An in-depth look at Afghanistan with State Senator Colonel Doug Mastriano

August 13 – With America pulling completely out of Afghanistan this weekend after decades of working to help the people and country, and attempting to hold off terrorism, it has left the Afghan troops not only flailing, but ripe for a Taliban takeover.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Yes, the deal had been made by President Donald Trump with the Taliban to withdrawal all troops by May 1, 2021. The problem is there needed to be a major plan put in place – and that didn’t happen.

This withdrawal occurred in a matter of days and things folded quickly. 

Could this be setting the stage for another pre-911 type atmosphere? After all, Afghanistan was the breeding ground for a lot of these terrorist organizations 20 years ago.

State Senator Doug Mastriano joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen to discuss what’s happening to a country that was our ally.

Mastriano has had multiple tours in Afghanistan, was a subject matter expert on Afghanistan, spoke in North America regarding Afghanistan and Europe and South Asia as a subject matter expert. He was also the Director of the Joint Intelligent Center in Afghanistan, which did intelligence assessments for all of Afghanistan and neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

Mastriano said, “You reflect back and it’s really hard to watch this. It’s really gut-wrenching. It feels like you’ve been kicked in the stomach when you’re watching this happen. Because you think about the sacrifices. Especially those that dies.”

America lost 2,312 soldiers. NATO lost 1,200 and some of our allies as well. We left behind 20,660 wounded Americans and 111,000 dead Afghan civilians, 64,000 Afghan army and security forces and about 60,000 Taliban.

Mastriano said, “There’s a lot of carnage left behind. All that sacrifice. Two decades of fighting. A trillion dollars or more. And it’s all for what? I watch what happens here. Joe Biden’s a bit older than us. So he’s part of the Vietnam generation. He saw 1975 Saigon. I was young-ish, but I remember distinctly how embarrassing it was to the helicopters on the Embassy and people being left behind by the United States because of feckless policies then and now we have feckless policies from Joe Biden. The same thing has happened in our lifetime. He’s turned our back on our allies. He withdrew precipitously without any coordination or forethought. What in the world is going on? What a disaster.”

Ryan asked, “What are the optics on the rest of the world to the United States at this point? I could pretty much answer that question, but you can get us into a deeper position on this. What does the world think?”

Mastriano said, “This is my view as a strategist. It has nothing to do with politics. The world views us just as they did in 1975, that America is weak and can’t be relied upon. That America will lax a resolve now under this current administration to do the right thing. It was time to wind that mission down. Twenty years in, it’s still a disaster and it was a money pit, but you do it incrementally. You do it with forethought. Trump didn’t cut and run. He had planned on getting out of there, but he was gauging it on how the Taliban were reacting, what was going on on the ground.”

In South Vietnam in the 1970s, Congress in the midst of Watergate pulled the plug on the South Vietnamese army, which means the South Vietnamese army lost American air support and American logistics – and it collapsed quickly.

The same thing happened in Afghanistan. It was a fledgling force, built by the international coalition and without American support, they could not hold on.

Mastriano said, “It’s in the height of campaign season, by the way. There’s a war season. Kicks off around March. Taliban, a lot of them stay home over the winter time in Pakistan where they’ve been hiding since 2001, 2002. Every spring and summer they come out for the campaign season. They go back home in October, November. This was absolutely the worst time of the year to do this. If you are going to do an incremental withdrawal, you do it over the winter season when the Afghan National Security Forces are in a stronger position.”

Ryan asked, “Is that what President Trump had proposed?”

Mastriano said, “It seemed like he wanted to withdrawal this past winter, but he paused that and left about 3,000 troops behind to conduct special ops as well as air support and logistics for the Afghan army to prop them up. That’s just the reality.”

The mission in Afghanistan changed constantly.

Mastriano explained, “We went in there for counterterrorism after 911. We had to do that. And then it transitioned into nation building, which is a terrible idea. We tried to transform that nation sort of into our image and the idea that we could impose our way of life on a tribal society is absolutely ridiculous.”

Jansen added, “Now there’s this big controversy over whose fault this is. The finger pointing is unbelievable. Zero acceptance by this administration of their responsibility for this. They’re pointing to the intelligence agencies.”

Reporters were asking Joe Biden if he was told this would happen. He said they did not tell us. But then a Congressman said they absolutely told us this was going to happen.

Especially without air defenses anymore.

Mastriano said, “Our command of the air obviously curbed what the Taliban could do because if they got in any formations on the ground, they were dead. Air power would come in, there would be American Special Forces calling air strikes. That’s all gone. That evaporated overnight in July. As far as who’s responsible, Joe Biden owns this. Period. He’s the president of the United States. He made the decision. He made a terrible decision and there’s going to be hell to pay on the ground. My heart breaks for the orphans that I tried to help and for the widows we tried to help and for all the helpless people out there. Now girls from age 12 up are viable to be married off by these creepy, terrible, awful people. Boys are being beaten into submission. Anyone who worked with the Americans or International Coalition in any capacity, they’ll probably lose their life. They’re going to be summarily executed. It’s going to be an absolute nightmare. It looks fine now because the Taliban swept across the nation. They’re going to reconsolidate their gains here and now it’s going to be retribution time and we’re already hearing stories coming out from the countryside there are people being killed.”

Jansen said, “I heard that the Imams are being told they must submit all the names of girls 15 years old at least and up and all the widows 45 years and younger so that they can be married off to the tribal people, the soldiers in the Taliban. It is just horrendous.”

Ryan asked, “I wonder where Michele Obama will be on that one?”

Jansen said, “Trump at least and he’s confirmed this, they were not going to do unconditional withdrawal. They actually told the Taliban, you do any of this, we’re coming back and we will be stopping you. I don’t think they would have abandoned the idea. Or they would have made sure we had bases in the surrounding countries first before we did this. Now Biden belatedly is saying oh please, please let us set up some bases and of course the surrounding countries are saying no. Russia has a lot of influence there. Iran. We’re not going to let you set up bases. Now you’ve lost all your leverage.”

Ryan said, “Doug, as a former US Army War College Professor and the expertise you have here, alright, he’s made himself a mess, he owns it. His administration owns it. What do you do now? What is the save? Let’s put pride aside here. Can we fix this? How do we fix this? Is there a save on this at all?”

Mastriano said, “There could be. It would be sending 10 to 15,000 troops back to Bagram and back into Kabul and reestablishing those bases that we abandoned there. Can you imagine? It’s like a yo-yo. I just want to remind people this is not Biden’s first experience in cutting and running out of a country. Him and Obama decided to cut and run out of Iraq. And look, it was time to wind that mission down as well, but it left a security vacuum in Iraq and Syria.”

ISIS rolled across Syria, rolled across Iraq, and that resulted in genocides of mass numbers of people.

Mastriano continued, “And the Obama administration denied there was any of this going on, turned their back on these people and as a result ISIS was doing terrible things and Donald Trump had to go in and clean it up and he beat them into submission. We’re going to see something similar in Afghanistan if we just go in, evacuate our people and leave. At this point here it’s a power vacuum and the Taliban are going to fill that power vacuum unless something else happens at the international side.”

Jansen predicted, “And Al-Qaeda is going to get reconstituted.”

Mastriano confirmed, “They’re coming back. They’re there.”

Jansen said, “And they’re going to start threatening us. It’s ridiculous to say there wasn’t a reason at least to have a small force there that could keep things under control. I know there’s controversy, but I still think that that would have been possible, and yet, no. They just destroyed that. We could go back, wouldn’t we have to claw their way back and fight and we’d lose people again? And how would the American people stand for that? And meanwhile we have General Milley who’s all worried about white rage instead of directing things properly and getting things done from the real threats around the world. And where’s the brilliance of the experience of foreign affairs that we were supposed to get in this president?”

Mastriano said, “Some years ago when I was a major, I wrote a piece on how there is a danger in a future of the military becoming politicized and it was a fictional tale. My heart is broken that that’s come to fruition. General Milley is the personification of what’s wrong with our military now. That this decorated general officer talking this nonsense, not focused on the force and war-fighting skills, but focused on white rage and CRT and all this other nonsense that has no place in the United States military. Our job is to fight and win our nation’s wars. Clearly, he’s also giving bad advice to the president as well, I’m sure.”

Ryan said, “Let’s talk about the heightened numbers when it comes to terroristic threats. You’re following this one as well. It’s been raised, yes?”

Mastriano said, “Naturally as a result, Afghanistan is going to devolve into a gray zone as we call it and that’s of course where Al-Qaeda and other groups are going to reestablish themselves within the countryside of Afghanistan. The Taliban, they’ll control pockets of the country. Out in the countryside it’s going to be a danger zone and the next few years, attacks will be staged out of there against western interests and maybe even our own country, God forbid.”

Jansen asked, “Do we have any opportunities with Pakistan? Really it’s a proxy war from Pakistan in a big way. They’ve been sheltering these people for years, forever. Is there any avenues or pathways to apply any pressure to try to hold some of this back?”

Mastriano said, “That’s really tough. Obviously Pakistan had an interest in keeping Afghanistan destabilized and hence why they hosted the Pashtun Taliban for 20 years across the border…Pakistan would support us for a huge, hefty price.”

Ryan said, “Let’s talk southern border, too, here. If anything you have an opportunity here to shut the border down. Here’s your example. We’ve given you all the other ones, COVID, we’ve given you the disasters that are happening on the southern border. We’ve heard story after story about this. You see it and you hear the cries from the people on the southern border. Now you’ve got bad actors that can have access. At least 50 of them let out of prison. We already know that that were held either at Gitmo or here in the states and brought back over to Afghanistan. A better reason than this to shut down the southern border?”

Could the weakness at the southern border be used as a way to get into the US?

Mastriano wondered, “What other reason do we need? COVID was enough and they’re unleashing people across the border with COVID. On the other side, we saw the video of the Taliban opening up the Pul-e-Charkhi prison outside of Kabul which had thousands of prisoners, many of whom were terrorists that we handed over to the Afghan government, so they’re free and looking for a job as well, so it’s just a matter of time before they make their way here. The catastrophe of not shutting down the border actually goes back to Bush in 2001. After we were attacked on 911, I thought he would shut the border down and control who has access to our country. He failed to do that. Donald Trump was the only one to step up in between. So we have all these disasters domestically and internationally. It’s really heartbreaking for me that we have to live through this again. We saw it in Vietnam. We saw the South Vietnamese that we turned our back on, who committed to our mission there and were murdered by the communists…now we turned our back on 20-some thousand people that supported us in Afghanistan and are left to die.”

Ryan asked, “Where is the president of Afghanistan? I know he’s on a plane out of there. Where’s he going to land?”

Mastriano said, “I heard he was in one of the neighboring countries in the former Soviet republics. He’s across the border. I don’t know where he’s going to end up. But what I do know is where is our president? Had Donald Trump been in office and been cooling his heels in Camp David while this catastrophe is happening, there would have been hell to pay, but Joe Biden, it’s okay for him to be so disengaged and detached while thousands of people’s lives are at risk.”

Jansen said, “How anybody can not see the hypocrisy and the media, they’re not there anymore. That fifth rail that was supposed to keep an eye and help us fight corruption, they just don’t exist. And what about our allies? What are people in Taiwan thinking? What are Ukrainians thinking? We abandoned these guys. Anybody going to trust us to keep our word and our promises to help where we said we would?”

Mastriano said, “If I was China or Putin in Russia, I would see America as very weak and vulnerable and these times are really dark. This might be the time for China to try something, God forbid, against Taiwan. Or for Putin to up the ante in Ukraine and roll through more of that country. Right now it’s demonstrated that America’s resolve is weak and that we’re going to cut and run and we’re so focused on domestic policies and odd theories and ideas that we don’t even care what’s going on in the world and we’ll even leave behind allies and friends.”

“Flags,” Ryan said. “That’s what we’re concerned about. Flying flags and not about fighting. We’re all about flags and optics.”

Jansen said, “Didn’t we have Black Lives Matter and a rainbow flag over the Embassy in Kabul? Wow, we’re really sending a great, strong message there.”

Ryan asked Colonel Mastriano, “Have you been in communication with any of the folks that you fought along with in Afghanistan? What are they saying? What’s their takeaways on this? I go back to what can we do now? Now that he’s made a mess of it, how do we fix this mess?”

Mastriano said, “The heart-wrenching feeling that I have is nothing compared to the family members of the 2,312 Americans that lost their lives and the 1,500 NATO partners and allies that lost their lives there. So the surviving family members have the feeling of was it worth it? That’s a hard question. And then of course the 20,660 wounded, and many severely. I’ve been in communication with Teddy Daniels, who’s running for Congress up in the northeast of Pennsylvania. He’s kind of the rock star in the army because he actually had a helmet cam on when they walked through a Taliban ambush in eastern Afghanistan about ten years ago. He received a purple heart. He actually had me pass on his purple heart to President Trump two months ago and then President Trump personally met with him. Obviously he said it’s gut-wrenching for him, especially, because he actually, literally, left a piece of himself over there on a mountainside in Kunar province in Afghanistan.”