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COP26 ended last weekend.

The great Glasgow conference ended with an agreement to phase ‘down’ coal rather than phase ‘out’ coal.

This left COP26 chairman Alok Sharma MP (Conservative) in tears.

More on that below.

Let’s start at the beginning of the year and work from there.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg declared early in April that she would not be attending COP26:

The budding epidemiologist (irony alert) said that the conference should be cancelled until global vaccination rates had risen.

Odd that she did not mention carbon emissions from 30,000 prospective attendees, which the Global Warming Policy Forum did in May, strongly suggesting that the conference take place virtually. Guido Fawkes said that having done so would have saved British taxpayers £200m.

The UK Government stuck to the plan, however. A spokesman said:

We are working on the basis of COP26 being held in person this November, while closely monitoring the covid situation.

The summit team is working closely with all partners and exploring what different scenarios might mean for COP26 and how we plan for that, whilst putting the health of the participants and the local community first.

We are not looking to postpone the summit.

During COP26, Greta led a rally in central Glasgow, attracting hundreds of fellow admirers in the streets.

Mixed messages from No. 10’s COP26 spokeswoman

On April 20, No. 10 decided to scrap the plan for American-style press conferences which Downing Street’s spokeswoman Allegra Stratton was supposed to lead. Stratton became the Government’s COP26 spokeswoman instead.

What a mistake that was.

On July 27, she told Britons not to rinse their plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Good news for plumbers, then:

The next day, she — working for a Conservative government — advised Britons to join the Green Party:

This seemed to be an attempt to walk back her dishwasher advice from the day before.

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphasis in the original):

In an unexpected turn of events, Boris Johnson’s COP26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton told The Independent that people should “join the Green Party” if they want to tackle climate change. When asked why organisations were critical of her advice to consider not rinsing plates“ before putting them in the dishwasher, Allegra responded by saying:

“When people say to me, ‘What can they do?’, they can do many things, they can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.”

A highly quotable if somewhat unusual endorsement… 

On August 2, Stratton explained to Times Radio why she still drove a diesel car rather than buy an electric one (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

I have a diesel Golf. It’s third hand and I’ve had it for 8 years. I don’t drive it very much because I live in London, and it wouldn’t be right. I cycle, I’ve hurt my leg at the moment, but usually we cycle or get on the bus or walk most places. The car we use to go to granny’s and grandad’s who are  mostly 200, 250 miles away. I should be moving to another car, before I hurt my leg I was thinking about getting another carMy son would really like me to buy an electric car. I think it is the idea that right now, if I had one, any of those journeys to my dad in South Scotland, my mum in Gloucestershire, my in-laws in the Lake District and my Gran in North Wales, they’re all journeys, that I think would be at least one quite long stop to charge. And my kids are seven and four and I don’t fancy it just yet. That’s not to say that very soon, that technology, the charging points, we’re already seeing an increase in numbers, we’re seeing the cost come down, and we are seeing the range go up. So the direction of travel is great, and is swift. So I am optimistic that at some point, like so many families around the country, I’ll go for it. But right now, I have hurt my leg and I’ve been told I can’t drive ...You know, sometimes when you’ve got a four year old in the car, they’re asleep, and you just want to keep going to get there, because you know, if they wake up, you know, they’ll want the loo, they’ll want food, they might be feeling carsick and so on. So you want to be in control of that journey ... And included in that might be that the stop times for recharging improve so much that it’s half an hour.

Stratton gave all the best reasons for not buying an electric car.

Commenting on Stratton’s quote, Emily Carver, Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs, pointed out:

Of course, when polled, the majority of the public support addressing climate change. Who wouldn’t want a greener, more sustainable planet? However, as is the case with so many policies, it is far easier to support a rosy abstract goal than it is to face its real-life consequences.

Furthermore, very few in the media mention the African slave labour involved in mining cobalt for car batteries in general:

How did Stratton get a position as press secretary then Britain’s COP26 spokeswoman?

Breitbart provided some clues:

Stratton became the first official White House-style press secretary for the prime minister last year. She is a former journalist who had worked with establishment outlets The Guardian, the BBC, and ITV. Despite spending £2.6 million on furnishing a press room, the government scrapped the plans in April, moving Stratton to the role of the Cop26 spokeswoman, with the conference taking place in November of this year.

The Times claimed in May that Johnson appointed the former journalist at the insistence of his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds, herself a keen environmentalist.

The newspaper of record alleged the hiring took place despite the interview panel recommending against it, with leaked remarks calling Stratton a “risky appointment” and voters allegedly preferring Ellie Price, the panel’s first-choice candidate.

“The PM said it would make his life too difficult. Carrie won’t accept it if it’s anyone else. He said, ‘I’ve promised this to her’,” a Whitehall source told The Times, with a second source saying: “Boris said Carrie would go bananas if she didn’t get her way.”

In 2020, Stratton worked for Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In January 2021, TCW told us that Stratton is married to The Times‘s James Forsyth, who also works for The Spectator:

It’s time for the journalist James Forsyth – who also writes a column in the Times – to reveal the truth about Sunak’s plans. Forsyth and Sunak are close friends. They attended Winchester College together in the 1990s. Sunak was best man at Forsyth’s wedding and they are godparents to each other’s children. In April 2020, Sunak hired Forsyth’s wife, Allegra Stratton, to be his media chief (though it’s not clear if this job was ever advertised and I don’t remember any of the above being declared publicly). Since then she has moved on to be No 10 press secretary.

The conference, the hypocrisy

Guido Fawkes looked through Government contracts for COP26 to see what taxpayers’ money was financing.

The filming costs were exhorbitant:

The government has splashed a whopping £36,083,135.81 on a production services contract with Identity Holdings Limited which includes a supply of production and media services.

Glasgow teemed with prostitutes for the first two weeks of November. So much for women’s rights and the Left’s virtue signalling moral compass.

Guido reported:

The 25,000 delegates who have flooded into Glasgow have brought protestors by the thousands and, according to Guido sources, untold sex workers from around the world who are advertising their services online. In the interests of research for this story Guido has been doing research on various “adult work” websites which filter by city. According to one of the website operators, business has really hotted up, with the number of hookers advertising their services tripling from the normal three hundred or so in the city, to upwards of a thousand

Former Labour MP David Miliband told BBC’s Newsnight that the cost of net zero would be at least £100t of ordinary people’s money:

For whatever reason, a Green councillor from Brighton not only attended the conference, but flew to get there:

On November 9, Guido wrote (emphases in the original, the one in purple mine):

Why it is really necessary for a local council leader to attend a UN conference Guido doesn’t know given they have absolutely no locus or input into the COP process. To make matters worse Brighton’s Green council leader has been caught with his fly open and forced to apologise after jetting to COP26 in Glasgow. Just days after Caroline Lucas moaned Rishi’s Budget was a joke because of its tax cuts on domestic flights…

Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty took a plane from London to Glasgow, a 460-mile journey after which he made a speech at a protest march led by Greta Thunberg on the importance of cutting carbon emissions. He also chair’s Brighton and Hove council’s carbon neutral working group. According to the LNER website, the train journey from Brighton to Glasgow would have created 26.68kg of CO2 – Cafferty’s plane journey created 169.94kg…

Having been found out, the councillor issued a grovelling apology to a Brighton newspaper, The Argus.

In sharp contrast, former Scottish Conservative MP Ruth Davidson spotted the Royal Train at Carlisle station:

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s security minister Tô Lâm left Glasgow to journey to London for an eye-wateringly expensive gold leafed tomahawk steak at the newly opened Salt Bae Knightsbridge restaurant.

Guido has the video …

… and a post about the Communist enjoying a taste of capitalism:

And where had he just come from prior to his luxury dining experience? A flower-laying exercise at Karl Marx’s grave…

This absurd spectacle should surely call into question the millions the UK’s given to the corrupt, communist state. Since 2001, £481 million of UK taxpayers’ cash has been given in aid to Vietnam, and they are set to get another £7 million bung in 2021/22. Based on the video, Guido calculates the three steaks alone cost the table £2,550…

His colleagues back home are clearly displeased. The #SaltBae tag on Facebook was blocked in Vietnam to prevent people seeing the video –  something the social media giant is now investigating. Presumably if he is sacked for his typically corrupt communist antics, he can expect a golden handshake and a gold-plated pension…

One supposes he flew there and back.

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been a stickler for wearing masks in the coronavirus era, but look what she did at COP26. She dropped her mask:

The Daily Mail reported that Joe Biden had an emission problem of his own which left the Duchess of Cornwall highly amused. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on the left, with Camilla on the right:

Brand Scotland

More than halfway through the conference it became clear that Glasgow’s hospitality sector was not reaping the post-coronavirus benefits that COP26 promoters promised.

On November 10, The Times reported (emphases mine):

While hotels across Glasgow are fully booked to accommodate the thousands of delegates, the hospitality trade is understood not to have seen any uplift in trading since the event began on October 31.

There are even suggestions the event has led to a reduction in trade for some operators. Footfall in the city centre is said to have been affected as people try to avoid the demonstrations.

There is also thought to be a number of delegations which have stayed outside of the city, with Edinburgh hotels among those which are busy.

Oli Norman, whose Ashton Properties owns venues such as Brel and Sloans, said he had heard of some publicans and restaurant owners who have seen their trading fall by up to 50 per cent, and added: “It should have signified a resurgence in the local economy but if anything it has been a damp squib.”

Dan Hodges from the Mail interviewed self-employed Glaswegians in Easterhouse, a poor district away from the city centre:

Thomas is disillusioned with COP26. ‘I’ve missed my chance,’ the Glaswegian barber tells me. ‘My friend rented his flat at two grand a week. He’s making £6,000 and using the money to jet off for a holiday.’

I’m in Easterhouse, a few miles from where the global elite are gathering to save the world from itself. But few of them have ventured out to what was once the most deprived housing estate in Scotland. ‘I’m not sure why,’ Angus, the local butcher, laughs. ‘Perhaps Joe Biden got lost on the M8.’

What does he think about calls for us all to go vegan to protect the planet? ‘Well, I’m a butcher,’ he replies. ‘And my dad was a butcher and my grandad was a butcher. I grew up on pig’s feet soup. So I think people round here are still going to want to eat meat.’

Angus’s views could be ascribed to self-interest. The same can’t be said for local cabbie Andy. He’s made a small fortune shuttling delegates between Glasgow and Edinburgh at £120 a time. ‘Sorry, but the whole thing is a pile of crap,’ he tells me. They’ve been driving round in big convoys telling everyone else to get the bus.

‘It all feels like a millionaire’s party.’

While a Scottish government minister caught coronavirus at COP26 …

… First Minister Nicola Sturgeon did her best to market at least one Scottish product, Irn Bru, a popular soft drink. She gave some to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Sturgeon also marketed herself through a series of selfies:

This short yet amusing video tells the story perfectly:

One senior Scot noted Sturgeon’s contradictory position on mask wearing:

Sturgeon had no policy mandate at COP26. She was invited only as Scotland’s political leader. It was a courtesy.

Still, as such, one can understand why she wanted selfies with world leaders. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, even though she denied it:

How it ended

Not surprisingly, much socialism was on display at COP26.

Harry Wilkinson discussed it with Tom Harwood of GB News on the last official day, November 12. This was an excellent interview:

China and the United States signed a bilateral deal thought to be a big deal. We’ll see. That said, India is the second greatest polluter after China:

Nicola Sturgeon wants a ban on nuclear fuel in Scotland, but if she does ban it too soon, the nation will not have the energy supply it needs:

In the end, coal would be phased down rather than phased out. This is because too many developing countries need it to supply energy to their citizens.

Britain’s COP26 president, Alok Sharma, nearly broke down in tears, explaining why to Times Radio:

It was an emotional moment. I understood the disappointment. And six hours sleep in 3 days probably didn’t help.

The Times reported:

Before he banged down the gavel on the pact, the tearful Sharma told delegates: “I apologise for the way this process has unfolded. I am deeply sorry.” The representatives of 197 countries at the summit responded with a standing ovation …

Sharma said the summit had kept “1.5 alive” but added “its pulse is weak” and described it as “a fragile win”.

Nonetheless, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the agreement is a ‘historic achievement’:

Even Angela Rayner, the Labour MP who recently referred to ‘Tory scum’, praised Sharma for a ‘tremendous job’:

Sharma received many more compliments in Parliament early this week.

Those interested in combating climate change — largely impossible, in my opinion — should know that COP26 picked up from the Paris Agreement to flesh it out with specifics and COP27, to be held in Egypt in 2022, is thought to go even further with better pledges from participating nations.

Yesterday’s post was about the opening of COP26 in Glasgow and its attendant hypocrisy.

What our notional betters have done with coronavirus they will most certainly do with climate change.

Examples follow.

Coronavirus

On Monday, November 1, the day COP26 opened, Mark Dolan of GB News had an excellent editorial which bridged the gap between coronavirus and climate change tactics:

At around 5:15 in the full version of Dolan’s editorial (just over ten minutes long), he tells us of the mask theatre used with public appearances of politicians. They wear them for the photo op — outdoors — then take them off when they go indoors. Similarly, social distancing is also ignored:

Yes, the elites are laughing at us: ‘for thee but not for me’.

Climate change

Another commentator, Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill, also says that the elites are laughing at us.

In writing about COP26 on Monday, he says (emphases mine):

It feels like the elites are just laughing in our faces now. So the other day we had the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, saying everyone will have to eat less meat and fly less if we are going to get a handle on this climate-change thing. A little later it was reported that around 400 private jets will fly into COP26, carrying world leaders and big-business execs to the plush surrounds in which they’ll wring their manicured hands over mankind’s carbon crimes. Ordinary people are guilt-tripped for taking one poxy flight a year to escape the trials and vagaries of life in capitalist society for a couple of weeks, while those who quaff champagne on airplanes that it costs $10,000 an hour to hire out get to pose as hyper-aware defenders of poor Mother Nature.

He continues:

According to one report, the private jets landing in Glasgow will spew out around 13,000 tonnes of carbon. That’s the same amount of CO2 that 1,600 Scots get through in a yearJohn Kerry, Joe Biden’s climate envoy, will be in Glasgow to pull pained faces for the cameras over the possible heat death of the planet. Three months ago he flew in a private jet to Martha’s Vineyard for Barack Obama’s lavish 60th-birthday celebrations. It was the 16th private-jet jaunt his family had taken this year. Prince Charles, from one of his palaces, says COP26 is the ‘last-chance saloon’ for the planet. The royal family has collectively flown enough air miles over the past five years to get to the Moon and back. And then around the Earth’s equator three times. In short: 545,161 miles. Reader, they’re taking the piss.

O’Neill moves on to cars and Joe Biden:

Driving is viewed by greens, and by eco-virtuous political leaders like Sadiq Khan [London’s mayor], as one of the stupidest, most Gaia-destroying activities indulged in by the plebs. The Home Counties irritants of Insulate Britain have been winning plaudits from the commentariat over the past few weeks for blocking the paths of such terrible eco-criminals as mums driving their kids to school and deliverymen trying to deliver food and other essentials. And yet there’s Joe Biden in Rome for the G20 being whisked around in an 85-car convoy. His own armoured limousine, and its decoy version, generates 8.75 pounds of carbon per mile driven – 10 times more than normal cars. And greens want us to feel angry about the working-class bloke driving an HGV full of groceries and fuel? It’s insane.

When he’s done with Rome, Biden will fly to Glasgow in Air Force One. Four jets will accompany him. Combined, they’ll emit an estimated 2.16million pounds of carbon over five days.

O’Neill gives us other examples:

This is getting ridiculous. People will be perfectly within their rights over the next few days to ask why it is that those who live in the lap of luxury, who jet to every corner of the globe, who experience more luxury in a week than most of us can expect in a decade, should get to hold forth on humanity’s alleged suffocation of the planet with carbon and pollution. Like Joanna Lumley, famed, well-paid traveller of the planet, saying travel should be rationed. Or Dame Emma Thompson literally flying first-class from LA to London to take part in an Extinction Rebellion protest about the evils of CO2. Or Harry and Meghan attending a concert focusing on the ‘urgent need’ for climate action and then leaving on a private jet. What the green oligarchy lacks in moral consistency it more than makes up for with brass neck.

Ultimately, O’Neill concludes that, obvious hypocrisy aside, climate change has become the new orthodoxy of people rolling in money:

It’s the perfect ideology for our at-sea elites. It allows them to magic up a sense of urgent moral purpose – they’re saving the planet, no less! It lends itself beautifully, or, rather, terrifyingly, to the project of social engineering: lower your horizons, learn to live with less, reconceive of yourself as a destructive creature in need of top-down control rather than a creative being who might help to push humanity forward. It naturalises the limitations of capitalism, encouraging people to make their peace with austerity and downturn on the basis that economic growth is a bad, nature-exploiting idea. And it is a very difficult ideology to challenge. The marshalling of The Science to buoy up this ruling-class ideology means that anyone who questions it – anyone who demands more growth, more ambition, a bigger human footprint – can swiftly be written off as an anti-scientific scourge, as a ‘denier’ of the revealed truths of climatology. Its social engineering, its social control and its strict, censorious management of social aspirations are what make the green ideology so attractive to the new elites.

Oddly, the Left find this attractive. Then again, they have always been about control:

COP26 will help to consolidate this neo-aristocracy. And, bizarrely, the left will cheer it on. The left once said: ‘We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance… We do not call for a limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’ (Sylvia Pankhurst.) Now it pleads with the super-rich to come up with more and more creative ideas for how to rein in the filthy habits and material dreams of the masses. What a disaster. It isn’t climate change that poses the largest threat to humanity in the early 21st century. It’s the bourgeoisie’s loss of faith in its historic project, and its arrogant generalisation of that loss of faith into a new ‘green’ ideology we must all bow down before. A revolt against environmentalism is arguably the most necessary cause of our age. Who’s in?

Well, we in the UK have just been silenced on any revolt.

Recently, The Telegraph ran two editorials proposing a referendum on climate change legislation from COP26. Today, November 3, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons at PMQs that there will be no referendum because the public haven’t the appetite for it.

Disgusting

At the VIP reception in the centre of Glasgow on Monday evening — which prevented people living nearby from entering their own homes — we saw that there were no masks and no social distancing. But these people are super clean and elite, so it’s okay for them.

Here’s the Duchess of Cambridge — Kate — laughing as she holds a jar of larvae for livestock feed:

Hilarious. This is the sort of thing that they want us to eat for dinner, along with insects:

Last week, Boris went one step further. He told a classroom of nine-year-olds that humans could be used as animal food:

Guido Fawkes has the video and two quotes, the relevant one of which follows:

recycling “doesn’t work“, he “wouldn’t put beetroot in lasagne“, and even that feeding human beings to animals might be a decent idea.

One thing is certain: neither Kate nor Boris will ever be deprived of meat on their dinner plates.

As for the rest of us, the jury’s out.

The elites despise us. They really do.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Joe Biden at the White House:

He and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrived in the United States on Monday for discussions about trade and climate change.

The two spent a day in New York then travelled by Amtrak to Washington, DC:

New York

On Monday, Boris gave a speech at the UN Climate Roundtable in advance of COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November:

The full text of his speech is here.

This short video shows Boris summarising his message to world leaders:

COP26 will be the biggest single political event that the UK has ever hosted. I hope that Glasgow is ready:

The Prime Minister met with President Bolsonaro of Brazil and President Moon of South Korea. He also met with Martin Griffiths of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and, for whatever reason, with Jeff Bezos of Amazon:

There was speculation on what Boris and Bezos discussed:

In fact, they did discuss tax as well as the Bezos Earth Fund:

They discussed the upcoming COP26 Summit and agreed that there was an urgent need to mobilise more public and private money to help developing countries protect biodiversity, including through the LEAF Coalition.

The Prime Minister welcomed the Bezos Earth Fund’s commitment, announced tonight, to give $1 billion to protect forests and remove carbon from the air. The Prime Minister and Mr Bezos agreed to work together to see what more could be done in the run up to and at COP26.

The Prime Minister raised the issue of taxation, and hoped progress could be in implementing the G7 agreement on tax.

Beth Rigby from Sky News was in New York to interview Boris. They talked over each other for two minutes:

I wish he had mentioned her suspension from Sky for flouting coronavirus rules last December:

Boris’s interview for the Today show went much better. He was diplomatic about Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, even when Savannah Guthrie pressed him on the subject:

Guthrie asked Boris about President Trump. Again, Boris was diplomatic, saying that prime ministers have to get along with US presidents. In fact, Trump was mentioned very little in Parliament, including by Boris. I do not get the impression that Boris was sorry Trump lost the election. In fact, he has said in the Commons — as he does in the clip below — that he considers Biden a ‘breath of fresh air’. Biden’s name gets mentioned quite a lot in Parliament, by the way:

Boris also discussed family life and his unwavering belief in American ideals:

The Sun‘s Harry Cole was on hand to broadcast for Sky News from New York:

He said that New York hasn’t yet bounced back from coronavirus:

The British press pack then travelled to Washington DC:

Washington DC

On Tuesday, the day that she and Boris went to Washington, Liz Truss’s office issued the following tweet about the special relationship between the US and the UK:

Hmm.

Truss held a press huddle on the train:

While Truss met with her American counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Boris met with Kamala Harris at the Eisenhower Building:

Downing Street issued this summary of their meeting. Topics included the new AUKUS alliance, climate change and humanitarian efforts. Boris also expressed his gratitude to the US military for their leadership in withdrawing from Afghanistan.

British journalist Hugo Gye objected to the Eisenhower Building’s architecture:

Then it was time to meet with Joe Biden.

Biden arrived by helicopter, no doubt from Delaware:

Unlike the Trumps, the Bidens do not greet their guests at the door:

Liz Truss accompanied the Prime Minister:

Hugo Gye has a summary of the meeting and brief press conference in the Oval Office. Anne Sacoolas is an American ‘diplomat’ who was in a road accident in England leading to the death of a young man, Harry Dunn:

My American readers will be very familiar with the Amtrak anecdote, which Biden used on the campaign trail last year:

In the end, the chances of a trade deal appear slim. Trump would have definitely been open to one.

Boris took two questions from the media, one from Harry Cole and the other from Beth Rigby.

Biden pointed to Harry Cole first:

Biden and Boris gave this answer on the Harry Dunn case:

Biden did not solicit questions, even though there were plenty of reporters in the Oval Office. When the session adjourned, they started shouting various questions at him. He apparently answered a question about the southern border, but the reporter could not hear the answer over the din. The reporters filed a complaint with Jen Psaki, who once again replied that the president takes questions ‘several times a week’:

Downing Street issued a summary of the private meeting which followed:

… The President and Prime Minister agreed that the new AUKUS alliance, announced last week, was a clear articulation of the UK and America’s shared values and approach to the world. They underscored the important role the alliance will play in promoting peace and stability around the world, harnessing British, American and Australian expertise to solve future challenges.

The leaders welcomed the close cooperation between our countries during the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Prime Minister expressed his condolences for the American servicepeople killed during the operation. The Prime Minister and President Biden agreed that the best way to honour all those who gave their lives to make Afghanistan a better place will be to use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to prevent a humanitarian crisis and preserve the gains made in Afghanistan.

To that end, they discussed the progress made since the G7 meeting last month to coordinate international action on Afghanistan. They agreed that any international recognition of the Taliban must be coordinated and contingent on the group respecting human rights.

The Prime Minister welcomed President Biden’s leadership on the issue of climate, and his announcement today that the US would double its climate finance commitment. The leaders agreed on the need for G7 countries to deliver on the promises made in Carbis Bay, particularly with regard to phasing out the use of coal and supporting developing countries to grow cleanly. They agreed the Build Back Better World Initiative would be crucial in achieving this. The Prime Minister said he looks forward to welcoming the President to the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.

The Prime Minster and President Biden also agreed on the need to increase international vaccine access to deliver on the commitment made in Cornwall to vaccinate the world by the end of next year. They noted that the success of the British and American vaccine rollouts has been instrumental in allowing UK-US travel to resume. The Prime Minister welcomed the US announcement that they will allow double vaccinated British nationals to enter the country from November, a move which will allow families and friends to reunite and will help stimulate our economies.

The Prime Minister updated President Biden on the developments with respect to the Northern Ireland Protocol since they last met in June. The leaders agreed on the importance of protecting peace in Northern Ireland …

Not surprisingly, it is unlikely we will get a trade deal with the US. Biden is concerned about the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol disturbing the peace agreement between that nation and the Republic of Ireland:

Return to New York

The Telegraph reports Boris Johnson remained in Washington on Wednesday to meet with:

US politicians at Capitol Hill, including senators Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy.

Afterwards, he visited Arlington Cemetery before returning to New York to deliver his climate change speech at the UN:

He will then travel to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before returning to New York, where he will give his climate change speech to the UN General Assembly in the early hours of the morning UK time.

Liz Truss was in New York on Wednesday to address her counterparts on the UN Security Council:

Sky News reported:

She will chair talks with foreign ministers from the US, France, China, and Russia – the countries that, along with the UK, make up the five permanent members of the United Nations security council – in New York later.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is also expected to join the discussions.

Ms Truss’s aides say she will be promoting greater cooperation among the so-called P5.

This will include encouraging Beijing and Moscow to “act as one” with other international military forces to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a home for global terrorists following the Taliban’s takeover last month.

But “un peu riche” (a little rich) may be the French retort as the diplomatic rift deepens over a new security pact between Australia, the UK and the US that leaves France out in the cold and China smarting.

Trade might be off the table for now, but, no doubt, both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss will make progress in other areas.

We continue to find out more about what went on behind the scenes in Afghanistan.

Biden-Ghani telephone call transcript

Somehow, Reuters received recordings and transcripts of two telephone calls between Washington and Ashraf Ghani, the then-president of Afghanistan.

The fuller of the two transcripts comes from the July 23 call between Joe Biden and Ghani. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Biden told Ghani that the ‘perception’ in Washington and the Pentagon is that Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban is not going well:

And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Biden suggested that Ghani implement a new strategy focused on major population centres. He also said that the Afghan army far outnumbered the Taliban:

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing. And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that.

We are also going to continue to make sure your air force is capable of continuing to fly and provide air support. In addition to that we are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows because it is clearly in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, that you succeed and you lead. And though I know this is presumptuous of me on one hand to say such things so directly to you, I have known you for a long while, I find you a brilliant and honorable man.

Ghani explained the situation at the time, which involved terrorists from Pakistan, insufficient pay for the Afghan army and the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with his government:

Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this, so that dimension needs to be taken account of.

Second, what is crucial is, close air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your assistance, particularly to our air force be front loaded, because what we need at this moment, there was a very heavily reliance on air power, and we have prioritized that if it could be at all front-loaded, we will greatly appreciate it.

And third, regarding procedure for the rest of the assistance, for instance, military pay is not increased for over a decade. We need to make some gestures to rally everybody together so if you could assign the national security advisor or the Pentagon, anyone you wish to work with us on the details, so our expectations particularly regarding your close air support. There are agreements with the Taliban that we [or “you” this is unclear] are not previously aware of, and because of your air force was extremely cautious in attacking them.

And the last point, I just spoke again to Dr. Abdullah earlier, he went to negotiate with the Taliban, the Taliban showed no inclination. We can get to peace only if we rebalance the military situation. And I can assure you…

Biden appeared to be talking at the same time, as his reply is recorded as ‘crosstalk’.

Ghani continued, ending on an optimistic note about the strength of the resistance to the Taliban:

And I can assure you I have been to four of our key cities, I’m constantly traveling with the vice president and others, we will be able to rally. Your assurance of support goes a very long way to enable us, to really mobilize in earnest. The urban resistance, Mr. President is been extraordinary, there are cities that have taken a siege of 55 days and that have not surrendered. Again, I thank you and I’m always just a phone call away. This is what a friend tells a friend, so please don’t feel that you’re imposing on me.

Biden responded:

No, well, look, I, thank you. Look, close air support works only if there is a military strategy on the ground to support.

Was Biden indicating, consciously or otherwise, that he was going to pull US troops out within three weeks?

On August 31, Reuters issued further information about the phone call, allegedly the last conversation between the two men:

The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul …

Reuters reviewed a transcript of the presidential phone call and has listened to the audio to authenticate the conversation. The materials were provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it

I wonder about the first sentence below:

The American leader’s words indicated he didn’t anticipate the massive insurrection and collapse to come 23 days later. “We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” said Biden.

The White House Tuesday declined to comment on the call.

After the call, the White House released a statement that focused on Biden’s commitment to supporting Afghan security forces and the administration seeking funds for Afghanistan from Congress.

Well, the Biden administration would say anything, because:

By the time of the call, the United States was well into its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Biden had postponed from the May date set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. The U.S. military had closed its main Afghanistan air base, at Bagram, in early July.

As the two presidents spoke, Taliban insurgents controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

By August 9, it became clear that the US was leaving matters in Afghan hands:

In a little over two weeks after Biden’s call with Ghani, the Taliban captured several provincial Afghan capitals and the United States said it was up to the Afghan security forces to defend the country. “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on August 9.

That said, US intelligence indicated that Kabul would not fall into Taliban hands for at least 30 days, possibly 90:

On August 11, U.S. intelligence reports indicated Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90. Instead, the fall happened in less than a week.

I wonder if Britain received the same briefing (see below).

Pakistan took exception to Ghani’s allegations that they were fuelling the insurrection by the Taliban:

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington denies those allegations. “Clearly the myth of Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan is unfortunately an excuse and an afterthought peddled by Mr. Ashraf Ghani to justify his failure to lead and govern,” an embassy spokesman told Reuters.

Ghani could not be reached for comment:

Reuters tried to reach Ghani’s staff for this story, in calls and texts, with no success. The last public statement from Ghani, who is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates, came on August 18. He said he fled Afghanistan to prevent bloodshed.

Military call with Ghani

Reuters’ August 31 article says that the second call with then-President Ghani also took place on July 23, after his conversation with Joe Biden:

In a follow-up call later that day that did not include the U.S. president, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie spoke to Ghani. Reuters also obtained a transcript of that call.

In this call, too, an area of focus was the global perception of events on the ground in Afghanistan. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Ghani “the perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.”

“I do not believe time is our friend here. We need to move quickly,” McKenzie added.

A spokesperson for McKenzie declined to comment. A spokesman for Milley did not respond by publication time.

US armoured vehicles move from Afghanistan to Iran

On September 1, The Gateway Pundit reported that US vehicles captured by the Taliban have been seen in Iran (emphasis in the original):

The Taliban was filmed this week moving captured US military vehicles to Iran.
Thanks to Joe Biden and the woke US Generals.

The article includes the following tweets.

The first comes from Asaad Hanna, a journalist:

Comments to Hanna’s tweet included another photo:

The second tweet in The Gateway Pundit‘s article is from Al Arabiya News:

The Gateway Pundit‘s article includes a long list of American military equipment that was left behind in Afghanistan.

Here is the summary:

As The Gateway Pundit reported earlier on Sunday — Joe Biden left 300 times more guns than those passed to the Mexican cartels in Obama’s Fast and Furious program.

A more complete list was created with public information and help from other intelligence sources.  The list does not include all the extra kinds of nonlethal equipment, everything from MRE’s, Medical Equipment, and even energy drinks.
 
The big story might be the pallets of cash the Taliban have been posting videos of pallets of weapons and stacks of $100 bills they have seized
 
If the Taliban has 208 military aircraft then according to the NationMaster list the Taliban now ranks #26 of all countries in the number of military aircraft.
 

The Biden administration would rather the public not know; the information has been scrubbed. Imagine if President Trump had done this:

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appears before Parliamentary committee

On Wednesday, September 1, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, comprised of a cross-party group of MPs.

I watched the proceedings and thought that he acquitted himself well.

One of the difficulties in anticipating Joe Biden’s sudden withdrawal of troops, he said, was weighing up America’s ‘intent’ versus their ‘capability’.

It also appears that the UK gave Raab the same aforementioned erroneous intelligence from the US about the Taliban seizing control of Kabul within 30 to 90 days:

Andrew Gimson wrote for Conservative Home about the session which lasted just under two hours. I found his article rather unfair, especially considering the US was displaying the same lack of intelligence.

However, it does provide a précis of two main points of the hearing:

Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge and Malling), the chair of the committee, sought to establish how much attention ministers had been paying not only to Afghanistan, but to neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, through which evacuation by land might or might not be permitted …

Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) reminded Raab that the Foreign Office’s travel advice for British nationals in Afghanistan only changed on 6th August.

Bryant also pressed Raab about why he went on holiday and did not return until after August 15, the day when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Another Labour MP asked the same question, as did an SNP MP who did not give Raab time to respond.

As for his lack of discussions with ambassadors in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, Raab said that his department’s procedure is to receive regular reports from them then collate them into one report that provides a detailed meta view of the situation on the ground.

When asked why he had not been to Pakistan lately, Raab replied that the pandemic made it nearly impossible.

Tugendhat asked Raab why the UK wasn’t using a safe passage to Uzbekistan as the Germans were. Tugendhat said that it was an ‘effective’ route. Raab countered, saying that it was ‘effective’ until Uzbekistan closed its border.

Raab took great pains to point out the positive aspects of the past fortnight, e.g. evacuating 17,000 people at short notice.

A few MPs, including Conservatives, asked him about the evacuation phone number in the Foreign Office that was inoperable and the emails that went unanswered. Their in-boxes were full of complaints about it. Raab said that most phone calls were answered in under a minute. He said that his staff were responding to a great number of emails.

However, this was one of several tweets from the middle of August indicating there was a problem. Sir Laurie Bristow was the UK ambassador to Afghanistan:

A Labour MP, Neil Coyle, asked why the portrait of the Queen remained in the Kabul embassy. Raab said he was unaware that it was still there. According to Coyle, the Taliban posed in front of it.

The best part was the final question from Claudia Webbe (Lab). She asked why the UK had been in Afghanistan for the past 40 (!) years:

Raab gave her a withering look and reminded her of the two decades prior to 2001, which included Soviet occupation.

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Claudia Webbe was back for yet another Foreign Affairs Select Committee appearance this afternoon, once again taking Dominic Raab to task with the hard-hitting questions no one else is brave enough to ask. Raab’s look of total bemusement at “What is your understanding of civil wars in Afghanistan” was one particular highlight. “Claudia, this is just nonsense” was another…

It seems as if Guido Fawkes’s readers have a better reading of Raab’s performance than the pundits. A selection follows. Unfortunately, Guido’s system does not have URLs to each comment.

Overall (emphases mine):

What was there to discuss? Pushing to ask what date he went on holiday and whether he considered resigning through to whether picture of the Queen would have been abandoned. There would have been far superior questions asked by people on any high street.

This thread had two notable comments. Here’s the first:

Raab was working on intelligence assessments, not his own thoughts on what would happen.

It is about optics. It looks bad if you want it to, but the facts are that the collapse was quicker than anticipated, and the UK still managed to airlift 17,000 people out in a very short time frame, for which they should be commended.

And here’s the second, about the phone call to his Afghan counterpart that was never made. The first sentence is tongue in cheek:

Raab would have made a phone call which would have resulted in the immediate surrender of the Taliban.

Though I prefer to be controversial and think that it would have made zero difference. Raab is a leaver and a Tory so the blame for the Afghan farce lies squarely with him and Trump, in the eyes of the loons.

The final comment is about Tom Tugendhat, which is probably true:

Tugendhat is an opportunistic @rsehole who is trying anything to advance his own position out of this crisis.

The back-stabber was even quoting from leaked FO documents at yesterday’s hearing to attack Raab.

Raab left the session promptly in order to travel to Qatar where he discussed various issues relating to Afghanistan:

Raab is spending the weekend in Pakistan for talks with his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There will be a discussion about the UK’s £30 million aid package; one-third will go to humanitarian organisations and the rest to countries taking in Afghan refugees.

Two other political journalists reviewed Raab’s performance. Madeline Grant, writing for The Telegraph, gave him a thumbs-down. However, The Times‘s Quentin Letts reminded us that select committee hearings are often about political point-scoring:

As Westminster cynics know, select committees are not really about policy. They are vehicles for the ambitions of the MPs who run them and they can be used to give legs to a juicy hoo-hah …

Raab’s own performance? The left shoulder twitched. That is always a sign he is under pressure. He kept fiddling with his nose, too. But he is one of the grown-ups in the cabinet and it was not immediately apparent he had been seriously damaged by his self-serving scrutineers.

At Conservative Home, James Frayne did not think the public will be bothered by the select committee hearing or by Raab’s perceived neglect of the Afghan situation:

While unnamed Government sources are seeking to apportion blame to particular politicians (Raab, most obviously), the public don’t and won’t think along these lines; within reason, they think of the Government as an entity, rather than as being devolved in any meaningful way.

This means there’s a limit to what “damage control” the Government can do by throwing particular politicians and officials under a bus. It will all land at the door of the PM where public opinion is concerned.

Will there be enough stories, cumulatively, to provoke a general backlash against this Government at last? Time will tell (I have no idea what’s coming out) but I doubt it. Hard as it is for many commentators to understand or believe, for most of its supporters, this Government has a lot of credit in the bank on questions of judgement and competence.

I fully agree. Dominic Raab could not have prevented the Taliban taking over Kabul. He’s not one of my favourite MPs, but he is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances.

————————————————————————————

The next few weeks should be interesting. What new revelations about Afghanistan will appear?

The short answer is that they think they can work with the Taliban.

Sure. Pull the other one.

American and British troops have left Afghanistan. The countries’ embassies there are now closed.

Yet, they pledged at the weekend that evacuations would continue. How?

British general criticises withdrawal

General Lord Dannatt, who once commanded the British army, criticised the withdrawal, according to the Times on Monday, August 30 (emphases mine):

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the army, called for an inquiry into the handling of the withdrawal, accusing the government of being “asleep on watch” despite having had months to prepare. He told Times Radio: “We should have done better.”

He accused ministers of putting Afghanistan on the back burner only to find “when the Taliban took over the country in the precipitate fashion in which they did, it fell off the cooker straight on to the kitchen floor”.

The deaths of 457 British military personnel were not in vain, he said, because progress had been made in Afghanistan. He said, however, that “the precipitant decision by Joe Biden to end the operation of all international forces quickly meant that the gains we had made crumbled pretty quickly”.

Meanwhile, the same article said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to come under fire for having been on holiday in Crete during the weekend of August 14 and 15. He appeared before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, September 1. I haven’t watched the hearing yet; it can be found here:

Senior government sources predicted that Raab would lose his job in the next reshuffle because of his handling of the crisis. They said the foreign secretary was a “control freak” who struggled to entrust work to officials despite controversy over his decision to stay on holiday in Crete as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

However, Raab’s allies defended him:

insisting that it was “laughable” to blame him alone for the hurried retreat from Afghanistan.

They blamed the Ministry of Defence for failing to anticipate the speed with which Kabul would fall and hit out at the Home Office for failing to finalise details of the Afghan resettlement scheme. The absence of clear criteria was hampering Britain’s ability to negotiate with other countries over refugees, the sources suggested.

The UK government plan to rescue refugees

I do not see how the British plan to rescue more refugees will work in the cold light of day, especially with a terror threat clearly looming.

The Times article says that foreign aid will be part of the plan:

Britain’s key initial demand is that the Taliban allow thousands of refugees safe passage out of Afghanistan but the focus is likely to shift soon to preventing the country from becoming a haven for terrorists, as it was in the late 1990s.

Aid will be used to encourage good behaviour. Ministers see Afghanistan as a first test of their decision to abolish the Department for International Development so that aid could be better aligned with foreign policy goals.

Officials believe that the Taliban see the looming humanitarian crisis as a threat to their legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans and think that western aid will be needed to mitigate it.

Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, thinks the embassy in Kabul can be reopened:

Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, was among those who returned home yesterday. On the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire he promised to reopen an embassy as soon as possible and to “do everything we can to protect the gains of the last 20 years”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is nearly ready to make a deal with the Taliban. Some think that there could be a Taliban embassy in London in future. Good grief:

Warned that the risk of terrorism would increase, he promised to “use every lever we have — political, economic, diplomatic — to help the people of Afghanistan and to protect our own country from harm”.

He hinted yesterday that the Taliban could win diplomatic recognition if they kept terrorism in check and allowed western allies still in Afghanistan to leave. “If the new regime in Kabul wants diplomatic recognition . . . they will have to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave the country, to respect the rights of women and girls, to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming an incubator for global terror.”

His words raise the prospect of a Taliban embassy in London, which officials said would happen only as part of a joint approach with G7 allies after a new government was formed.

The UK government accepts that it will have to deal with a new Afghan government dominated by hardliners and has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach now that troops have left.

International plea for release of Afghans

On Sunday, August 29, in a joint statement, 90 countries asked the Taliban to commit to releasing more Afghan citizens:

Britain was among 90 governments that released a joint statement yesterday saying that they had a “clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that [Afghan allies] can travel to our respective countries”.

The Daily Mail has more on the statement:

The statement said: ‘We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.’

I cannot see that happening, even though I hope it does.

I am not alone:

many senior figures in the West fear the Taliban will fail to live up to the pledge amid concerns the number of Afghans left behind who may be eligible for resettling is actually far higher than initial Government estimates.

Too right. The Taliban will agree to anything then renege.

How evacuation schemes work

There were three evacuation programmes in place in Afghanistan during Britain’s Operation Pitting, which ended at the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people had been evacuated over the past fortnight.

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly MP explained to Sky News how the evacuation schemes worked:

Asked how many people were left behind, Mr Cleverly told Sky News: ‘Well, that’s an impossible number to put a figure on. We had three methods by which, or vehicles by which, people could leave Afghanistan.

‘Obviously British nationals, we have a much better idea of how many British nationals were in AfghanistanThe vast, vast bulk of British nationals have now left Afghanistan.

The Arap scheme, those Afghans, interpreters and others, who had worked directly for us and with us, have their scheme.

But also we extended to Afghans who were at risk of reprisals and there was no set number of people in that third group.’

He admitted that many people were not evacuated:

Mr Cleverly did not deny reports that hundreds of emails sent to the Foreign Office from people trying to get out of the country had been left unopened

He said: ‘Well, you have got to remember that when we extended our evacuation efforts to Afghan nationals we of course received a flood of requests and those were worked through and they will continue to be worked through.

‘But I know my own inbox had a huge number of emails came through, some duplicates, and of course we focused on the people who were at the airport who were being processed and who we felt that we could get out through Kabul airport whilst we still had security of Kabul airport.

‘We will of course continue to work through applications from people who have contacted us, people who are still trying to get out of Afghanistan.’  

Cleverly told Sky News that the UK government is sceptical of the Taliban but is committed to working with them:

‘Well, we have always said, I think the Prime Minister has said very recently, that we will judge the Taliban by their actions,’ he said …

Obviously we are sceptical about those commitments but we will continue working with them to an extent, based on their conduct, to try and facilitate that further evacuation and repatriation effort.’

The American approach

On Sunday, Joe Biden looked at his watch while the coffins of 13 American servicemen from last week’s bombing at Kabul’s airport arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware:

The Daily Mail reported:

President Joe Biden is under fire after appearing to look at his watch just seconds after a salute honoring the return of the 13 US servicemembers killed in Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing in Kabul. 

The president made the unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday morning as the caskets of the 13 service members killed in the attack were brought back to the United States.

He stood in silence, his right hand to his chest, as a succession of flag draped transfer coffins were carried past him from a C-17 Globemaster plane.

But during the ceremony, Biden appears to jerk his left arm up and look down at his watch.

The 13 killed on Thursday were Navy corpsman Max Soviak, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, and Marines Hunter Lopez, Rylee McCollum, David Lee Espinoza, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Daegan Page, Taylor Hoover, Humberto Sanchez, Johanny Rosario, Dylan Merola and Nicole Gee.

Biden’s stupidity rightly attracted a barrage of criticism from military veterans and Republican politicians.

After a US drone strike killed two ISIS-K men, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently co-ordinating international efforts for the days ahead. This began with a virtual meeting on Monday, August 30:

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.

The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the European Union and NATO.  

Biden stuck with his decision to have a full withdrawal by Tuesday, August 31.

US-led evacuation flights took more than 114,000 people out of Afghanistan. Troops and diplomats followed.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan:

pledged the US ‘will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident’ after Tuesday, as well as for ‘those Afghans who helped us’.

Air strikes will continue:

He said the US would continue strikes against IS and consider ‘other operations to go after these guys, to get them and to take them off the battlefield’

He added: ‘We will continue to bring the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan to make sure they do not represent a threat to the United States.’ 

There are no plans to reopen the embassy in Kabul, although there are plans for some diplomats to be present:

The administration’s plan ‘is not to have an ongoing embassy presence in Afghanistan’, Mr Sullivan said. 

‘But we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground there, be able to continue to process out these applicants, be able to facilitate the passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan.’ 

————————————————

I will be most interested to see how American and British plans work out. I cannot see the feasibility at the moment.

Following on from yesterday’s post about Britain’s presence in Afghanistan, today’s entry has more.

On Tuesday, August 17, Strategic Culture posted ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

While I disagree with the general premise, the article did have interesting historical information about the UK’s involvement in Iraq and Libya based on questionable intelligence by a security chief who promoted the Russian dossier nonsense during the 2016 US presidential election. Emphases mine below:

All the blood and treasure spent, yes that is a tragedy, but not because of how it is ending, but rather how the War on Terror was started.

That is, that the Iraq and Libya wars were both based off of cooked British intelligence, which resulted in the attempt by the British people to prosecute Tony Blair as a war criminal for his direct role in causing British and U.S. troops to enter an illegal war with Iraq. This prosecution was later blocked by the British High Court claiming that there is no crime of aggression in English law under which the former PM could be charged. It seems there is no law against being a war criminal in Britain.

And it was none other than MI6 chief (1999-2004) Sir Richard Dearlove who oversaw and stood by the fraudulent intelligence on Iraq stating they bought uranium from Niger to build a nuclear weapon, the very same Sir Richard Dearlove who promoted the Christopher Steele dossier as something “credible” to American intelligence.

In addition, the Libyan invasion of 2011 was found to be unlawfully instigated by Britain. In a report published by the British Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2016, it was concluded that it was “the UK and France in March 2011 which led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi”. The report concluded that the Libyan intervention was based on false pretence provided by British Intelligence and recklessly promoted by the British government. This is the real reason why David Cameron stepped down.

This is what caused the United States to enter both wars, due to, what has now been officially acknowledged as fraudulent or deliberately misleading evidence that was supplied by British intelligence.

Now onto Afghanistan. After the horrifying weekend of August 14 and 15, Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, tried to enlist NATO allies’ help to fill the gap from Joe Biden’s withdrawal:

UK Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, has been actively trying to call on NATO allies to join a British-led military coalition to re-enter Afghanistan upon the U.S. departure! Wallace states in an interview with Daily Mail:

I did try talking to NATO nations, but they were not interested, nearly all of them…We tried a number of like-minded nations. Some said they were keen, but their parliaments weren’t. It became apparent pretty quickly that without the U.S. as the framework nation it had been, these options were closed off…All of us were saddened, from the prime minister (Boris Johnson) down, about all the blood and treasure that had been spent, that this was how it was ending.

This has left the UK in a tailspin, although, as of August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain would remain in Afghanistan to complete evacuation efforts.

However, some of our brightest commentators are fumbling to come up with reasonable solutions to America’s withdrawal. Andrew Neil said that we should ask France to partner with us. Hmm:

Meanwhile, Biden acts as if everything is fine.

On August 20, he said that the US gave the Afghans ‘all the tools’ they need. This is the tally over the past 20 years:

Nigel Farage has disparaged Biden in recent days:

It’s not so much the withdrawal itself but how it is being done that is the worry. Troops should be the last to leave:

As if that is not bad enough, the Biden administration has supplied the Taliban with the names of people who helped the US effort. One could not make this up:

Johnny Mercer MP (Con), himself a veteran, posted the video:

But, then, according to his fellow Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat, the British did the same thing. How is this even possible?

The Times article says:

Foreign Office staff left documents with the contact details of Afghans working for them as well as the CVs of locals applying for jobs scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound in Kabul that has been seized by the Taliban.

The papers identifying seven Afghans were found by The Times on Tuesday as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy. Phone calls to the numbers on the documents revealed that some Afghan employees and their families remained stranded on the wrong side of the airport perimeter wall days after their details were left in the dirt in the haste of the embassy’s evacuation on August 15.

The fate of Afghans who worked alongside western diplomats and troops, and who may face reprisals after being left behind, has become an emblem of the West’s retreat from Afghanistan.

Such was the British surprise at the speed of the capture of Kabul that the embassy’s evacuation protocols, necessitating the shredding and destruction of all data that could compromise local Afghan staff, their families or potential employees, appear to have broken down.

The article mentions Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was on holiday in Crete on August 14 and 15. He was supposed to make an important phone call, which he delegated to Lord Goldsmith. On the face of it, that wasn’t a bad idea, because Goldsmith is close to Carrie Johnson and could have had direct access to Boris through her. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the phone call was never made. I’m still not sure whether it was as crucial as the media make it out to be, because the media are anti-Boris anyway. More will emerge in the weeks to come, but this is what we know for now:

The discovery of the documents comes after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, rejected a request to speak with his Afghan counterpart to discuss the evacuation of interpreters who worked for Britain two days before the fall of Kabul. It suggests that staff at the British embassy were careless with the lives of Afghan employees in the rush to save their own.

Labour now have a real issue with which to attack the Conservatives:

Labour said foreign secretary Dominic Raab has “serious questions to answer” and that the destruction of sensitive materials should have been a “top priority”. Lisa Nandy, his opposite number, called on the government to “urgently assess” the individuals who may have been identified by the breach and whether operations may have been compromised. The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is now set to launch an inquiry.

I hope that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is committed to sorting this out:

Reacting to the revelations this morning, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said the blunder was “not good enough” and would be investigated. Wallace said that the prime minister “will be asking some questions” about how the documents came to be left on the ground.

Wallace gave an interview to Sky News Friday morning. Contrary to what the British public understood yesterday from Boris about the evacuation efforts continuing, they will be coming to a close shortly, possibly by the time you read this:

Tom Tugendhat chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, so my expectations for the upcoming inquiry into this security breach are high:

Tugendhat spoke about the American withdrawal:

Sorry, but the withdrawal debacle is a military defeat.

I feel very sorry for British — and American — troops. They are still heroes, as Johnny Mercer, who served in Afghanistan, says:

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel visited a refugee centre:

She is preparing the British public. We will be taking in 20,000 or 25,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years. However, the British are also concerned about the number of illegal immigrants coming in from France across the English Channel:

Nigel Farage urges caution over the refugee programme:

The Daily Mail article says that Ben Wallace was satisfied that the man on the ‘no fly’ list was not a threat. However, the Mail states that some security checks have been taking place once the military plane is in the air:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today insisted security checks at Kabul airport are working after it emerged a person banned from Britain under a ‘no-fly list’ was able to travel to the UK as part of the Afghanistan airlift. 

In a potential security breach, the individual was cleared to board an RAF plane before checks in mid-air revealed they were barred from coming to this country.

In a sign of the challenges facing British soldiers at the airport – who are already on high alert amid fears of terror attacks – it emerged last night that a further four people on the no-fly list tried to board mercy flights to the UK, but were stopped before the planes took off.

Mr Wallace defended the security checks, telling Sky News: ‘The watch list, or the no-fly list, pinged and the individual was identified so that is a plus side that it worked.

‘I wouldn’t be as alarmed as some of the media headlines are about this individual and I would also take some comfort from this process is working and flagging people.’

It came amid fears that more than 1,000 heroic Afghan translators, staff and their families could be left behind by the frantic evacuation operation.

Ministers have outlined plans to extract a further 6,000 UK nationals and eligible Afghans, but sources said there were 7,000 who Britain would ideally like to rescue.   

The Home Office said yesterday a ‘security assessment’ of the individual who arrived in the UK revealed they were no longer considered a threat by the security or law enforcement agencies. Sources said there would be no further action taken against the person, whose nationality is unclear.

But the development raised concerns over security relating to the airlift.

That was the state of play on August 23.

On August 26, another report emerged, this time from The Telegraph. The British public will not find this reassuring:

The Twitter thread received comments of astonishment and concern, such as these:

The men coming across the English Channel are also unlikely to have their papers, creating one terrible mess in the months and years to come.

In closing, today’s main story in the UK is that the British evacuation in Afghanistan will end this weekend:

Ben Wallace always maintained that some Afghans would be left behind. Where possible, more will be airlifted:

What a terrible ending after 20 years.

Parliament returns in early September. Both Houses will have a lot of questions for the Government.

It’s hard to know whether the British government was truly surprised by the fall of Afghanistan, particularly Kabul, 11 days ago.

On Thursday, August 19, Stuart Crawford, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Tank Regiment, wrote an excellent analysis for The Scotsman: ‘Afghanistan fell to Taliban because West underestimated its enemy and lacked commitment’.

His article begins with a short précis of British involvement in the country (emphases mine, unless otherwise stated):

We British are no strangers to disasters in Afghanistan. In past centuries, Britain fought three wars there with the dual purposes of expanding its control from its Empire base in India and opposing Russian influence there, the latter part of the so-called “Great Game”.

None of them ended satisfactorily. At the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919, Afghanistan was independent, the British withdrew, and the Afghans entered a period of special relationship with Soviet Russia.

Eventually that relationship soured too, leading to the Soviet invasion in 1979. The Russians left ten years later with their tails between their legs having suffered 15,000 dead. Not for nothing is Afghanistan known as the graveyard of foreign armies.

This brings us to the present day:

And now we are witnessing the end of yet another military adventure, this time the US-led Nato invasion in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. What sets this newest withdrawal apart from the others, however, is the speed at which the Afghan government has collapsed.

Things looked good nearly 20 years ago, three months after US and UK forces invaded Afghanistan:

… the western powers entered Afghanistan in 2001 and drove the Taliban from power thereby denying al-Qaeda a safe base of operations there. It only took three months, with many Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives fleeing across the border into Pakistan.

However, Bush II switched priorities to Iraq whilst maintaining a presence in Afghanistan, as counterterrorism expert Malcolm Nance recently explained to talkRADIO.

Stuart Crawford recounts the losses by the US and the UK during the fruitless adventure of trying to turn Afghanistan into a Western-style nation:

Over the next 20 years, the US and its allies poured billions of dollars into military operations to counter a resurgent Taliban and into reconstruction and civil aid projects. When the main fighting died down in 2014, the Americans had lost roughly 2,500 servicemen and women, the UK around 450, plus many other casualties from allied militaries. Estimated losses for the Afghan security forces are approximately 69,000.

Crawford outlines the reasons for the West’s failure:

First and foremost, the West was naïve in assuming that the Afghan people would welcome a western-style liberal democracy

Next, we made the unforgivable sin – in military circles – of underestimating the enemy. After the rapid successes against the Taliban in 2001, it was all too easy to dismiss them as “a bunch of blokes in open-toes sandals on motorbikes”, but they were and are good at what they do.

They are still there and we are leaving.

Also, what we probably didn’t understand or chose to ignore is the long-established Afghan practice of negotiated arrangements between opposing forces in conflict, whereby there are agreements not to attack or interfere with your enemy.

Finally, it was an overall tale of too few resources committed too late by the West. After the initial invasion in 2001, little attention was paid to nation building for the next five years. When focus was shifted to it, the horse had already bolted. We were always playing catch up from then on in.

It also has to be said that, despite the impressive numbers of troops deployed during the height of the military campaign, they were always too few for the task in hand. Some pretty poor tactical decisions were taken on the ground, not least by the British army in Helmand.

When British troops were allocated Helmand in 2006, their intended role was to provide safety and security for various reconstruction projects. But their arrival there provoked a furious reaction from a reconstituted Taliban. Our soldiers found themselves in very different circumstances to what they expected.

What is difficult for Westerners to understand is how complicated and fluid Afghan alliances are internally. They do not think in terms of good guys and bad guys. Crawford writes of:

a network of tribal and kinship ties which sometimes saw members of the same family supplying soldiers to both sides. This to some extent guaranteed some element of safety and amnesty for the vanquished.

Part of the reason, therefore, that the Afghan government forces have collapsed so quickly – after, it has to be said, fighting hard for many years with us in support – is that such arrangements have been in place for many years.

Corruption, lack of resources, and poor leadership added to the mix, and many Afghans must have wondered exactly what they were fighting for. The Taliban, on the other hand, knew exactly what they were fighting for and sought to achieve.

In Helmand province, the British were spread too thinly and ended up needing help from the Americans:

only 9,700 troops were expected to secure an area of over 58,500 square kilometres containing over 1,000 villages and settlements with a population of over 1.5 million inhabitants. It was a hopeless task, doomed to failure from them outset.

For reasons never properly explained, the decision was taken to spread British troops across 137 bases and checkpoints, dispersing forces and literally making them hostage to fortune as the Taliban were attracted to attack these small, isolated outposts as bees are to honey.

After much bravery and heroism against a more numerous foe, and despite the advantages of superior technology and air power, the British army had to be rescued by the Americans. This military defeat, added to the similar debacle in Basra in Iraq, did much to tarnish the British army’s hard-won reputation.

Even worse, the United States has been defeated:

The biggest takeaway from the whole Afghan affair, however, is that potential future adversaries now know how to defeat the USA.

Today, the airport in Kabul was attacked. The incident killed at least 60 people, including 12 American soldiers. Later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a COBRA meeting; the British evacuation efforts will continue.

Earlier on, James Heappey (pictured below), Britain’s Minister for the Armed Forces, warned of an attack on the airport:

The news has not been well received by Guido Fawkes’s readers. The last two comments follow from Guido’s thread about the airport in Kabul, which ends with this (emphasis in the original):

Despite these stark warnings, crowds of people remain outside of Kabul airport waiting to be processed. Britain has now evacuated over 11,000 Afghans with a suspected 400 people left to process. The countdown continues despite the ordered evacuation…

I have edited the spelling and grammar in the following comments.

Here’s the first one:

UK caught well and truly with their pants down, and why, because they believed Biden would never be as stupid as he turned out to be. As the UK media, indeed the Western media, decried Trump at every opportunity, they praised Biden as the sensible, reliable face of American politics, now they scramble around like floundering fish trying to defend his mass genocidal decision to leave Afghanistan in the way he did. They would rather blame everyone else than accept they got it wrong. Well, the bloodshed that’s about to happen will be on their hands as much as it is on Sleepy Joe’s. Meanwhile Europe is bracing itself for another mass flooding of refugees. WE have to seriously consider is America an ally to NATO or not.

This is the second:

“Terrorist Attack Imminent……” What absolute tosh, why would the Taliban carry out an attack at Kabul Airport at all? They have what they want, western powers scuttling out of Afghanistan!.

What the politicos do not want is pictures showing 1000s of Afghans ‘stranded’ at the airport as the last flights leave so what better way to prevent this than by warning them to stay away form the airport area by suggesting “a terrorist attack is imminent….”

It is hard to disagree with either of those analyses.

On Wednesday, August 25, Professor Paul Cornish, who has visited Afghanistan twice during the past 20 years, wrote an article for Cityforum: ‘The Rout of Kabul’.

He has high praise for James Heappey, much less for successive British governments:

In the UK, with one or two notable exceptions such as James Heappey, the Minister for the Armed Forces, who manages to combine a sense of empathy with honest political realism and a soldier’s instincts for problem solving, we have had the embarrassing spectacle of high-level politicians, public officials and very senior military officers showing just how disconnected they are from this looming strategic reality. Keen to convince the media and the electorate that this is a temporary politico-military malfunction, from which ‘lessons will be learned’ before the normal service of strategic mastery is resumed, we are assured repeatedly that the Taliban surge was unexpected and unpredictable. Really? Ten years ago, following the second of two visits to Afghanistan, I made the following observation at a conference: ‘withdrawal – whenever it happens – should be seen not simply as the desperate ending of the intervention but as the most complex and dangerous part of the intervention. If this is mishandled or rushed, then we might be talking in five years’ time not just of the resurgence of some very unpleasant extremist and criminal groups, but of a regional conflagration.’ My sense of foreboding was premature by five years but if a visiting academic/think tank analyst could see things in this way then plenty of others, in more influential positions, will have come to a similar conclusion. And if the capture of Kabul was indeed so unexpected, why was there not only a ‘Plan A’ for the evacuation but also a ‘Plan B’? Was the capitulation unexpected, or were we preparing for it? As well as presenting a wholly confused, if not disingenuous analysis, the UK’s strategic leadership has also demonstrated an unbeatably inappropriate choice of actions and words: the Foreign Secretary remaining determinedly glued (some have alleged) to a sunbed in Crete while the crisis grew; or the UK Chief of Defence Staff insisting that the Taliban, an implacable enemy of Britain’s armed forces for many years, ‘has changed’ and that British troops are now ‘happy to collaborate’ with them.

He discusses the toxic mix of the Taliban, terror, Pakistan and China, concluding with this on the West’s failure in Afghanistan:

In this dismal context, uncomfortable questions must be asked about the West’s reputation as a global strategic actor, about its ‘strategic ambition’ and about the relevance of its vision for the world. Both the US and the UK have presented themselves as expert in the high strategic art of combining ‘hard power’ (i.e., the power of coercion and compulsion) with ‘soft power’ (i.e., the power of attraction and persuasion). Does the Rout of Kabul suggest that either of these is functioning as it should, or is as convincing as is claimed? In the UK, the March 2021 review of national security and defence offered a vision of a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’, finally achieving its destiny as a ‘force for good in the world’, a ‘soft power superpower’, and a country with globally deployable ‘hard power’. Broadly similar rhetoric was heard at the G7 and NATO summits in June 2021. After Kabul, are any of these promises, offers and assurances convincing? And who would rely upon them? Bells that ring as hollow as this should probably not be rung – at least not in public.

Returning to the state of play in Kabul, he says:

Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, August 2021: not a good look for the West, its values, its capability, its staying power, its leadership and their judgement. And it could get worse if the West’s strategic leadership insist that Kabul was a mere technical hitch, unwilling or unable to confront their mistakes and the gravity of what has taken place, and refusing to acknowledge that the West, and all that it stands for, is in deep trouble as a result.

I could not agree more.

There is currently much speculation in Britain and the United States as whose heads should roll over this debacle.

The British media want Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to resign because he did not return sooner from his holiday in Crete to ring an Afghan minister of state. That telephone call, which never took place, would not have made much difference to the final outcome. Events unfolded quickly on the weekend of August 14 and 15.

Some Americans want Joe Biden to stand down in favour of Kamala Harris, despite her poor popularity ratings. However, that would not achieve anything much, either.

The damage is done. It will take decades to recover from this, not only politically but also socially.

More to follow tomorrow on Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Ian Williams, a former foreign correspondent in Britain and the US as well as the author of Every Breath You Take: China’s New Tyranny, wrote an article for The Spectator: ‘China’s Great Game in Afghanistan’, which the magazine posted on August 22.

Although China will have to deal with the Taliban, with whom they have been negotiating, Joe Biden’s withdrawal of troops will leave the door wide open for further expansion of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI would be able to extend from China through Afghanistan directly to a BRI country, Pakistan.

Furthermore, last week, I wrote about China’s plans for global expansion, with which a more established presence in Afghanistan will certainly help, especially with regard to minerals such as lithium and copper.

Ian Williams’s article explains what could happen with a volatile mix of China, Pakistan and the Taliban (emphases mine):

Neighbouring Pakistan is the biggest recipient of China’s BRI funds – it has received an estimated £45 billion splashed on roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure. Chinese diplomats talk of Afghanistan becoming an extension of this, with Pakistan also acting as a political conduit to the Taliban. Islamabad was the group’s main backer when they were last in power, from 1996 to 2001, and harboured its leaders when out of power. But Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban is often exaggerated, and Pakistan itself has been plagued by religious extremism and occasional violence. Last month, nine Chinese engineers working on a dam project were killed in a bus explosion in the Kohistan district of Pakistan.

Beijing fears instability on its doorstep more than anything else. Ironically, it has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the stabilising presence of the US and its allies. Chaos in Afghanistan will threaten its projects in Pakistan and other central Asian states. It also fears a spill-over of radicalism into Xinjiang province, which shares a narrow border with Afghanistan, and where the repression of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities has been labelled as genocide by the United States and many other western politicians. Beijing has reportedly sought assurances from the Taliban that they will cut ties with the East Turkistan Liberation Movement (ETLM), which Beijing blames for attacks in Xinjiang (which the Uyghurs call East Turkistan).

While Uyghur militants have appeared in Afghanistan, most independent observers believe their number and influence is exaggerated by Beijing, which uses a very wide definition of terrorism to justify its clampdown. That said, it is not unreasonable to assume the Taliban takeover will inspire opposition – even armed resistance – to oppressive Chinese rule in Xinjiang. After all, the Taliban are a bunch of militant Islamists, and Beijing’s actions across their shared border constitute an attempt to eradicate the culture and religion of an entire Muslim ethnic group and turn them into obedient Chinese citizens – the most comprehensive assault on Islam in the world today. Piles of BRI dollars have blinded Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan to that reality, but even the most pragmatic of Taliban might not so easily be bought off.

However, it would appear that China, whilst cautious, has a plan to counter potential terror, including:

a hastily arranged joint ‘anti-terrorism exercise’ in neighbouring Tajikistan, which shares an 835-mile border with Afghanistan. Chinese and Tajik forces took to the hills outside the capital Dushanbe, while in a letter to his Tajik counterpart China’s minster of public security said, ‘The current international situation is changing and the regional counterterrorism situation is not optimistic.’

Also:

it does raise the question of whether chaos in Afghanistan could lead to the involvement of Chinese security forces there and in the region more broadly. In some ways this is already happening – the Tajikistan exercises are the latest example of this. Beijing already deploys what have been described as private security contractors to protect projects in Pakistan, although these groups are far more closely linked to the state than is the case with western contractors.

One cannot help but think of last year’s reports on Joe and Hunter Biden’s previous involvement with China. Did that involvement inform Joe’s precipitous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan or was it just incompetence?

In any event, it could signal the decline of the United States as a superpower, just as the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 put paid to its superpower status. I truly hope that I am wrong with that assessment.

On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, a retired CIA man, Douglas London, wrote an article for Just Security: ‘CIA’s Former Counterterrorism Chief for the Region: Afghanistan, Not An Intelligence Failure — Something Much Worse’:

Douglas London is that former counterterrorism chief. He worked for the CIA for 34 years. Nowadays, he teaches at Georgetown University, is a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute and is author of the book The Recruiter, which details the changes in the CIA post-9/11.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Until his retirement in 2019, he was responsible for preparing security assessments for President Trump about Afghanistan. He volunteered in the same capacity for then-candidate Joe Biden.

Withdrawal — how and when?

He writes that the American withdrawal from Afghanistan has long been predicated with ‘what-if’ scenarios (emphasis in the original, those in purple mine):

The U.S. Intelligence Community assessed Afghanistan’s fortunes according to various scenarios and conditions and depending on the multiple policy alternatives from which the president could choose. So, was it 30 days from withdrawal to collapse? 60? 18 months? Actually, it was all of the above, the projections aligning with the various “what ifs.”  Ultimately, it was assessed, Afghan forces might capitulate within days under the circumstances we witnessed, in projections highlighted to Trump officials and future Biden officials alike.

He says that Biden and Trump viewed withdrawal differently, citing Biden’s speech of August 16 (emphases mine):

In his prepared remarks on Monday, President Biden stated, “But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you.  The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” That’s misleading at best. The CIA anticipated it as a possible scenario.

By early 2018, it was clear President Trump wanted out of Afghanistan regardless of the alarming outcomes the intelligence community cautioned. But he likewise did not want to preside over the nightmarish scenes we’ve witnessed. 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.

Douglas London outlines the various scenarios:

Scenarios for an orderly withdrawal ranged from those in which the United States retained roughly 5,000 troops and most of the existing forward military and intelligence operating bases, to what was determined to be the minimum presence of around 2,500 troops maintaining the larger bases in greater Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad and Khost, as well as the infrastructure to support the bases we would turn over to Afghan partners. The larger of these two options was judged more likely to prevent Afghanistan’s collapse for 1-2 years and still provide for a degree of continued U.S. counterterrorism pressure; the smaller footprint was more difficult to assess but allowed flexibility for the United States to increase or further reduce its presence should circumstances rapidly deteriorate. (It would be valuable if commentators and news coverage included a greater appreciation of how such contingency-based assessments work rather than conflating assessments.)

Initially, even a “Kabul only” option included the retention of the sprawling U.S. Bagram Air Base and other intelligence facilities in the greater capital area through which the United States could project force, maintain essential logistical, intelligence and medical support to Afghan operated bases, and retain some technical intelligence collection and counterterrorist capability across the country. But without any U.S. military and intelligence presence beyond the Embassy in Kabul, faced with a Taliban military and propaganda offensive, and undermined by Ghani’s fractious relationship with his own national political partners, the intelligence community warned the government could dissolve in days. And so it went.

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a questionable special representative

Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was America’s special representative during the Trump administration’s negotiations.

In 2018, he was a private citizen who had contacts with a number of Afghans. Douglas London said that the intelligence community did not trust him because he was:

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.

Because the withdrawal plan was popular with voters in 2020, the Biden camp also endorsed it:

Moreover, from my perspective, they appeared to believe that negative consequences would be at least largely owned by Trump, the GOP, and Khalilzad, whose being left in place, intentionally or not, allowed him to serve even more so as a fall guy. For the candidate, who had long advocated withdrawal, the outcome was, as it had been with Trump, a foregone conclusion despite what many among his counterterrorism advisors counselled. President Biden himself has said as much in terms of his mind being made up.

There was a rather naïve confidence among Biden’s more influential foreign policy advisors that the Taliban’s best interests were served by adhering to the agreement’s main points. Doing so, they argued, would guarantee the U.S. withdrawal, and leave room for more constructive engagement, possibly even aid, should the Taliban come to power.

The Taliban’s PR offensive

Meanwhile, the Taliban were becoming more aware of the importance of a PR offensive aimed at the West:

The Taliban learned a great deal about the utility of PR since 2001, and maximized their access to Western media as highlighted by Taliban deputy and Haqqani Taliban Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani’s apparently ghost written New York Times OpEd. The reality, of course, as the intelligence community long maintained, was that the Taliban’s control over the country was predicated on isolation from the rest of the world, rather than integration. International recognition, global financial access, and foreign aid were not going to influence how the Taliban would rule.

Also:

Momentum the Taliban needed to secure their adversaries’ cooperation was facilitated by a robust propaganda machine that, in many instances, successfully manipulated the media into positive, disproportional coverage from the outset of their offensive in casting their conquest as inevitable. Neither the Afghan government nor the United States could ever effectively counter the Taliban’s persistent and savvy media efforts given the need to protect sources and methods, legal restraints, and an unfortunate lack in investment and imagination.

For Afghan politicians, money talks

Greasing palms is part of Afghan life among those in power locally and regionally. Money can also determine one’s political alliances, which can be fluid:

U.S. policy makers were also cautioned that the broad coalition of Afghan politicians, warlords and military leaders across the country benefiting from the money and power that came with a sustained U.S. presence were likely to lose confidence and hedge their bets were U.S. military forces and intelligence personnel to withdraw. Further, that President Ashraf Ghani’s stubborn resistance to the Afghan political practice of buying support and his dismantling of the warlords’ private armies would weaken their incentives to support the government. Switching sides for a better deal or to fight another day is a hallmark of Afghan history. And U.S. policy to impose an American blueprint for a strong central government and integrated national army served only to enable Ghani’s disastrous and uncompromising stewardship.

On that topic, Britain’s talkRADIO has been interviewing another seasoned American counterintelligence specialist, Malcolm Nance, who said that, over the past year at least, the Taliban were co-opting other Afghans, including those from the country’s Western-backed army.

He said that it did not have to be that way, since he went into Afghanistan in November 2001. The US could have done the job in short order, had Bush II not switched priorities to Iraq:

Keeping the money aspect in mind, Douglas London describes how the 2021 debacle unfolded. Al Qa’ida also played a part:

The clock began to accelerate when US military and intelligence elements withdrew from Kandahar on May 13, and thereafter closed remaining forward operating bases and “lily pads,” the term used for temporary staging areas under U.S. or coalition control. By the time Bagram was closed on July 1, the United States and NATO had also departed Herat, Mazar I Sharif, Jalalabad, Khost and other locations I am not at liberty to name. The Taliban was moving in even as we were packing up. They were quite likely joined by the many al-Qa’ida members (some of whom had enjoyed Iranian sanctuary),-if not direct operational support, augmented further by recently released comrades the Taliban set free from Afghan detention at Bagram and elsewhere.

Policy makers were also aware of the Taliban’s effective use of a parallel “shadow government” structure maintained since losing power that provided for reliable lines of communication with local elders across the provinces, as well as government authorities, often owing to shared family or clan connections. To an American it might be surprising, but it was nothing out of the ordinary for an Afghan military commander or police chief to be in regular contact even with those faced daily in combat.

The Taliban was thus well positioned to negotiate and buy rather than fight their way to successive conquests, itself an Afghan tradition. Moreover, the Taliban was prepared to quickly rule and provide services in the territories coming under its control. And by prioritizing the periphery to secure borders and the lines of communication required to sustain an insurgency, striking first from where they were defeated in 2001, the Taliban clearly learned from history, whereas we still have not. But where did the money come from to finance this campaign?

Persuading low level government fighters and functionaries to turnover their weapons and abandon their posts was well within the Taliban’s means, but it was undoubtedly more expensive securing the cooperation of senior officials with the authority to surrender provincial capitals. Layer on that the need to pay the surge of their own fighters, many of them essentially part-time and seasonal. Payroll and care for the families of fighters killed and wounded is often the greatest expense for the Taliban and its terrorist partner groups, and in Afghanistan, likewise the most important incentive to attract fighters.

Where Taliban money comes from

The Taliban finance themselves from a variety of sources, from drug trafficking to donations from other foreign countries:

The Taliban’s finances are complicated, more so by a structure which is not monolithic, and heavily dependent on the vast international criminal network operated by the Haqqani Taliban Network in the East, and somewhat autonomous regional commanders in the West. Revenues are variously drawn from taxes imposed on locals, narcotics trafficking, foreign donations-largely from Arab Gulf countries, real estate (some of which is abroad), the extortion of mining companies operating in areas under their control–many of which are Chinese government parastatals, and other foreign governments. Pakistan has long been a principal backer, but Russia and Iran increased their investments to court the group in recent years. Moreover, both benefited decidedly from the Taliban’s swift, bloodless conquest that expeditiously purged and humiliated the United States, and minimized what might have been a violent, prolonged fight that increased regional instability and the flow of refugees.

Dichotomy between US Department of Defense and CIA

Douglas London noted the disparity of opinion between the Department of Defense and the CIA:

in grading their own homework, the U.S. defense establishment only exacerbated the problem. While it’s little surprise the Department of Defense was unwilling to objectively evaluate the resolve and capacity of those they trained, equipped, and advised to resist a forthcoming Taliban offensive, their rose-colored depictions of achievement over 20 years flew in the face of reality, and was consistently challenged by the CIA’s more gloomy, albeit realistic projections.

Conclusion

He concludes:

there was no intelligence failure by the agency in warning either Trump or Biden as to how events would play out. Operating in the shadows and “supporting the White House” will prevent the intelligence community from publicly defending itself. But the failure was not due to any lack of warning, but rather the hubris and political risk calculus of decision makers whose choices are too often made in their personal and political interest or with pre-committed policy choices, rather than influenced by (sometimes inconvenient) intelligence assessments and the full interests of the country.

It is difficult to see how the Afghanistan debacle can ever be rectified now, especially after 20 years.

As to what happens going forward, unfortunately, the grim possibilities are endless.

More on Afghanistan tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post covered the intractable situation in Afghanistan from Alexander the Great through to America’s involvement as of 2018.

I ended with an article by Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve, who wrote an article for the Indian Center for Diplomatic Studies, ‘China Moves into Afghanistan As Part of Its Global Expansion Mission’.

Lithium and other minerals

China’s involvement in Afghanistan will become much deeper. The country’s mineral deposits, lithium in particular, are much sought after. This is what the US withdrawal on August 15 means:

The tweeted article is by an Indian scientist, Ameya Paleja, writing for Interesting Engineering: ‘With Taliban, Is China Eyeing Afghanistan’s Mineral Deposits?’

Paleja writes (emphases mine):

The abrupt removal of the US forces has left a political vacuum that China seems eager to fill. The Week reported that Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a Taliban delegation earlier in July and the two have agreed on a bigger role for China in the “future reconstruction and economic development of the region.”

China had made some inroads in mining projects in 2008 with a plan to mine copper out of what is believed to be the second-largest copper reserve in the world. However, progress on the project had been slow. Its next target could be the rare earth elements like lithium that China currently mines and exports from its mainland to fuel the electric transformation of transportation in the US and Europe.

Lithium-ion batteries are now ubiquitous in almost all electronic appliances and even working as storage systems for grids powered by renewable energies.  However, China would be happy to move the operations to another country, given the environmental risks entailed in the process. 

Therefore, it is curious that Joe Biden abruptly ended US involvement in Afghanistan, known to be the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium’.

Where was that expression coined? In the United States, by their own defence department:

Yet, for whatever reason, Ameya Paleja points out that the 2020 United States Geological Survey (USGS) report:

does not even mention Afghanistan in the list of global lithium reserves

Newsweek invited Nigel Farage to write an editorial on Biden’s perilous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Farage wrote about the lithium deposits:

A commentator on GB News this week said that China plays the long game. Western countries think four or five years ahead. China looks 10 to 20 years ahead.

In reading Farage’s article, one might be forgiven for thinking that China started putting the pieces together some years ago, even before electric cars became a thing:

Afghanistan’s lithium reserves were first identified during geological studies carried out in the 1980s by the Soviet Union. At that time, the discovery did not resonate with most people because demand for the mineral was fairly low. After the Americans arrived in Afghanistan 20 years ago, they sought to back up the work done decades earlier and, in 2007, the United States Geological Survey discovered vast deposits of iron, gold, copper, cobalt and lithium. This discovery remained largely unknown until 2010. Yet media reports from that year confirmed its significance to modern industry, saying that Afghanistan was on course to be one of the most important mining centers in the world. An internal Pentagon memo that was unearthed at the time even stated that the country could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It should be noted that Joe Biden was vice president when that memo became widely known.

Almost 15 years after that survey, most of these mineral deposits remain unexploited as a result of the various problems which have overshadowed Afghanistan. Recently, however, rapidly rising commodity prices have proved just how vital lithium has become. This development makes Biden’s irresponsible withdrawal from Afghanistan even more difficult to comprehend.

Farage discussed China’s strategy in Africa, which clearly works for the continent’s leaders:

Despite its great size, China is surprisingly short on many of the vital minerals it needs to support its modern industrial revolution. To date, its Belt and Road initiative has used Africa to ensure vital supplies for the future, successfully securing the rights to mineral mining in many countries in that continent. In return, African administrations receive revenue for opening up their countries to the Chinese. The fact that some individual African politicians seem to have become extremely wealthy very quickly in recent years is not a coincidence.

Therefore, he says, China can use the same strategy with the Taliban, despite the Uighur situation:

I predict that exactly the same thing will happen in Afghanistan. True, there will almost certainly have to be a compromise over the appalling treatment of the 12 million-strong Muslim Uighur minority living in Xinjiang, but I have no doubt that China and Afghanistan will reach an understanding. China is desperate to forge links with the Taliban in order to obtain Afghanistan’s assets as quickly as possible.

Arguably, it has already begun to do so. It was announced this week that a Chinese consortium intends to reopen the Mes Aynak copper mine near Kabul, which is believed to contain some of the largest copper deposits in the world. The consortium, consisting of the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC Group) and another Chinese company, Jiangxi Copper, was awarded a 30-year, $2.9 billion contract in 2008 but halted work because of the pandemic. According to an unnamed source at the state-owned Global Times “We would consider reopening [Mes Aynak] after the situation is stabilised and international recognition, including the Chinese government’s recognition of the Taliban regime, take place.”

Farage concludes:

Although guaranteeing the future availability and price of any commodity is difficult, in this particular situation one thing seems certain: the West’s green revolution has been dealt a major blow. In strategic terms, this underlines the madness of Biden’s withdrawal decision. Was the president poorly briefed, or simply not up to the job? Whatever the answer, the green revolution that has been planned by every G7 nation has suffered a setback. The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of blundering Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, August 17, Cynthia Chung of Canada’s Rising Tide Foundation wrote an article for Strategic Culture: ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

Chung wrote about the Chinese government’s interest in the Wakhan Corridor, about which I wrote yesterday. It is a slim tongue-shaped piece of eastern Afghanistan that borders China. Among other projects:

Beijing is also building a major road through the Wakhan Corridor, which would connect China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang to Afghanistan.

The Wakhan Corridor project is fraught with risk, but the Chinese have been negotiating with the Taliban since 2019. From what Chung reports, the Taliban might sacrifice any concern for the Uighurs for the good of Chinese investment:

China has been undergoing negotiations with the Taliban since 2019.

The Wakhan Corridor is regarded as a rather risky endeavour having the potential to act as a corridor for terrorism rather than development.

Just a few weeks ago, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview that “China is a friendly country and we welcome it for reconstruction and developing Afghanistan…if [the Chinese] have investments, of course we will ensure their safety.

On the issue of whether the Taliban might support alleged Uyghur militants against China in neighboring Xinjiang, Shaheen responded, “We care about the oppression of Muslims, be it in Palestine, in Myanmar, or in China, and we care about the oppression of non-Muslims anywhere in the world. But what we are not going to do is interfere in China’s internal affairs.

This may seem like empty talk meant to impress Beijing and earn more brownie points, but the Wakhan Corridor is narrow and will not be difficult to monitor. Thus Beijing is offering this in good faith but it is also an easy test to see how much substance is indeed behind such words, and the Taliban know this.

On July 28th, Taliban representatives met with Chinese officials in Tianjin. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi statedThe Taliban in Afghanistan is a pivotal military and political force in the country, and will play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction there.

This is sending a clear message, that so long as the Taliban agrees to defend Afghanistan against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and serves to increase stability in the region, it will continue to have a seat at the negotiation table.

Trump’s withdrawal plan had wide approval

President Donald Trump presented his plan for American withdrawal from Afghanistan on February 29, 2020: ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan’.

It placed a certain degree of trust in the Taliban to negotiate with the then-Afghan government.

It also met with wide approval from not only the UN Security Council but also Russia and China. Chung gives us an outline of Trump’s strategy. It included:

provisions including the withdrawal of all regular American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, a Taliban pledge that they would oppose al-Qaeda in their zones of influence and open up talks with the Afghan government. This peace agreement was also supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.

Under this peace agreement there was to be an initial reduction from 13, 000 to 8, 600 troops in July 2020, followed by a full withdrawal by May 1st 2021 if the Taliban kept its commitments during this downscaling of U.S. military presence.

This agreement looked promising under the Trump Administration, and it was thought that it would be possible to work with the Taliban in securing peace and stability in Afghanistan, to counter al-Qaeda, and to allow for American troops to finally leave a country they had been occupying for two decades. And again, this was a proposal that was supported by Russia, China, Pakistan and the UN Security Council.

Even Gen. Nick Carter, the UK chief of the General Staff stated in an interview, “I think that the Taliban is not the organization it once was, it is an organization that has evolved significantly in the 20 years that we have been there…They recognize that they need some political legitimacy and I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting.

Trump was already discussing his plan the year before, in January 2019. On January 31, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) agreed, saying that it was not in any way ‘precipitous’. Who at the time could have imagined Biden’s precipitous move 17 months later?

The following day, February 1, Trump tweeted:

I inherited a total mess in Syria and Afghanistan, the “Endless Wars” of unlimited spending and death. During my campaign I said, very strongly, that these wars must finally end. We spend $50 Billion a year in Afghanistan and have hit them so hard that we are now talking peace

However, the Senate disagreed with a proposed withdrawal. Jesse Kelly, a Marine Corps veteran, wrote about it on February 4 for The Federalist: ‘Congress’s Vote To Keep War In Afghanistan Sells Out American Soldiers’.

It began:

The U.S. Senate cannot agree on anything. They are so mired in partisan gridlock, a resolution declaring the sky to be officially the color blue would fail along party lines. But there is one thing and one thing only they agree on: 17 years of our troops dying in Afghanistan isn’t long enough.

By a 68-23 margin, the Senate decided we haven’t spilled enough blood, broken enough soldiers (mentally and physically), or spent enough money. All for a now-aimless conflict in a part of the world Americans don’t even care about.

What began as an attempt to hunt down Osama bin Laden has now become a generational conflict where sons are patrolling the same areas as their fathers did. This no longer a war. This has become a hopeless mission to tame a part of the world that has never been and will never be tamed.

Afghanistan is a rugged, tribal nation with different interests than ours. As with so many parts of the world, the strong will rule over the weak there, and there is precious little America can do about that. That is why we’re now resigned to negotiating a peace deal with the very Taliban we’ve been fighting for 17 years.

He cited three Founding Fathers, none of whom thought that America should be the world’s policeman.

Kelly concluded:

Let us stop this. Let us revert back to an originalist foreign policy that lets America worry about America and Americans.

That’s not isolationism, as America must remain ever vigilant and ready to take on the evils of this world should they threaten her interests. Instead, it’s a foreign policy that focuses on neutrality, trade, and places high value on the life of the American soldier. Let us finally send neoconservative interventionalism to the death it wishes upon our troops.

With regard to the Senate vote, Rand Paul told Fox News:

He also suggested that it was time for the Senate to stop using US troops to further a prevailing narrative in politics and the media:

On September 7, Trump was ready to meet a Taliban delegation at Camp David, but the meeting fell through. He tweeted:

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday. They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to…

I don’t know what the next tweet said.

On Thanksgiving Day that year, while the media accused him of being on holiday, Trump travelled to Afghanistan to meet with American troops:

He was at Bagram Airfield:

On February 20, 2020, just nine days before Trump issued his ‘Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan,’ Mike Pompeo and his negotiators met with the Taliban in Doha and arrived at an agreement to further the Afghan Peace Process:

How was this going to work? Trump said that the US would keep an eye on the Taliban:

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said the Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the US for a long time

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Mr Trump added. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no-one’s ever seen.”

The agreement, fragile though it was, was signed on Saturday, February 29, 2020:

Trump expressed his gratitude for the support he received from the UN and NATO. Dr Fauci is there because coronavirus press conferences in the United States had already begun:

On March 1, however, Afghanistan was reneging on the release of prisoners. President Ghani said at the time that the release was a decision for the Afghan government, not the United States.

Nevertheless, by March 9, US troops began going home. American Military News reported:

Hundreds of U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from Afghanistan in line with the U.S. commitments announced in the recent U.S.-Taliban peace deal.

American service members are leaving Afghanistan, with no troops planned to replace them in the country, the Associated Press reported Monday following conversations with an unnamed U.S. military official. The withdrawal comes even as uncertainty persists around the Taliban peace agreement, as well as political upheaval within the Afghan government.

On November 16, several days after the hotly-contested election, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) sided with Joe Biden and again said that Trump’s plan was premature:

However, freshman senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) urged Trump to press ahead in his final weeks in the White House:

The Concerned Veterans for America also urged Trump to act before he left office:

Unfortunately, by January 2021, President Trump’s hands were tied and, on Inauguration Day morning, as planned, he left the White House.

Biden and Afghanistan

On April 14, 2021, Joe Biden made an announcement about further troop withdrawals:

Biden said that he spoke with Obama and Bush before taking a decision:

The then-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani confirmed a conversation with Biden:

By July 8, however, the wheels were falling off the bus, even though Biden insisted there was no threat of Taliban takeover:

On July 9, the Taliban were already on their way to retaking control of Afghanistan, as you can see from this BBC map:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/sc17082101.jpg

By the time Biden created chaos on August 14 and 15, the Taliban had triumphed.

More on Afghanistan to follow next week.

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