“News is only the first rough draft of history.” – Alan Barth journalist.*
The ongoing debacle in Afghanistan shows the limits of “news” and modern journalism. Catastrophe has been looming in Afghanistan for years as The Washington Post’s excellent The Afghanistan Papers series demonstrates. Evidence that the Afghan army and government would collapse without American help abounded, but nobody paid attention.
Yet the Taliban’s apparent victory has taken the American media by complete surprise. Instead, the media is attacking President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) for losing a war that began almost 20 years before he took office.
Apparently, no American journalists except some Washington Post reporters were paying any attention to Afghanistan. Now the same hypocritical journalists are attacking Biden for honorably abiding by an agreement his controversial predecessor Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) made.
Worst of all are the questions nobody in the media is asking. I think those questions should include:
1. How did the Taliban get the resources, organization, training, weapons, and leadership necessary to launch a successful blitzkrieg after 20 years of American occupation?
Are we supposed to believe that a mob of poppy growers and sheepherders led by village schoolteachers with Korans is now a crack fighting force? I suspect somebody from outside Afghanistan is helping them.
Sorry, I just cannot believe the Taliban organized and carried this offensive itself.
2. Where are the Taliban getting their weapons, ammunition, fuel, and vehicles from?
The news footage I’ve seen shows Taliban soldiers riding motorcycles and carrying sophisticated modern weapons. Are we to believe Afghan shepherds built the motorcycles and weapons in their village workshop?
Somebody outside Afghanistan is arming the Taliban and providing them with strategic and organizational help. My suspicion is that whatever force is arming the Taliban is probably paying and training them.
Yet I have not heard a single American journalist ask where the Taliban are getting their supplies from.
3. Who is helping the Taliban and why?
Somebody is helping the Taliban. We need to ask who and why?
My suspicion is that it is the People’s Republic of China with the help of America’s so-called ally Pakistan. Notably, US News & World Republic speculates that the Chinese government will soon recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government. Reuters notes that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was “standing shoulder to shoulder with visiting Taliban officials” on 28 July 2021.
A Taliban victory could get US forces out of China’s backyard and pave the way for a Chinese takeover of Afghanistan. I think a Chinese takeover of Afghanistan is inevitable.
Notably, one route for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative passes through Afghanistan. The Belt and Road is a series of land and sea corridors connecting China, Europe, India, and the Middle East. One of the Belt and Road corridors, the Silk Road Economic Belt follows the historic Silk Road through Afghanistan.
To secure the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Chinese will need to occupy or pacify Afghanistan. The Chinese government could send a “peacekeeping force” to Afghanistan after US withdrawal, The South China Morning Post speculates. The Chinese organized and trained Afghan forces in 2018.
I have to wonder if the Chinese government organized, armed, and trained the Taliban to get the US out of Afghanistan. A supremely cynical gesture could be to allow the Taliban to take over Afghanistan and start committing atrocities.
Then the Chinese could move in to liberate Afghanistan from the oppressive Taliban to cheers from the international community. However, the actual goals of the People’s Liberation Army will be to seize minerals for Chinese mining companies and secure the Silk Road Economic Belt.
4. Why didn’t anybody notice what was happening in Afghanistan?
If outside forces were arming and training the Taliban. Why didn’t the US military, intelligence agencies, and media notice?
Or did the military commanders and intelligence leaders ignore outsiders arming and training the Taliban? Was the story covered up and if so, why? If outside forces were helping the Taliban. were President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and his advisors aware of it?
Hence, there could be a scandal in Afghanistan a million times worse than anything in Iraq or Vietnam. Our military allowed the Taliban to reorganize and rearm. Possibly with foreign assistance.
Worse, I think there is a strong possibility that many of the Taliban soldiers got their training from the US military. To explain, Taliban needing training joined the government army, got paid, trained and armed by Uncle Sam. Then deserted with their weapons.
Thus, our military could have armed, trained, and helped a stronger, better armed Taliban at US taxpayers’ expense. That’s another horrendous scandal.
5. Is America now in bed with the Taliban?
It’s obvious the US has no long-term plan for Afghanistan beyond getting out and running away. I think that’s a recipe for disaster.
Why is there no long-term plan for Afghanistan? Why haven’t we built a constructive relationship with the Taliban? I imagine the Taliban do not want to be Chinese puppets and will welcome an American alliance. Why hasn’t one offered?
Or is there an alliance and a secret agreement to let the Taliban takeover Afghanistan to keep China out? Did the US make a deal with the Taliban?
A frightening possibility is that the neoconservative warmongers behind the Cold War II fantasy hope to lure the Chinese government into a guerrilla war in Afghanistan. The hope is to bleed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the way the 1980s Afghan War bled the Soviet Red Army.
Under that scenario, the US will use the Taliban as proxy warriors against the PLA. Tellingly, op-ed pieces about China being sucked into the “graveyard of empires” (Afghanistan) are appearing in the American media.
I have seen have no reports of fighting between the Taliban and US forces in a long time. Call me a cynic, but it sounds as the Americans got out of the way and let the Taliban win. Worse, it seems as if the Taliban knew the Americans would not resist their conquest of Kabul.
Do we really want an alliance with the Taliban? An alliance that could drag us into a conflict with China? America could have one and nobody’s talking about it? Are we prepared to fight China for Afghanistan?
If there is such US-Taliban deal, the American people should know about and debate it. I think the American people and their elected representatives in Congress should know if the US is getting into bed with a group as barbaric as the Taliban. Yet that is what could be happening.
The Real Tragedy in Afghanistan
The genuine tragedy in Afghanistan could be our media’s failure to tell us what is happening there. Americans fought and died in that country for 20 years, yet we do not know what is happening there.
The greatest failure in Afghanistan was that of America’s media. Once again I am reminded of legendary Washington Post publisher Philip Graham’s quote:
“So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never really understand.”
Graham made the statement apparently inspired by a 1943 New Republic book review to Newsweek employees in London in 1963, Slate claims. Yet the statement rings as true today as it did in 1963.* Americans seem to know less about Afghanistan today than after 20 years of media coverage of that nation.
*See Slate Who Said it First? 30 August 2010 for a full explanation of this quote’s origins.