September 02, 2022

Don’t Believe the Generals

By Dr. Jason Dempsey and Gil Barndollar

A T-shirt that was popular with veterans for much of America’s nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan showed a helicopter in flight with the caption "We were winning when I left." U.S. generals seem to be the only ones who didn’t get the joke. On the first anniversary of our botched withdrawal, the military leaders most responsible for America’s disastrous outcome in Afghanistan have continued to loudly insist that the war was winnable when they were in charge, and that responsibility for the debacle must lie with someone else.

The outcome of America’s commitment was an Afghan government and military that couldn’t hold out long enough even for U.S. forces to leave with a semblance of dignity.

Retired Generals Frank McKenzie and Joseph Votel, the last two commanders of U.S. Central Command, which includes Afghanistan, recently made the case that America should have stayed indefinitely, arguing that the pullout was a mistake and that America could have defended its interests—and kept the Taliban at bay—with a small residual force of a few thousand soldiers. And in The Atlantic, the retired general and former CIA director David Petraeus, who commanded the war in Afghanistan after presiding over the surge that helped bring temporary stability to Iraq, wrote that more than a decade ago “we had finally established the right big ideas and overarching strategy.” But the problem, he maintained, was that America did not have the stomach for a “sustained, generational commitment.”

Read the full article from The Atlantic.

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