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The Afghan Papers: No Campaign Plan And A Long Hard Slog


In today's video I discuss elements from the *Afghan Papers and the Afghan Papers book by Craig Whitlock. I focus on how many officials discussed privately, that the US and NATO had no campaign plan. They had no real long-term strategy, a lack of cohesion between allies, agencies and from early on, knew it was going to be a very long campaign. Many of these factors contribute to the overall failure of the Afghan War. I would like to thank Craig Whitlock and his book for making this possible.


*The Afghanistan Papers are a set of interviews relating to the US war in Afghanistan prepared by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and published by The Washington Post in 2019 following a Freedom of Information Act request


Please feel free to comment if I have missed any links in the show notes.



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Quotes used in this video are sourced and linked in the below document

No campaign plan
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"After coordinating Afghanistan strategy at the National Security Council from 2007–2013, Douglas Lute told SIGAR, We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan. We didn’t know what we were doing. . . . We’re going to do something in Afghanistan with $10 billion? Haiti is a small country in our own backyard with no extremist insurgency and we can’t develop it. And we expect to develop Afghanistan with $10 billion? . . . What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. . . . It’s really much worse than you think. There [was] a fundamental gap of understanding on the front end, overstated objectives, an overreliance on the military, and a lack of understanding of the resources necessary." What We Need To Learn:lessons From Twenty Years Of Afghanistan Reconstruction August 2021 SIGAR Page 15 Douglas Lute, SIGAR interview, February 20, 2015


"I have no visibility into who the bad guys are in Afghanistan or Iraq. I read all the intel from the community and it sounds as though we know a great deal but in fact, when you push at it, you find out we haven't got anything that is actionable. We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Steven Cambone, September 8, 2003, National Security Archive, George Washington University


"there was no way the State Department was going to get the Defense Department or Don Rumsfeld to do what it wanted. It was hard enough for the White House to do that and virtually impossible for the State Department." James Dobbins, Lessons Learned interview, 1/11/2016 Former U.S. diplomat. U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2013-2014 Page 13 Audio Available


"Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror?... It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog,” Donald Rumsfeld memo to Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace and Doug Feith, October 16, 2003 Page 1,2


"There were always the jokes about the ANA that, as long as they could pull the trigger 50 times, it didn’t matter if they hit anything. As long as the bullet went in the right direction, they were good… A lot of our big push was to try and standardize things, but … you couldn’t fail basic training. There was no standard. If you missed training because it was Ramadan, it never got made up. I tried to work with the Afghans and I would say, “We missed this training. When are we going to make it up?” They’d show me on paper but I don’t think it really ever occurred." Maj. Rick Rabe interview, May 18, 2007, Operational Leadership Experiences project, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Page 4,8 p4013coll13_950.pdf



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