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Finally done in Afghanistan?


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23 hours ago, HeloDude said:


Good post above by Dirk.

So in the end, who takes responsibility for the failures?  And I don’t mean Bush, Obama, Trump, or Biden…they’re politicians, not military strategists, and unless they were the ones feeding the American citizens lies, then they were just doing what most other politicians would have done in their shoes at the given time.  I mean who (that does this for a living) in the DoD takes the public hit that they either manipulated the data (ie lied about the the capabilities of the Afghans) to make it look like what we were doing was working or who takes the public hit that they (DoD officials, military or civilian) were so incompetent they truly believed the Afghans were capable when we were going to leave?  Or is just a complete failure at all levels of our DoD from the lowly CGO/NCO all the way up the top?  
 

That’s the problem—there’s no public accountability for this huge failure and we are left with people shrugging their shoulders.  And our country is so politically divided that Biden and/or the Dems in Congress don’t truly want to get to the bottom of it because it’s making Biden look bad to keep it in the light (I’m sure the same could be said if Trump/the GOP were in charge).  So in the end, no one is publicly held accountable, strategically our military’s ability to achieve it’s future goals is decreased, and American citizens lose even more faith in the integrity/capabilities of our military.

Yeah…if I’m China, I’m definitely invading Taiwan if they believe it’s in their best interest to do so.  The US isn’t going to stop them.

I thought a lot about your question last night and to be honest I don't have a good answer or even know if there is one.

  I've said it before but I personally felt that Milley and McKenzie should've resigned for the way the Afghan withdrawal was conducted.  That isn't really an answer to your question though, because they just happened to be the guys in charge when everything came crashing down; tough to blame them for at least 18+ years of official fallacies we (both State and DoD) were telling ourselves and the American public about how the war in Afghanistan was going.

  My thoughts in no particular order.

1. Part of this is cultural, both in our military and in our political leadership.  We (in the officer ranks) all should bear some responsibility for this.  On the military side, we rarely (almost never) want to or will actually say "no".  It's in our DNA that if we're given a task or mission, we'll figure out a way to get it done.  And nobody gets promoted for saying they can't accomplish something (see the Navy's destroyer mishaps as the latest example of severe consequences of this mentality).  We've grown and groomed our leadership this way.  Almost no one from the top generals/SESs down to probably the at least the FGO level wanted to admit that things weren't going well and that the goal of an independent, democratic Afghanistan free from most Taliban/VEO interference (if that was the goal) wasn't attainable (at least not in any reasonable timeframe).

2. We (talking the royal we, USA at large) tend to have a belief that the US is capable of accomplishing anything if we set our minds to it.  And in the late 90s-early 2000s we were still coming off of the rapid, smashing success of Desert Storm.  The American public was willing to keep things going so long as the casualties were relatively low and they didn't have to personally pay anything for it.  Our public is also as separated from the military as it's ever been and our political class hasn't voted for "military action since the AUMF back in '01.  A lot of us also mistakenly hold the belief that everyone in the world wants our version of democracy.

3.  "Sometimes you have to let things fail".  Don't know how many times I've heard senior leaders say this one in my career but I've rarely seen it actually utilized.  I get that "failure" with something as large as the entire Afghan campaign is orders of magnitude different than some new process at the squadron level but it feeds back to point #1.  Nobody in our senior leadership wanted to be the guys holding the bag when things ended in the Stan.  They would have rather kept the war going indefinitely than admit our ever shifting goals were unattainable.  Honesty was less acceptable than the static quo because no one could admit that we were going to fail.

4. Tactical success vs. Operational/Strategic failure.  This one goes without saying.  If our Operational/Strategic goals were unattainable from the get go, 20 years of killing people and spending money was never going to translate into a win.  

  To answer your original question about who to hold accountable, I honestly think it's probably the bulk of the DoD and State leadership chain for the last 18 years (from at least O-6s all the way to the top, maybe lower).  I don't believe the US military was able to be honest with either itself or our civilian leadership about the war.  I understand that's probably not a popular opinion.  I know a lot of vets were having trouble (a lot probably still are) processing what happened two months ago.  The bulk of the rhetoric/messaging has been aimed at us doing our duty, no more attacks on the homeland, etc.  That's all well and good, and probably appropriate for the time, but we lost, and I think we need to figure out how to avoid these sort of mistakes/failures going forward. 

  I don't think anyone is going to get fired over this, so to your question over accountability, it'll probably be hashed out in the history books versus public hearings, resignations, some GO/FO or retired GO/FO actually saying "I'm responsible".  Not a very satisfying answer I'm afraid.   

  

Edited by DirkDiggler
Grammar
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The Taliban is begging for Afghanistan's frozen money to be released as the country's economy spirals into crisis (msn.com)

Actually governing is a real bitch isn't it. Hungry desperate people tend to get surly at the people in charge.  I would say very little of the money they're discussing was provided by Afghanistan versus foreign donations anyway. I would tell the Taliban lets see some concrete action on human rights. NOW.  By the way here's our list of wanted criminals including those who committed atrocities against our troops and our Afghan partners. Certainly not all the money at once and you will show an accounting of where it goes. If we even smell a hint of diversion to fund terrorism or corruption the gravy train stops. We have the watch AND the time now. This isn't the 90s anymore.

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49 minutes ago, fire4effect said:

The Taliban is begging for Afghanistan's frozen money to be released as the country's economy spirals into crisis (msn.com)

Actually governing is a real bitch isn't it. Hungry desperate people tend to get surly at the people in charge.  I would say very little of the money they're discussing was provided by Afghanistan versus foreign donations anyway. I would tell the Taliban lets see some concrete action on human rights. NOW.  By the way here's our list of wanted criminals including those who committed atrocities against our troops and our Afghan partners. Certainly not all the money at once and you will show an accounting of where it goes. If we even smell a hint of diversion to fund terrorism or corruption the gravy train stops. We have the watch AND the time now. This isn't the 90s anymore.

DoS is resuming evacuation flights in December. No doubt this $$$ was a negotiation piece. 

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As has been discussed in many posts in the thread there will be many second and third order effects of our decision to leave Afghanistan.  A great read below captures some of the impacts and how China will step in to fill the leadership void. 

Evacuation Operations, Great - Power  Competition, and External Operations  Terror Threats in Post- Drawdown  Afghanistan Mapping Out the Path Ahead

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5 hours ago, ClearedHot said:

As has been discussed in many posts in the thread there will be many second and third order effects of our decision to leave Afghanistan.  A great read below captures some of the impacts and how China will step in to fill the leadership void. 

Evacuation Operations, Great - Power  Competition, and External Operations  Terror Threats in Post- Drawdown  Afghanistan Mapping Out the Path Ahead

https://afghan-report.com/sigar/sigar-quarterly-report-oct-2021/

 

Really good executive summary of the most recent SIGAR report which is the first one to be given to congress since the collapse. 

Also noteworthy is several former officials from SIGAR have gone public that concerns about Afghan readiness and capability were forwarded to DoD and DoS for years but we're ignored. 

 

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On 11/2/2021 at 7:21 AM, ClearedHot said:

As has been discussed in many posts in the thread there will be many second and third order effects of our decision to leave Afghanistan.  A great read below captures some of the impacts and how China will step in to fill the leadership void. 

Evacuation Operations, Great - Power  Competition, and External Operations  Terror Threats in Post- Drawdown  Afghanistan Mapping Out the Path Ahead

I skimmed over it and it seems like a good read. Interestingly I recall there was a brand new 10 story hospital built by the Chinese some years back in Kabul not far from the Ministry of Education that was standing empty because there was no way to equip or staff it. I have no idea if it was a case of "if you build it they will come" and if it ever was put into service. Seems like more than a few projects fell into this category.

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I like how they keep suggesting they might go after the operators in the future…

Like any person in a cockpit or box is the one accepting and granting clearance of fires in this situation. Somebody with a Star gave the word to execute. If we want heads on a spike start with that one.


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Yeah I agree, something stinks here. There was one person who was given authority to make PID. The investigation needs to square in on that person and the comm chain from the PED to that person. You can't just say we fucked up but everything worked the way it was supposed to. 

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On 11/2/2021 at 7:21 AM, ClearedHot said:

As has been discussed in many posts in the thread there will be many second and third order effects of our decision to leave Afghanistan.  A great read below captures some of the impacts and how China will step in to fill the leadership void. 

Evacuation Operations, Great - Power  Competition, and External Operations  Terror Threats in Post- Drawdown  Afghanistan Mapping Out the Path Ahead

I thought this was a very well written and researched article and while I have a huge amount of respect for General Elton as both a leader and a person, I don't agree with several points in the article.

1. In their first point, I agree we should continue all efforts to get any remaining US and SIV individuals out of Afghanistan (no brainer).  I disagree with the importance/focus on the human rights/humanitarian situation in Afghanistan (they dedicate 3 full pages to it).  A good segment of the population either overtly supported the Taliban or passively allowed them to take control (several news reports from Afghanistan post-withdrawal have documented the rural area populace support for the Taliban).  People get the government they deserve and quite frankly I don't care if the people of Afghanistan want to live in the stone age.

2.  The issue of Afghanistan becoming a competitive space in Great Power competition between us and China (return to the Great Game as it were) is interesting and I'm honestly not sure how it will play out.  It's somewhat ironic that the issue of REEs has almost caused a return to industrial age thinking about conflict and critical mineral supply (quest for autarky in some ways by China and now the US).  If history informs us about anything involving Afghanistan it's that no foreign power looking to exploit the country fairs well in the end (except maybe the Mongols).  I just read an article about a direct legal shipment of pine nuts from Afghanistan to China, I'll be curious to see where the Chinese-Afghan relationship goes.  I personally didn't/don't feel that continuing our presence in Afghanistan was worth it to counter China's influence in that part of world.  Additionally, none of the infrastructure is currently in place to exploit the REEs in Afghanistan and the security situation in-country continues to be extremely volatile.

3.  I would probably agree there will be the possibility that there could be an increased terrorist threat from Afghanistan due to several groups now having increased/uncontested freedom of maneuver.  That being said, I think the possibility of Ex-Ops emanating from Afghanistan can be countered by the vast increase in intelligence gathering we've put in place post 9-11.   I don't agree with their premise that ISIS-K is/is becoming a terrorist proxy of the Taliban.  See article below for the most recent example of why I don't think the two groups will be buddies anytime soon:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-kabul-hospital-bombing-attack-taliban-isis-deaths-2021-11-02/

I think going forward there will increased fighting between the Taliban and ISIS-K, not less.

  Several of the policy recommendations going forward are good, especially regarding the CTF piece (always follow the money).  I also agree with not recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan (for a variety of reasons).  I think officially recognizing the NRF is probably futile at this point (they've been defeated militarily and I don't know what the long term value in supporting them is). 

  The focus on revamping/increasing our IO efforts towards China and Pakistan is spot on, but unless the US drastically changes it's approach to IO, its unlikely to happen anytime soon or be effective.

  Finally, I believe that a cross-GCC effort towards countering China would absolutely have benefit.  Taking this from concept to execution in the real world is very difficult.  I've been out of the staff world for going on 3 years now, but in my albeit limited experience, getting the GCCs to cooperate/coordinate/share resources is a royal pain in the ass.  They tend to get stovepiped into dealing with the problems specific to their respective AOs, and mostly view the competition for resources as a zero sum game.  Coordinating authorities are only of limited use, because they can't actually order anyone to do anything.

  Overall though very good, reasoned article, thanks for posting.             

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On 11/9/2021 at 8:38 AM, slc said:

Taking a play from North Korea. Population is starving but they can put together a military parade to appear all is well. I'm surprised they can muster the fuel at this point.

Edited by fire4effect
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3 hours ago, HeloDude said:

They’re transitioning to green energy to create jobs, so it’s all good.

Now that's funny. Especially since they're supposedly sitting on a huge lithium deposit. If they would quit worrying about what the women are wearing and who's rocking to the 80s hits they might actually be able to exploit their natural resources. We'll see if China can make a go of it.

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