“Ancient Rome was as confident of its world and the continual expansion and improvement of the human lot as we are today.” – Arthur Erickson
Historians, politicians, and pundits will argue for the next several decades and maybe longer about why the withdrawal from Afghanistan unraveled so quickly. They will speculate how a country descended back into being ruled by a Deobandi Islamist religious-political movement and military organization so rapidly and with hardly a shot being fired. There’s much to be unpacked and examined over the next several years, and we are perhaps too close to the fog of war to really see it clearly today. While the various MSM pundits are currently pointing fingers deciding who to blame for this debacle, I try to stay away from the political spin and instead try to figure out what can be learned and applied for myself and the prepper community. We can see with great clarity because it is unfolding before our eyes several lessons we should know now about how a nation falls apart and what we can do to keep alive when it does.
In this blog, I will pull out the key lessons we should take away from what’s happening right now in Afghanistan, and we will look at how we can apply those lessons learned to the preps we make today. I spent 3 months in Afghanistan in 2003 doing humanitarian work and I’ll do a follow up video shortly discussing my thoughts in more detail, but for now, let’s focus on what we can practically learn in this moment. It is hard for most people to imagine that the stability they enjoy one day can evaporate in mere hours and could never return, but that is more of a common reality throughout history and the world. Natural disasters, cyberattacks, overt attacks, a collapse of civility, riots, and martial law only exacerbate problems further and cause an acceleration of the destabilizing forces. As we have seen in Afghanistan, national stability can disappear in not days, weeks, or months but mere hours. So, what do you need to prepare for if it happens in your country or region? Let’s find out…
If there is one takeaway from the two-decade war, it’s that there is pervasive incompetence when governments try to do what they think at the moment is the “right thing.” We don’t need to see a war that lasts for several generations, a bungled response to a disaster, or a hacked and poisoned municipal water supply to understand fully that governments aren’t very effective at maintaining your security and well-being. Still, many put their complete faith in a party or policy, which isn’t dissimilar to fastening your seatbelt, praying, and handing over the steering wheel to someone who claims to know how to drive but has never really demonstrated the ability. The situation in Afghanistan displays the incompetence of several administrations, the extent of profits over people especially within the military-industrial complex which President Dwight Eisenhower warned about on Jan. 17, 1961 in his farewell speech, and how seemingly noble causes can evaporate over time.
Many in the prepper community already know this. The reason many prep to begin with is that they have witnessed the pervasive incompetence of leaders firsthand. They understand that governments barely function and cannot be relied upon to be there for you when you need them. When high lead levels are detected in your drinking water or boil orders are issued, the first response is to establish blame. You can’t drink blame and survive, so it’s far better to reduce your dependent needs on systems that provide you with the basics of food, water, and shelter. Strive to become less dependent on what the government offers, and you become less susceptible to their influence. Many in Afghanistan right now are sheltering in place, unable to leave their homes for fear of their safety. The Taliban will eventually seek reprisals against former employees of the government, those that assisted foreign nations in the war effort, civil society activists, and women. People will not be able to hide in their homes forever, and when the final foreign troops leave Kabul airport, Islamic capital punishment will become the norm, and no one will be safe.
When the civil government dissolves and is replaced by extremist groups, any civil laws disappear. When the seemingly organized government disappears, areas succumb to whatever local leader has the most prominent band of followers. The local leader becomes the judge and jury. And, it isn’t unimaginable that this could happen in any country where the government is crippled by infighting or unable to respond or reach an area to maintain control adequately. A wide scale power outage, communication lines down, and one significant natural disaster all at the same time would render the government useless to maintain order. If the National Guard were called in to establish order, everyone might not receive them as a friendly fighting force of neighbors. They may be viewed as tools of the government, and further conflicts and skirmishes could arise.
Suppose there is just one takeaway to what we see happening in Afghanistan right now. In that case, it’s that reliance upon a government to maintain your food, water, and security is a guaranteed disaster at some point. Furthermore, this reliance leads to your inability to make decisions for yourself. In exchange for the illusion of security and stability, you become dependent upon that government’s decisions. If they feel it is in your best interest to relocate or surrender your food, you have no choice. That government can be foreign, or it could be domestic.
HOW FAST IT ALL UNRAVELS
The second lesson we can take from what we see happening in Afghanistan is that things can unravel quickly. I don’t think anyone will argue that Afghanistan was the model of security and safety, but the semblance of security was at least in place. The Taliban takeover was far swifter than officials from any previous administration had envisioned. They seized control of province after province and took the capital Kabul in a mere ten days. The Taliban didn’t have to fight to do it, either. They simply moved in to fill the vacuum of leadership and brokered a series of surrenders. After nearly two decades of war, more than 6,000 American lives were lost, over 100,000 Afghans killed, and more than $2 trillion spent by the U.S., the speed of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has shocked many in the world.
Again, Afghanistan and the US were war-weary and likely on this trajectory from the moment US officials inked an overly optimistic peace deal in February 2020. However, it should still serve as an example of how rapidly control can shift from one body to another without any input from the citizenry. Any area significantly detached from the controlling national government is subject to provincial rule. Just as vigilante bands might arise and seize control and jurisdiction over small areas and neighborhoods, several can band together to repel national efforts to regain control. As preppers, we often see the prolonged, slow collapse happening daily around us and often feel we are but a few steps in front of it. We can learn from this situation that when the wave finally breaks, it can be sudden, overwhelming, and quickly sweep up the entire area and populous.
What is becoming more apparent to many is that just a few events can create a critical mass that can force an SHTF situation of interminable length and indeterminate recovery. What happens when a natural disaster strikes and the national government fails to maintain peace? Things will swiftly descend into chaos. Stores will be looted. Shipments replenishing vital supplies will stop. Fuel shipments will stop. Local governments, militias, Guard units, federal troops, law enforcement officers will all scramble to maintain control. Still, they will fail, and we are not talking about months and years, but hours and days. Within hours, evacuation routes might be rendered unsafe or impassable, and you would have no choice but to hunker down until some semblance of societal structure is reestablished. Even then, the new order may not be safe for you and may continually be in conflict with the old order.
Once the tipping point is reached, everything unravels all at once. It’s fast, and it can be deadly and dangerous for you. Understand that now.
This situation shows how quickly the government will abandon what it may consider liabilities. If something or someone no longer serves a purpose, they’ll leave. Obviously, we should have left Afghanistan a long time ago and should have never set up shop in the country at the level we have. Both sides of the political aisle seem to agree on this point. America has a history of doing this to other nations: we often tend to use other countries for their resources and then pull out, leaving them to fend for their own. In Afghanistan’s case, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, but it is sitting on mineral deposits worth nearly one trillion dollars.
Supplies of minerals such as iron, copper, and gold are scattered across provinces. There are also rare earth minerals and, perhaps most importantly, what could be one of the world’s most significant deposits of lithium — an essential but scarce component in rechargeable batteries and other technologies vital to tackling the climate crisis. Likely, China will swiftly fill the funding void. The country has already met with the Taliban before the withdrawal, and the country has no difficulty funding governments that serve their economic needs even at a humanitarian cost to the people. The lesson here is that if saving one area would force a more considerable instability, the government isn’t likely to pull out all the stops to ensure your safety and well-being. Governments work on the premise of containment. If your city or town, or State could be walled off to stop the spread of an epidemic, chaos, civil unrest, or a mass exodus, your government will do it. That’s fine if you have the means to shelter in place, but if you have to evacuate or bug out, you will struggle to do so safely.
Knowing that the government is likely to abandon you for the greater good, it becomes imperative that you have both a long-term bug-in plan and more than one kit and route to bugout. If you are forced to bug out, your goal is to get far beyond the government’s walls and barriers of containment. Those poor souls in Afghanistan have only two routes out of danger. Either they brave roadblock after roadblock of Taliban, which isn’t a very high probability of success or they wait in containment at the Kabul airport, entirely at the mercy of the world’s goodwill. It has been a few years since I was in Afghanistan, and the dynamics could have changed considerably since then, but it seems that there was likely more than one indicator that the Taliban was moving in and siezing control. At some point in the initial ten days between the first province surrendering and Kabul falling, every citizen who was concerned was probably desperately fleeing or hiding out. Those in hiding must have still been holding onto hope that the wave of Taliban would recede or fall. It should be glaringly apparent right now that there was no rescue coming from the Afghanistan government, Afghan National Army, or international forces.
ONLY YOU ARE IN CONTROL
The final lesson here for us is that only you are in control of your survival. When you fail to prep and plan for the worst, you freely surrender to the random winds of chaos and the boot heels of whatever brute or political faction is the strongest to rule with fear. The government has a slight percentage chance of swooping in and being your savior, assuming all conditions are perfectly right, roads are passable, security is established, and resources are available to you. That all said, even in the United States, vital relief funds and aid have been held up after previous disasters while political parties argued. Impassable roads led to desperation at the Superdome after Katrina, as some 16,000 people sought safety there. At least two people were raped in the darkness. One man jumped 50 feet to his death, saying he had nothing to live for, and people had no option but to urinate and defecate along the walls as sewer systems failed along with all the other infrastructure systems. Just recently, floodwaters ravaged rural Tennessee, North Carolina, and other areas leaving many dead and even more missing. Most were from rural areas, and those tend to be the last to receive any government assistance, aid, or relief.
You have to look at the world and understand that you have to be in charge of your preps and your plans. The government, even the local government, police, fire, and medical services aren’t going to magically appear and whisk you somewhere safer. As many will sadly find out in Afghanistan, even relying upon your neighbor to help you through isn’t the best of plans. Your resources can be targeted, and you could be sold out or preyed upon. How extreme any disaster gets for you will depend upon your preparation and planning before the disaster occurs. Your future shouldn’t rely upon the charity of your government because that may never come. How long has Flint, Michigan, been trying to get clean drinking water? How many homeowners had to sue their insurance company for a fraction of the losses that should have been paid through insurance policies after hurricanes Harvey and Katrina? The best insurance policy you can have is your preps and preparation.
Have a minimum of 72-hours of food and water. That will get you through most short-term natural disasters. Strive to build that up to 3-weeks or more of each. That will get you through more protracted disasters of a regional nature. Have at least one plan to bug in, another to huddle up at one location with your secure network or group, and at least two escape routes in case you need to bug out. Many will say that they will never bug out, but if the levee breaks, the creeks rise, or your walls burn, you won’t have a choice.
HAVE A BUG OUT PLAN
Make sure you have at least two routes and more than one method to get safely beyond the border of your neighborhood, your town, your city, even your state. If you feel the chaos is brewing, you might preemptively move to get ahead of it. Stay ahead of the wave before it crashes down around you and on top of you. Many people on the ground in Afghanistan were caught off-guard by the quick deterioration, including many western humanitarian workers. Having the ability to quickly get out of a situation and promptly execute that plan with short notice is so important. The time to pull together your bug out bag or run to the grocery store ends the moment the disaster strikes, and it might not come back for you again.
It doesn’t matter the situation, be it civil unrest, economic collapse, or a natural disaster that rips through your community, have a plan B and C. Know how to get out of your area and get to a safer area. Maybe turn to family and friends in other areas and develop backup plans. Have your bug-out bags ready to go, even if you live in a fortress, and you don’t envision yourself ever leaving under any condition.
The time may come when you will have to either leave or perish amongst your preps. You won’t be able to take 300-gallons of stored up water with you, but make sure you have the means to filter water in your bug-out bag. Make sure you have the means to start a fire. Make sure you have a printed map. Make sure you have what you need to survive even if you’re moving slowly from the chaos. Have a bug-out plan. Don’t get stuck at the airport, train station, bus depot, or in a mass of refugees.
It’s somewhat easy to look at the crisis on the other side of the world and argue with lofty opinions about who is responsible for the chaos and why, but that won’t get us far. I’ll leave that up to the historians to decipher and shape into reality. As preppers, we should be hard-focused on the lessons we can learn here about how quickly things can fall apart and how we need to be as independent as we can from even the most seemingly solid government structures. The important takeaways are that when things go south, it happens faster than anyone expects it to. Your government isn’t likely to show up at your door, thank you for all those years of paying taxes and roll out a red carpet for you. To the contrary, it will be pretty clear that you are entirely on your own. The plans you make for yourself will make you stronger in the crisis. The plans you forge with others will make you stronger still as a group. You are in control of the crisis now before it has occurred. Once it occurs, you can fall back on the plans you have made, but the time to coordinate new plans has passed.
What do you think? What is the big takeaway we should be understanding from the situation in Afghanistan? Has it changed your prepping focus?
As always, please stay safe out there.