Below is an excerpt from We All Lost Afghanistan by Ambassador P. Michael McKinley who served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2014–16. He was senior advisor to Pompeo until his resignation in October 2019:
“There is one seductive argument made by critics of the withdrawal: that a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will again become a haven for terrorist groups threatening the security of the United States. This argument is a backhanded acknowledgment that we succeeded in reducing the threat from Afghanistan to minimal levels—the original rationale for U.S. intervention. The sacrifice, however, was significant: more than $1 trillion, the deaths of 2,400 U.S. service members (and thousands of contractors), more than 20,000 wounded Americans.
Perhaps the resurgence of a terrorist threat will develop more quickly under a future Taliban government than it would have otherwise. But to conclude that this outcome demands an indefinite U.S. troop presence would imply that U.S. troops should also be deployed indefinitely in the many other parts of the world where Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and al Qaeda offshoots are active in greater numbers than they are in Afghanistan and pose a greater threat to the United States. Moreover, U.S. capabilities to monitor and strike at terrorist groups have grown exponentially since 2001.
Ultimately, Washington’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops is not the sole or even most important explanation for what is unfolding in Afghanistan today. The explanation lies in 20 years of failed policies and the shortcomings of Afghanistan’s political leadership. We can still hope that we in the United States do not end up in a poisonous debate about “who lost Afghanistan.” But if we do, let’s acknowledge that it was all of us.”
Former Ambassador P. Michael McKinley describes how the seeds of the tragedy gripping Afghanistan today were sowed over the course of the United States’ two-decade presence. https://t.co/iH5J08pkoY
— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) August 19, 2021
Below is an excerpt from Afghanistan, Not an Intelligence Failure, Something Much Worse by Douglas London (@douglaslondon5) who retired from the CIA in 2019 after 34 years as a Senior Operations Officer, Chief of Station and CIA’s Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southwest Asia:
Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.
America’s special representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was a private citizen dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises.
An important perspective and voice in the discussion over whether or to what extent there was any #IntelligenceFailure on #Afghanistan.
From @douglaslondon5, former CIA Counterterrorism Chief for the region.https://t.co/DiGDkSUxye
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) August 18, 2021
Dissent Cable apparently signed by about two dozen State Department officials who served as the US Embassy in Kabul was reportedly sent last July to Secretary Blinken just leaked.
As per 2FAM 070, immediately upon receipt of all incoming Dissent Channel messages, S/P (Salman Ahmed ) distributes copies to the Secretary (Blinken), the Deputy Secretary (Sherman), the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (McKeon), the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Nuland), the Executive Secretary (Lakhdhir) , and the Chair of the Secretary’s Open Forum (who’s this ?).
If the author of a dissent message is employed by an agency other than the Department of State (e.g., USAID), S/P will also distribute a copy of the Dissent Channel message to the head of that agency. With due regard for the sensitivity of the message and the wishes of the drafter, the director of S/P may also distribute the dissent message to other senior officials in the Department, both for information purposes and for help in drafting a response. No additional distribution may be made without the authorization of the S/P director.
The Dissent Channel affords all State USG employees the ability to “express dissenting or alternative views on substantive issues of policy, in a manner which ensures serious, high-level review and response”, it does not obligate the agency to change its policy.
The Director of Policy Planning is responsible for acknowledging receipt of a Dissent message within 2 working days and for providing a substantive reply, normally within 30-60 working days. OBE now, is it?
The cable was sent on July 13; on July 14, Operation Allies Refuge was announced. Other measures recommended in the cable have since been taken by the administration. But embassy staffers remain concerned with the speed and pace at which some of those measures are being taken.
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) August 19, 2021