PETE HEGSETH (HOST): Today, I went back and read the letters I wrote home from Afghanistan. It was like reading letters from a guy being slowly mugged by reality. We could surge and conduct counter insurgency all we wanted, it wasn't going to matter.
Afghanistan didn't want freedom. And our commitment wasn't enduring. The operation was doomed to fail. We knew it then, and we know it today. Afghanistan had none of those ingredients I saw in Iraq. It was and is biblical times with AK-47s and cell phones. One of my letters home included this doozy. “The lack of education and level of ignorance in Afghanistan is staggering. Literally, only one in 10 men who joined the Afghan National Army can write his own name, and only slightly more can count."
So, the guys who can't read and can't count were going to fight off the Taliban and surely manage the sophisticated military equipment we were giving them. Worse, as I wrote about, every Afghan army unit was given more, newer, and better military equipment than the National Guard units in your home state and mine currently have today. For example, when I was in Afghanistan, an Afghan heavy weapons battalion was given 18 brand new 50 caliber machine guns and dozens of smaller caliber heavy weapons and RPGs. I challenge you to walk into any Army National Guard armory in the United States and ask them how many functioning 50 caliber machine guns they have. There won't be many, if any.
Ten years ago, we knew much of that equipment was being sold away in Pakistan. Today, it's falling into the hands of the Taliban. Imagine, if we equipped ourselves at home instead of equipping illiterate poppy farmers who don't even trust fellow soldiers in their unit.
The operation, sadly, in Afghanistan is going to fall apart. It's going to fall apart quickly. As I saw 10 years ago, it was obvious to anyone who wasn't blindly invested that the Taliban maintained and maintains a psychological grip on the country, which isn't even a country. It's all about family, clan, tribe, religion, and region. The Afghan national government is a western fabrication; 97% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product, their economy, 97% is linked to foreign aid. Their real economy is drugs. It's opium. Outside of their capital city of Kabul, there is no real infrastructure and no education. We built schools and hospitals, and then our Afghan friends stole the furnishings and the Taliban blew them up. Now, some elite and well-trained Afghans will fight. But most can't or won't. The real power has been and remains with the warlords and the Taliban.