December 01, 2016

Elephants in Afghanistan: The Military’s Counterinsurgency Failure

By Dr. Jason Dempsey

Earlier this year, several former ISAF commanders and diplomats wrote President Barack Obama, imploring him to freeze troop levels in Afghanistan until the next administration takes office. Obama ultimately agreed to keep 8,400 troops in country, but while President-elect Donald Trump said many things about many foreign policy during the election season, he gave few hints as to how he would handle the conflict. As the transition is underway, U.S. military planners are still grappling with building effective Afghan security forces — an effort that could take many more years, if not decades. Such an extended endeavor may be in order to secure U.S. interests in Afghanistan, but Trump would do well to ask a few questions of our military leadership before writing another blank check.

After all, our collective efforts under the leadership of those who signed the letter to Obama have left us, after 15 years of war, with muddled results at best. We have expended $64 billion to create a massive security force that shows an incredible willingness to fight but cannot hold off the Taliban, a force with a fraction of the resources. We have also plowed $113 billion into development projects with only reports of endemic corruption, waste, and inefficiency to show for it. Much has been written — some of it even commissioned by the military — about the larger failures of our post-9/11 strategy. Yet very little has been said about how the military’s approach to Afghanistan shaped, and ultimately limited, our overall strategy.

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

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