Author Topic: Looking back on Afghanistan  (Read 2847 times)

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Offline Journeyman

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Looking back on Afghanistan
« on: September 27, 2019, 10:46:20 »
The latest issue of the US Army War College publication, Parameters,  is dedicated to 'lessons learned' (possibly) from Afghanistan.  LINK

It leads with an insightful overview by Sir Hew Strachan, who identifies two imperatives:

1.  The first is that of the needs of coalition warfare.  While having over 50 states contribute to the war is laudable, that achievement is overshadowed by the dysfunctionality of many of the contingents sent into theater -- by their token presence, by national caveats surrounding their employment, and by the part played by domestic politics in the timing of their withdrawals.

2.  The second imperative follows from the first. This search for lessons must not just be in pursuit of commonalities.  Such an exercise is in danger of looking at and recognizing the experience of others through the prism of the United States, and so ignoring differences, which may themselves be instructive.  Just because the US Army may deem something not to have been “invented here” does not meant that it is therefore unworthy of consideration.  After all, that too-ready dismissal of others’ experiences and of their possible applicability was a major source of exactly the problems the US Army confronted from 2002 to 2004.


The chapter specifically on Canada was written by Col. Howard Coombs, PhD.  I think his views are summed nicely by a line in the penultimate paragraph, "Sadly, none of the lessons learned have been systemically operationalized in an enduring manner."  In effect, lessons have been identified, but not actually 'learned.'



Mods: I couldn't find an Afghanistan topic where this seemed to fit.  Feel free to move it (obviously)
« Last Edit: October 02, 2019, 14:54:54 by BeyondTheNow »

Offline Brihard

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Re: Looking back on Afghnaistan
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2019, 12:19:53 »
The latest issue of the US Army War College publication, Parameters,  is dedicated to 'lessons learned' (possibly) from Afghanistan.  LINK

It leads with an insightful overview by Sir Hew Strachan, who identifies two imperatives:

1.  The first is that of the needs of coalition warfare.  While having over 50 states contribute to the war is laudable, that achievement is overshadowed by the dysfunctionality of many of the contingents sent into theater -- by their token presence, by national caveats surrounding their employment, and by the part played by domestic politics in the timing of their withdrawals.

2.  The second imperative follows from the first. This search for lessons must not just be in pursuit of commonalities.  Such an exercise is in danger of looking at and recognizing the experience of others through the prism of the United States, and so ignoring differences, which may themselves be instructive.  Just because the US Army may deem something not to have been “invented here” does not meant that it is therefore unworthy of consideration.  After all, that too-ready dismissal of others’ experiences and of their possible applicability was a major source of exactly the problems the US Army confronted from 2002 to 2004.


The chapter specifically on Canada was written by Col. Howard Coombs, PhD.  I think his views are summed nicely by a line in the penultimate paragraph, "Sadly, none of the lessons learned have been systemically operationalized in an enduring manner."  In effect, lessons have been identified, but not actually 'learned.'



Mods: I couldn't find an Afghanistan topic where this seemed to fit.  Feel free to move it (obviously)

Can we just say how about 'selection and maintenance of the aim', and then just leave it at that, get drunk, and cry a bit?

To this day, ten years since I got home, I've yet to ever see a clear and succinct articulation of what precisely our intent and envisioned end state were. I struggle to answer if it was worth it, because we still struggle to quantify what 'it' was.
Pacificsm is doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and by the media, which holds forth the proposition it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Offline CanadianTire

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Re: Looking back on Afghnaistan
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2019, 14:03:41 »
It's been almost ten years since I got on the big grey airplane to go over and I've gotta say, I echo your sentiments.

Can we just say how about 'selection and maintenance of the aim', and then just leave it at that, get drunk, and cry a bit?

To this day, ten years since I got home, I've yet to ever see a clear and succinct articulation of what precisely our intent and envisioned end state were. I struggle to answer if it was worth it, because we still struggle to quantify what 'it' was.
"Theirs not to reason why/Theirs but to do and die." - Tennyson

Offline Ralph

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Re: Looking back on Afghnaistan
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2019, 06:17:41 »
I'm fairly certain that when the BG moved to Kandahar, the mission was to keep the K City GLOC open, which is why there was a company at Wilson, on the TK Road, and Spin Boldak. I can't speak to any revisions during the eight years after that...

Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2019, 11:05:50 »
I find the present discussions concerning Afghanistan fascinating for a number of reasons:

1.  The West, led by the United States, has forgotten why they invaded Afghanistan in the first place. It was a direct response to 9/11/2001 and was to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a Terrorist State, which it was previously.

2.  The War in Afghanistan has fallen apart because Military Objectives were cast aside for Political Imperatives.  One of them being Nation-building. 

3.  Anyone who thought the United States would not have to garrison Afghanistan permanently are fools.  The United States should garrison Afghanistan permanently and it should do just enough to keep the government in Kabul running the show. 

4.  For our part, Canadians need to be more honest with our contribution.  It was small, we conducted a delaying action for five years while the Americans were focused on Iraq and we left as soon as we could.  Any Canadian Action should be looked at in a broader strategic context.  I don't think any of our stated political objectives were actually realistic or even possible. 

Afghanistan and the broader Middle East should be garrisoned permanently.  The objective should be to protect our interests of course, oil and gas being one of them and we should be realistic about what exactly can be achieved there. 

The Government in Kabul may be be corrupt and ineffective but they are in our pockets, unlike the Taliban who are also corrupt and ineffective and not our friends.  It's all about the Devil You Know.

At the End of the Day, Afghanistan is merely one of many campaigns in the great power game.  Judging its success or failure in isolation is a fools errand.  If we decide not to stay there, someone else will fill the void.  China, Russia and Iran are forming a collective block against the West.  There is a New World Order forming but the Western World lacks imagination to see it.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2019, 11:22:37 »
At the End of the Day, Afghanistan is merely one of many campaigns in the great power game.  Judging its success or failure in isolation is a fools errand.  If we decide not to stay there, someone else will fill the void.  China, Russia and Iran are forming a collective block against the West.  There is a New World Order forming but the Western World lacks imagination to see it.

If there's anything to be learned from this campaign it has to be related to, on the military side, the FG activities as well as the long term maintenance of a very long distance supply chain and, on the home front side, the astonishing levels of support we saw for the troops from the civilian population in general.

Oh and, of course, the cultural innovations of beards and legal weed, of course :)
“To stand on the firing parapet and expose yourself to danger; to stand and fight a thousand miles from home when you're all alone and outnumbered and probably beaten; to spit on your hands and lower the pike; to stand fast over the body of Leonidas the King; to be rear guard at Kunu-Ri; to stand and be still to the Birkenhead Drill; these are not rational acts. They are often merely necessary.”
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2019, 11:29:19 »
If there's anything to be learned from this campaign it has to be related to, on the military side, the FG activities as well as the long term maintenance of a very long distance supply chain and, on the home front side, the astonishing levels of support we saw for the troops from the civilian population in general.

Oh and, of course, the cultural innovations of beards and legal weed, of course :)

If you can't beat em, join em!


Offline Hamish Seggie

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2019, 11:45:06 »
I think about that place every day, for personal reasons. I couldn't help but wonder then was our sacrifice worth it? Or were 158 lives lost for the profit of a few billionaires. 

Cynical I know.
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Offline Colin P

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2019, 12:18:25 »
I think about that place every day, for personal reasons. I couldn't help but wonder then was our sacrifice worth it? Or were 158 lives lost for the profit of a few billionaires. 

Cynical I know.

I think the benefit of your efforts and sacrifice will be in the future: During the past decade, Afghanistan has been making progress in improving children’s access to education.  Primary school enrollment rate increased from 1 million to 8.5 million between 2002 and 2019.  Yet, violence, poverty and drought are among the many issues that threaten to reverse these gains. Approximately 3.7 million children remain out-of-school. Girls and children with disabilities are especially vulnerable. About 60 per cent of the out-of-school children are girls, and only 5 per cent of children with disabilities are able to access education.


source: https://www.unicef.org/rosa/press-releases/government-afghanistan-education-cannot-wait-unicef-and-coalition-un-ngo-partners

Offline Underway

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2019, 12:34:30 »
I think about that place every day, for personal reasons. I couldn't help but wonder then was our sacrifice worth it? Or were 158 lives lost for the profit of a few billionaires? 

Cynical I know.

There are only a few things I know looking back on my time in Afghanistan.  One is that we were not there for billionaires. We were there because we were attacked from there.  And going over stopped us from being attacked from there again.  Did we help people?  Certainly.  I visited a girls school, many of whom were my own daughter's age.  It was the closest I ever came to certainty.  That stuff is worth fighting for. 

However, if I fell, or became a burden (real or perceived) to my family with an injury (mental, physical, emotional) I don't think it would have been worth it.  My family didn't volunteer and damage to them no matter how supportive they are is a deal-breaker.

Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2019, 13:09:00 »
...
Afghanistan and the broader Middle East should be garrisoned permanently.  The objective should be to protect our interests of course, oil and gas being one of them and we should be realistic about what exactly can be achieved there. 

...There is a New World Order forming but the Western World lacks imagination to see it.

End of a post from 2015

Quote
...
Poor bloody locals.  If the West is truly willing to sort things out right now, are we then willing to rule–one way or another–for some decades or so to try to ensure things work out wellish?  Triple double HAH!  Given no willingness for, or today in the West intellectual acceptance of, such a prospect, then let us just face things honestly:

    The US and the Middle East: Just. Give. Up.
       https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/mark-collins-the-us-and-the-middle-east-just-give-up/

After all we remain none too disturbed to let millions of black Africans die in, or as the consequence of, armed conflict.
https://mark3ds.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/mark-collins-what-to-do-about-the-bloody-middle-east/

And we can't be neo-colonialists any more.

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Offline CloudCover

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2019, 13:40:45 »
China, Russia and Iran are forming a collective block against the West.  There is a New World Order forming but the Western World lacks imagination to see it.

 I am 100% certain this very thing has been identified several times over by our int agencies and those of our allies. For political reasons, some large swaths of government in the western world refuse to accept this outlook. It's not a lack of imagination, its a determined will to look the other way. In Canada, this is writ large within postal code K1A and pretty much every political feeder institution connected thereto.
We do not have another 9/11 on the way, the reaction to that was unmanageable. Instead, there is a tightening strangulation occurring in tandem with poisoned kool aid.
... Move!! ...

Offline FJAG

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Re: Looking back on Afghanistan
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2019, 13:59:34 »
This was Afghanistan in the 1960s.





Unfortunately it was not all of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been a fractured society for hundreds if not thousands of years and the modest gains of the 1950s and 1960s were washed away in the 1970s by coups, invasions and civil wars. A society this complex with both the cultural and religious undertones that is has (which have been stirred by communists, Saudis, Iranians and Pakistanis) cannot be "straightened out" by American and European Christians. They will always be considered interlopers (at best) or an occupation force (at worst) by some part of the country or other. As an example, take a look at Iran which was a much more sophisticated "westernized" society under the Shaw but which nonetheless had a broad-based and religious fueled revolt.

"We" didn't start this thing. We responded to several vicious terrorist events that had their origin in Afghanistan by "guests" of the Taliban protected through a twisted interpretation of melmastia (hospitality) and nanawatai (asylum).

IMHO, there never was an achievable end-state to the very necessary and fully justified response of sending ground forces in that went much beyond raining down death and destruction on those responsible. Bombs alone won't do the job. For better or for worse at that point we were committed. The initial years were actually a brilliant military success. The follow up (especially with the US attention diverted to Iraq) was less so. And if anything, Afghanistan taught us all a very valuable lesson in how screwed up NATO is as a military alliance/organization.

Americans clearly, having learned from Vietnam, were both worried where this would lead and also knew that they had to support their military and government which they did. This time there were no anti-war riots like in the late sixties and early seventies. For better or for worse, they (and we and the press generally) bought into accepting what were the reports coming out of government (and in fairness, it wasn't a rosy picture of brilliant success at the best of times)

The SIGAR Lessons Learned interviews were/are a very necessary part of understanding what (in the reconstruction efforts) went right and what went wrong. Anyone who has ever participated in an LL process knows that there will always be naysayers. They do provides value in the process and you specifically seek them out. Unfortunately there will now be a lengthy campaign of analysis and criticism in the press and amongst academia; that's what they do for a living. To my mind, the only trouble from this will be that the reports that the public will receive will be too simplistic and will be weighted by political agendas or preconceived biases. The reality is much too complex and the courses open at the time (withdraw, stay-the-course, double-down, etc) weren't as obvious as twenty-twenty hindsight will undoubtedly make them.

Criticism ought to be tempered; it won't be.

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