Military and civilian leaders ignored a lot in both the planning and the ensuing of the 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan, according to a report by Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That’s one of a number of findings that the Center for Strategic and International Studies report “Tell me how this ends: Military Advice, Strategic Goals and the ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan,” and the subsequent panel held Wednesday, according to Military Times.
The eventual picture of US involvement in Afghanistan should look something like what’s happening now in Somalia or Libya, a retired Army lieutenant general who sat on a panel discussing the report said.
Retired Lt. Gen. David Barno said when the United States withdraws it would monitor the situation in Afghanistan along the lines of whatever deal is agreed upon. Then, if “a certain threshold gets triggered, we would send forces in for a short raid operation” and use air power to deter any budding terrorist threat.
Cancian’s 59-page report revisits the early days and objectives of invading Afghanistan and summarily tracks the wars unfolding and changing leadership over nearly two decades.
“The purpose of this project is not to indicate how to fight such wars better in the future," he wrote. “Rather, its goal is to aid in developing more insightful advice before wars begin, so that the United States can determine whether to get involved in the first place—and understand the likely duration and intensity of the commitment if it does.”
That came, in part, from a “significant chunk” of the military leaders’ thinking that civilians should “give us the mission, give us what we need to accomplish the mission and stay out of our way,” Cancian said.
The overriding belief that military leaders should not participate in discussions about goals and end states at all makes many military officers uncomfortable with the political dimensions of those discussions, Cancian wrote.
But by the end of his research, the retired colonel advises that military leaders need to “push back” against the civilian goals if the conditions are not favorable and they have to “give advice beyond simply how we’re going to do this.”
Cancian notes a “void” in military doctrine when discussing end states. Both the Field Manual 3-24 that covers insurgencies and countering insurgencies and the Joint Publication Doctrine of the Armed Forces of the United States, JP 3-0 Operations and its accompanying JP 5-0 planning, “do nothing to fill this void.”
The CSIS report lays out the case that after spending a combined $737 billion in military funds and another $44 billion in state department money, citing the book, “The $3 Trillion Dollar War,” by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes and sacrificing 2,400 U.S. troops the situation at best in Afghanistan is a “stalemate.”
Meanwhile U.S. troop levels grew from 1,500 in country to nearly 100,000 at the peak of the war from 2010 to 2011. Since 2015 the numbers have hovered around 10,000 to 15,000.