The following podcast is part 4 of a series on the author’s reactions to the Fall of Kabul. If you appreciate the content, consider sharing.
I’ve been doing my best to take the time to reach out to friends who sacrificed a portion of themselves to the war. Three days ago, I spoke with a good friend about his experience in Afghanistan. He told me a story that I’ve reflected on every day since.
Years ago, he served as a weapons platoon sergeant operating out of Northeastern Marjah in the Koruchareh bazaar. One of his primary responsibilities was to issue American currency in the form of grants to the village leaders for projects to improve the Afghan way of life in the area of operation. It was part of a broader strategy to capture the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and erode their dependence on the Taliban. My friend communed regularly with local elders. They knew him by name and shared meals. In total, my friend issued $1.2 million to the community.
Towards the end of his deployment, he began to suspect one of the block elders was Taliban. Fearful and angry, he went to the elders to report the issue. Their response was a punch to the gut:
“Friend, we’re all Taliban.”
The elders went on to explain there was no need to fear. They genuinely liked my friend. They were simply waiting America out, all the while bleeding her money and eroding her people’s will with a steady supply of roadside bombs. Once the Americans left, everything would go back to the way things were.
“You have the watches … We have the time.”
I’ve pondered this quote, because it strikes at a particular hubris that may have doomed our efforts from the beginning (at least insomuch as our goal was the permanent subjugation of the Taliban). I still don’t think I
can fully articulate its meaning, but I will attempt to do so. Western culture generally and American culture specifically has shifted to a reliance on technology and an expectation of immediate gratification. The expectation is that the US should be able to use it’s overwhelming firepower to crush its enemies in a few decisive engagements.
When we measured our enemy and assessed the risk, we accounted for our superior arms. We accounted for our superior logistical capacity. Our aircraft carriers. Our air assault capability… But did we account for patience? Did we account for will? For grit?
Did we account for an enemy that would deny us a decisive battle, preferring instead to fight from the shadows? Did we account for the parallel PR war that would be required to keep the American people onboard?
But How do you defeat an enemy that truly believes in God? How do you fight a war against people who think in measures of generations, not four year election cycles?