By James Emery
The recent one-year anniversary of the United States (US) and the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) departure from Afghanistan inspired people to reflect upon the twenty year conflict, speculating upon mistakes that were made. Successes and failures in war are documented and analyzed by historians and other military and civilian cells.
Remarkably, for all of this accumulated knowledge, many of the same mistakes continue to be made by the United States from one conflict to the next – from provoking and engaging in needless wars by proxy or direct intervention to failing to ensure there are clear-cut objectives and exit strategies, prior to engaging in conflicts. These two mistakes reflect the deceitful drivers pushing for conflicts and the devious ideologues implementing them.
While military activities in specific Areas of Operation (AO) can be analyzed and evaluated from a Fort Leavenworth, Kansas “Lessons Learned” perspective, these examples are often driven more by individual personalities and specific unit rotations – operating with superior capabilities and approach – than from strategic planning or directives from military or political pedestals higher up the chain of command.
Counterinsurgency and Two US Diplomats
For counterinsurgency (COIN) operations to be successful for a sustainable period of time, the respective indigenous government must be reasonably ethical, competent, and supported by the majority of the population. While tyrannical force can control a country for varying periods of time, it fosters unrest, which provides opportunities and access for local adversaries or outside manipulators to overthrow the respective government.
Excessive corruption, incompetence, and tyranny by a government and its security forces will undermine public support. This leaves much of the population apathetic or supportive of the insurgency, whom they may perceive to be less corrupt and the better of the two evils they have to choose from.
The high cost of war – in money, destruction, and lives – is a fool’s crusade, when there is no chance of sustainable victory or change. The only victors are the US Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and their paid shills and militarists in the US government, military, intelligence communities, and the media, who collectively encourage, escalate, and profit from needless and endless wars.
That was the case in Afghanistan, when two US diplomats – Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke – attempted to address and correct significant flaws in US policies that were perpetuating the war, without any possibility of success. The US political and diplomatic approach to the war, ensured there would be a rapid defeat of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and collapse of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), upon the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Here is information on attempts made by these two Diplomats to correct flawed US policies at the midpoint of the war. Had US officials heeded their advice, they could have saved over a trillion US dollars, countless lives, and some of their credibility.
Karl Eikenberry, a former Lieutenant General in the US Army, who had done two tours in Afghanistan, was the US Ambassador to Afghanistan from May 2009 to July 2011. Ambassador Eikenberry had argued against General David Petraeus’ call for the massive US surge of 2009. His two primary objections to the surge proved prophetic. He argued that the surge would make GIRoA and the ANSF more dependent upon US military forces. Eikenberry felt this would make future reduction and withdrawal of US troops difficult and dangerous, compromising the capacity of GIRoA and the ANSF to sustain itself against the Taliban.
Ambassador Eikenberry’s other key objection to the surge was that it was foolish to launch enhanced counterinsurgency operations when the corruption, cronyism, and the erratic behavior of President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials was discouraging the population from supporting GIRoA. The Ambassador knew that one of the most important facets of effective counterinsurgency operations is to have an ethical and effective government in place that has the support of the population. Hamid Karzai and his corrupt political cronies made it impossible for GIRoA to gain the support of Afghans.
Trying to implement the respective facets of COIN without having an effective, ethical government at the center is as foolish as trying to construct a wagon wheel by inserting spokes into the felloes – the outer rim of a wagon wheel – without having a central hub to attach them too.
Ambassador Eikenberry considered Hamid Karzai to be a corrupt, incompetent leader, who was unable to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building. In a 2009 cable that was published in 2010, Ambassador Eikenberry wrote, “Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance, or development.”
Eikenberry called Hamid Karzai a weak, paranoid leader, who was unwilling to ever admit fault or take responsibility for his mistakes and shortcomings. He accused Karzai of continually deflecting accountability by blaming virtually everything – from corruption to his failed policies – on the United States and its allies. Ambassador Eikenberry had a comprehensive understanding of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan, and effective counterinsurgency operations. He grasped the harmful political and military ramifications of massive, ongoing corruption, including the blatant, Kabul Bank scandal of 2010 in which 19 relatives and cronies of President Hamid Karzai and Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim stole over US $1 billion.
Karl Eikenberry made the Kabul Bank scandal a top priority at the US embassy in Kabul during his last year as ambassador. He repeatedly pressed Hamid Karzai to take action, but to no avail. Neither did he get much support from President Obama’s administration that failed to comprehend the consequences of this colossal banking scandal and ongoing corruption.
RIP/TOA – The Afghan Shell Game
Relief in Place, Transfer of Authority (RIP/TOA) refers to the US military process of the outgoing command transferring responsibility for their respective Area of Operations to the incoming unit. President Hamid Karzai played the game that had become common among corrupt officials and negative influencers throughout Afghanistan – stall your US adversaries until they rotate out, and deal with their naive replacements. Continue to repeat this process, while lavishly enriching yourself and your cronies through theft and extortion, until the Americans leave.
Sometimes, new, overworked, or willfully obtuse US and ISAF military and government officials would simply ignore the corruption and crimes, feeling incapable of stopping it, due to the extent to which it permeated all aspects of Afghanistan and the pressure from above to ignore it. Most top US officials discouraged accountability, investigations, and consequences regarding corruption. They did not want to upset the thieving GIRoA and ANSF officials, who were helping them perpetuate the war. Nor did they want to discourage the funding and support of the war, by exposing the depth of the systemic corruption and incompetence impeding and undermining the Afghan campaign.
The fact that blatant corruption and incompetence among GIRoA and ANSF officials at the highest levels was being tolerated by the US and ISAF, made it harder to control at the intermediate and lower levels. At times, the US and ISAF acted like complicit “Sugar Daddy’s,” doling out money, equipment, and supplies recklessly or naively, with little or no oversight or follow-up. Their reports might state that specific projects were being done or equipment, supplies, and money distributed, but much of it would have been stolen or sold.
There was no follow-up and virtually no consequences to crooked Afghan officials who repeatedly stole, extorted, or diverted money and supplies. Nor was there much accountability for US and ISAF personnel who filed misleading reports, whether they mistakenly trusted crooked officials or were aware of the theft that would likely occur. Some US and ISAF officials knew or suspected the money and goods would be stolen and sold by corrupt officials, but internal channels to address this were blocked or discouraged. These problems were compounded by numerous rumors and reports of individual and collective corruption, allegedly taking place, but difficult to prove.
While these mid- to low-level US and ISAF military and government officials can be faulted, in many cases they were over-tasked, distributing money, projects, contracts, equipment, and supplies without the resources to ensure proper distribution and follow-through. Additionally, it was the top US officials that established the template that declared, “Limitless corruption is tolerated, and nobody cares, so don’t make waves.”
This encouraged corruption, extortion, theft, and greed among Afghan officials at all levels. Even many of the honest officials became corrupt, forced to extort money to kick up to their superiors or suffer termination or reassignment. Top US officials allowed corruption in Afghanistan to get thoroughly out of control. GIRoA and ANSF officials – at virtually all levels – focused on getting rich, rather than on stabilizing Afghanistan and defeating insurgents. They all knew the regime would collapse, when the Americans left, due to the excessive greed and incompetence in GIRoA.
This eventually encouraged an increasing number of GIRoA and ANSF officials to secretly assist or support the insurgency. If they were unable to steal enough money to flee Afghanistan when it fell to the Taliban, some government officials, soldiers, and police cooperated with insurgents as a means of protecting themselves and their families when the Americans left and GIRoA collapsed. Green on Green (ANSF killing ANSF) and Green on Blue (ANSF killing US and ISAF) attacks became more frequent as corruption flourished, making the defeat of GIRoA inevitable.
Corruption in Three Acts
Deployment encounters with corrupt officials and negative influencers were usually a three-stage process, with variations for personalities and events. Stage one was focused on Afghans flattering the Westerners, while steering the conversation to the Afghan’s pressing requests and desires for more money, jobs, equipment, and supplies. Corrupt Afghan officials would sell some or all of the jobs, equipment, and supplies.
Stage two was laced with indignant denials when the corrupt officials were repeatedly suspected or caught stealing and extorting money and selling equipment and supplies. Stage three is the stalemate as the pattern of perceived agreements and deadlines are repeatedly stalled and ignored by corrupt Afghan officials. As the respective US and ISAF rotations near, the Westerners – military and civilian – give up, leaving the new rotation to deal with the corrupt officials and negative influencers. The Afghan incorrigibles continued repeating the three stage shuffle until the US and ISAF left.
President Hamid Karzai won the standoff in July 2011, when Ambassador Karl Eikenberry rotated out of Afghanistan to be replaced by Ryan Crocker, a former US State Department diplomat, who the Obama administration had called out of retirement. Crocker had a lengthy Foreign Service career that included being the Acting US Ambassador to Afghanistan January 2 to April 3, 2002, and the US Ambassador to Iraq when General David Petraeus was deployed there.
Ambassador Eikenberry’s accurate assessment of Hamid Karzai and his correct stand against General David Petraeus’ surge of 2009, infuriated some officials in the US military and government. Cult-like ideologues, aggressive hawks, unsavory war profiteers, and unethical opportunists have seized and sullied key roles within the US government, military, intelligence, and defense contractor ranks. These rogues despise ethical, experienced individuals who put loyalty to country and commitment to the success of the mission, above personal ambition and blind support for incompetent leaders, flawed policies, unnecessary wars, and unscrupulous war profiteers.
US truth-tellers exposing the lies of false flags, false narratives, and flawed policies, do so at the risk of malicious character assassinations, mobbing, gang stalking, and other retaliations, in addition to stifled career opportunities. These illegal and unsavory stasi-like tactics are run by US government, military, and intelligence agencies, along with their affiliated contractors – all paid for by US taxpayers.
The change in US ambassadors took the Kabul Bank scandal off the list of priorities at the US Embassy. This was a significant victory for President Hamid Karzai and his corrupt cronies. The official word from insiders is that US State Department officials and military commanders did not want to anger or alienate the temperamental Hamid Karzai, because they wanted his support on other issues and concerns.
Claiming this obscure justification for inaction, enables incompetent, unethical, and obtuse US officials to avoid accountability for their actions that cost lives and undermines the mission. The US government, military, intelligence communities, and contractors are plagued with hundreds of these type of devious dullards, who are making six figure annual salaries, plus an additional 70 percent in deployment bonuses. The missions would be more effective if these slugs stayed home, rather than deploy, sullying the mission and disrupting the work of others.
Ambassador Crocker obliged everyone – including a thoroughly corrupt Hamid Karzai – by claiming that corruption in Afghanistan was a problem, but by the time the Kabul Bank scandal broke, it was too late to do anything about it. By Ambassador Crocker’s rational, any crime in Afghanistan – from corruption and theft to rape and murder – should go unpunished, since it had already taken place. By Crocker’s flawed bureaucratic reasoning, accountability and policy shifts to correct mistakes are taboo, especially when the officials dictating policy demand denials of facts – distorting the truth, undermining mission objectives, and perpetuating unwinnable wars.
Ambassador Crocker dutifully made the Kabul Bank scandal disappear. Not only was it no longer a priority, Eikenberry’s team in the US embassy, who wanted to investigate and indict the perpetrators, were silenced.
There are a lot of politics played inside the US State Department and other government agencies, with the implicit threat of bad performance reviews and undesirable post assignments for employees who challenge obtuse leaders and flawed policies. I imagine the team pushing for the Kabul Bank investigation sat around the swimming pool behind the Kabul embassy, perhaps purchasing alcohol from the small beverage building nearby, contemplating their new roles in a post-Eikenberry environment.
One of the other reasons Ambassador Crocker, the US State Department, and the US military wanted to bury the Kabul Bank scandal, was their fear that the US Congress, ISAF partners, and international donors would use the US billion dollar heist as an excuse to reduce or eliminate their financial aid and commitment to Afghanistan. The truth of the Kabul Bank scandal, like most of the other scandals, crimes, flaws, and deceptions in the Afghan campaign, was buried by unscrupulous bureaucrats who wanted to deceive everyone – including allies and US taxpayers – to perpetuate an unwinnable war.
This deliberate deceit was successful, as the US, ISAF, and international donors continued to pour money and support into the Afghan cesspool of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence for another ten years, costing a trillion US dollars and scores of casualties. The massive profits of firms within the US military Industrial Complex continued to soar for another ten years, with the bills paid by US taxpayers and dead, wounded, and emotionally scarred US, ISAF, and Afghan soldiers and security forces. Ambassador Crocker only stayed in Kabul for one year, retiring when he was 63-years-old, due to health reasons.
The Ten D Directive
There is a quote uttered decades ago by the fictional television character J.R. Ewing on Dallas that reflects the actions of many of the US and Afghan officials during the twenty-year war, “Once you give up [your] integrity, the rest is a piece of cake.”
In many respects, some cells within the US government, military, intelligence agencies, and numerous contractor affiliates operate under a “Ten D” Directive – “Devious Deception and Denials by Deceitful Dullards and Deplorables is Demanded. Dissenters will be Disciplined or Discharged.”
This describes the destructive reality of toxic working environments, where ambitious manipulators, unethical opportunists, and incompetent slugs enthusiastically spew lies, champion flawed policies, plagiarize or steal the work and ideas of others, and aggressively undermine, harass, and mob competent employees. Skilled, motivated employees with relevant experience are perceived as threats to dubious slot fillers, who lack the core traits, experience, skills, and motivation required to do the job.
This is the reality in many sectors, from the US State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to scores of fraudulent and inept US government contracting firms that secured lucrative contracts and then fleeced the government by filling vacancies with little to no awareness or consideration for the aptitude, skills, and experience required to do the work. As a result, many of these highly paid cells are filled with dullards and deviants that generate nothing of value to support the mission.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan
Richard Holbrooke was appointed US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) from January 2009 to December 2010. Holbrooke, a seasoned Foreign Service officer and diplomat, had a good understanding of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region. Holbrooke felt President Hamid Karzai was a thoroughly corrupt leader and a detriment to the stabilization efforts. Holbrooke butted heads with Hamid Karzai several times during his tenure, over corruption and other issues.
Holbrooke, like Ambassador Eikenberry, had been against the surge of 2009. However, once it took place, Holbrooke felt that it was foolish to put such a short time frame on it. President Obama set a deadline of July 2011 for the surge to succeed and the additional troops to be withdrawn. Holbrooke believed the United States should utilize the surge to push peace talks and negotiations – at the peak of US and ISAF strength and positioning – that would revolve around reconciliation with the Taliban. To Holbrooke, the escalation of the war made no sense, without meaningful negotiations and a clear exit strategy.
In fighting insurgencies, there may be no clear end to the conflict. There is generally no specific leader or territory to capture that will end hostilities. There are often many nominally affiliated leaders and groups, with varying links and obligations to central and regional leaders. Some of these groups operate autonomously, creating additional complexities in negotiations and settlements.
The purpose of using enhanced power and violence is to facilitate diplomatic breakthroughs and success through the power of force and the force of will. The objective is not only to get the core insurgency to negotiate, but to compel independent and nominally affiliated groups to capitulate to the outcome of the negotiations. These efforts are fatally compromised when the enemy – and Afghan allies and civilians – know the predetermined date of the reduction of troops. It’s like trying to bluff while playing poker with your cards facing outward, towards your opponent.
Holbrooke felt that the US could never win the war with massive corruption and cronyism undermining governance, and Pakistan actively supporting the Taliban. Holbrooke had previously seen how pointless it was to wage war without having clear-cut objectives and a legitimate government, when he spent six years in Vietnam during the 1960s as a Foreign Service officer. Holbrooke saw Afghanistan as a similar unwinnable war, neither of the two corrupt governments – South Vietnam and Afghanistan – had the confidence, trust, and support of their respective populations. Additionally, both armies – Afghanistan and South Vietnam – were riddled with corruption and “Ghost Soldiers,” which are nonexistent troops that appear on rosters so their commander can collect their pay, undermining the effectiveness of the unit.
US political hawks, the military, and intelligence agencies hyped the surge, claiming that the insertion of an additional 30,000 US troops would ensure victory within two years. They lied. The pressing concerns raised by Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry were ignored, in favor of a large influx of US soldiers and civilians with virtually unlimited funds and demands to push more development projects in a thoroughly corrupt country that was already well beyond their capacity to handle them.
Those administering the funds were rarely asked about the feasibility and benefit of their projects. Their supervisors just wanted to know, How much money had they spent? The pressure was on to spend, spend, spend – ignoring the fact that most of the money and aid was being stolen or wasted. The massive development projects further enriched corrupt Afghan officials, contractors, and warlords, who skimmed, stole, and diverted money and resources. The Taliban and other insurgent groups also made millions on the surge, through extortion and theft.
The stolen cash being flown out of Afghanistan increased exponentially, further undermining one of the most essential components of counterinsurgency operations – ethical and effective governance. President Hamid Karzai facilitated the massive theft and transfer of millions of US dollars in aid by providing corrupt officials with a separate air terminal and passes that allowed them to avoid traditional customs procedures. Corrupt Afghan officials, warlords, and drug traffickers could take any amount of money out of Afghanistan without it being counted, documented, or questioned. Pallets, stacked high with suitcases full of US currency were loaded on to airplanes headed to Dubai, UAE and other locations. The massive theft and transfer of funds was common knowledge among US and ISAF officials, but nothing was ever done about it.
Negotiations Undermined, Opportunities Lost
Richard Holbrooke wanted to achieve reconciliation and peace by talking to the Taliban, using the surge in fighting, as leverage. Military and political hawks in the White House, Congress, Pentagon, and intelligence communities blocked negotiations. Military officials argued that two more years of intense fighting would weaken the Taliban, forcing them to capitulate. This was absurd – and they knew it – especially since there were no negotiations taking place to facilitate the peace process.
The US acted as if the Taliban were going to pack up and go home, ignoring the fact they were home, and weren’t going to stop fighting when they knew the end date of the surge and the US had failed to initiate peace talks. Many hawkish and compromised US officials loathed the thought of negotiations that would end or diminish the US trillion dollar deficit spending on a futile war they had no chance of winning.
There were no meaningful discussions of using the surge to achieve a diplomatic and political settlement. Holbrooke was unable to get the Obama administration – and US military and intelligence agencies – to acknowledge the Taliban’s overtures for negotiations during the surge that could have led to a political reintegration, ending the war and stabilizing Afghanistan. This led to ten more years of massive military expenditures, casualties, and destruction, culminating in an embarrassingly one-sided, peace negotiation and flawed withdrawal.
The surge was doomed on three levels. First, the failure to use it to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban. Second, the short, publically announced, time frame for it to occur, after which there would be a rapid withdrawal. Third, the massive levels of spending, corruption, and waste, increasing the contempt Afghans had for GIRoA.
During a speech in June 2011, President Obama announced that he was withdrawing the troops inserted for the Afghan surge. The opportunity to negotiate, while the US had the leverage of maximum boots on the ground, was lost. The Taliban simply waited out the surge, knowing the approximate dates when the US would be reducing their troop strength. Taliban propagandists spun the withdrawal to undermine confidence in GIRoA, ANSF, US, and ISAF, while enticing some officials and soldiers to cross over and join the Taliban or remain in place, helping the insurgency from the inside, via information, equipment, and assassinations.
The motives of US military, intel, and government officials that discouraged negotiations during the surge, in favor of allowing increased combat operations to “defeat” the Taliban, were at best, delusional. At worst, they were deliberate, deadly, and immoral in their intention to prolong the war. The US seized a stalemate with the surge, while recklessly discarding the opportunity to bring an end to hostilities in 2011.
Cheney and Rumsfeld’s Duplicitous Actions Perpetuated the War
The United States refusal to heed SRAP Holbrooke’s advice to negotiate with the Taliban during the surge of 2010 to 2011, should not be a surprise, since Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, and other unscrupulous officials spurned the Taliban’s repeated request for peace and reintegration during the first two months of the war, in 2001. Mullah Omar and the Taliban offered to stop fighting and support the Karzai government. All they asked for is amnesty, so they could return to their homes and villages, without the threat of being killed or incarcerated.
The Taliban had made early overtures through the CIA station in Pakistan and through other channels that presented their offer to Cheney and Rumsfeld. That could have ended the war within two months of the US invasion, but Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld dismissed the opportunity for a quick, peaceful resolution to the conflict. A quick end to the Afghan war would be detrimental to future US Defense spending, ongoing Military Industrial Complex profits, and Cheney and Rumsfeld’s need to keep the war in Afghanistan going to condition the US Congress and the population to support the illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq and other countries.
The US Waited Until Their Weakest Point to Negotiate Peace
The United States eventually got around to initiating serious reconciliation negotiations with the Taliban – at the weakest possible time – after the US had announced firm dates as to the total withdrawal of their remaining troops. At that point, the US had zero leverage, and the only reason for the Taliban to talk to them was to enhance their stature as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, while the US agreed to ban GIRoA from the negotiations.
The Taliban provided US officials with feigned “assurances” to their requests, so these willfully obtuse diplomats could file it in their reports, claiming they had agreements regarding the Taliban’s conduct and policies after the US withdrew. Any assurances that were given by the Taliban were meaningless. There sole purpose was to expedite the US exit.
As Afghanistan fell apart, these US officials could claim they had an agreement, so it’s not their fault that the Taliban and other insurgents were running amok, ignoring every toothless US condition regarding sharing power with GIRoA, human rights, women’s rights, presence of terrorist groups, and other alleged reasons for the 20 year US occupation. The fact is, both the Taliban and the US officials negotiating the treaty, knew that the assurances and agreements were meaningless and unenforceable.
At least US officials did not further sully the process by calling the negotiations, “Peace with Honor,” as they did in Vietnam, while knowing of the brutal imprisonment that awaited South Vietnamese allies thrown into hard labor reeducation camps. Then, Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger and other US officials also knew that hundreds of US POWs were left behind, being held by the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao, in addition to the ones with specific technical knowledge or experience that were sent to the Soviet Union, so the Russians could extract their secrets.
The Doha Agreement, signed in Doha, Qatar on February 29, 2020 between the United States and the Taliban, effectively eviscerated GIRoA, who had been banned from the negotiations that would determine the future of Afghanistan. By capitulating to the Taliban’s demand that GIRoA be excluded from the negotiations, the United States “officially” elevated the Taliban as the true representatives and government of Afghanistan, while relegating GIRoA to the position of an illegitimate, puppet government.
The US bullied and threatened GIRoA into releasing 5,000 hard core Taliban prisoners at the start of the negotiations, eliminating a key GIRoA negotiating chip they would need later as leverage for Taliban compliance on other agreements. This put 5,000 hardcore insurgent commanders and fighters back into Afghanistan to attack ANSF, driven by revenge and the prospect of seizing the spoils of war.
The US decision to be willfully obtuse as to the political and cultural ramifications of GIRoA’s exclusion, informed the Taliban how desperate the US was to leave Afghanistan – regardless of the consequences. After this capitulation and betrayal, US officials smugly told GIRoA to work out the details of power sharing with the Taliban. Metaphorically, the US cut off the legs of GIRoA officials and then told them to run a good race. At this point, everyone in Afghanistan – including GIRoA and ANSF – knew the Taliban would quickly conquer the country.
Taliban Corruption May Taint the New Regime
Taliban commanders became corrupted by the excessive US and ISAF war economy and development projects. The economic drivers of the Taliban and many of its commanders resembled flow charts of criminal organizations. In addition to the funding the Taliban received from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and other countries, they took in millions from all facets of narcotics trafficking, extortion, protection, robbery, theft, hijacking, kidnapping, murder, and numerous other crimes.
Some of these corrupt and greedy insurgent leaders and commanders may continue their extortion and criminal activities as they filled slots in the new Taliban government. Many foreign investors and developers will use bribes to gain or retain access, sales, development projects, and other contracts. Others will be encouraged to make contributions to Taliban officials or Taliban intermediaries, like Hamid Karzai, who will extort lucrative fees to facilitate contracts and acquisitions. The large bribes – paid in Euros or US dollars – will be delivered to banks in Dubai, UAE and other cities.
Richard Holbrooke died December 13, 2010 following extensive heart surgery. According to an article in the New York Times, his last recorded statement, prior to the operation was. “You’ve got to end this war in Afghanistan.”
Had key policymakers in the White House, State Department, and Pentagon allowed SRAP Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry to have more significant roles in crafting US policy initiatives and accountability in Afghanistan and the region, the United States could have pulled out of Afghanistan ten years earlier, saving over a trillion US dollars, countless lives, and some of their tarnished credibility. Unfortunately, unsavory ideologues, militarists, and war profiteers – many with ties to the bloated US Military Industrial Complex – spewed propaganda and lies to perpetuate and promote the doctrine of endless wars, while undermining accountability and opportunities to end the war in Afghanistan.