I don’t blame President Biden for the catastrophe in Afghanistan. It was the right decision to leave, the proof of which is how quickly the country collapsed without US support. Twenty years of training and equipping the Afghan army and all that they were capable of was a few hours of delay in a country the size of Texas. As for his predecessor, the only blame I place on President Trump was that he didn’t withdraw sooner.
We should blame President Bush, not for the decision to attack into Afghanistan following 9-11, but for his decision to “shift the goalposts” and attempt to reform Afghanistan society. That was a fool’s errand any student of history would have recognized.
And yes, we should place blame on President Obama for his decision to double down on failure when he “surged” in Afghanistan, rather than to withdraw.
However, most of the blame belongs to the leadership of the US military, and the Army in particular. The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” detailed years of US officials failing to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan, “making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” That report was two years ago, and the stories within it began more than a decade before that. Afghanistan was, and always will be, “unwinnable”.
Of course, I blame President Biden for the disastrous retrograde operation still unfolding. But let us not allow that to deflect us from heaping even more blame on military leaders. They stonewalled President Trump rather than beginning deliberate preparations to exit the country when he told them to. They thought that they could outlast him and then talk sense to his successor. Then after the inauguration, they pressed the new president to reverse course. He wisely chose withdrawal. Then and only then did the generals begin their preparations in earnest. But it was too late to do it well. …
The US military needs to get back to its real role:
The purpose of the Army is to visit profound violence on our nation’s enemies; it is not to rebuild failed states. We have decades of experience: counter-insurgencies and nation-building does not work for America. We do not have the stomach for long wars of occupation—and that is a good thing. We are a nation of commerce, not conflict. …
Retired Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Jack Keane said only two months ago that because Afghanistan consumes just a small portion of the force, America “can afford the cost of fighting” there. What he does not see is that for 20 years, that “small portion” was the most important portion of the military. Everything else necessarily is subservient to the portion of the force in conflict. It has altered who the Army is and how it thinks.
There exists only a handful of officers below the general officer ranks who served during the Cold War and who have lived through an era of great power conflict. From private through brigade commander, virtually every Army Soldier serving today has experienced little other than counterinsurgencies or nation-building while operating out of secure FOBs.
Large scale combat operations and insurgencies require different cultures and mindsets. In a resource constrained environment, the same service cannot do both well. The Army today could not win a major war. Yet, winning a major war, is the number one reason why an Army exists. …
US intel: too big, no good.
Let us not forget the intelligence agencies. They reported that Kabul was at risk of falling in as little as 90 days. That report was from last Thursday! The capital fell in less than 90 hours.
Failure must be punished. And punishment in a bureaucracy means mass firings and a smaller budget — not more money so that they might be better the next time.
Congress must consolidate and collapse our intelligence agencies. And when its reorganization is done, if the overall size of the nation’s intelligence apparatus is a quarter of what it is now, that still is too large.
They didn’t see the fall of the USSR coming either. And they meddle in US domestic politics. And, every time, their actions or inactions help the communist side of world politics. Hmmm…
“Failure must be punished.” An idea so crazy it just might work.