"As Afghanistan falls into Taliban hands, will the US really pull out?"
The Duran: Episode 1029 (July 7, 2021)
By Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris
[1:22] Alexander Mercouris: “I think it is indisputable that they’re gaining strength every day. They’ve just won control of a major district in Kandahar province, which is in the South. But they’re also making major advances in the north. And the story seems to be that there is very little actual fighting. The government troops simply desert. They just throw away their weapons. Some of them go over to the Taliban. Others flee. And in a number of cases now, a growing number of cases, They flee across the northern borders into the territory of the former Soviet Union, into these former Soviet Republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. And Putin, the Russian president has been on the phone to the leaders of those two countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan about tightening up control of the border between Afghanistan and these countries as troops flee. And one gets the sense that this is happening right across Afghanistan now. There seems to be a small cadre of Afghan troops in the special forces units who are disciplined and motivated and who are prepared to fight but the greater majority of Afghan military seem to be unwilling to fight the Taliban. And their resistance to the Taliban are collapsing. And it's collapsing incredibly fast, right across the country at a speed which, apparently, even the Taliban themselves didn't expect."
"So that's the story and with the Americans going or not going, that's the big question now."
[3:08] Alex Christoforou: “And what about the British troop presence?
Alexander Mercouris: "Well, I think this is part of a plan that was hatched a few months ago: the idea was that the U.S. would withdraw its, you know, the visible part of its forces from Afghanistan, but all kinds of special forces units would try and remain there. So there would be the British SAS who would remain there, some American mercenaries would remain there, mercenarires from other countries would remain there. There would be attempts to build up militias. All these kinds of things would remain in Afghanistan in order to control the country or continue to control the country after the so-called withdrawal had been completed. But the speed of the Afghan government's collapse is putting all that now in jeopardy because it's quite clear that the collapse is happening so fast and at such a rate that instead of these special forces, the SAS troops and all those people being in a position to make a difference, they are becoming themselves increasingly vulnerable to a Taliban attack because the Afghan army that was supposed to shield these troops and who these troops were supposed to train, is disintegrating. So, they're looking isolated and bereft and, frankly -- and I strongly believe this -- in the case of the British troops, sending them to Afghanistan at all, at this time, is absolutely reckless. And they should leave at once."
[4:48] Alex Christoforou: "What about the talk that there is going to be just mercenary forces: hired, contracted soldiers to stay in Afghanistan? Kind of like a bait and switch in a way: the army leaves but the contractors, whoever is there, stays. And more pay-for-hire soldiers move in."
[5:12] Alexander Mercouris: "Again, I think this was a plan, a cunning plan, as we say in Britain, that was hatched a few months ago but which has been overtaken by events. Because, having mercenaries having, you know, these troops these soldiers who are from contractors in the country, they can fill gaps when big, real armies are stationed in a particular country. But when those armies withdraw, these private contractors, they look incredibly vulnerable. Because they can't call in air support the way conventional troops can. They don't have the sort of infrastructure that a conventional army does. And if you just rely on them in a condition of overall collapse, which is what you're seeing now, then they become vulnerable themselves, and either they're withdrawn or you have to send back conventional troops in order to protect them. So, that's the paradox. They can be useful if things are going well. But they are actually a liability if things are going wrong. Which is what they are doing."
"Like yourself, I think we are going to see over the next couple of weeks, growing pressure, especially in Washington, especially from the Pentagon, but also from the neocons and from parts of Congress to reverse the withdrawal or at least to stop the withdrawal. Because the more the U.S. troops visibly withdraw from the country, the faster the rate of collapse becomes, and the more all these plans and schemes to use private contractors, special forces, armed militias, and all that, the more those plans fail. It's remarkable how quickly they failed. And it's remarkable how completely unsuccessful all those trillions of dollars spent on building up the Afghan government and Afghan army have been."
[7:20] Alex Christoforou: "It's kind of interesting that the neocons may actually be pulling for the Taliban to continue to gain strength and continue to make advancements, because for them the more the Taliban advances and the more they pick up town after town and village after village and close in on the capital city, the more of a reason they can give to the White House for why the army needs to stay. The U.S. military needs to stay. For them, it sounds kind of strange to be saying it, but I can kind of, like, see the neocons saying 'Look, the Taliban, see what they're doing. We haven't even pulled out completely and look at all the gains that they’re making, so you obviously can’t leave Afghanistan because we see the Taliban advancing, Kabul is going to fall, the government’s going to fall, and there you go. So ‘Twenty years,’ they’re going to tell, you know, the Biden White House, ‘down the drain.’ That’s what they’re going to say. So, you can’t leave. I mean, it’s weird to say it but Bolton and guys like that may actually be rooting for the Taliban at this stage."
[8:31] Alexander Mercouris: “I think that is entirely plausible and I did a video some time ago on my own program in which I wondered, I mean I speculated – I don’t know this – but I speculated that one of the reasons why the Afghan military has been exposed as so hollow, is because there was never any real attempt to actually build it up, despite all the money that was being spent on it. Because building it up and creating a viable army in Afghanistan would have created a situation where the US military could leave. And what the neocons want is that they don’t want the US military to leave anywhere it gets stationed. They wanted to stay. So they didn’t want a strong Afghan army that could stand by itself. They wanted a weak Afghan army that couldn’t stand by itself so that it would collapse at the first sign of pressure as it is now doing and so justify keeping the US troops there. And keeping them there indefinitely. And I have no doubt that those people at the moment are feverishly lobbying behind the scenes trying to get the administration to change policy and to reverse the withdrawal. And we will see whether they succeed.”
[9:50] Alex Christoforou: "Many people always ask the question: 'What is the U.S. doing in Afghanistan?' And on the surface, it doesn't make any sense for the U.S. to be there for twenty-plus years, geopolitically, that is to say, on a geopolitical level. To me it doesn't make much sense as to why the U.S. wants to remain in Afghanistan and why it has remained in Afghanistan. But there are reasons for the U.S. being there. And there are reasons for why the neocons and the neoliberals want the U.S. to control Afghanistan. What do you think those reasons are? Is it a strategic, geopolitical reason? I don't think it is. Is it a money reason? Is it a military-insustrial-complex reason? Is it conrolling the narcotics trade lines? That's the reason why want to be there? There is a reason why they're there and why they want to remain there. And obviously I think it always comes down to money. I don't think it comes down to real power politics, geopolitics. I think there's a monetary reason why the powers that be want so badly to have the U.S. military in Afghanistan. What do you think?"
[10:58] Alexander Mercouris: "Well, I think there's many reasons, and I think you've touched on some of them. I mean, let's start with the reasons they always give: to fight Islamic terrorism. The reality is that U.S. interventions in Afghanistan stretching all the way back to 1979 when the U.S. first authorized funding for Afghan insurgents fighting the then-government which was Soviet-backed. There is U.S. meddling and interventions in Afghanistan which have created the problem of Islamic terrorism in the country. I mean, that's an important, essential point to say. And what we've seen over the course of the period of time that the U.S. has had troops stationed in Afghanistan, is that not only has Islamic terrorism not diminished in the country, but Islamic movements like the Taliban have resurged and have come back. And we now have ISIS present in Afghanistan, too. So that doesn't work. That's not what they've achieved."
[12:02] "Now, if you go back to 2001 when the U.S. military entered Afghanistan after Al Qaeda was broken up and the Taliban regime broke down, they had given promises to the neighboring countries, to Russia, to China, to all those, that the U.S. would leave quickly. But of course they stayed. And they also tried to keep the bases that they'd set up in central Asia, places like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- which they told the Russians they wouldn't do. And it was quite obvious and in fact they were quite open about it, that they were going to try and use Afghanistan as a bridge to try and extend U.S. influence into central Asia, former central Asia, gain control of the oil there, outflank Iran, outflank China, all that sort of thing. And I suppose that there are some people in the Washington think-tanks that cling on still to these elaborate geopolitical chess game strategies. Those sorts of people never giv up on that kind of thing and I suspect that there are some people who think like that."
"Then the third reason, obviously, is an element of face. I mean, they don't want to be seen to fail. But I think primarily and overall you are right. It's all about money at the end of the day. Vast sums of money. Trillions upon trillions of dollars, of U.S. tax dollars have poured into the country and poured staight out again. And they've gone straight into the pockets of contractors and all kinds of people. There have been deliveries of all kinds of flashy weapons to the Afghan military which are now ending up in growing numbers in the hands of the Taliban. There's been all this going on and lots of people have become very rich from this thing. And some of them, undoubtedly, have been involved in out-and-out criminal activities like supporting the drug trade in that country. And, of course, there is a long and infamous but very well documented and historically established connection between some U.S. agencies, especially the CIA, and the international drugs trade. I mean, that was true in Vietnam. It's been true in central America. And it's also, I'm sure, true in Afghanistan, too. And it's probably long-standing also. So, yes. I think money is the primary motivator and driver of this thing."
[14:45 "Many years ago, when the U.S. had spent ONLY one trillion dollars in Afghanistan, as compared to the 2.7 trillion dollars that it's spending now, I compared the amount of funding that the Soviet Union poured into Afghanistan in the years that it was there. And it was something like 14 billion dollars in today's money. And, actually, you can see roads. Apparently you can go to Afghanistan and still see roads and buildings that the Soviets left behind. They're still there. And that was with 14 billion dollars. And the United States has spent 2.7 trillion dollars and it's government is collapsing like a cake. Now, all that money can't have achieved nothing. It has achieved something. But that something is more likely to be found in the various banks in the Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein and wherever than it is in the villages and towns of Afghanistan. So money, I think, is a very very big driver behind this thing."
"Geopolitics plays a part, you know. Face also plays a part. But money always is the thing that oils the wheels and makes the thing move.
[16:15] Alex Christoforou: "Geopolitics and face is the cover, the marketing. The real reason ist that it's a good business. 20 years. Absolutely a really big industry out of Afghanistan. And that leads to my final question. 20 years, they've built an incredible business, an incredible industry out of Afghanistan. So many people have made so much freaking money. 2.7 trillion, and that's just what's reported. I think you could probably double that. 2.7 trillion, that's just what's on the books. What a business. Is the U.S. going to close the company? I find it very difficult to believe that they're going to take the keys to the company door and just shut it down like that."
[17:06] Alexander Mercouris: "Well, I would agree. As I said, lots of people have made lots of money -- not all of them, by the way, corruptly -- I mean, lots of people go along and they're paid to promote education for Afghan women and things of that kind. I mean, it may not achieve anything, but you get paid very good salaries for doing it. And, of course, you have to have security guards to protect you because you're in danger. You have the contractors paid a huge amount of money to protect the person who is providing this advice. All that kind of thing multiplies. And it multiplies on a prodigious scale. And I would quickly add, and in parenthesis, that not all of that money has come from the United States. Germany has been a major contributor for example. So, I mean, do you shut down a business like that? Well, of course, if you apply business principles of course you do. Because it's a loss-making business. It's completely failed. I mean, you know, the whole thing is collapsing the moment the money stops. It's a ponzi scheme, if you like, if you want to impose a business, or business principles to it. But these people are not interested in imposing business principles on these things. They're interested in keeping the flow moving. And, of course, they will agitate for that to happen."
[18:26] Alex Christoforou: "Why stop? You can just print more, right? It's not about making a profit. It's just about printing more cash. And then throwing it on the U.S taxpayer or the German taxpayer."
"We'll see. You know, September 11 is right around the corner. So I think we'll be seeing a lot more action in Afghanistan.
[18:53] Alexander Mercouris: "I'm going to add one thing, actually. Which is that it will be a major, major humiliation for the administration if they had to publicly announce a reversal of this withdrawal policy. I think that having said it and announced that they would do it. If they turn around and now keep the troops there after all, or -- dare one say it -- send some back, that will create a lot of anger, especially among soldiers and their families. But, you know, that kind of thing probably doesn't matter that much to them and we'll see what they do."
[19:30] Alex Christoforou: "Yes. But the U.S. has done that before. And they have ways of massaging it with the American public. And, of course, you have the media on the Biden white house's side. If it was Trump, then it would be hell to pay, I think, if he said we're pulling out and then he puts the troops back. But given that its a Biden-Democrat white house I'm sure they'll get the entire mainstream media and big tech onside. And yeah, they could maybe make a big event of the troops pulling out on Septenmber 11th, but they'll find a way to reverse gear and, you know, kind of move troops back in slowly, slowly. And the media will play ball and cover for it."
[20:07] Alexander Mercouris: "Anyway, we will see what happens. But, I mean, it's absolutely clear now. It's transparently obvious that this government cannot survive by itself, and after 21 years or 20 years of investment, it's utterly dependent on U.S. help. And that's astonishing. That is absolutely incredible. I mean, when the Soviets pulled out,the government they left behind and the army they left behind survived for three years, and only collapsed because the Soviet Union itself collapsed. If this government can't survive weeks beyond an American withdrawal then that tells you that something has been mismanaged on an epic scale. And there ought to be an investigation and a commission of inquiry to look into all of this. Well, that is not going to happen."
[21:07] Alex Christoforou: “They won’t make it through the summer if this continues."