In America’s Longest War: What Went Wrong in Afghanistan, premiering on CNN this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET and hosted by Jake Tapper, eight of the eleven commanding generals were interviewed and their remarks offer a candid assessment of the errors, false assumptions, and misguided judgments over the past two decades months before the chaotic final weeks of the withdrawal from Kabul.
Probably the most perplexing query for these creators of U.S. policy to answer is this: was it worth it?
Karl Eikenberry, a former commander of American forces in Afghanistan and current U.S. ambassador provide one of the more shocking responses by saying it was “not worth the cost.”
Tapper, who has been reporting on the conflict and wrote the book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, said, “That’s a startling thing for a general to say.”
It was at that same second that I realized how shocking the revelation was. He has spent a significant portion of his life working on the Afghanistan project.
Many things went wrong in America’s longest war, and they began almost immediately after the U.S. overthrew the Taliban following the post-9/11 assault in 2001. The need for much more resources was worsened by the Bush administration’s decision to shift focus to Iraq, which occupied the majority of policymakers and military leaders’ consciousness and energy.
The video alludes to a 2002 memo written by Donald Rumsfeld, in which he asked Bush if he wanted to meet with Army Lt. General Dan McNeill. As the story goes: “He asked, ‘Who is General McNeill?’ I asserted that he is the senior military commander in Afghanistan. Well, he reasoned, I don’t have to talk to him.
If what Tapper claimed is true, then McNeill was one of the more forthright commanders in discussing the mission’s ultimate shortcomings in Afghanistan. I found everyone to be open and honest, however, I could tell that General McNeill was struggling to come to terms with what was happening. He established the military garrison and was the first general in charge. After the Taliban and al Qaeda were defeated, the United States tried staying in Afghanistan so that it wouldn’t become a haven for terrorists planning attacks on the United States. You can see a lot of similar feelings now in the efforts of the veteran community to rescue Afghan interpreters and others with whom they served to bring them back to the United States.
Tapper presses McNeill for advice on what he’d say to Gold Star families in light of the outcome. “I apologize for my inadequacies,” he says. “I tried my hardest.”
Some of the war’s planners have discussed how the end goal changed from destroying the Taliban and al Qaeda to establishing a new nation and finally maintaining the status quo during the protracted stalemate. Some argue that the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011 should have been the starting point for President Obama’s surge, which he announced in 2009 as a pathway for eventual withdrawal. This anti-insurgency strategy had mixed outcomes. Instead, it lasted for another decade after that before it ended.
While this was happening, the mission seemed to drift in and out of the public’s mind, which may have contributed to the conflict continuing for as long as it did.
Having a military serve and sacrifice for the other 99 percent of us has its drawbacks, Tapper added. The other 99 percent of us weren’t even consulted. Nothing. Avoid mandatory military service. Throw a party for a returning serviceman or woman who lives in your area. Nothing. So that the entire country is involved in these wars and they are not just born by the 1%, this is why General [Stanley] McChrystal goes so far as to say that he feels there has to be a draught. I am not saying I agree with him.
Some commanders also attribute the failure to comprehend how an occupying power, no matter how good-hearted, is seen by the Afghan people and the difficulty to gain their trust, as contributing factors. McChrystal describes how, when the United States adopted a strategy of counterinsurgency, they were often faced with armed residents of compounds when they entered in search of an insurgent. McChrystal concedes, however, that this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they were seeking to harbor insurgents but rather that they were only responding reasonably by trying to safeguard their homes and families. Tapper said that it was “quite remarkable” for a special ops soldier to wish the United States had done less of something.
After the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government and the resurgence of the Taliban last month, Tapper claimed he had planned to return to Afghanistan to cover the departure.
Although the United States spent billions on training and preparing the Afghan army over a long period, the army quickly disintegrated. At various times, it is noted, commanders and top U.S. leaders publicly gave a more hopeful assessment of development when the truth was far more pessimistic.
The claims made regarding the reliability of the Afghan military “are hard to argue with,” Tapper said. However, I wonder if a general really must exude confidence and a positive outlook on the situation. Many would agree that top military brass must reassure both the American people and their troops that they’re making headway. However, I do have a serious inquiry concerning the military’s current system of incentives. … If you’re a major and you’re given a squad of Afghan army troops who can’t read, write, or count and who believe in the Afghan government and you tell your lieutenant colonel or colonel, “I can’t train these people,” you won’t get promoted and you won’t earn a medal. But if you tell them, “Hey, we improved things a lot since we took over, so here’s a promotion and a medal,” you’ll receive both.
Even though President Trump’s administration negotiated with the Taliban to pave the way for the United States’ withdrawal, the CNN project reports that the arrangement has been attacked for being one-sided and for not including the Afghan government in its negotiations with the Taliban.
Both the decision to withdraw and how it was implemented may come to define Vice President Joe Biden’s presidency. McChrystal stated, “there was a boldness to it” notwithstanding his disagreement.
Additionally, on Sunday, Biden once again justified the pullout, telling reporters that the majority of the population favored leaving. Even though Biden admitted that the public was dissatisfied with the withdrawal’s handling, he nonetheless defended it by saying it was “impossible to explain to anybody how else could you get out.”
It is “the Biden argument that withdrawals are always nasty and inevitable,” Tapper remarked. A very slow bureaucratic process that was designed to be slow and slowed down even further by the Trump administration makes that argument difficult to make when hundreds of American citizens and legal permanent residents are still stuck inside the country and thousands of Afghan applicants for the special immigrant visa have been trying to get out, in some cases, for years. No one can seriously dispute the effectiveness of the preparations made.
He elaborated, saying, “I mean, if you withdraw 2,500 troops and have to bring 6,000 back in, obviously things did not go to plan.”
Tapper expressed “not especially optimistic” about the likelihood of such a reckoning occurring. If we forget these things, we will be failing our troops, our veterans, their families, and the civilians who will be affected by our next conflict. They would be done an injustice if we forgot these lessons. I believe that humility is a vital thing to learn. Where do we go from here? How much can we realistically expect to accomplish?
When asked if the longest war was “all for nothing,” Tapper said he does have a solution for warriors and Gold Star families.
He told the families of fallen soldiers, “The best thing I can say to them is that the selflessness of either their own lost loved ones or their selflessness exists unto itself, that nobody enlists in the military thinking that presidents and generals are infallible and always make the right decisions, that people serve their country because they believe in the values of this country.” “And that selflessness is unaffected by the failure of any given operation or the overall military endeavor,” the author writes.
Do follow our site dailyrealtime.com and get all the latest news.