December 24, 2019

America never committed to training Afghan forces. I know because I tried.

By Dr. Jason Dempsey

I first met Maj. Sboor in 2009 as he waited to take over his own Afghan army battalion. We were working together as operations officers of partnered Afghan and U.S. infantry units in Konar province. Sboor was stern, professional and unflinchingly loyal to his commander, but we also noticed his competence, as his unit just performed better whenever he was left in charge. Most of the Afghan officers in Sboor’s cohort claimed lineage to either the mujahideen or the Soviet Union, with the advantages and disadvantages that came with each. But Sboor seemed more like the motivated junior officers we encountered: They had little experience with the turmoil of the 1980s and 1990s and were anxious to make their mark on Afghanistan once the old generation faded.

But the promise of Sboor and so many like him went unfulfilled and was doomed from the start. Since the release of The Afghanistan Papers, many have argued whether our leaders were lying, or just delusional in their plans and assessments of progress. But that distinction is irrelevant. The fact is that training the Afghan security forces was never a priority for the military, despite years of declarations to the contrary. The result is that we designed a force that was incapable of fighting without U.S. support. Even worse, we failed to address the endemic corruption that would undermine the legitimacy of both Afghan forces and the central government in the eyes of the Afghan people.

Read the full article in The Washington Post.

  • Commentary
    • March 31, 2020
    Women in Combat: Five-Year Status Update

    It has been five years since the ban on women in combat was lifted in 2015 and women began integrating previously closed combat arms billets in January 2016. Five years is the...

    By Emma Moore

  • Commentary
    • The Hill
    • March 31, 2020
    VA must improve access to high-quality care for transgender veterans

    Nearly two years ago, I argued that then-incoming VA Secretary Robert Wilkie should expand care to transgender veterans, removing the exclusion of gender confirmation surgery ...

    By Kayla M. Williams

  • Commentary
    • March 27, 2020
    Sharper: Global Coronavirus Response

    As regions across the United States enforce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic and human...

    By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • March 24, 2020
    Veteran Benefits in the DMV Metro Area

    In the post-9/11 era, a “sea of goodwill” made up of organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors has formed to support veterans, service members, their familie...

    By Nathalie Grogan

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia