Taliban

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Trump Tries to End the Afghanistan War, Democrats Want to Keep Killing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 3:00am in

What you need to know about the U.S.-Taliban peace deali - The ...

Pollsters have observed a consistent enthusiasm gap between supporters of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Any factor that dampens Democratic turnout could contribute to a second come-from-behind victory for the GOP.

            Adding to liberal voters’ ambivalence over Biden is a rarely-discussed aspect of Trump’s presidency. Trump’s skepticism of foreign military entanglements places him to the left of mainstream Democrats like Biden. His foreign policy aligns more closely to those of the progressives who are licking their wounds from the primary defeat of Bernie Sanders—and who are considering whether or not to vote at all.

            In 2016 Trump upended traditional right-wing politics by campaigning against the Iraq War—during the Republican primaries, where candidates usually compete to look tough. This year the surprise dove can take credit for extricating the U.S. from its longest war, the 18-year-old meatgrinder of Afghanistan. Not only was Trump the first post-9/11 president to hold direct talks with the Taliban, he concluded a peace deal with the insurgency that leads to a total American withdrawal by April 2021 if the Taliban uphold their commitments. Now he is even considering an accelerated timetable that would bring back the last American soldier before Election Day.

            Enter the war pigs.

            Trump’s peace initiative is under attack by an odd coalition of neoconservative Republicans including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and a group of Democratic hawks who inserted an amendment to the latest National Defense Authorization Act. The add-on denies the president funding to bring back the last 8,000 troops. In order to get the money the Defense Department would have to certify that pulling out would not increase the chances of Afghanistan ever becoming a safe haven for terrorists in the future. How could they promise that? 

            “There were elements of the progressive left and the pro-Trump right who supported these withdrawals,” Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, but they lost the House fight.

            Trump is no one’s idea of a pacifist. He expanded the drone assassination program he inherited from Obama and reduced its already low transparency. He supports Saudi Arabia’s vicious proxy war in Yemen. He has engaged in old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy against China.

            Even so, many progressives find more to like in Trump’s willingness to engage with the leaders of countries like North Korea and Iran. Prior to Trump, high-level negotiations were positioned by the U.S. as rewards for improved behavior; Trump talks without preconditions. Progressives prefer diplomacy to war.

            Biden, on the other hand, voted to bomb Serbia, invade Afghanistan and Iraq. He has never apologized—so it’s reasonable to assume he’d commit the same crimes again. He sat at Obama’s side as that administration armed and funded radical jihadis in Libya and Syria, expanding regional conflicts into all-out civil wars, one of which created the vacuum filled by ISIS. American leftists support Nicolás Maduro, a socialist, in Venezuela; Biden backs Juan Guaidó, who failed to seize power in a military coup last year. These are Hillary Clinton’s politics, an approach left-leaning voters despise.

            “The liberal establishment is desperate to return a centrist to the White House in November and reestablish the country’s more stable military dominance of the world order, disrupted only briefly by Donald Trump. Joe Biden’s terrible track record on foreign policy — including his championing of war in Iraq — suggests a return to Obama-style strong military interventions abroad,” David Davison and Alex Thurston wrote recently in Jacobin.

            “Biden represents the return of the classical foreign policy establishment,” Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, told The Progressive magazine. “Biden is running a campaign as a restoration candidate.”

            And while Biden has made overtures to the progressive wing of his own party on such domestic issues as healthcare and the environment, he has expressed no willingness to compromise on foreign policy.

            Last week a coalition of progressive groups wrote to Biden to demand that he appoint anti-interventionists to his cabinet and as top officials in the State Department. “Without national security and foreign policy personnel who are willing to learn from the mistakes of the past and understand the need for change this moment presents, we fear our country—and the world—risk descending into climate and economic chaos fueled by further corruption and authoritarianism. We expect a potential Biden administration to reflect the urgency of this moment in its personnel appointments,” the letter read.

I would not hold my breath.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

What is Going on with Russia?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 2:37am in

Media coverage of Trump’s commutation of his associate Roger Stone’s prison sentence has pushed the Russia bounty story out of the headlines. Knowing Trump’s skill at distraction, it’s hard to believe this is a coincidence. Continue reading

The post What is Going on with Russia? appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Whatever Happened to Basic Standards at Newspapers?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/07/2020 - 4:32pm in

It’s just like the Ukraine story that failed to impeach Donald Trump. Anonymous sources tell major newspapers that second hand or thirdhand source is based in the intelligence community, which is tasked with lying, that Russia may be paying bounties to the Taliban in order to kill United States troops in occupied Afghanistan. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, but why pay attention to a story that has no evidence or sourcing?

Lee Camp: How the Media Used the Bounty Scandal to Stop the ‘Threat’ of Peace in Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/07/2020 - 12:20am in

This is not a column defending Donald Trump.

Across my career, I have said more positive words about the scolex family of intestinal tapeworms than I have said about Donald Trump. (Scolex have been shown to read more.)

No, this is a column about context. When The New York Times reports anonymous sources from the intelligence community say Russia paid Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers, context is very important.

Some of that context is that Mike Pompeo said, “I was the CIA director – We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses.” So we know for certain that U.S. intelligence agencies lie to you and me. We saw it with WMD, and we might be seeing it again now.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to.

We could talk about the context of the fact that the Taliban does not need to be paid to kill American soldiers because their entire goal for the past twenty years has been to kill American soldiers. Paying them a bounty would be like offering the guy sleeping with your wife twenty bucks to sleep with your wife.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to.

We could talk about the fact that the U.S. has been funding the Taliban for years! Yes, we fund them, sometimes arm them, and then fight them. This is barely a secret. So for all intents and purposes, the U.S. does the same thing our corporate media is now accusing Russia of doing (with no proof).

But that’s not the context I’m referring to.

No, the context I’m referring to is how our military industrial complex (with the help of our ruling elite and our corporate media) have stopped Trump from pushing us toward the brink of peace. …Yes, the brink of peace.

Now, I’m not implying Trump is some kind of hippy peacenik. (He would look atrocious with no bra and flowers in his hair.) No, the military under Trump has dropped more bombs than under Obama, and that’s impressive since Obama dropped more bombs than ever before.

However, in certain areas of the world, Trump has threatened to create peace. Sure, he’s doing it for his own ego and because he thinks his base wants it, but whatever the reason, he has put forward plans or policies that go against the military industrial complex and the establishment war-hawks (which is 95 percent of the establishment).

And each time this has happened, he is quickly thwarted, usually with hilarious propaganda. (Well, hilarious to you and me. Apparently believable to people at The New York Times and former CIA intern Anderson Cooper.)

I know four things for sure in life. Paper beats rock. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. And propaganda beats peace. All one has to do is look at a calendar.

Trump has essentially threatened to create peace or pull U.S. troops out of a war zone in three countries – North Korea, Afghanistan, and Syria. Let’s start with Syria.

April 4, 2018: President Trump orders the Pentagon to plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

This cannot be allowed because it goes against the U.S. imperial plan. So what happens within days of Trump’s order?

April 7, 2018: Reports surface of a major chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.

What are the odds that within days of Trump telling the Pentagon to withdraw, Bashar al-Assad decides to use the one weapon that will guarantee American forces continue attacking him? Assad may not be a chess player, but I also don’t think he ate that many paint chips as a kid. And sure enough, over the past two years we’ve now heard from four whistleblowers at the Organization for The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) saying the so-called chemical attack didn’t happen. (Notice that the number “four” is even bigger than the numbers “one,” “two,” and “three.”)

But establishment propaganda beats peace any day and twice on Sunday. The false story succeeded in keeping America entrenched in Syria.

 

The DPRK

Let’s move on to North Korea. As you surely know, Donald Trump “threatened” to create peace with the hermetic country. Simply saying he would attempt such a thing sent weapons contractor stocks tumbling—one of the many reasons peace had to be stopped.

Feb 27, 2019: Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un meet in Vietnam.

The summit fails, and reports begin emerging that Mike Pompeo and John Bolton succeeded in napalming any progress.

March 15, 2019: Pompeo and Bolton deny derailing North Korea nuclear talks.

From The Nation, “There were reports from South Korea that the presence at the talks of John Bolton, Trump’s aggressively hawkish national-security adviser, helped torpedo the talks.“

But just destroying the peace talks wasn’t enough. The American people needed some good, solid propaganda to reassert the idea that Kim Jung Un was a dastardly bloodthirsty dictator.

March 30, 2019: The New York Times reports North Korea executed and purged their top nuclear negotiators.

Yes, apparently Kim Jung Un must’ve fed his top diplomats to his top alligators. Then, two months later we learn…

June 4, 2019: The fate of the North Korean negotiator “executed” after the failed summit “grows murkier” with new reports that he’s still alive.

One would have to say that his being alive does indeed make the report that he’s dead “murkier.” Within the next day or two it becomes quite clear the diplomat is very much in the land of the living. But the propaganda put forward by The New York Times and many other outlets has already done its job.

Far more people saw the reports that the man had been murdered than saw the later retraction. And to this day, the Times has not removed the initial article saying he was executed. Exactly how wrong does propaganda have to be, to warrant an online deletion? Dead versus alive is a pretty binary designation.

And now we get to the outrage du jour, and it’s a bombshell!

 

Bounties!

May 26, 2020: Pentagon commanders begin drawing up options for an early Afghanistan troop withdrawal, following Trump’s request.

June 16, 2020: “President Donald Trump confirmed in public for the first time his administration’s plans to cut the U.S. military troop presence in Germany from its current level of roughly 35,000 to a reduced force of 25,000.” – ForeignPolicy.com

June 26, 2020: The New York Times reports Russia paid the Taliban to attack U.S. troops. (According to anonymous sources from an intelligence community that proudly admits they lie to us all the time, sometimes just to amuse themselves.)

So when this story first came out, I thought, “You know, Trump has been stopped from withdrawing troops in the past by ridiculous propaganda that seems to land like a giant turd right after he announces his intentions. Maybe I’ll check what happened in the days preceding this jaw-dropping story.”

So just days after Trump goes against the military industrial complex and against the ruling establishment by announcing he’ll be withdrawing about a third of our troops from Germany, and just weeks after announcing an early withdrawal from Afghanistan, a seemingly mind-blowing story drops about Russia paying the Taliban to kill American troops.

This serves to remind everyone what a threat Russia is (so we better put more troops in Germany!) and serves to keep us in Afghanistan (because screw those Russian-funded Taliban!).

Look, I’m not saying Trump is a hero or a great guy or even a man who wants peace. I’m not even saying he’s a man. He very well may be a giant blood-sucking leech in a human skin suit. (A poorly tailored human skin suit.)

All I’m saying is the timing doesn’t add up. Either these landmark stories that destroy every chance of peace are false (in fact we’ve already proven two out of three of them are false), or peace has exceedingly, ridiculously, laughably bad timing.

Feature photo | Abdullah Abdullah, right, President Ashraf Ghani’s fellow leader under a recently signed power-sharing agreement, holds a meeting with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad aimed at resuscitating a U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in February, at the presidential palace, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 20, 2020. Credit | Sapidar Palace via AP

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

This article was published with special permission from the author. It originally appeared at Consortium News.

The post Lee Camp: How the Media Used the Bounty Scandal to Stop the ‘Threat’ of Peace in Afghanistan appeared first on MintPress News.

Afghan Bounty Scandal Comes at Suspiciously Important Time for US Military Industrial Complex

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 02/07/2020 - 5:16am in

Based on anonymous intelligence sources, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal released bombshell reports alleging that Russia is paying the Taliban bounties for every U.S. soldier they can kill. The story caused an uproar in the United States, dominating the news cycle and leading presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to accuse Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.” “This is beyond the pale,” the former vice-president concluded.

However, there are a number of reasons to be suspicious of the new reports. Firstly, they appear all to be based entirely on the same intelligence officials who insisted on anonymity. The official could not provide any concrete evidence, nor establish that any Americans had actually died as a result, offering only vague assertions and admitting that the information came from “interrogated” (i.e. tortured) Afghan militants. All three reports stressed the uncertainty of the claims, with the only sources who went on record — the White House, the Kremlin, and the Taliban — all vociferously denying it all.

The national security state also has a history of using anonymous officials to plant stories that lead to war. In 2003, the country was awash with stories that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, in 2011 anonymous officials warned of an impending genocide in Libya, while in 2018 officials accused Bashar al-Assad of attacking Douma with chemical weapons, setting the stage for a bombing campaign. All turned out to be untrue.

“After all we’ve been through, we’re supposed to give anonymous ‘intelligence officials’ in The New York Times the benefit of the doubt on something like this? I don’t think so,” Scott Horton, Editorial Director of Antiwar.com and author of “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” told MintPress News. “All three stories were written in language conceding they did not know if the story was true,” he said, “They are reporting the ‘fact’ that there was a rumor.”

Horton continued: “There were claims in 2017 that Russia was arming and paying the Taliban, but then the generals admitted to Congress they had no evidence of either. In a humiliating debacle, also in 2017, CNN claimed a big scoop about Putin’s support for the Taliban when furnished with some photos of Taliban fighters with old Russian weapons. The military veteran journalists at Task and Purpose quickly debunked every claim in their piece.”

Others were equally skeptical of the new scandal. “The bottom line for me is that after countless (Russiagate related) anonymous intelligence leaks, many of which were later proven false or never substantiated with real evidence, I can’t take this story seriously. The intelligence ‘community’ itself can’t agree on the credibility of this information, which is similar to the situation with a foundational Russiagate document, the January, 2017 intelligence ‘assessment,’” said Joanne Leon, host of the Around the Empire Podcast, a show which covers U.S. military actions abroad.

 

Suspicious timing

The timing of the leak also raised eyebrows. Peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban are ongoing, with President Trump committing to pulling all American troops out of the country. A number of key anti-weapons of mass destruction treaties between the U.S. and Russia are currently expiring, and a scandal such as this one would scupper any chance at peace, escalating a potential arms race that would endanger the world but enrich weapons manufacturers. Special Presidential Envoy in the Department of the Treasury, Marshall Billingslea, recently announced that the United States is willing to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in a new arms race, mimicking the strategy it used in the 1980s against the Soviet Union. As a result, even during the pandemic, business is booming for American weapons contractors.

“The national security state has done everything they can to keep the U.S. involved in that war,” remarked Horton, “If Trump had listened to his former Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, we’d be on year three of an escalation with plans to begin talks with the Taliban next year. Instead Trump talked to them for the last year-and-a-half and has already signed a deal to have us out by the end of next May.”

“The same factions and profiteers who always oppose withdrawal of troops are enthusiastic about the ‘Bountygate’ story at a time when President Trump is trying to advance negotiations with the Taliban and when he desperately needs to deliver on 2016 campaign promises and improve his sinking electoral prospects,” said Leon.

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1277281602922598401

If Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans they are not doing a very good job of it. From a high of 496 in 2010, U.S. losses in Afghanistan have slowed to a trickle, with only 22 total fatalities in 2019, casting further doubt on the scale of their supposed plan.

Ironically, the United States is accusing the Kremlin of precisely its own policy towards Russia in Syria. In 2016, former Acting Director of the C.I.A. Michael Morell appeared on the Charlie Rose show and said his job was to “make the Russians pay a price” for its involvement in the Middle East. When asked if he meant killing Russians by that, he replied, “Yes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say, ‘We did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow.”

Like RussiaGate, the new scandal has had the effect of pushing liberal opinion on foreign policy to become far more hawkish, with Biden now campaigning on being “tougher” on China and Russia than Trump would be. Considering that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently set their famous Doomsday Clock — an estimation of how close they believe the world is to nuclear armageddon — to just 100 seconds to midnight, the latest it has ever been, the Democrats could be playing with fire. The organization specifically singled out U.S.-Russia conflict as threatening the continued existence of the planet. While time will tell if Russia did indeed offer bounties to kill American troops, the efficacy of the media leak is not in question.

Feature photo | U.S. forces and Afghan commandos are seen in the town of Asad Khil near the site of a U.S. bombing east of Kabul, Afghanistan. Rahmat Gul | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Afghan Bounty Scandal Comes at Suspiciously Important Time for US Military Industrial Complex appeared first on MintPress News.

What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 28/06/2020 - 10:52pm in

Donald Trump faces questions about Russian bounties on American soliders. He vows to destroy the Affordable Care Act. He doesn't address rising COVID-19 rate. He goes golfing. Continue reading

The post What Did He Know and When Did He Know It? appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

Yay! Farage Sacked from LBC for Racism Comments

It isn’t just statues to Europe’s and America’s racist and imperialist past that are being toppled by the BLM movement. Nigel Farage, former Fuhrer of UKIP and now Fuhrer and owner of the Brexit Party Ltd, has also been removed from a public platform. A few days ago LBC radio announced that they were not renewing his contract.

The station’s announcement of his departure was anodyne, and gave no hint of the supposed reasons for it. LBC simply tweeted “Nigel Farage’s contract with LBC is up very shortly and, following discussions with him, Nigel is stepping down from LBC with immediate effect. We thank Nigel for the enormous contribution he has made to LBC and wish him well”. As the mighty Zelo Street, it means he’s been sacked.

Part of the reason for it was that many people, including Black and Asian employees within LBC itself, were unhappy that the station was employing him because of the inflammatory comments the Fuhrage had made about the BLM movement itself. These were in clear conflict with the station, which had endorsed the movements and its battle against racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Farage had released a series of tweets condemning the attack on Churchill’s statue – which is fair enough – but had denounced the protests as a form of anarchy. He declared he was going to tell some home truths about BLM on his LBC show, before going way over the top and comparing the movement to the Taliban. “A new form of the Taliban was born in the UK today. Unless we get moral leadership quickly our cities won’t be worth living in … If Boris Johnson won’t lead and stand up for the country, as its symbols are trashed, then people will start taking it into their own hands. Full on race riots are now possible. Show leadership and fast”.

At one level, it’s a fair comment. Others, like the anti-trans feminist activist Posie Parker, have made the same prediction. She too condemned the undemocratic way the statues were removed, and feared that the same disenfranchised Whites that voted for Brexit would rise up in their turn in a tide of Fascism. And yesterday the Democratic Football Lads’ Alliance did stage a violent protest against BLM and attacked the police. But coming from Farage, the prediction also looks very much like dog whistle racism. Many people thought Farage was actually calling for such White racist violence while appearing to fear and condemn it.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/lawless-reckless-nige-is-your-man.html

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/06/nigel-farage-sacked-by-lbc.html

Friday’s edition of the I, for 12th June 2020, also carried an article about the affair. Titled ‘Farage ‘dropped’ from radio show after BLM row’, the article by Benjamin Butterworth, ran

Nigel Farage has been dropped from his nightly radio show at LBC amid anger among some staff over his opposition to Black Lives Matter.

Sections of production and presenting staff were “furious” that the station was publicly claiming to honour the questions raised by the movement while still employing Mr Farage as a host.

One insider said disquiet intensified after Mr Farage compared the anti-racism campaign to the Taliban during an appearance on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday.

LBC has denied any complaints among staff and says the decision not renew his contract had long been in discussion.

Yesterday black members of the staff at Global Media, which owns LBC, spoke to the website Huffpost to air concerns about Mr Farage’s ongoing employment. Shortly after the concerns were put to Global, the company announced that Mr Farage had been axed “with immediate effect”.

LBC said this claim is “wholly untrue” and told I: “Mr Farage had been in discussion with LBC about the natural end to his contract.” Last week, two of the company’s high-profile presenters, Capital Xtra breakfast hosts Yinka Bokkini and Shayna Maria Birch-Campbell, accused Global Media of failing when it comes to responding to the anti-racism movement.

Editors spoke with staff during recent days about the complaints about Mr Farage. One employee said management was told “they either stand with him [Farage] or against him.”

A source told I: “everyone across the board was furious. The mood was not great. Both production and presenters made our feelings know to the bosses.

“Lot of chats have been going on this week. It’s not like we haven’t said this before but this time it was finally taken seriously as people were not happy the minute silence was being honoured while he was on air spouting hate.”

The Brexit Party leader has hosted a phone-in programme five days a week since 2017, with his show being heavily promoted on billboards and adverts. In an official statement the station said: “Following discussions with him, Nigel is stepping down from LBC.”

All things considered, it looks very much like staff dissatisfaction with Farage and his racism was responsible for him getting the heave-ho. Good! It’s about time. Farage isn’t a friend of this country’s working people, whether they’re Black, White, Brown or whatever. He’s a far-right Conservative who wants more privatisation, more welfare cuts and the NHS to be sold off. He’s extremely pro-American, which means that any deal with America he supports will be to their advantage, not ours. He won’t be missed.

It’s just too bad that other extreme right-wing hacks and Tory shills like Nick Ferrari and Julia Harley-Brewer still have jobs. 

 

 

 

 

What Happens Next in Afghanistan? The Neo-Taliban

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 1:00am in

The Taliban is on the move – Kabul stands in the line of fire ...

            I shouted the text of my latest story on the invasion from a Palm Pilot into a balky Iridium satellite phone. It was at least my third attempt and the battery was dying. A Village Voice employee assigned to take dictation on the other side of the world interrupted me.

“I don’t understand,” she said, irritated. “Why don’t you just go to Kinko’s and email it to us?”

I stood shindeep in the pitch dark of a muddy rut in northeastern Afghanistan and scanned pockmarked mudbrick walls. I was on a street but it was 2001 so there wasn’t any pavement there—or anywhere else in the country. There were buildings but no lights because decades of civil war had left the nation without an electrical grid. There were no bridges that hadn’t been blown up, no phone lines, no running water, no sewers.

No Kinko’s.

Motorized transport belonged to the privileged: NGOs, warlords, invading armies and journalists like me. People wanted me to take their picture, not to be photographed but to see themselves in my camera’s viewfinder for the first time in their lives. There weren’t any mirrors.

Minus a central bank, rival warlords printed banknotes from identical plates with ink of varying color. Most people preferred barter.

Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion was the 14th century plus mines and AK-47s.

The land of the Taliban was bleak and desolate. America bombed them out of Kabul after 9/11 they fled into the dusty countryside and rugged mountains that became staging grounds for attacks against U.S. and NATO forces for more than 18 years. Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans lost their lives in a war that, in a poignant echo of Vietnam, lost its purpose. “What were we trying to do here?” General Douglas Lute, who led U.S. forces under Bush and Obama, recalled asking. “We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

On February 29th the U.S. tacitly conceded defeat. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar of the Taliban signed a deal as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witnessed the ceremony in Doha.

They called it a peace agreement. But it didn’t guarantee that fighting would stop (and it hasn’t), only that the U.S. will withdraw within 14 months.

Under the Doha agreement the Taliban will now negotiate terms with the Afghan government that the U.S. installed in early 2002. The expectation is that the Taliban will recognize the regime of President Ashraf Ghani and lay down their weapons. It’s far more likely that they will wait for Ghani’s NATO protectors to leave. Vietnam again: this is “peace with honor.”

This fig leaf allows us to withdraw with our pride intact. And that’s fine. 58% of military veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan think the latter conflict was a waste. They’re right. We were never going to win. President Trump gets credit for ending America’s longest war.

So what happens next?

The Taliban will grant us a grace period of relative calm while we turn our focus to other issues and places. Ultimately they will seize power with surprising speed and ferocity. This, dating back to the First Afghan War against the British from 1839 to 1842, is the way of Afghan guerilla warfare: wait, observe, probe, swarm.

Then the Taliban will be back in Kabul.

But they won’t be the Taliban—not the Taliban with whom we went to war in 2001. The Ur Taliban are dead and gone.

The bearded fighters to whom the Trump Administration has turned over the future of Afghanistan are not your father’s Taliban. South Asia experts call these fellows the “Neo Taliban.” Formerly based in the former Tribal Areas of Waziristan in western Pakistan along the Afghan border, Afghanistan’s Neo Taliban are a pastiche of radical volunteers and recruits from jihadi hot spots throughout Asia: Kashmir, the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, eastern Iran and Pakistan proper. Many of these young men were orphans of the refugee camps and madrassas that sprung up around the Afghan diaspora of the 1990s and post-9/11 era. Modern and tech savvy, they carry smartphones to coordinate attacks, often on motorcycles. They earn money from kidnapping and the drug trade.

The original Taliban who ruled 90% of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 were a simpler, indigenous, more homogenous breed. Veterans of the anti-Soviet resistance, they began as vigilantes against bandits and rapists. Befitting the devastated hellscape of the failed state they terrorized with the whip-wielding goons of the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, they were ascetes. When American soldiers entered the abandoned home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, they were surprised to discover that the Taliban head of state had lived modestly, even primitively.

The Neo-Taliban are nominally religious but their primary devotion is to leveraging their power into income. They are far more interested in making money than in policing women’s hijabs. They are not feminists. They would oppress women. But they wouldn’t be as thorough or ruthless as the Taliban of the 1990s.

I returned to Afghanistan nine years after I covered the war for the Voice. The difference was staggering. The U.S. and NATO occupation has radically modernized the nation’s infrastructure.

High-tension power lines run alongside smooth new highways. Conditions remain primitive in the countryside but even smaller cities have electricity most of the day. Formerly ubiquitous donkey carts have been replaced by cars, wells by water pipes, empty skies by billboards advertising soft drinks and candidates for parliament. Stores bustle, homes and big buildings are constantly going up. There are credit cards, banks and ATM machines, guarded by AK-toting private security guards in flak jackets. There are fewer dropped cellphone calls in Afghanistan than in Los Angeles.

If and when they take over, the Neo-Taliban won’t want to destroy this nascent, violence-prone, bustling capitalist state. They will seek to control, protect and tax it.  

Afghanistan under the Neo-Taliban will look something like other Islamic developing nations in the region like Pakistan or Bangladesh. Political and financial corruption will be endemic. Out in the sticks, away from the eyes of the few foreign journalists still in the country, there will still be an occasional stoning. Overall this new regime will be more modern, more corrupt and, to Western eyes, more tolerable than the Taliban who blew up the Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

There still aren’t any Fedex Offices (formerly Kinko’s) in Afghanistan. But there are plenty of cybercafes—and at least one for women only.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)