that catching Bin Laden in 2001 would have been detrimental to the Neocons’ dreams of totally remaking Middle Eastern society.
In Chapter Three Scott documents several missteps that the US Military made in the early years of the war from 2002 to 2009 before Obama came in. Scott discusses in detail events that caused the Afghan population to move ever closer to the Taliban, and ever farther from the government NATO was setting up in Kabul. He also discusses the fact that the Taliban are a Pashtun moment. The Pashtun are the dominant majority in the South of Afghanistan. It is folly to assume that the US can ever train and equip enough minority Afghans from the North to subdue the Pashtun of the South. To the Pashtun, the Taliban are not terrorists, they are their cousins, brothers, sons, uncles. The Pashtun view the US as the invader, and the Pashtun have never, ever surrendered to an invader.
In Chapter Four Scott chronicles the Obama 2010-2012 surge led first by General Stanley McChrystal then by General David Patraeus. Neither general fared well. The surge was a massive waste of men and money. After the surge, the Taliban controlled just as much territory than they had before the surge. The ANA is no better trained or equipped than they were in 2007, and there was no less violence, and no more security for the average Afghan. Counter Insurgency Doctrine (COIN) has been a massive failure every time it has been tried. COIN failed in Vietnam, it’s failed in Afghanistan, and I hope that maybe one day the US Army will stop trying to do COIN.
In Chapter Five Scott details the recent events in Afghanistan with the new Trump administration. Trump made campaign statements that seemed to indicate he was willing to pull out of Afghanistan. Sadly President Trump surrounded himself with Deep State generals who have been begging him from day one to greatly increase the war effort in Afghanistan. Trump finally and seemingly grudgingly agreed to increase troop levels. The book stops at July 2017, which is when it went to publication.
This book is absolutely fantastic! Scott Horton does a great job detailing the futility of US involvement in Afghanistan and blows away the “Safe Haven for Terror” myth that sold us into this war. Think about it, a bunch of Saudis (mostly) attack us on 9/11, and our response is to invade Afghanistan and Iraq yet remain steadfastly loyal to Saudi Barbaria? Something stinks.
It is a very difficult thing to come to the realization that a good deal of what you’ve spent your life doing was to a bad end. To realize that very good men died for worse than nothing. American soldiers and their families have suffered horribly over the past 16 years in America’s longest war ever. It is hard to put a firm number on it, but I like the $2 Trillion number, for what the US taxpayer has so far shelled out on Afghanistan. Add to that figure the thousands of lives that have been lost, and consider what the US is getting for such a price? I honestly couldn’t care less about the Afghani people, but Scott does a very good job of pointing out how much they have suffered as a direct result of the games Washington DC has played with their country.
In my opinion, the war in Afghanistan will not end any time soon. The way I see it, powerful people connected to high level Deep State goons in Washington DC are using Afghanistan as an excuse to funnel as much money as possible from the American taxpayer and into their own pockets through “defense” contracts. I remember in 2015, I saw MRAPS, the new IED resistant vehicles that the Army pays about $1 Million a piece for (not to mention the massive cost in transporting them from where they are built in Midwest of USA to Afghanistan, the complete opposite side of the Earth!), being cut up by plasma cutters at the rate of 300 a month. These behemoths were leftovers from the surge. Most were nearly new. All cut up and given to Afghan scrap metal dealers. Now that the Army has decided to ramp back up in Afghanistan, I bet the American taxpayer will have the privilege of purchasing several new million dollar MRAPS and spending about a million dollars in shipping on each to get a bunch of new hardware back in action in Americas longest, and probably least successful war of all time.
Buy Scott’s book. There’s a link at the far bottom of this post. It will make you mad. It will make you sad. But the only way the Afghan war will ever end is if Americans rise up by the masses and demand an end to it. Remember in 2013 when every statist warmonger from John McCain to Hillary Clinton was demanding that Syria’s Assad be remove from power and Syria be made into the utopia that Clinton turned Libya into? Americans resisted then and the Deep State backed down. Mostly. It would be great if that happened again and the Afghanistan madness was finally stopped. This year marks the first year someone born in 2001 can join the military. If we can’t win a war in 16 years it’s time to cut our losses.