The late Charlie “Good Time” Wilson, a maverick Democratic congressman from Texas, single-handedly pushed US presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan into covertly arming and supporting the mujahideen after the invasion of Afghanistan by a senile Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, in 1979 and leading to the ultimate defeat of the Red Army under Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.
The fall of Kabul and the inglorious collapse of the Afghan state to the Taliban has now created at least a dozen new Charlie Wilsons in the US Congress determined to deny the new Taliban government any US recognition and provide moral and material support to Amrullah Saleh and Tajik-Afghan warlord Ahmad Massoud in their Panjshir Valley redoubt in the Hindu Kush less than 160 kilometers from Kabul.
Debunking Taliban communiqués, Reuters, Russian national news agency Tass and Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper have reported that Saleh and Massoud have not left the Panjshir Valley and are continuing an insurgent guerrilla war against the Taliban.
In fact, sources familiar with the situation claim that Saleh’s and Massoud’s National Resistance Front (NRF) has logistical support and bases in nearby Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The fall of Kabul – which ranks as the greatest and most disgraceful foreign-policy debacle in the United States’ 244-year history – has led a bipartisan group of congressmen to take unilateral action in first rescuing US Afghan allies from Kabul and supporting the NRF in its fight against the Taliban takeover.
This “maverick” action has gained even more momentum after the deaths of 11 US marines and two other US service members from a bomb blast at Kabul Airport.
The congressmen – for the most part military veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, frustrated by what they see as the incompetence of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan – organized their own rescue operations using their congressional staff along with US veterans and US business leaders on the ground in Kabul.
The new Charlie Wilsons are House of Representaive Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul; former US military Afghan adviser Andy Kim; former US Army Green Beret Mike Waltz; Joe Wilson; former White House physician to Donald Trump Admiral Ronny Lynn Jackson; Iraq-Afghan war veteran Seth Moulton; Peter Meijer; and former US Army Ranger Jason Crow.
The congressmen are filling the void created by Blinken and Sullivan, who have been able to re-create every major US foreign-policy catastrophe in less than two weeks: the fall of Saigon of 1975; the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81; the Beirut Marine barracks bombing of 1983; the Benghazi consulate attack of 2012; and the ISIS takeover of much of Iraq and Syria in 2017.
There is near consensus among mainstream Democrats, including former CIA director and defense secretary Leon Panetta, that President Joe Biden has no option but to fire Blinken and Sullivan and make a clean sweep of all foreign-policy and national-security advisers including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
“Blinken seems to have no grasp of reality or his failure,” said one high-ranking Democratic Party member.
Unlike the war against the Soviets in the early 1980s or the Afghanistan used as the base by Osama bin Laden to take out the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, today’s Taliban are a modern version of 17th-century North African Barbary pirates whose ultimate paymasters are the heads of Italian transnational organized crime groups such as the Sicilian Mafia; the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria; Camorra of Campania; the Albanian-led Sacra Corona of Puglia; the Mexican cartels; and the reputed godfather of Russian-Ukrainian organized crime, Moscow-based and FBI most wanted Semion Mogilevich.
Lieutenant-General H R McMaster, as Trump’s national security adviser, was the first (and only) White House policy leader to see groups such as the Taliban, ISIS and al-Qaeda as transnational organized crime (TOC) entities more like the notorious 1980s Chicago street gang of the El Rukns of Jeff Fort than exalted terrorists as peddled by the “best and brightest” White House foreign-policy operators and DC think-tank elites through the presidencies of George W Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and finally, President Joe Biden.
One of the congressional veterans noted that Bush, Obama, Trump and Joe Biden have never worn the uniform of the US military in battle.
Not only are the TOCs generating over an estimated US$1 trillion a year in ill-gotten gains from heroin, human and arms trafficking but they have been innovative in starting new criminal enterprises such as the industrial production of highly addictive and devastatingly destructive synesthetic drug, crystal methamphetamine.
The main crystal meth center of Afghanistan is the town of Ghoryan, located some 40 minutes west of formerly Italian-controlled Herat and some 60km from the Iranian border.
“Ordinary [Afghan] people are used to produce drugs but the main profit is made by terrorists groups and traffickers,” said Herat native journalist Morteza Pajhwok. “A large part of the funding of terrorist groups, especially the Taliban, comes from the production and trafficking of narcotics. Most narcotics are produced in Herat, Helmand, Farah, and some other provinces.”
While the Afghan government and allies failed miserably to attract sustainable foreign investors to exploit its rare-earth, iron, and lithium resources, transnational organized crime were able to set up a highly advanced synthetic meth industry that currently exports its deadly wares to Iran, the Middle East, Central Asia, China and Europe.
So far, President Biden with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are using the some $8 billion of Afghanistan Central Bank Reserves held by the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve as leverage against the new Taliban leadership.
The new Taliban government is facing a crippling $6 billion budget gap, the amount Western nations paid a year to keep the Afghan government up and running, according to the American-educated Afghan Central Bank governor-in-exile Ajmal Ahmady.
A University of Chicago school free-market mafia state in Central Asia funded almost entirely by drugs, arms, human trafficking and rent-a-terrorist is a direct threat not only to the United States and Europe but also to all of its neighbors: Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and especially Pakistan.
The Taliban had and can once again have the capacity to overthrow the Pakistani government and wrest control of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Russia cannot afford to have a pipeline of separatist terrorists funneling through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to wage war against Moscow via Chechnya and Dagestan; Iran is loath to have a base for anti-regime groups on its border; while China is fully aware that Muslim Uighurs can use the leftover US arms to wage war to re-create an independent state of East Turkestan in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
The only hope left is that congressmen Mike McCaul and Mike Waltz can keep the NRF of Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud alive until President Biden and the Group of 20 led by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi give them full support and recognition as Charlie Wilson did with Jimmy Carter until winning over the complete support of Ronald Reagan.
This is not a war against the Soviet Union or Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden but one against known drug lords living in expensive condos in Manhattan, Milan, Miami and Moscow as it those criminal kingpins that enable Taliban, ISIS and al-Qaeda the ability to cross national borders.
Such a war can be waged with minimal financial and military costs. US Special Forces can be embedded with National Resistance Front fighters, mirroring the successful action under then-secretary of state General Colin Powell in liberating Kabul with the Northern Alliance in 2001.
Peter K Semler is the chief executive editor and founder of Capitol Intelligence. Previously, he was the Washington bureau chief for Mergermarket (Dealreporter/Debtwire) of the Financial Times and headed political and economic coverage of the US House of Representatives and Senate.