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Secretary of State Mac Warner comments on fall of Afghanistan; spent five years there as an advisor

MORGANTOWN – Following the chaotic fall of the government in Afghanistan and the ongoing evacuation, The Dominion Post spoke on Monday with Secretary of State Mac Warner, who spent five years there as a contracted advisor. We also solicited comments from Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito.

Warner served 23 years active duty as a U.S. Army office then five years as a contractor in Afghanistan advising the Ministry of Justice, Attorney General’s Office, Supreme Court and Ministry of Women’s Affairs. His daughter, Lisa, was an officer with the 130th Engineer BCT in Afghanistan. Mac and Lisa spent Christmas Eve 2015 together in Kabul while their facility was receiving mortar attacks from the Taliban.

His son, Steven, also served in Afghanistan as a combat engineer and platoon leader, and was wounded while doing route clearance in Logar Province 10 years ago. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

Warner said during his years as an advisor, his job was to try to educate the government in the Western institutions of due process of justice, something foreign to their legal system. In some places he made progress, in others, he got lip service.

Warner with two Afghan children.

The government’s fall and the Taliban takeover was entirely foreseeable, he said. He cited several examples, including Lisa’s experience at Bagram Air Base, where inside informants provided information for Taliban mortar targeting.

His own experience included seeing a rash of “green on blue” attacks in 2012, where “green” Afghan forces supposedly being trained by “blue” international forces turned their weapons on their trainers. Fifteen percent of their losses came from their partners turning on them. “Everywhere we went we had to go under armed guards.”

Afghan interpreters and co-workers told him, he said, that they wanted U.S. security aid, training an resources, but they didn’t want the Americans. “This was an inevitable outcome. They don’t want us there.”

Warner believes that the fallen government never intended to fight the Taliban. Tribal loyalties are more important than national loyalties, and the government leaders and Taliban are all Pashtuns. So what occurred was a transfer of U.S.-provided weapons to their Pashtun brothers. “If they never intended to fight in the first place, its really isn’t a surrender.”

Much like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Warner said, the Afghan situation can’t be solved, only managed.

For 20 years, we managed the country in order to prevent another 9/11. We deterred war and brought about some humanitarian reforms, such as girls and women getting educated, but already the Taliban is starting to undo those reforms, he said.

Warner with Afghan voters.

It was a costly process in terms of Americans killed and wounded, he said. “We need to learn the lessons.” As in Vietnam, the enemy doesn’t play by the same rules. We respected the Pakistani border, for instance, while the Taliban felt free to flee across the line because the border runs right through Pashtun territory.

“We need to learn those lessons and never do that gain.” Warner said. We need to go in and win the fight with our gloves off, not restrict ourselves.

“What we’ve given up now is this strategic location in the center of central Asia,” he said. Afghanistan is surrounded by bad neighbors and Bagram was a strategic site. We’re losing a source of valuable human intelligence about what’s going on in the area. “This was a foolhardy decision” and more human casualties are the continued price, along with American prestige.

Manchin and Capito

Manchin has long expressed his desire to get out of Afghanistan, and not engage in what he’s called nation building. He declined to comment on Monday but his office sent a tweet he put out on Sunday.

“As we watch the events unfolding in Afghanistan,” he tweeted, “my prayers are with the families who lost a loved one serving our country. Those who have served have my deepest appreciation and utmost respect. We will never forget their sacrifices and will always be grateful for their service.”

Capito’s office sent along a Twitter thread and some comments she provided to Hoppy Kercheval’s Talkline.

Capito tweeted: “Less than 8 months in to the Biden administration, and the Taliban has already overtaken Afghanistan, erasing the gains made over the past several years. Instead of a conditions-based withdrawal, President Biden opted for a hasty exit. His failed policies have created yet another dangerous and embarrassing crisis for the United States.

“I will continue to pray for the safety of every American who is evacuating, as well as the Afghans that have helped our American forces,” she said. “I am particularly concerned for the women and girls who were starting to enjoy their freedoms. Finally, I am also thinking of those West Virginians who served our nation and defended freedom in the Middle East during the last two decades.”

Talking with Kercheval for MetroNews, she said the withdrawal has been “totally botched. … It was totally discombobulated, if there was even a plan. … How could they not know the Taliban was better organized and ready to go and energized?”

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