WORDS: 2,345 — What qualifies me as an armchair strategist? I spent years in the military carrying a gun and defending my country as an NCO in charge of men and assets. If anyone understands military strategy it’s me. I waited at the phone for the call from any sitting President (or standing one either) to provide my valuable insight, and just crickets. They could have avoided all their troubles. If only they called me first…….
Well.. okay… I embellished just a little (a lot). My military gun-carrying was in guarding airplanes not fighting battles. In fact.. the only military asset I was in charge of was that gun while on duty… oh.. and making sure the nuke in the belly of a couple B-52’s didn’t fall into the hands of those godless Commies. So given I missed out on War College back in the day (wasn’t qualified, wasn’t interested). I pretty much don’t know much about grand military strategies. But I do have a little knowledge to simply “toss it out there” for observation and discussion.
Back when we did that last hasty departure from a war.. that little 10 year “skirmish” called Vietnam, we left them so much military hardware.. from assault weapons, armor, and lots of choppers, that I recall the talk of the day was that Vietnam was now the region’s third largest and formidable military power.. to China’s presence.. and India at the time. Now.. let’s go a little deeper into that. The NVA was a far more experienced, disciplined, and cohesive fighting force than today’s Taliban. There was some concern that a “recovering” united Communist Vietnam, with a solidly formed government expanding into the south, might just feel like getting a little bit more.. imperial… with all that hardware we left them.. and maybe get belligerent with their neighbors in Laos or Cambodia. To my knowledge nothing major developed… and today they are our trading partner. History creates strange bedfellows for sure. In that war it only took the price of 58,000+ dead Americans (and likely a million others) inside of ten years. Afghanistan, even in spite of the 20 years being there, wasn’t even a “war” by comparison.
The following is from AP, HERE…
American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.
U.S. contractors: 3,846.
Afghan national military and police: 66,000.
Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.
Afghan civilians: 47,245.
Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.
Aid workers: 444.
[NOTE: The AP article was dated August 16, and may not include an update to the total to include the 13 American service people killed at Abbey Gate on Aug. 26.]
So it seems compared to Vietnam, Afghanistan wasn’t so bad after all? I’m sure the soldiers serving in Afghanistan would say otherwise. War is war. Also, it is a bit like comparing apples and oranges given our reasons for being at each location was pretty different… and the battle itself, and the “order of battle” was far different. Yet there are very noticeable similarities in that we engaged in nation-building in both places.. and it didn’t take… twice. The jury on our nation-building adventure in Iraq is still out on that. Interestingly, the impetus for going into Iraq and Vietnam was a bit contrived by the respective presidents.
What’s my point in making this comparison? Well, when we are talking about loosing equipment (or “surrendering” equipment if you are making a political argument) to the enemy, what’s important is staying to context. Many of the former South Vietnamese chopper pilots ended up flying themselves and their families out to U.S. ships in the mass exodus two years after our departure… where in turn the U.S. ships had to dump them overboard to keep the decks clear. In many cases, ships with no landing pads had to rescue chopper occupants who simply ditched in the sea next to any ship, knowing they would be rescued. Likely there were not as many surviving choppers in flying condition on land, and certainly few pilots left to fly them. As for the armored vehicles.. you have to have a supply of gas and available parts for maintenance to keep them running. But here’s to the greater question.. which I also pose to our abandonment of military hardware in Afghanistan… so what?
For starters, to try and find an “unbiased” list of equipment we left behind on the internet is pretty tough. The list below was from a Conservative site. I don’t know how or where they got it, if it’s not contrived for effect. But it suits for our purposes here for discussion. Take a gander of this list.
Again, I have no idea if this was a current list, some left over delivery manifest from months/years back, the result of some inventory taken for accounting purposes, etc. Some of this seems a bit odd on this list anyway. But let’s say all this is true and accurate. I return to my retort.. so what?
Well, my followup observation would then be… what exactly are they going to do with this stuff even IF it were all operational and available? Let’s do our own rundown of this.
- They certainly aren’t going to attack America with any of this stuff. Assuming they (the Taliban) knew how to operate any of this.. much less use it in a combat strategy of engagement in battle. No Taliban are trained to operate this stuff, much less able to use it as part of fighting in battle as a cohesive unit. They lack fighting discipline. They also lack the ability to plan engagements using this stuff… much less lug it across the world to attack the U.S.
- When our military began arming and training the “new” Afghan military there was certainly thought given to provide only the necessary gear to meet their kind of threat. Meaning, the Pentagon is not going to give any Third World nation technology beyond what is needed to meet their enemy. The Taliban is a conglomerate force, made up of un-disciplined religious zealots from various sources, who’s only strength is short guerilla-style firefights. This does not mean they are to be underestimated, but there is context to what they can do.. and what force is needed to neutralize them. In this case, you meet conventional with conventional.. with maybe a little edge in battlefield tech… like the night vision stuff and recon drones. Is night vision tech and drone tech in Afghanistan going to hurt us here in America? In fact, all that stuff can easily be purchased here on the surplus market. Yes.. for sure some of that, with a little ingenuity, might be able to be smuggled into the states… but even that is a bit of a stretch. That composite explosive stuff, the C-4, Semtex, detonators.. yep… if you can get it into the States as part of a larger plan, that will not be easy… and all that is assuming you are not neutralized before leaving Afghanistan by our intel people.
- As in Vietnam… much of the aircraft needs continued maintenance.. and technical know-how. Those things will not be flying for long, if at all. The aircraft itself is not state-of-the-art In fact… there is not one jet aircraft.. all piston. Those Brazilian Tucano planes (actually designed in Brazil.. made in the U.S.) are piston planes for close-in operations. They will need fuel.
- The Taliban is very likely not to have the time or the inkling to take all that seemingly cool military freebie stuff and invade their neighbors. Why? If they are planning to govern in any way they will be concentrating on security at home from other radical groups like ISIS-K.. and monitoring their own citizens. Also.. the Taliban are not battlefield fighters by experience. In general they are hit and run fighters… and formidable in that capacity.
- They have cool radios! (I’m an old radio guy) Again, so what. They already use ham radio and industrial walkie talkies. They will now have those individual unit radios that they might use for close in support… but again, against whom? What would they be coordinating.. an air and land assault? If they have a functioning airplane and an MRAP do they have an officer corps trained in that kind of strategy? Many of these radios are coded and require actual training to operate. Is there a risk they can lug these things to the States and coordinate nasty missions? Why bother. You can get walkie talkies here.. and military frequencies are many times monitored from government installations.
- Those pallets of money? Let’s go a step further. If the Taliban can’t use all this military stuff they could sure have a big arms bazaar yard sale to grab much more needed cash. Although this stuff is not a big deal to China or Russia, there might be some Third World customers. Will the pallet money (if that’s even true) and yard sale proceeds finance terror in the U,S.? Maybe they might even charge “rent” to all these other extremist groups, like Al Qaeda, that want to seek safe harbor inside Afghanistan. I would think that for a number of years the Taliban are going to need any cash to support their efforts in country. I have faith in our intel to keep track of things. It’s possible that after 20 years of infidel decadence in their country someone might prefer getting a big screen TV rather than spending the cash on terror. Then again.. how much exactly is “millions of dollars on pallets” and how far will it take them?
- Those “captured” U.S. supplied uniforms and personal protection equipment? Other than “looking” like U.S. soldiers (which given this stuff was for the Afghan military, then they would look like U.S. soldiers also), how far is that going to take them other than a few PR/propaganda photos? One might be able to presume that personal unit patching and labeling on these uniforms was not U.S. Where’s the threat here?
- And all those assault rifles? A threat to the U.S.? If the Taliban has 5,000 guys and now 50,000 new assault rifles… they still only have 5,000 guys to carry them. More rifles doesn’t mean a bigger army. These are destined likely for the big yard sale. There’s this moral imposition that suggests these American-made weapons will kill Americans in some future war somewhere. That is very true…. and has been true since we started exporting weapons for profit and political influence early in the last century. It’s even more true when American-made weapons kill Americans here at home. Seems like you should get over it… or stop it everywhere.
- Fellow blogger, “Constitutional Insurgent” on his blog, Libertas and Latte, posted his summations that much of this military equipment very likely could be de-classified and/or obsolete versions for export, or equipment from other countries of origin even though Americans handed it over to the Afghans. He states, “This equipment, again over the past almost 2 decades, has been Divested through the Foreign Military Sales Program [which ensures that only our export models of equipment is eligible]. The equipment left behind, for the most part anyway, was divested to the ANSF. We no doubt left some ancillary gear when we withdrew from various Forward Operating Bases and Bagram…nothing of great import.”
Why Didn’t We Destroy This Equipment When We Had The Chance?
There’s been suggestions that the military failed to destroy this stuff… on the other hand, I’ve read stories that some of this was indeed made… “demilitarized”. Early reports told of drone strikes on locations known to be staging areas or warehouses. I’ve no idea if that is fact. But what is fact… Centcom Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie. the fellow who announced the end of the airlift in that Pentagon news conference, stated the following was destroyed at the airport upon departure…
- A C-Ram “Centurion” Vulcan 20mm cannon anti-missile system (the one that took out missiles from that earlier attack)
- 70 MRAP’s (armored vehicles)
- 27 Humvees
- 73 Aircraft
My perception is that sticking around to destroy all this stuff wasn’t worth the risk to American lives.. even before the airlift started. Why would have this equipment been destroyed when we fully expected the Afghan military would use it? They collapsed so quickly resulting in other threats to lives, and the airlift exodus suddenly took precedent. Makes sense to me.
There is one last thing I’d like to interject in all this regarding this “danger to America” in having “surrendered” all this stuff to the Taliban. Take heed on this.
Some of this military equipment could prove a valuable asset to the “terrorist” group with the tenacity to want to maintain security and actually govern… the Taliban or anyone else. Most certainly a lot of this stuff requires training to operate, and training to use. Who ever will be forming a government will have to train a police/security force of some kind and the equipment might help to restore order and keep a level of peace. I might also suggest that it’s very likely the individual Taliban fighter will now be shifting his incentive… his willingness.. to fight and die. During this war he was fighting the Western infidels in a jihad/holy war and they fought with the hope to die with promises of eternal lives with virgins , or beans, or whatever makes sense to these people. They won by default.. but a win is a win. They are back in-charge. Their enemy now is another bunch of “fellow” Afghan Islamic extremists. I would guess the average Taliban fighter is now thinking of settling down and looking forward to living a life of being worshipped as a hero of some sort. Obviously I know nothing of Afghan life nor how they think so I could be very wrong here.
The Bottom Line Here….
My personal opinion, there are far more important things to worry about in this country right about now. Of course, if your goal is to just to add something to your political hate-Biden list… that’s up to you in the energy you want to expend on that.
A Recent Update: Check out this FactCheck.org review posted 9/3/21 on exactly everything I have mentioned here.. and more. HERE.