Earlier this month —before the Afghanistan collapse— IG John Sopko, released an interactive presentation entitled: “What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.” The report is not classified, so anyone can read it, including all the armchair generals now bloviating on the “news.”
Anyway, it is broken down into lessons (that are maybe learned, but probably not):
- Lesson 1: Strategy – The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve.
- Lesson 2: Timelines – The U.S. government consistently underestimated the amount of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption and reduced the effectiveness of programs.
- Lesson 3: Sustainability – Many of the institutions and infrastructure projects the United States built were not sustainable.
- Lesson 4: Personnel – Counterproductive civilian and military personnel policies and practices thwarted the effort.
- Lesson 5: Insecurity – Persistent insecurity severely undermined reconstruction efforts.
- Lesson 6: Context – The U.S. government did not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts accordingly.
- Lesson 7: Monitoring and Evaluation – U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts.
(There is also a PDF but as so many regular readers are on mobile devices…)
From the conclusion:
“…In other words, according to former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Jack Keane, “After the Vietnam War, we purged ourselves of everything that had to do with irregular warfare or insurgency, because it had to do with how we lost that war. In hindsight, that was a bad decision.” After all, declining to prepare after Vietnam did not prevent the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; instead, it ensured they would become quagmires.”
In other words, the outcome was inevitable, the only question was what President was going to do it.