Since we need a new open thread, here’s one.
And since I’m going to go out and see if I can avoid heat stroke doing today’s workout before the heat index gets above 105, I don’t have time to do a full post. But I do want to put in two quick housekeeping notes as teasers.
I am tracking on both YY_Sima Qian’s and lowtechcyclist’s request for more information in the dead, bitter dregs of the comments of my post on Biden’s remarks yesterday. The former for some explanation on whether there was or was not an intelligence failure regarding the stability of the Afghan government and security forces and the latter on what the US has been doing in or in regard to Yemen.
I’ll try to get to these in the next couple of days. A quick, short answer is that in regard to the intelligence about Afghanistan, from what has been publicly reported there both was and was not an intelligence failure. What do I mean by this? Specifically that senior leaders went on the record with assessments that the government was stable and the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces would not simply stop functioning. GEN Milley actually provided the following assessment to Congress this past July:
“A significant amount of territory has been seized over the course of six, eight, 10 months by the Taliban, so momentum appears to be — strategic momentum appears to be — sort of with the Taliban,” Milley said.
Milley said that while the Taliban are attempting to create the impression that their victory over the U.S.-backed Kabul government is inevitable, he believes the Afghan military and police have the training and equipment to prevail. He said he would not rule out a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban, nor would he exclude “a complete Taliban takeover.”
“I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.
He covered every possible outcome there. At the same time that GEN Milley was being optimistic, we had the assessments from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction that were far, far, far more pessimistic about how the Afghan government and the ANSDF would function.
In regard to the US and Yemen, that role has changed a lot over the years. A lot of it has involved providing logistics and acquisition support to the Saudis in their war against the Houthis and al Qaeda in Yemen/al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. There was also the ongoing and often expanded use of drones* to attack high value terrorist targets, like Anwar al Awlaki, from over the horizon. We’ve also had Special Operations raids, such as the one that went tragically wrong during the first month of the Trump administration back in 2017. A lot of the Yemen problem set, for lack of a better term, is constant for decades. The British had an al Awlaki problem, we have an al Awlaki problem. The British had a Yemeni tribal problem, we have a Yemeni tribal problem. The British had an unstable and not always trustworthy government they were partnered with, we’re dealing with a not always stable and not always trustworthy government. Etc, etc. The difference is that the British had the ability to redefine where Yemen fit within their strategic objectives. They decided they did not need a coaling station in Yemen, declared victory in what was up to that point a fairly unsuccessful counterinsurgency campaign to protect Aden and the coaling station, and went home. We can’t just do that. And, as a result, we lurch along year to year in regard to Yemen.
More to follow.
Obligatory given the heat index:
* Edited to add the drones.