NATO’s ‘White Man’s Burden:’ Fighting an Alien War in Afghanistan

NATO's Lessons from Afghanistan | Belfer Center for Science and ...

By Adnan Qaiser 19 April 2020

In this last paper among a five-part discussion series on Afghanistan, Adnan Qaiser, with a distinguished career in the armed forces and international diplomacy, examines the causes of NATO’s failure in Afghanistan. The author also investigates the internal dichotomies and divergences of the international forces that led to a “stalemated-war” with no clear winners or losers

You may find other discussion papers here:

Part-I: ‘Sayonara’ Afghanistan? A Distant Goodbye

Part-II: Kaput Afghanistan: A ‘Rentier’ and Failed State

Part-III: Afghan Civil War 2.0: Return of Revenge

Part-IV: Afghan-Pakistan ‘Frenemity:’ A Tangled Relationship

B. H. Liddell Hart had once quipped: “The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out.” Same problem occurs to convince a general in a battle that his defeat is nigh.

The New York Times, in its historic editorial titled A war without winners winds down on 29 February 2020 recorded history in these words: “Americans have long run out of good reasons to continue dying and killing in a land whose tribes make it notoriously difficult to govern and whose mountainous terrain renders it impossible to conquer. American soldiers deployed to the country as recently as last week had trouble articulating what their mission was.”[1]

NATO’s Internal Differences and Discrepancies

Nationalism’s fundamental principle led the Taliban win this protracted war. The Taliban were fighting a war for national liberation from foreign occupiers, while U.S.-led NATO and coalition forces were fighting an alien war destined for failure. As turned out later, neither the political leadership of many participating countries were “committed” in the conflict – thrust upon them by the vagary of 9/11 – nor were their militaries prepared for a long-drawn counterinsurgency (COIN) operation. Thus, while the Taliban fighters lived and died under the sentiments of Afghan patriotism, their adversaries remained preoccupied with saving their own skins.[2]

Since the start of the military campaign in Afghanistan, one has always questioned the capacity – and strategy – of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and NATO forces (from over 40 countries) in Afghanistan.[3] The Afghan war had been, in fact, NATO’s first “major combat” on ground after the Korean War (1950 to 1953), which the alliance fought under the United Nations auspices.[4]

Later, NATO largely remained engaged in a “peacekeeping role” such as: Bosnia no-fly zone (intermittently between 1992 and 2004); Kosovo and Serbia (1999), Maritime operations in the Mediterranean Sea (2001); Training of forces in Iraq (2004 to 2011); Supporting the African Union (since 2007); Europe’s air policing (since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014); and counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa (2009). Thus, Afghanistan turned out to be the biggest test for the alliance that was created on 4 April 1949 to safeguard the security and strategic interests of (now) 30 member states in a Cold War setting in the climes of Europe.[5]

For many a Western countries’ forces, Afghanistan had been a bolt-from-the-blue combat mission, for which they were totally unprepared. It can be safely assumed that none of the forces from NATO and other coalition partner countries had ever war-gamed a military conflict in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. It might be disrespectful to those soldiers who laid down their lives in the war in Afghanistan, but their losses can be attributed to the poor war strategy of their military commanders besides international power-politics and political compulsions of their political leaderships back home.

The Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, in its honest exercise of Lessons Learned: What Canada Should Learn from Afghanistan in October 2011, blamed the political leadership of different countries for their “self-imposed national caveats” (excuses and escape clauses from combat). The report documented: “Many other nations [than Canada] were restricted by caveats in different ways. German troops had to stay in Kunduz in the North. Dutch troops were restricted to Oruzgan Province, north of Kandahar, though without a formal caveat. Other contingents were forbidden to leave their bases at night. The caveat issue would prove both vexing and intractable and in 2008 would lead Canada to threaten to leave Kandahar and Afghanistan if additional troops were not forthcoming from other NATO nations.”[6]

Corresponding to NATO’s 60-year anniversary, when NATO’s “new strategic framework” was discussed to align the security alliance in line with the present-day challenges facing the Western world, I had noted in my April 2010’s paper titled The Af-Pak Conundrum: “[The war in Afghanistan] can neither be fought effectively nor brought to a justified end with conflicting goals and international polarization. NATO countries have seen their partners running out of steam in just eight years in this war of attrition, with public mud-slinging going on for not sufficiently contributing in cash, or combat, forcing NATO to seek New Strategic Concepts after 60 years of its existence.”[7] NATO’s new strategic framework underscored that “This is not the time to settle for modest adjustments. Fundamental change is in order (Italics mine).”[8]

Furthermore, calling for reform of the military alliance and underlining NATO’s internal discords and disparities, then British shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, not only demanded more funds from NATO allies[9] but also called for speedy withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan saying, they were not “global policeman.”[10]

Saving Skin – NATO’s Jittery Operations

NATO forces’ jittery operations in the shape of carpet bombings of villages, wedding and funeral processions, friendly-fires, as well as nervous night-raids, desecrating the sanctity of Afghan household and causing unprecedented loss of civilian lives, demonstrated military commanders’ preoccupation with avoiding troop-losses at the cost of collateral damage.

Performing a rotational six-to-nine-month of their tours of duty, the foreign forces remained alien to Afghan history, geography and its culture. Upon return from their tours of duty, while the Western military commanders boasted their achievements in the war during their talks – many of which I personally attended – they also hinted about paying much attention to the “safety of their troops.” Such jumpy and reckless way of fighting not only brought home an “occupation force perception” but also failed the troops from winning Afghan hearts and minds. A senior Canadian military officer, during one of his debriefings acknowledged: “We are still viewed as Soviets in Afghanistan.”[11]

When commissioned and non-commissioned officers enlist in the armed forces, they are not only trained but also made aware of coming in harm’s way at some stage of their professional military careers. However, sacrificing life in the honour and safeguard of one’s nation and motherland remains a service-member’s biggest motivation. Thus, no army can win a war, no matter how righteous it may be or how well-armed a force is with sophisticated sinews of war, if its troops lack conviction and faith in the battle.

Rory Stewart, a member of the British Parliament and author of The Places in Between, about his 2002’s walk across Afghanistan[12] shared his thoughts with Foreign Policy that the intervention was doomed right from the outset. “The West always lacked the knowledge, power, or legitimacy to fundamentally transform Afghanistan.”[13]

Victory at the Cost of ‘Collateral Damage’

The outrage caused by the rising civilian casualties during the international forces’ abusive and loathsome “night raids[14] compelled them to be stopped and handed over to the Afghan forces in April 2012.[15] A visibly aggrieved former president Hamid Karzai publicly condemned the foreign forces’ “careless operations” a number of times, only to fall on deaf ears.[16]

NATO forces’ impunity from collateral damage even moved the Amnesty International to condemn the military leadership “of not knowing exactly what was happening on the ground and pursuing an incoherent process of dealing with civilian casualties.”[17] In a damning indictment of international forces under its report titled Getting Away With Murder? The Impunity of International Forces in Afghanistan, Amnesty reproached NATO “to provide a clear and unified system.”[18]

Later, the sharp rise in Green on Blue attacks[19] and the high attrition rate of Afghan security forces’[20] trained by the Western forces indicated a growing antagonism among native Afghans towards foreign troops’ heavy-handed operations and scorch-earth policy.[21]

Having lost faith in NATO forces capability in defeat the Taliban, President Karzai, during his 12-year presidency, kept pleading for a “smaller military footprint, less disruptive daily Afghan life and more efforts to protect civilians during stepped-up military operations.”[22] Regrettably, Mr. Karzai’s successor, a technocrat Mr. Ghani, didn’t lose sleep at NATO’s heavy-handed operations, owing to his disconnect with the Afghan masses. In June 2016, The New Yorker described Ghani as “Afghanistan’s Jimmy Carter—a visionary technocrat who has alienated potential allies and has no feel for politics.”[23]

As George Bernard Shaw had noted in The Man of Destiny (on Napoleon Bonaparte), ‘it is only the generals who say and do things right,’[24] no U.S. commander in Afghanistan admitted his defeat in the “graveyard of empires;” instead kept experimenting new strategies at the cost of civilian lives of ill-fated Afghans.

As discussed in Part-I of this discussion titled: ‘Sayonara’ Afghanistan? A Distant Goodbye, media reports kept suggesting a schism between the White House and the Pentagon at the U.S. forces’ withdrawal plan and the U.S.-Taliban peace-deal of February 2020.[25] President Trump’s close confidante and former defence secretary, James Mattis, who led the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s Task Force 58 in Afghanistan in late November 2001, had to quit owing to his policy disagreements with the president in December 2018.[26]

However, General David Patraeus, who took over NATO forces’ command after General Stanley McChrystral’s unceremonious sacking on 24 June 2010,[27] remained more than willing to risk collateral damage.[28] Under his controversial Patraeus Doctrine,[29] the general not only overruled his predecessor’s directive to employ “restrictive rules of engagement,”[30] but also brought a counterproductive and extremely destructive “air war” into the battlefield.[31] 

In a scathing military analysis, titled General Failure, The Atlantic, in its November 2012’s issue, recorded: “Looking back on the troubled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many observers are content to lay blame on the Bush administration. But inept leadership by American generals was also responsible for the failure of those wars. A culture of mediocrity has taken hold within the Army’s leadership rank—if it is not uprooted, the country’s next war is unlikely to unfold any better than the last two.”[32]

Scorched Earth Campaign

Similar to the Soviet-era’s scorched-earth warfare,[33] NATO forces’ scorched earth military campaign[34] and collective punishment strategy – obliterating entire villages, tree-lines and standing crops through carpet-bombings of daisy-cutters (15,000 lbs BLU-82/B bombs)[35] – played a key role in brewing up extreme detestation among local Afghans for the occupying force.[36] 

The New York Times reported on 16 November 2010, “U.S. troops carrying out large-scale demolition of houses and farms in Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwai districts using armoured bulldozers, high explosive missiles and airstrikes. One of the most fearsome tools were the Miclic, the M58 Mine-Clearing Line Charge, a chain of explosives tied to a rocket, which upon impact destroyed everything in a swath 30 feet wide and 325 feet long. The Himars missile system, a pod of 13-foot rockets carrying 200-pound warheads, had also been frequently used for demolition work.”[37]

NATO demonstrated it was fighting an alien war in Afghanistan when after destroying the houses of hapless Afghans it contemptuously saw the people filing their property claims with the district governor as “in effect you’re connecting the government to the people.” While many residents dismissed the compensation as “just kicking dirt in our eyes,”[38] such a disdain for the natives can only come from a force caught in a combat under duress.

NATO’s Naivety – An Ever-Changing Mission Orientation

Similar to the Western powers altering their strategic goals in Afghanistan – from eliminating al-Qaeda to defeating the Taliban; and from introducing a democratic culture to reconstruction and nation building – NATO forces also hopped between different tactical objectives, such as: “Three Ps” (peace, progress and prosperity); “CHB” (clear, hold and build); and “Three Ds” (disrupt, defeat and dismantle followed by deterrence, dialogue and development).[39]

NATO forces belonging to Western countries further remained ignorant about the social, religious, and cultural norms, values and traditions of the Afghan people. U.S. and NATO soldiers failed to obtain local population’s sympathy, which not only widened the gulf but also put troops’ security at risk. Sometimes soldiers were found sunbathing without clothes in open when small kids started throwing stones at them leading to ugly brawls and at times the troops just could not fathom the sanctity of women in an Afghan household.

As mentioned earlier, NATO’s reluctant participation in the so-called war on terror in Afghanistan had been no secret. Troops from a few heavy-weight countries conveniently deployed themselves in the north and the western part of Afghanistan far away from the hotbed of conflict, citing national compulsion. A few countries like Britain and Canada, which were made to do the heavy lifting and dirty their boots in the combat locked themselves behind the “wire[40] – duly bribing the Taliban through private contractors for the safe passage of their supplies and sparing their bases from rocket attacks.[41] This had been over and above the secret agreements allegedly made by a few allied countries like South Korea and Poland,[42] pledging in return to end their missions at the earliest and not to send any reinforcement after the safe return of their hostages.[43]

Military commanders, most of whom had never seen a combat in their careers, since began articulating Afghanistan’s enigmas besides extolling the number of Taliban they had killed. Their knowledge of the region remained based on a few books, interpreters, commentators and fly-by-night journalists. One Canadian commander was heard by the author carrying along a PhD scholar as his staff to advise him on Afghanistan during his tour of duty. The military commanders and their troops never realized that a 5000-year old civilization and warring tribal culture is difficult to be understood during their six to nine month tour of duty.[44]

Thus, lacking a clear understanding of their enemy and the population they had been assigned to protect, the ambitious commanders lauded their short-termed tactical gains (killing of Taliban fighters in thousands, while many of them could be innocent civilians) and reconstruction efforts (through Provincial Reconstruction Teams), which ironically were reversed in no time. The world, meanwhile, watched in disbelief NATO forces’ major operations running into failure one after another, forcing the political leaderships to apologize and offer condolences at the loss of innocent civilian lives. While Foreign Policy termed one such disastrous operation named Operation Mushtaraq at Marjah[45] a “fool’s mission;”[46] Stars and Stripes noted, “Misunderstanding Afghan ideology [had been the] key to coalition’s failure to maintain control.”[47]

One has personally listened to senior military commander expressing their total ignorance about the “parallel two-track reporting system” in Afghanistan (discussed in Part-II under Kaput Afghanistan: A ‘Rentier’ and Failed State). Underscoring gaps in their comprehension, the commanders remained baffled on the need of a district governor reporting to his provincial governor, while simultaneously passing on the information to the Arg (presidential palace in Kabul).

In a rare display of valour and forthrightness former U.S. general, Daniel Bolger, admitted failure in his book Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: “[W]e did not heed Sun Tzu’s caution. We did not understand our enemies.”[48]

The ‘Short’ Arm of the Law – The International Criminal Court’s Notice

Although, very likely to be crucified at the altar of international power politics, the International Criminal Court’s decision of 5 March 2020[49] to investigate and hear cases related to the acts of torture and war crimes by the U.S. forces and the C.I.A. at Bagram Internment Center as well as at several “black sites” around eastern Europe is landmark and historic.[50] Despite such sub-human practices stopped by President Obama in 2009,[51] they do not exonerate the international forces from violating human rights and international law. Notwithstanding a few military courts martial, the senior officials having authorized such barbaric torture of non-combatant civilians – many of them later turned out to be innocent victims and released from Guantanamo Bay[52] – remain unaccountable and scot-free.[53]

William Burke-White, a visiting fellow at Foreign Policy’s Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence doubts about ICC’s success by noting: “Such an investigation – while good for human rights and ending impunity – is something the U.S. has long sought to avoid and was, in fact, avoidable. Political considerations, such as the court’s relations with key states, undoubtedly figure into those decisions, even if not publicly stated. The ICC depends on powerful states for funding, assistance with investigations, the arrest of suspects, and political support at the United Nations and elsewhere.[54]


Underlining the dilemma of “national caveats” (or escape clauses from combat, cited above) among participating NATO countries, another research titled NATO at War: Understanding the Challenges of Caveats in Afghanistan, by two eminent Canadian political scientists found: “There are somewhere between fifty and eighty known restrictions that constrain North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] commanders in Afghanistan. The number of informal and unstated caveats is not known. Policy-makers in the United States, Canada and elsewhere have spent much time and effort cajoling their allies to lift restrictions that limit the coalition’s contingents in Afghanistan. Varying levels of restrictions have led to political divisions within NATO over the fact that some troop contributing nations are bearing a greater burden and paying a higher cost than are others. This has lead to the term “rations-consumers,” suggesting that some contingents occupy space and use resources but are not making much of a difference on the ground.”[55]

Despite its full military might, NATO’s failure in Afghanistan lied in its lack of professionalism, inconsistent policies, imperfect strategy, flawed tactics and divergent worldview of the coalition partners. Some of the reasons can be attributed to:

1) First, NATO’s frequent changing of mission orientation and its goals in Afghanistan underscored a trial and error approach

2) Secondly, NATO’s lack of clarity and understanding of Afghan culture, especially the nationalistic spirit behind the Taliban insurgency made it become unpopular among the native Afghan population. Taliban’s survival, and success, is largely owed to the people’s sympathy in the rural areas

3) Third, NATO forces were ill equipped for the Afghan terrain and the weather conditions. A force armed, trained, and equipped for the cool climes of Europe understandably could not withstand the hot temperatures and dusty environmental conditions of a largely barren and labyrinthine topography. Troops’ uniforms (fatigues), armour and vehicles were not designed for the unforgiving and inhospitable battle environs of Afghanistan

4) Fourth, NATO forces were trained to fight a conventional, or at least a tactical nuclear war. Except for the special-forces, the regular troops were largely ignorant about carrying out counterinsurgency operations (COIN) or guerilla warfare. Moreover, the Improvised/Vehicular Explosive Devises (IED/VED) caught the force totally unawares, and

5) Lastly, having lack of faith, or commitment to the war, NATO immediately began giving up districts after districts at the first sign of Taliban resistance and retreated to defend the urban centres (cities) only

In his 2014’s book on Soviet invasion of Afghanistan titled What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan 1979-89, Bruce Riedel had noted: “Alliance management in warfare is always a challenging proposition. Countries have interests, not friends – especially when they do not have common values.”[56]

Since wars cannot be won at tactical level if they are lost at strategic platforms, the international forces need to be prepared for any future combat around the world on following lines:

1) Build intra-force harmony by effectively marrying-up their resources and coordinating operational doctrines

2) Synchronize military objectives with the overall political goals and national aspirations

3) Develop a far better understanding of strategic, operational and tactical aspects of their coalition partners’ policy and practices

4) Train – and equip – their forces for deployment and operations in varied types of topographical, climatic and environmental conditions

5) Most importantly, analyze and educate their forces about various aspects of any future battleground, such as: (a) geo-strategic significance; (b) geopolitical ramifications; (c) economic fallout or blowback; (d) cultural and traditional ethos; (e) religious and societal mores; and (e) historical and civilizational underpinnings

6) Finally, be mindful of overseas combat’s fundamental rule: For the native population, a foreign soldier wearing military fatigue and carrying an assault rifle remains an enemy; not a peacekeeper

Other nations’ burden is always hard to carry and fighting someone else’s war – no matter how noble or righteous it may be, but devoid of national honour or self-interest – is always strenuous. The moment troops begin to land in foreign lands, world economies begin to collapse. And as body-bags begin to arrive at home tarmacs, whatever little resolve or patience is left in participating nations fizzles out. Human and financial outlays lead to low approval ratings of political leaders and governments fall like house of cards. Such is the reality of modern-day warfare.

The war on terror has not made the world a safer place. The clash of civilizations has gone bitter and the threat of Islamic extremism grown. As noted in my 2017’s paper titled Radical Islamism: Understanding Extremist Narrative and Mindset, there is a strong perception that the more NATO forces and drone attacks kill innocent people, the more Afghan population and people in the Muslim world get radicalized and turn against what they call “Western imperialism”[57] – or what Rudyard Kipling had hymned in 1899 as “The White Man’s Burden.[58]

French statesman Georges Clemenceau had wisely counselled, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” As for the third time in last two centuries, foreign occupying forces have beaten a retreat from the “graveyard of empires,”[59] it must have taught a lesson: “Burning bridges is after all not a bad idea; it prevents you from returning to a place where you shouldn’t have been in the first place.”

Adnan Qaiser can be reached at


[1] The Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban recognizes the limits of American power. The Editorial Board, A War Without Winners Winds Down, The New York Times, 29 Feb 2020

[2] The US-made mess in Afghanistan has much to do with its failed policies and shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude. Last week, the Washington Post published a six-part investigative series on the United States‘ war in Afghanistan, based on thousands of government documents the newspaper procured. The paper has shone a light on the disjuncture between what has been occurring on the ground in Afghanistan and what successive American governments have been saying about it. It has highlighted the strategic drift that has marked the US engagement with what was once considered the “good war” but is now the war that just will not end. Most of all, these documents reveal that the failure of Afghanistan is mostly made in the US – something those who have closely observed the conflict knew all along. Ahsan I Butt, The Afghan war: A failure made in the USA, Al-Jazeera, 23 Dec 2019

[3] Helping secure Afghanistan’s future, NATO’s Afghanistan Briefing

[4] Korean War Fast Facts, CNN Library, 10 Jun 2019

[5] Operations and missions: past and present, North Atlantic Treaty Association, 25 Apr 2019; Also see: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), Canadian Encyclopedia, 4 Mar 2012

[6] Lessons Learned: What Canada Should Learn from Afghanistan,Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, Oct 2011

[7] Adnan Qaiser (Author), The Af-Pak Conundrum, Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s On Track magazine, Spring Edition 2010, p. 45, Apr 2010

[8] Security in an Uncertain World – A Canadian Perspective on NATO’s New Strategic Concept, Joint publication of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, Mar 2010,; See also: NATO at 60

[9] Jonathan Oliver and Isabel Oakeshott, Liam Fox: Britain taking ‘unfair hit’ in Afghan war, The Times, 4 Feb 2010

[10] David Batty, Liam Fox calls for faster UK troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, The Guardian, 22 May 2010

[11] Andrew Wilder, Losing Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan, Middle East Institute, 20 Apr 2012

[12] Rory Stewart, The Places In Between, Mariner Books, 2006, pp. 299

[13] Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer, What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?, Foreign Policy, 4 Mar 2013

[14] Emma Graham-Harrison, NATO’s Afghan night raids come with high civilian cost, Reuters, 24 Feb 2011

[15] The US has relinquished control of controversial night-time raids in Afghanistan, giving Kabul an effective veto on operations to capture and kill insurgent leaders which US generals have long said are critical to success in the decade-old war. Afghan forces now to lead all raids which had made US forces so unpopular in country under new agreement in Kabul. Emma Graham-Harrison, Afghanistan takes control of night raids from US, The Guardian, 8 Apr 2012

[16] Aryn Baker, Kabul, Backlash from Afghan Civilian Deaths, TIME, June 23, 2007,8599,1636551,00.html

[17] Afghanistan leak exposes NATO’s incoherent civilian casualty policy, Amnesty International, 25 Jul 2010

[18] Getting away with murder? The impunity of international forces in Afghanistan, Amnesty International Report, Index number: ASA 11/001/2009, Feb 2009; PDF Report:

[19] Emma Kasprzak, Afghanistan conflict: Rise of ‘green on blue’ deaths, BBC News, 17 May 2012

[20] Sayed Sarwar Amani and Andrew MacAskill, Desertions deplete Afghan forces, adding to security worries, Reuters, 18 Jan 2016

[21] James Meek, Scorched earth legacy of vanished regime: Farmers return to a land with nothing of use but dead vines, The Guardian, 17 Nov 2001

[22] Jon Boone, Afghan president ‘has lost faith in US ability to defeat Taliban’, The Guardian, 9 Jun 2010

[23] George Packer, Afghanistan’s Theorist-in-Chief, The New Yorker, July 4, 2016 Issue, 27 Jun 2016

[24] George Bernard Shaw, The Man of Destiny, Kessinger Pub Co, 2004, pp 54; Also see: eBook:

[25] Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Unswayed by top advisers, Trump doubles down on decision to withdraw troops, The Washington Post, 13 Oct 2019

[26] Phil StewartSteve Holland, U.S. defense chief Mattis quits after clashing with Trump on policies, Reuters, 20 Dec 2018

[27] US Afghan commander Stanley McChrystal fired by Obama, BBC News, 24 Jun 2010

[28] Afghanistan Air Strikes Up 172 Percent: Petraeus is sometimes seen as more willing to risk the so-called “collateral damage” of civilian deaths, Rawa News, ABC News Radio, 13 Oct 2010

[29] Andrew J. Bacevich, The Petraeus Doctrine, The Atlantic, October 2008 Issue,

[30] Gen. Petraeus to modify restrictive rules of engagement in Afghanistan, New York Post, 25 Jun 2010

[31] Noah Shachtman, Does Petraeus Mean a Return of Afghanistan Air War?, Wired, 23 Jun 2018

[32] Thomas E. Ricks, General Failure, The Atlantic, November 2012 Issue

[33] Scorched-earth warfare, MacLean’s, 1 Dec 1986

[34] Max Boot, Scorched-Earth Strategy for Afghanistan–Really?, Commentary, 25 Sept 2009

[35] Seth Johnston, NATO’s Lessons from Afghanistan, The US Army War College Quarterly Parameters, Autumn 2019

[36] So far this year, coalition aircraft have used 4,615 bombs and Hellfire missiles, already exceeding the 4,184 dropped in all of last year. Orlando Sentinel, Coalition ramps up air war over Afghanistan, mindful of civilian casualties, RAWA News (The Reality of Life in Afghanistan), 01 Dec 2010

[37] Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, NATO Is Razing Booby-Trapped Afghan Homes, The New York Times, 16 Nov 2010

[38] Gareth Porter, Gains in Kandahar Came with More Brutal U.S. Tactics, Inter Press Service, Global Issues, 17 Dec 2010

[39] The Taliban insurgency remains resilient nearly two decades after U.S.-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war. Timeline, The U.S. War in Afghanistan: 1999 – 2020, Council on Foreign Relations

[40] Brian Stewart, What does ‘inside the wire’ mean in a place like Afghanistan?, CBC News, 12 Nov 2010

[41] For months, reports have abounded here that the Afghan mercenaries who escort American and other NATO convoys through the badlands have been bribing Taliban insurgents to let them pass. Then came a series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with the insurgents. Dexter Filkins, Rule of the Gun, Convoy Guards in Afghanistan Face an Inquiry, The New York Times, 6 Jun 2010

[42] Amir Shah in Qala-e-Kazi, Taliban release 12 hostages after deal with South Korea, The Guardian, 30 Aug 2007; Also see: Jack Kim, Apologetic South Korean hostages return home, Reuters, 1 Sept 2007

[43] Poland to cut number of troops in Afghanistan in October, Reuters, 16 Aug 2013

[44] A Brief History of Afghanistan, New Internationalist, 2 Nov 2008

[45] Operation Moshtarak in Marjah, Afghanistan, The Guardian, 15 Feb 2010

[46] Norine MacDonald, Is Operation Moshtarak a fool’s mission?, Foreign Policy, 8 Feb 2010

[47] Heath Druzin, A look at how the US-led coalition lost Afghanistan’s Marjah district to the Taliban, Stars and Stripes, 16 Jan 2016

[48] Daniel P. Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Eamon Dolan Book, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2014), p. 429

[49] Judgment on the appeal against the decision on the authorisation of an investigation into the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, International Criminal Court, ICC-02/17-138, 5 Mar 2020

[50] Eliza Griswold, Black Hole; The other Guantanamo, The New Republic, 7 May 2007

[51] Executive Order 13491 — Ensuring Lawful Interrogations, The White House, 22 Jan 2009

[52] (1) The Associated Press, Most Guantanamo detainees are innocent: ex-Bush official, CBC News, 19 Mar 2009; Also see: (2) Held without charges for seven years, he was finally freed when a federal judge reviewed the evidence against him. His captors never paid. Conor Friedersdorf, Innocent and Imprisoned: A Former Gitmo Detainee Speaks Out, The Atlantic, 10 Jan 2012

[53] Tim Golden, Army Faltered in Investigating Detainee Abuse, The New York Times, 22 May 2005

[54] William Burke-White, The Trump administration misplayed the International Criminal Court and Americans may now face justice for crimes in Afghanistan, Brookings Institution, 11 Mar 2020

[55] David P. Auerswald National War College, Washington, DC and Stephen M. Saideman McGill University, Montreal, Canada “NATO at War: Understanding the Challenges of Caveats in Afghanistan”, 2-5 Sept 2009,%20NATO%20at%20War%2082609.pdf

[56] Bruce Riedel, What We Won: America’s Secret War in Afghanistan 1979-89, Brookings Institution Press, 2014, p. 148

[57] Adnan Qaiser (Author), Radical Islamism: Understanding Extremist Narrative and Mindset, Conference of Defence Associations Institute’s On Track magazine, Spring Edition 2017, p. 24, May 2017

[58] The White Man’s Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands (1899), by Rudyard Kipling, is a poem about the Philippine–American War (1899–1902), which exhorts the United States to assume colonial control of the Filipino people and their country. The title, the subject, and the themes of “The White Man’s Burden” provoke accusations of advocacy of the Eurocentric racism inherent to the idea that, by way of industrialisation, the Western world delivers civilisation to the non-white peoples of the world.

The imperialist interpretation of “The White Man’s Burden” (1899) proposes that the “white race” is morally obligated to rule the “non-white” peoples of planet Earth, and to encourage their progress (economic, social, and cultural) through settler colonialism, which is based upon the Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries displacing the natives’ religions: The implication, of course, was that the Empire existed not for the benefit—economic or strategic or otherwise—of Britain, itself, but in order that primitive peoples, incapable of self-government, could, with British guidance, eventually become civilized (and Christianized).

“The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism, History Matters; See also in Afghanistan’s context: Edward Rothstein, Kipling Knew What the U.S. May Now Learn, The New York Times, 26 Jan 2002

[59] Why Is Afghanistan ‘The Graveyard Of Empires’?,, 2 Jan 2019

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