At a US Special Forces camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on December 5, 2001, the Taliban offered an unconditional surrender. They would disband and disarm: a military force would no longer exist.
George W. Bush ignored the offer
…and continued attacking the Taliban until the end of his term. If only in self-defense the Taliban fought back, eventually regaining the battlefield initiative. Obama fought the Taliban for another eight years and Trump for the next four.
Twenty years later, after the squandering of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, President Biden withdrew American troops from Afghanistan—and drew angry criticism for the chaotic exit that followed.
How perverse we have become
We chastise President Biden for a messy ending of the war in Afghanistan and fail to indict George Bush for its illegal beginning.
Within ten days of taking office, the Bush Administration formalized a decision to invade Iraq. Long before 9/11 they scheduled an attack on Afghanistan. Neither proposed incursion had the slightest thing to do with terrorism: the objectives were preemptive access to Iraqi oil and a pipeline right-of-way across Afghanistan. 9/11 offered a spectacular and fortuitous cover: Bush declared a “war on terrorism” and launched two premeditated wars.
Osama bin Laden was portrayed as an iconic terrorist
… to be apprehended for his orchestration of 9/11. But George Bush from his first day in office, could have negotiated with the Taliban on their repeated offer to render bin Laden to a third country. The Bush Administration refused the offer four times prior to 9/11 and once more five days later.
Saddam Hussein – also an intolerable terrorist threat
In February of 2003, Saddam Hussein offered to enter voluntary exile in Turkey, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia. Here was “regime change” handed on a platter to George Bush, but a peaceful one. The offer was brushed aside. George Bush needed terrorists, alive, at large, and in residence in Afghanistan and Iraq, to make his “war on terrorism” credible.
On October 7, 2001 the Afghan invasion was underway. Seven weeks later, on November 27, 2001, the President ordered his Defense Department to plan the invasion of Iraq (Seven months before Congress authorized it).
The goal was preemptive access to Iraqi oil. In 2011, after 9 years of occupation, the US left Iraq a failed state whose constants are communal violence, terrorism, poverty, political instability, social breakdown and economic failure. The holders of the biggest contracts for Iraq’s oil are Russia and China…
Afghanistan lies in a state of seething chaos
The staggering costs in life and treasure might have been avoided: violence in Afghanistan could have ended two months after George Bush turned it loose.
Anand Gopal, an American journalist, moved to Afghanistan in 2008, learned the language, and traveled the country freely for four years. He relates the Taliban’s surrender in his book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes.
His back to the wall, Mullah Omar (leader of the Taliban) drew up a letter to Hamid Karzai, acknowledging his selection as interim president. The letter also granted Omar’s ministers, deputies, and aides the right to surrender.
On December 5, 2001 a Taliban delegation arrived at the US special forces camp north of Kandahar City to officially relinquish power… [The Taliban]…pledged to retire from politics and return to their home villages. Crucially, they also agreed that their movement would surrender arms, effectively ensuring the Taliban could no longer function as a military entity. There would be no jihad, no resistance from the Taliban to the new order.
The United States refused the group’s surrender, vowing to fight on to shatter the Taliban’s influence in every corner of the country.
Accepting the Taliban’s surrender would have been a great victory in the “war on terrorism”
But George Bush was fighting a war for oil and empire. Victory would pose a huge tactical difficulty: with no enemy to fight he would have to demobilize his forces in the Mideast and bring them home.
That he could not tolerate: the great prize, Iraqi oil, had yet to be won, so the fighting in the Mideast would have to be sustained—as a “war on terrorism”—until the invasion of Iraq could be planned, authorized by Congress, and sold to the American people. The Taliban’s offer was simply dismissed, and the fighting continued—for twenty years.
Now President Biden has called a halt in Afghanistan, in humiliating defeat.
The Taliban, who once offered to disarm and disband, have taken control of Afghanistan. The national media acknowledge the defeat, but trumpet “the end of America’s longest war” as recompense. That is grossly misleading.
American military violence rages on in the “war on terrorism”
US combat troops remain stationed in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, the Philippines, and Cyprus. We conduct counterterrorism operations in 61 additional countries around the world.
This madness is the legacy of the Bush Administration, and successive Presidents have done nothing to end it. Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is a no-brainer tactical retreat, but bogus war plunges mindlessly ahead.
President Biden, carpe diem
Call the “war on terrorism” for the fraud it is and end it. Bring all the troops home, from everywhere.
Richard W. Behan is a retired professor of natural resource policy at the University of Montana.He has written extensively about the nature of the wars George W Bush started. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is adapted from Behan’s article in Common Dreams, Aug 18, 2021, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
A quick win was not wanted…
Seen from 2001
“Rumsfeld rejects plan to allow Mullah Omar ‘to live in dignity’: Taliban fighters agree to surrender Kandahar”, Dec. 7, 2001, New York Times.
Afghanistan’s Taliban militia said Thursday that it had agreed to surrender its last remaining stronghold, the southern city of Kandahar, to a prominent anti-Taliban commander and would begin giving up its weapons on Friday.
But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld immediately objected to portions of the deal that reportedly would allow the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, to remain in Kandahar to “live in dignity” in opposition custody, so long as he renounced terrorism. www.nytimes.com/2001/12/07/
“Taliban surrender in Kandahar”, Dec.7, 2001, The Guardian
Mullah Khaqzar said the surrenders started early today after weeks of intense US bombing and advances by opposition forces. Mullah Omar had previously ordered his men to defend Kandahar to the death, but this position was changed yesterday when Mr Karzai agreed to guarantee Mullah Omar’s safety if he denounced terrorism.
Washington has made it clear that it will not accept a deal that allows Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders to go free. www.theguardian.com/world/2001/dec/07
Seen from 2021
“The war in Afghanistan has been lost for two decades”. Ryan Cooper, Aug. 14, 2021, www.theweek.com The Taliban tried to surrender in Dec. 2001. Donald Rumsfeld said no.
“The war in Afghanistan: how it started and how it is ending”, David Zucchino, Aug. 14, 2021, NY Times.
By December 2001, Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and other top commanders had fled to safety in Pakistan, a nominal US ally. American forces did not pursue them.
Inside Afghanistan, American troops quickly toppled the Taliban government and crushed its fighting forces. In December 2001, the Taliban’s spokesman offered an unconditional surrender, which was rejected by the United States.