Afghan National Army Lieutenant General Sami Sadat

Below is an opinion essay in the New York Times by Afghan National Army (ANA) Lieutenant General Sami Sadat.  LTG Sami Sadat,only 36, is one of the most loved and respected men in all of Afghanistan.  He demonstrated remarkable success as the commander of the 215th Maiwand ANA Corps before being recalled to Kabul.  The ANA lost over 70,000 Killed in Action (KIA). Including the MoI (Ministry of Interior) ANP (Afghan National Police), NDS (National Directorate of Security) and Arbekai the total Killed in Action was probably well over 100,000. The exact number is not known since the Afghanistan MoI and MoD (Ministry of Defense) have both classified the numbers since 2010 because they were afraid it would harm morale. In 2020 alone ANDSF KIA was likely over 15,000. I have been told that many of the ghost soldiers in many ANA battalions were actually KIA being kept on the rolls so that their salaries could support their families.

Posting LTG Sami Sadat’s NYT essay for those who can’t read it through the pay wall:

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OPINION

GUEST ESSAY

I Commanded Afghan Troops This Year. We Were Betrayed.

Aug. 25, 2021

By Sami Sadat

General Sadat is a commander in the Afghan National Army.

For the past three and a half months, I fought day and night, nonstop, in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province against an escalating and bloody Taliban offensive. Coming under frequent attack, we held the Taliban back and inflicted heavy casualties. Then I was called to Kabul to command Afghanistan’s special forces. But the Taliban already were entering the city; it was too late.

I am exhausted. I am frustrated. And I am angry.

President Biden said last week that “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.”

It’s true that the Afghan Army lost its will to fight. But that’s because of the growing sense of abandonment by our American partners and the disrespect and disloyalty reflected in Mr. Biden’s tone and words over the past few months. The Afghan Army is not without blame. It had its problems — cronyism, bureaucracy — but we ultimately stopped fighting because our partners already had.

It pains me to see Mr. Biden and Western officials are blaming the Afghan Army for collapsing without mentioning the underlying reasons that happened. Political divisions in Kabul and Washington strangled the army and limited our ability to do our jobs. Losing combat logistical support that the United States had provided for years crippled us, as did a lack of clear guidance from U.S. and Afghan leadership.

I am a three-star general in the Afghan Army. For 11 months, as commander of 215 Maiwand Corps, I led 15,000 men in combat operations against the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan. I’ve lost hundreds of officers and soldiers. That’s why, as exhausted and frustrated as I am, I wanted to offer a practical perspective and defend the honor of the Afghan Army. I’m not here to absolve the Afghan Army of mistakes. But the fact is, many of us fought valiantly and honorably, only to be let down by American and Afghan leadership.

Two weeks ago, while battling to hold the southern city of Lashkar Gah from the Taliban, President Ashraf Ghani named me commander of Afghanistan’s special forces, the country’s most elite fighters. I reluctantly left my troops and arrived in Kabul on Aug. 15, ready to fight — unaware how bad the situation already was. Then Mr. Ghani handed me the added task of ensuring the security of Kabul. But I never even had a chance: The Taliban were closing in, and Mr. Ghani fled the country.

There is an enormous sense of betrayal here. Mr. Ghani’s hasty escape ended efforts to negotiate an interim agreement for a transition period with the Taliban that would have enabled us to hold the city and help manage evacuations. Instead, chaos ensued — resulting in the desperate scenes witnessed at the Kabul airport.

It was in response to those scenes that Mr. Biden said on Aug. 16 that the Afghan forces collapsed, “sometimes without trying to fight.” But we fought, bravely, until the end. We lost 66,000 troops over the past 20 years; that’s one-fifth of our estimated fighting force.

So why did the Afghan military collapse? The answer is threefold.

First, former President Donald Trump’s February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban in Doha doomed us. It put an expiration date on American interest in the region. Second, we lost contractor logistics and maintenance support critical to our combat operations. Third, the corruption endemic in Mr. Ghani’s government that flowed to senior military leadership and long crippled our forces on the ground irreparably hobbled us.

The Trump-Taliban agreement shaped the circumstances for the current situation by essentially curtailing offensive combat operations for U.S. and allied troops. The U.S. air-support rules of engagement for Afghan security forces effectively changed overnight, and the Taliban were emboldened. They could sense victory and knew it was just a matter of waiting out the Americans. Before that deal, the Taliban had not won any significant battles against the Afghan Army. After the agreement? We were losing dozens of soldiers a day.

Image

Lt. Gen. Sami Sadat commanded the Afghan National Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps in southwestern Afghanistan.

Credit…

Handout photo from the Public Relation Office of 215 Maiwand Corps, via Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Still, we kept fighting. But then Mr. Biden confirmed in April he would stick to Mr. Trump’s plan and set the terms for the U.S. drawdown. That was when everything started to go downhill.

The Afghan forces were trained by the Americans using the U.S. military model based on highly technical special reconnaissance units, helicopters and airstrikes. We lost our superiority to the Taliban when our air support dried up and our ammunition ran out.

Contractors maintained our bombers and our attack and transport aircraft throughout the war. By July, most of the 17,000 support contractors had left. A technical issue now meant an aircraft — a Black Hawk helicopter, a C-130 transport, a surveillance drone — would be grounded.

The contractors also took proprietary software and weapons systems with them. They physically removed our helicopter missile-defense system. Access to the software that we relied on to track our vehicles, weapons and personnel also disappeared. Real-time intelligence on targets went out the window, too.

The Taliban fought with snipers and improvised explosive devices while we lost aerial and laser-guided weapon capacity. And since we could not resupply bases without helicopter support, soldiers often lacked the necessary tools to fight. The Taliban overran many bases; in other places, entire units surrendered.

Mr. Biden’s full and accelerated withdrawal only exacerbated the situation. It ignored conditions on the ground. The Taliban had a firm end date from the Americans and feared no military reprisal for anything they did in the interim, sensing the lack of U.S. will.

And so the Taliban kept ramping up. My soldiers and I endured up to seven Taliban car bombings daily throughout July and the first week of August in Helmand Province. Still, we stood our ground.

I cannot ignore the third factor, though. Because there was only so much the Americans could do when it came to the well-documented corruption that rotted our government and military. That really is our national tragedy. So many of our leaders — including in the military — were installed for their personal ties, not for their credentials. These appointments had a devastating impact on the national army because leaders lacked the military experience to be effective or inspire the confidence and trust of the men being asked to risk their lives. Disruptions to food rations and fuel supplies — a result of skimming and corrupt contract allocations — destroyed the morale of my troops.

The final days of fighting were surreal. We engaged in intense firefights on the ground against the Taliban as U.S. fighter jets circled overhead, effectively spectators. Our sense of abandonment and betrayal was equaled only by the frustration U.S. pilots felt and relayed to us — being forced to witness the ground war, apparently unable to help us. Overwhelmed by Taliban fire, my soldiers would hear the planes and ask why they were not providing air support. Morale was devastated. Across Afghanistan, soldiers stopped fighting. We held Lashkar Gah in fierce battles, but as the rest of the country fell, we lacked the support to continue fighting and retreated to base. My corps, which had carried on even after I was called away to Kabul, was one of the last to give up its arms — only after the capital fell.

We were betrayed by politics and presidents.

This was not an Afghan war only; it was an international war, with many militaries involved. It would have been impossible for one army alone, ours, to take up the job and fight. This was a military defeat, but it emanated from political failure.

Lt. Gen. Sami Sadat commanded the Afghan National Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps in southwestern Afghanistan. Before that, he served as a senior director in Afghanistan’s national intelligence agency. He is a graduate of the Defense Academy of the U.K. and holds a master’s degree from King’s College London.

85 thoughts on “Afghan National Army Lieutenant General Sami Sadat

  1. Well this just goes on to confirm Lara Logan’s account of what was happening in Afghanistan. Are people still not going to wonder why the US was doing this ?

  2. From what i gather the Afghan army was heavily dependent like Western armies on extravagant logisitical supply and overwhelming force (like air power) against their foes. Unlike Taliban who seem ready to fight with whatever they have. Too bad Afghanistan doesnt have the resources to pay for it, and as soon as US pulled the plug, all of it collapsed.

    This would be true going fwd for much of Taliban ruled Afghanistan as well. Without international doners, its a wasteland to rule, which if Chinese are wise, wouldnt dare to venture. But lets see. In absence of anyhting positive to contribute, Taliban will rule with a gun to their head (a modification of Pakistan’s strategy), blackmailing western countries for money, on either refugees or ‘not allowing ISIS/Al qaeda’.

    1. Rajputs get sent to beat Kashmiris, Gurkhas to beat Sikhs, Sikhs to beat Sri Lankan Tamils. Ahom CRPF camps in Bengal, Madraasi CRPF camps in Awadh.

      Maybe it is difficult to fight your own ethnicity.

      Cowardly people none the less. All this tall talk of Pashtun bravery…

      1. “Madraasi CRPF camps in Awadh”
        I shrudder to think what type of dosa and idli they must be getting in UP.

        1. I ate from one such unit’s mess many times when visiting a friend. They had a counter that would open after their breakfast hour was over to sell the extra food. They handed out giant dosas and idlis filled in pools of sambhar and coconut chutney, all in one but it was very good. More than enough food for 2 people for INR 5. I have also seen a Naga cantonment in UP Tarain, the joke was they ate all the dogs and any Khalistani they could find. The dog bit might have been true.

          1. Why not the Khalistani bit as well. 😉😉

            The most exposure I had with army cantonment was to get liquor at a cheaper price during my college years

        1. “The ANA is now about 43 percent Pathan (Pashtun), 32 percent Tajik, 12 percent Hazara and 10 percent Uzbek, with the rest made up of smaller ethnic groups, which is approximately the percentages of these communities in the Afghan population.”

          https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-afghan-national-army-in-2014#:~:text=The%20ANA%20is%20now%20about,communities%20in%20the%20Afghan%20population.

          Fine. Tajik, Hazara, and Uzbeks too are cowardly in addition to Pashtuns…

          If not 300,000 even 50,000 soldiers is a big number. They set new standards for unprofessionalism and lack of character. Did any of them respect their flag? Talibs seem to be changing it with their white one.

          I think Qureshi said that a lot of Tajiks and Uzbeks are in the northern Taliban too. Maybe that’s why they didn’t fight that hard. I do think it is easier to butcher different looking people. Think Punjabis on Bengalis or on a smaller scale the early 90s Rajputana rifles on Kashmiris or 80s Gurkhas on Sikhs.

          1. @Bhimrao

            Those are their recruitment quotas, which they could never meet!

            At most, the army was 20% Pashtun.

            And in many cases, units had not a single Pashtun within them.

            The Taliban, even in the north, is overwhelmingly Pashtun (like 90% Pashtun, at its most ethnically diverse, lol).

            “Did any of them respect their flag? Talibs seem to be changing it with their white one.”

            You do realize that the only serious protests against the flag-change have occurred in Pashtun areas, right? Khost, Nangarhar, etc.

            ^ The people shot in those protests have all been Pashtuns. In Tajik and Uzbek areas, people have acquiesced to the flag change with no great trouble.

            Tajiks and Uzbeks scare very easily from Pashtuns (just like Pakistan, where Punjabis and Muhajirs often talk like Pashtuns are a race of superhuman, invincible barbaric savages).

          2. “invincible barbaric savages”

            Yeah in Indian popular imagination on medieval savagery reputation only Turco-Mongols beat them. Not invincible though, everyone seems to beat them quite badly.

            Afghanistan ‘the country’ has been very very lucky to have survived so far, much better behaved and responsible countries and people have perished. One day all this toying with the basics might(will?) lead to balkanization or annexation.

          3. @Bhimrao

            “Afghanistan ‘the country’ has been very very lucky to have survived so far, much better behaved and responsible countries and people have perished. One day all this toying with the basics might(will?) lead to balkanization or annexation.”

            Balkanization? Maybe (but probably not; ever since the Durrani empire, Afghanistan has had a certain internal consistency to its identity)

            Annexation though? Very unlikely.

            ^ The core Pashtun region has never really been “controlled”; these people have never payed any sort of taxes, or been subject to any sort of conscription.

            They’ve always been free to live their lives in whatever way they see fit… and merely the idea of external interference is enough to set them off (makes them “see red”).

            Obviously the cities are a different story; they’ve always been subject to control, whether by Pashtuns (after the Hotak and Durrani empires), or whether by powers centered in Iran, Central Asia, or India (the Safavids, the Mughals, etc).

            But the Pashtuns have always constituted a minority in the urban centers; their identity is deeply tied to their highlands.

            Quite unlikely that patterns which have held for so many centuries will change anytime soon.

          4. “Afghanistan has had a certain internal consistency to its identity”

            Why is that? Is it a civilizational state like India/China/Iran? Do even non-Pashtuns love this union?

            What binds people together? It is definitely not the flag.

            On annexation:

            Afghanistan is already Pakistan’s 4.5th province, Haqqanis are ISI’s bitches.

            Herat and Hazaras may go to the Iranis. Architecture of Herat does look like a city in Iran proper. Tajiks to Tajikistan, Uzbeks to Uzbekistan. It is a miracle that neighbors of Afghanistan don’t want to dismember it. Why is that?

  3. “but we ultimately stopped fighting because our partners already had.”

    this one line sums up the entire theory about afghan army’s defeat.

    your partners (USA) stopped fighting because afghanistan was not their country. but for you, it was your country. it was your country to lose. there was no reason for you to stop fighting just your partners quit.

    you must have continued fighting irrespective of whether your partners are fighting alongside you or not. if you didn’t have guts to do that, too bad for you. your (erstwhile) partner doesnt care a hoot.

    1. +1

      “we ultimately stopped fighting because…yada yada yada … ”

      Also (confirming Qureshi’s claim), He used to post fake/old Taliban casualty pictures on twitter as recent achievements of ANA.

  4. @Commentator

    //(just like Pakistan, where Punjabis and Muhajirs often talk like Pashtuns are a race of superhuman, invincible barbaric savages).//

    This is quite wrong and I am not sure who told you this. Both Muhajirs and Punjabis have negative stereotypes for ‘pathans’ which are ‘simple minded’, ‘hot headed’, ‘dumb with no brain’ (the derogatory term ‘akhrot’ is used) and a bit uncultured. Positive stereotypes may include hardworking and enterprising, honorable and generaly good looking. I have not heard terms like ‘superhuman’, or ‘invincible’ or ‘barbaric’..

    As for who is scared of who, I think it really depends on whose home turf it is, who has the weapons, and who has the willingness to fight. In Karachi for example, most early Muhajirs were from the upper classes of UP who were less inclined to fight street battles with Pasthuns. However with the formation of MQM in the 1980’s that inducted the recently arrived Biharis (who fought in militias in Bengal) into its ranks, the tables were turned. In street battles, MQM first wiped out PPI (Punjabi Pakhtoon Ittehad), then eliminated PPP backed Baluch groups from its terrirtory, and then ANP (they tried to be militant in Karachi) in the 2000’s. The Government literally had to do a street by street army operation in Karachi to eliminate MQM militia. But all this mythology of Pasthun marital culture kinda fell apart in Karachi. So I think Pasthuns are formidable in their mountain heartlands, but away from it not really. Even today most of the Pathans you meet in the city are common workers that seem quite docile.

    1. @S Qureishi

      “This is quite wrong and I am not sure who told you this.”

      I’ve heard this type of nonsense from an unspeakably large number of random “Javeeds”, “Naveeds”, and “Junaids” in Pakistan; every third Punjabi and Muhajir that you talk to has odd notions of this sort.

      And I can say from personal experience that they do scare pretty easily.

      Of course this isn’t totally their fault; a lot of Pashtuns participate in the stereotyping. For example, there are some Pashtuns who like to nickname Punjabis and Muhajirs as “tizmar”, “taran” (“farters”, “cowards”). You hear this quite often.

      ^ I guess this sort of thing is common when distinct ethnic groups end up living together, within a context of shared urban poverty.

      1. Actually these stereotypes are held by people who usually don’t live together. You won’t find any other city like Karachi where all ethnicity, in large numbers, are living close by in a non- segregated non-ghettoised setting, interact routinely and have to depend on each other.

        1. @S Qureishi

          I think that’s a fair point. A lot of these stereotypes come from distance, rather than proximity.

          But unfortunately, the “superhuman invincible savage barbarian” stereotype still seems common in Pakistan.

          ^ Once, at a dhaba in the Punjab, I was enjoying a nice, quiet, pleasant conversation with the proprietor. (A happy man… cheerful and extroverted; heavyset, tall, and bald, with a big Punjabi mustache that was all shiny and twisted with the aid of mustard oil, lol)

          At some point, the discussion turned to my trip itself. I told him that I was going to Peshawar… and I asked him if he’d ever been. His incredulous response was basically this:

          “Peshawar! To the Pathans in their own land!? Do you think I’m insane?

          They’re constantly killing… no law or order. It’s a dangerous place, with dangerous people. All they do is fight, or prepare for fighting; blood flows like water. And you can’t even protect yourself; they’re all strong, determined, tough, and armed.

          C’mon Khan sahib, I have a wife and children to take care of”.

          ^ And it’s that type of nonsense which never ceases to amaze me.

          Furthermore, as a Pashtun, I can’t even be in a bad mood; if I’m not smiling, people get visibly intimidated… as if I’m gonna murder twenty people in a fit of rage.

          ^ In order to keep people comfortable, I put forth an active effort, for the purposes of being excessively gentle, kind, and polite.

          Thankfully, friendliness is a natural part of my very nature… so it’s not difficult for me to be that way. (Kindness is my default state IRL)

          But on the few occasions where I haven’t felt like myself (like not even mad; just irritated, or displeased about something), the reactions I get from people are something else. Among fellow Pashtuns though, I’ve never scared anyone (lol).

          And funny notions like these aren’t unique to Pakistan.

          For example, an Afghan Tajik once told me (with a very sincere and earnest tone) that “it is only natural that the Pashtun should rule Afghanistan; leadership is in their blood. They are the best at war, and the best at wielding authority. They will always be masters of the country”. This sort of talk is much more respectful than what I’ve ever heard from Pakistanis… but it’s still stereotyping to the max.

          1. I agree with u on the Pathan stereotype by the Indians tribes. But does it really extend to Tajik and Uzbeks as u describe. I have my doubts.

            Considering that they never folded to the Pashtuns ( taliban) in the 90s even when they were clearly a minority and outgunned. I would venture to say that it’s precisely because they are not intimidated that they held their own for so long.

          2. Well in Afghanistan the Pasthuns may be at the top of the culture pyramid but in Pakistan.. the cultural pyramid goes like this:
            UrduSpeaker>Punjabi>Sindhi>Pasthun>Baluch
            While Sindhis and Baluchs are quite proud of their own culture like Pashtuns.. Punjabis are not and they think they have adopted the Urdu Speaking UP culture. So this is why you will hear such stereotypes from both groups about others. But these kind of fall apart when groups start living in close proximity.. I already saw it happening as class and language barriers that were once wide are now being broken .. so comes respect.

            Stereotypes are dime a dozen in Pakistan. The same Punjabi uncle would tell you the exact same thing about how he would never visit Karachi because they are all MQM thugs over there. The amount of non Karachiite Punjabis that I gave met, who think they can’t even visit the city without getting kidnapped and bodybagged is too damn high ( including some of my close friends). So I put little stock in those.

          3. @S Qureishi

            “Well in Afghanistan the Pasthuns may be at the top of the culture pyramid but in Pakistan.. the cultural pyramid goes like this:
            UrduSpeaker>Punjabi>Sindhi>Pasthun>Baluch”

            ^ I think that this gets right to the very heart of just how complex and convoluted people’s stereotypes and cultural affinities can become.

            For example, you’re a man with roots in Karachi… so you see a side of Punjabis which I don’t see, because no one will ever be that rude to me. But the converse is also true: I see a side of Punjabis that you won’t ever see, because no one will ever be that rude to you.

            ^ Many Punjabis often tell me how “Karachiwale” are sneaky, slippery, and dishonest. Furthermore, I’ve been told by many Punjabis that what Punjabis like about Pashtuns is their honesty and directness, and that Punjabis feel an affinity for the “martial” habits, honor, machismo, and gravity of Pashtun culture… while Muhajirs strike them as deceitful, pretentious, and small-hearted.

            ^ But if these same people were talking with you, they’d probably say that they enjoy the sophistication of Urdu-speaking people; love the Urdu language itself; and can’t stand the violence, hot-headedness, and backwardness of those dumb, crazy Pathans 😂

            It’s all a bundle of contradictions; people rarely make sense. Personally, I think the only reason/justification for the existence of stereotypes is to break em’/prove em’ wrong. (Lol)

            At the end of the day, all of these folks live together rather harmoniously, and all of them view themselves as being essential ingredients in the constitution of Pakistan as a socio-cultural entity.

            So I definitely understand where you’re coming from, and think that you’re quite right about the barriers coming down. (Which is always a good thing; barriers between people serve no purpose)

            And on the question of Pashtun status in Pakistan vs Afghanistan, there’s definitely a considerable difference in the narratives told by non-Pashtun about Pashtuns in both countries.

            In Pakistan, many non-Pashtun talk about Pashtuns in the exact same way that Boston Yankee Americans used to talk about hillbilly Americans in the Appalachians (back in the day).

            In Afghanistan, by contrast, there is a lot more respect and deference. There really is a sense among many non-Pashtun that Afghanistan “belongs” to the Pashtun, and that Pashtuns are the “natural” rulers of the country.

            ^ I suppose that Pashtuns are to Afghanistan what Punjabis are to Pakistan (except that Pashtuns are very proud of their language, and of their culture… while Punjabis, despite dominating Pakistan, do seem to assimilate rather happily towards UP Muslim culture/Urdu).

            If you’ve spent time in both countries, it can be very weird/jarring to see such a difference.

        2. Saurav,

          I think that’s also a fair point.

          For what it’s worth, the Tajik gentleman in question was very advanced in years; for him, memories of the Pashtun monarchy were still alive.

          So I think his understanding of Pashtun hegemony was very much centered on the monarchy which he associated with his happy youth, rather than the Taliban.

          In general, Tajiks are quite proud of their Tajikness. (Uzbeks, not so much. Whenever I’ve asked an Uzbekistani where they’re from, they first say Russia, and often get nervous. Tajikistani Tajiks always say Tajikistan, with great confidence)

          1. You can replace Indian ethnicities with all your comments and the same stuff stands about barriers being broken and streotypes existing to be broken.
            Also, your retorts to Mr. J are fine. But about these historical admirers…I would avoid starting to cite 19th century racist British crap. I have seen enough of that for a lifetime from Birdari ethnosupremacists

  5. “The core Pashtun region has never really been “controlled”; these people have never payed any sort of taxes, or been subject to any sort of conscription.”

    Thats because nobody ever is interested. The core Pashtun region is a desert where nothing ever grows. There is no agricultural or mineral wealth. The only wealth of the Pashtuns are their flea bitten sheep and what they manage to acquire from the miserable trade through their bare valleys.

    Seriously who in their right minds would think of Pashtuns as “a race of superhuman, invincible barbaric savages”. We see them falling off airplanes trying to get out of their country. We see one batch of Pashtuns (ISIS-K) blow up another batch of Pashtuns and other Afghans. We see their dead bodies in a drain after a suicide blast.

    You guys need to wake up. You aren’t anybody special. You are poor, miserable, deluded nutcases who don’t even have the organizational capacity to create a dictatorship let alone any kind of welfare state.

    1. @Janymija

      Ugh.

      Don’t have the time, or the energy, to deal with your unique brand of bitching and moaning.

      ^ Basically, I surrender, dear sir. Whatever you say tiger. You’re absolutely, completely 100% right (lol).

      If you’d be so benevolent, just one small correction though (as if it matters):

      “We see them falling off airplanes trying to get out of their country.”

      The greater majority of the people at the airport are non-Pashtun.

      In fact, Afghan Pashtuns have been coming back to Afghanistan from Pakistan; it’s a very substantial movement of people across the border.

      Anyway, I don’t support the Taliban. The American presence there was surely wrong; but so is theocracy.

      Still, despite not liking the victors, I have enough sense to know that constantly bitching about said victors doesn’t change the fact that they won.

      You’re shrieking into the void.

  6. “Still, despite not liking the victors, I have enough sense to know that constantly bitching about said victors doesn’t change the fact that they won.”

    I am not bitching about the Taliban. Afghans and Pashtuns got what they deserved. It seems ISIS-K (which is also Pashtun) will be to the Taliban govt. what Taliban was to the erstwhile Afghan govt.

    What I am for is seeing things clearly.
    Pashtuns are a bunch of primitive tribals who nobody in their right minds would admire. Sharia actually is a modern ethos for them as compared to their own tribal laws. So in a way, Taliban rule is actually dragging them toward modernity from bronze age customs.

    1. @Junmujia

      “It seems ISIS-K (which is also Pashtun) will be to the Taliban govt. what Taliban was to the erstwhile Afghan govt.”

      Hmm, I don’t know about all that; ISIS-K had their asses handed to them by the Taliban (very recently). Not sure if they can ever constitute a serious threat to the Taliban government. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

      “Pashtuns are a bunch of primitive tribals who nobody in their right minds would admire.”

      Hate to break it to you… but they’ve been admired for centuries by many, many people (people who were well within their right minds).

      ^ In fact, many of the most intense admirers of the Pashtun have been their very own opponents (people whose main job was fighting Pashtuns). Make of that what you will.

      “Sharia actually is a modern ethos for them as compared to their own tribal laws.”

      You’re finally right about something; I feel like you deserve a prize.

      Pashtuns are well aware that Pashtunwali is a thing much older than Islam… and all Pashtuns would admit that Deobandi-inflected Sharia law is a moderating and modernizing influence in comparison to Pashtunwali.

      1. Some of that admiration was just because phenotype because of greater proximity to Western pheno compared to others just East.

        Other part of it was “noble savage” stuff also applied to Native Americand. The main benefit that Pashtuns have had has been geography. Defending mountain terrain is easier and fewer people want it compared to plains areas.

        Nepal wasn’t colonized like other parts of S Asia for the same reason.

  7. I think China colonizing Afghanistan would help. China can stabilize and pacify Af-Pak like it has done to Xinjiang. Just no concentration camps. Those are bad.

  8. Purely from a military perspective, there is a different take on all this. Morale, ethnicity, composition, honor – all fine, but what about equipment?

    The Afghan National Army were not supplied with artillery by the Americans. This has been standard policy since 2007.

    They have field mortars and some very small numbers of howitzers. But truly speaking, this is a modern army without artillery?? They also did not have armor – no tanks. Some puny MRAPs and thats it. This is an Army that has been designed to fail the moment Americans leave it. And it did that perfectly well.

  9. In the end this Taliban is different. The brainwashing and Deobandi propaganda has been occurring forever in Pak Madrassas, logically these people will be trained to love Pak
    It is fundamentally a jihadist wing of the Pak army. Pak has conquered Afganistan for now. China is about to benefit majorly. American tech left behind will be sold to them and reverse engineered.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-08-26/taliban-afghanistan-factions-moderates-extremists%3f_amp=true

    Minor cracks I say. This is mostly ISIS anyway. Pashtun jihadists are united mostly under the guidance of the ISI.

  10. “Pashtuns are well aware that Pashtunwali is a thing much older than Islam… and all Pashtuns would admit that Deobandi-inflected Sharia law is a moderating and modernizing influence in comparison to Pashtunwali.”

    Really admire the Pashtuns for finally throwing off bronze age Pashtunwali for 7th century Sharia. Now adulterous women can be publicly stoned rather than be murdered in cold blood. Yay!! I think you guys need to slow down this blistering pace of reform.

    The thing is beyond cutting off hands for thieving and stoning for adultery there is precious little in Sharia to guide the running of a 21st century state. Taliban run Afghanistan would continue to be a dumpster fire.

    “but they’ve been admired for centuries by many, many people (people who were well within their right minds).”
    Who apart from colonial British administrators (or early cold-war, American diplomats who followed in their footsteps) has written anything positive about the Pashtuns. Victorian/Edwardian era British administrators had a hard-on for ‘noble savages’ all over the world; once they had defeated them.

    Pashtuns, Sikhs, Highland Scots, Gurkhas, Sudanese nomads (Kipling’s poem Fuzzy-Wuzzy comes to mind) all got hyped once the British had had defeated them and imposed their political will.

    Colonial Brits were evil geniuses when it came to exploiting socio-ethnic faultlines in order to maintain their rule. Humoring the ego of people on the periphery and use them to control the people in the center was a standard tactic with them.

    1. @Junmijahi

      “Colonial Brits were evil geniuses… ”

      Oh, Janemjega… I can’t stay mad at you! You’re absolutely adorable.

      “Who apart from colonial British administrators (or early cold-war, American diplomats who followed in their footsteps) has written anything positive about the Pashtuns.”

      Oh, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a Chinese source from the time of the Hotak empire, which describes Pashtuns thusly:

      “They are dignified in their manners; honorable as to their word; hospitable and kind to their inferiors; and of a handsome appearance.”

      Or another Chinese source, from the time of Ahmad Shah Durrani himself, which states this about Pashtuns:

      “Among the Hui (my note: Muslim) tribes they have long been declared powerful and prosperous. Recently again they annexed a neighboring tribe, Hindustan. They are growing bigger and stronger….

      The people are tall and stout…”

      Or that an Arab source from the days of Khushal Khan Khattak describes Pashtuns like so:

      “They are a brave, powerful people. Akin to Persians, but manly and warlike.

      They hold all the great passes between Khurasan and Hind.”

      But nah, we can just pretend that the British were the first people to describe them in such terms, because it makes you feel better. (Why it does, and why you’re so invested in this topic… that I don’t know; your relentless interest in Pashtuns is a mystery to me. But I have no right to judge you by your obsessions/fetishes; so do carry on)

      “Victorian/Edwardian era British administrators had a hard-on for ‘noble savages’ all over the world… ”

      Interesting that you mention this. If you’ll allow me to be serious (only for a moment though), I think that some of the patterns involved are quite intriguing. In fact, the most fascinating patterns are those which tells us something about the British themselves.

      ^ For example, if you examine the colonial texts with the most glowing and effusive language about Pashtuns, you’ll be consistently struck by this one fact about many of the authors: a huge proportion are Scottish! (Of both the Gaelic and Germanic varieties). You also see some Irishmen.

      ^^ By contrast, if you examine the colonial texts with the harshest language about Pashtuns (you know, the ones with words like “treacherous”, “cruel”, “savages”, and so on), you’ll be struck by a different fact about the authors: many of them were Londoners!

      There are exceptions (some Londoners also engaged in the whole “handsome, brave, manly warrior”-type spiel). But in many cases, British fans of Pashtuns were often northerners, and British detractors of Pashtuns were usually southerners.

      The only explanation which I can think of is like so: many assorted Scottish and Irish writers saw themselves in the “Pathans”… while many Londoners didn’t/couldn’t.

      ^^^ Which I guess makes sense.

        1. @thewarlock

          Lmao; you said don’t quote racist Brits.

          Those quotes are from old Chinese and Arab sources… so I did listen to you 😁

          Anyway, Janumija is an asshole. Despite that, you have to admit that I’ve been nice.

  11. @Commentator/Seinundzeit

    What makes Afghanistan a country?
    I ask this as reading comments here and news generally, it seems that there’s not a lot of love lost between Pashtuns and Tajiks, Uzbeks etc.

    They also live in separate regions with neighbouring countries harbouring co-ethnics. What then keeps Afghanistan United as one country despite all the tumult?

    1. Prats,

      I think that Saurav has the right idea; this is a question that one can ask of many nations.

      And it’s always quite difficult to answer.

      Without getting too heavy, or putting too much thought into it, I guess that the best thing to do is just look at the history of the country, starting with the Durrani empire.

      Of course it’s far more complex than that; many, many facets are involved here (lots of different angles to explore). But I don’t know if I could do justice to all of that in a BP comment (I mean, I already write far too much about far more frivolous things).

      And I don’t know if things are so dire between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns in Afghanistan; people get along fairly well. I’ve never felt any tension or stress between everyday folk.

      1. You should apply to be a spokesperson for Pak government media. They would pay a lot of money for someone like you, even equated in dollars.

        1. I don’t get what commentator has said is so triggering to folks here( apart from the fact that he has to shorten his replies). It’s good to have a Afghan voice here. Plus as a Afghan he would be the the most concerned about the lives lost there.

          What we see today of Afghanistan is post 80s. Someone who would have lived in Afghanistan in the 40s might have thought india and pakistan are Afghanistan. What we see depends on where we stand.

          1. It’s more that he is Pakistani nationalist who happens to be Pashtun.

            It would be like a patriotic Indian army Sikh on Pakdefense. They want a Birdari supremacist Khalistani instead

            Same way. An anti Pak Afghan nationalist would get less blowback.
            Of course, this is all relative. This place is not as extreme as Pakdefense.

        2. You should apply to be a spokesperson for Pak government media. They would pay a lot of money for someone like you, even equated in dollars.

          I would definitely make a good spokesperson for the Pak government. If anyone wants to reach out to me then let me know.

      2. I think that Saurav has the right idea; this is a question that one can ask of many nations.

        I am conscious of that.
        In the case of India, it’s a strong central state inherited from the Brits that’s kept the country together through carrot and stick of ‘national integration’ and armed action wherever needed.
        Partition helped because the Hindus and Sikhs largely know that they’ll be massacred without protection.

        Was wondering if the legacy of the Durrani empire was strong enough to have kept Afghanistan together since Taliban didn’t seem to be have as strong a state as to keep the regions together.

        Why did northern alliance want to re-capture Kabul instead of just declaring independence and forming their own country?

        Probably, might question can be rephrased as – Is there an Afghan identity? What is it?

        1. Yes, this would be interesting for ppl to weigh in on. Is it an eastern Irano-sphere unity, of Dari as a lingua franca? The Tajiks and the Hazaras seem to dress similarly to the Pashtuns, is the cuisine similar? Is there a path dependency of the provinces in placing their elites in Kabul? Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the common sentiment is, but if the elites have a tradition of shared institutions across ethicity.

        2. “ In the case of India, it’s a strong central state inherited from the Brits that’s kept the country together through carrot and stick of ‘national integration’ and armed action wherever needed.“

          With the same conditions, didn’t stop Bangladesh separating from Pakistan

          1. That was a long distance relationship doomed from the get go. Not comparable conditions at all. It still took a war with India for the country to finally break apart.

            In any case, whatever your theory about India, I am more interested in understanding the Afghan identity here.

  12. Interesting to see the comments upstairs regarding Pushtunwali and Sharia.

    About fifty years ago, the Bengalis decided to break with the Punjabis and go their own ways. A lot of water has flowed into the Bay of Bengal since then but it is accurate to say now that the Bengalis made the correct decision. There were just too many superficial differences (phenotype), eating habits (rice vs wheat, fish vs meat), linguistic (phonological) and religious (orthopraxy vs orthodoxy).

    In regard to all the above points, Pushtuns will go along well with the Punjabis. So lets bless this couple on their second outing together. Only remains to be seen – who gets to sleep on top 🙂

    1. I dont think the split of Pakistan and Bangladesh was down to superficiality. Bangladesh is a slight perturbation in the Indic continuum. The Radcliffe line is a genuine cultural fault line between India and the Middle East.

      Across the line, fundamental institutions such as marriage (mostly consanguineous vs adhai ghar), diet (meat abundant vs mostly vegetarian), female seclusion (restrictive vs rather open by subcontinent standards), script and literary traditions (Arabic, Persian vs Gurmukhi, Sanskrit, Prakrit) and of course religious traditions are deeply different.

      I think a Pashtun-Pakistani marriage could work out. Pashtuns will give up their language, Pakistanis will offer farmland and port access.

      1. There are punjabis on either side of line. And I wonder what do Sindhis feel about not being in “Indic continuum” and somehow Bengalis make the cut.

        1. If you want to get technical yes mountains and desert in western Pak are the dividing line. The indus, brahmaputra, ganges, a deccan form the area that the Indic peoples traditionally inhabit.

          Pashtuns are at the transition zone.

      2. People in west punjab eat all the same chole bhature type of stuff as their east punjabi counterparts. If anything, they seem far less carnivorous than say urban muslims from southern India.

        1. Don’t know abt that. West Punjabis eat meat for breakfast, don’t know if I have come across that anywhere in india.

          1. yeah they pretty much put meat in everything. a meal without meat is seen as a poverty meal. they put beef in all their rice typically too.

            it isn’t meat vs. non meat. It is indic vs. iranic peoples. That’s where the break happens, hence the Indus is the appropriate dividing line.

            The Indus to Brahmaputra to the edge of the peninsula in the South and the Himalayas in the North. That is the natural indic lands territory

          2. Fish Curry (or Chicken Curry ) is quite common for breakfast. With bread, rice, milk rice, string hoppers etc.

            Less common in households where both partners work because of time and effort.

            Would not be surprised if same in Kerala

          3. The “Indus is a dividing line” is just a false trope that Afghan or Indian nationalists keep on repeating to justify their irredentist claims. A river is not a dividing line.. it actually forms basis of a civilization. Nobody ever says “the Nile is a dividing line” or “the Ganges is a dividing line” because they know it’s not. There is no such stark divide in Pakistan.. we keep hearing stories like “Indus is a dividing line” because it gives a simplistic clean break to its believer, however the transition  between two ethnic groups happens seamlessly.

            Mountains are usually much more effective  dividing people. The Hindu Kush is the real geographical boundary, however the Pakhtuns are a mountainous ethnicity, that have been very successful in the past at expanding because the valleys and plains to their east were loaded. They straddles both side of this divide and have mitigated this real geographical border as well.

          4. I’ve been to west Punjab, I’ve had breakfast with them. A lot of the meat eating is an adaptation to prosperity in recent generations, and being severed from their Hindu/Sikh kin who would have tempered the zeal. Fundamentally the are mostly farmers, and they have an identical diet to other punjabis. And beef eating is also a recent luxury to choose it over goat or chicken. Punjab in general is well adapted to a vegetarian diet.
            The intensity and variety of meat consumed in far south and east India is greater. And among urban Muslims and Christians in Bangalore let’s say, no offense to them, but they hardly cook vegetables well, such is their disregard. Many of the well known meat focused breakfast dishes in Pakistan are imports from heartland urban Indian muslim cuisines.

          5. Girmit

            Beef is cheaper than goat in Punjab and for almost all of recorded history it was also cheaper than chicken. Its not a luxury per say because even the most poorest sections will eat it once or twice a week.

            And what is the evidence that farming communities will be vegetarian? We don’t have other farming communities around the world that are solely vegetarian.

            I always found the difference between meat eating between and India like night and day. Sikhs/Hindus mostly have vegetarian cuisine.. on the other hand you will find it hard to find vegetarian dishes in Pakistan resutauarts. outside daal / chickpeas based dishes which are considered poverty dishes. The concept of a salad is basically cucumber tomatoes and onions. That’s all.

            I personally have almost always eaten beef kababs with parathas in any proper breakfast since childhood that I can remember. Sometimes we would substitute the beef with cream or yogurt. The East Punjabis love to substitute all the meat with paneer. But its not a good substitute.

          6. Beef far cheaper than goat and chicken in India as well, as is pork. Punjab is practically the most vegetarian state in India. If you consider their high income levels, it makes it even more remarkable. When I say adapted to vegetarianism, I’m speaking loosely. I don’t mean ritual avoidance of meat, as that is an outlying behavior anywhere in the world. Meant to suggest, a region that because of its fertility, crop package and animal husbandry practices, doesn’t need to hedge its food security with diverse alternatives. Its a powerhouse producer of grain, dairy, and vegetables. The Punjabi Muslim diet reflects this as being the most vegetarian of all desi Muslims. BTW, different provinces of Pakistan have enacted anti-cattle slaughter laws to improve breeding, as their value as draft animals were valued more than as a nutrition source.

          7. Can’t agree with \\The Punjabi Muslim diet reflects this as being the most vegetarian of all desi Muslims.\\ because this does not seem true from experience. Gujrati Muslims, Bengali Muslims and poverty Muslims from the Ganges belt eat way less meat in their cuisines and actually have vegetarian dishes to speak of, that are absent in West Punjab.

            Water Buffallos make better draft animals that also produce 3-4 times the amount of milk. Cow milk is usually sold in tetra packs in Pakistan that only the rich consume, most open milk shops sell buffalo milk (which in my opinion tastes much better)

            And finally, I think Indian Punjab is more vegetarian in stats because it does not have any Muslims.

          8. qureishi, the muslim population share of gujarat, rajasthan and haryana are all <10%, so the ~6% delta is trivial. Punjab is firmly vegetarian leaning, controlling for religion.

    1. Things that can happen:

      1) Taliban become sane and sensible: business as usual, Forget giving money/material to Afghanistan, bakchod Pakistanis can’t even produce enough wheat and sugar for themselves. Regular grind for India then.
      2) Taliban act retarded: Afghan economy sinks even further. What’s the point of engaging? Let them roll in shit as they please.

      Indians got influence because we are better and more competitive at farming, business and industry than Pakistanis or Iranians and we kind of get Afghan culture.

      India should continue funding ICMR scholarships. Brown people love blaming others for their own failures, think colonialism or tantrums of Nepal/Sri-Lanka, keep nudging till the only accepted view in Afghan intelligentsia is blaming Pakistan.

      1. Iran is richer than India with GDP per capita and HDI. Iran actually does quite well, despite sanctions. Main threat is radical Islam in general and CCP. This Taliban shit can spread and inspire radicalism everywhere. And CCP will only grow stronger faster now that their foothold will only expand with Taliban in and Americans out.

        1. There is a gradation between the economic conditions of Indian cities, Middle-Eastern/East European/S E Asian cities and Indian rural areas.

          Generally it goes like this, Indian cities > Other developing world cities >> Indian rural areas.

          As an example, average monthly salaries in Bengaluru are nearly a $ 1000, as compared to $ 250 in Tehran. But Iran is 85% urban, whereas 40% of India is at subsistence level agriculture (income is effectively negative).

          The gradient goes like this Warsaw (1200$), Istanbul (450$), Tehran (250$), Islamabad (280$), Delhi (530$), Bengaluru (1000$). Then salaries fall again in SE Asia, Jakarta (450$), Hanoi (420$).

  13. I have read that Afghanistan has significant lithium and cobalt reserves. There’s no way China is going to let that go. Americans too will be back with tails between their legs. Cobalt simply is a mineral you are not going to lay wasting, whatever the recent noise about Congo be.

    1. Well let’s see. Lot of Chinese or any other countries exploitation of african countries with their warlords and civil war has to do with distance. No one cares and too distant for blowback.

      Afghanistan is a separate matter. It’s too close to Chinese comfort. Frankly i feel they will have even lesser threshold than the Americans, for taliban and the other groups ( along with occasional usa strikes and all ). Unlike Pakistan army or African warlords, taliban can’t /won’t guarantee everything.

      1. I think that the total mineral wealth of Afghanistan presents an opportunity to turn it into an authoritarian but workable state, much like a proto-Saudi Arabia.

        You could say that Pashtun culture can successfully avoid the temptations of capitalism but I am not sure how much longer it can hold out.

        Far too much of a financial win-win opportunity here.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if 30 years from now poor people from Bihar or Sindh are migrating to Kabul to find jobs.

        1. What’s rare earth minerals is now, natural gas was last decade. And central Asians have workable authoritarian leaders. How many pipelines have been flowing out to China ?

          I am betting not on Pashtun culture but on taliban”s Islam to avoid temptation of capitalism. It’s more prone to attract other Islamist groups (whether they like it or not) than investments. And add to that China”s propensity of getting their ROIs rather than American habit of giving aid.

          1. And add to that China”s propensity of getting their ROIs rather than American habit of giving aid.

            Let’s not over-index on that. If we’ve seen anything it’s that you can’t predict what China will do and it often goes in for the kill.

            Also, got to keep in mind that they’re still a 10k/capita economy. The way they’ll behave when they’re 20k is going to be quite different.

            Not saying they’ll necessarily sink in money but it’s not something one should discount based on past record.

    2. If tendering is open to everyone, fair competition to maximize revenue then people with ability can beat the Chinese. Example. India did not get Hajigak via charity.

      Good!

      If tendering is fixed, that eliminates fair competition then Taliban will make less money.

      Again good!

  14. I see people linking AFG to Lithium and my mining instincts are triggered. Lithium is found in economic quantities in pegmatite (a form of igneous rock).

    Now AFG falls under the Orogen classification of cratons that is known to manifest igneous concentrations like the Lithium Triangle in South America. But the thing is – it is also equally found in other places like Spain, Sweden (where it was first discovered), China and California.

    Capital and Investment always flows to places where the economic returns are maximised. And in this sense, AFG falls to the bottom most rung. As an aside – MH, Raj, MP and Guj host one of the biggest igneous cratons in the world. So it could be equally available in India.

    The lithium discussion always reminds me of Parent – Teacher meets where the teacher remarks that some xyz student is good in middle-level maths and can possibly manifest into a great theoretical physicist.

    1. Wow ugra agreeing, and my fellow bro prats disagrees with me. 😂😂

      I should stop commenting now and sleep. Have had one too many perhaps….

    2. It’s not so much lithium but cobalt and to some extent nickel that’s scarce. Lithium is a good to have but you can get it elsewhere.

  15. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/without-u-s-contractors-afghan-military-will-lose-its-main-n1269686
    “Under the deal the U.S. and the Taliban signed last year during the Trump administration, the U.S. pledged to withdraw all American and allied troops, as well as all nondiplomatic staff, including “trainers, advisers, and supporting services personnel.”

    When the Obama administration withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, defense contractors remained in the country.

    Pentagon officials and senior military officers have said at congressional hearings that the administration is looking at “options” to support the Afghan security forces from afar, possibly by repairing equipment outside the country or by providing assistance remotely. But the clock is ticking on the U.S. exit, with the withdrawal at nearly the halfway point as U.S. troops hand over bases across the country, and Afghan officials are scrambling to find an alternative solution.”

    Respectfully there is no excuse for the betrayal of Biden. He is not a young naive dumb Sarah Palin or AOC. He knew better. Biden tried to make the AAF and ANA the only complex large military in the world that didn’t rely heavily on international contractors . . . abruptly . . . in a matter of days and weeks . . . with no warning. And the contractors intentionally removed a lot of advanced equipment and software from a lot of Afghan military platforms and systems right before leaving without warning Afghans. One day the Afghans found that much of their military was sabataged by Biden.

    I know Trump initially negotiated this nonsense.

    It appears as if Biden intentionally collaborated with the Pakistani Army to take out their hated enemy . . . the ANDSF.

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