Monday, October 12, 2020

Generational Failure


My youngest daughter was born in the first half of 2001. I was deployed for half of the first year of her life. She's now a sophomore in college and a great blessing is that I still see her and her friends on a regular basis.

A few of her peers have already been in the military for a year or more. All they have known their entire life is that, of course, we have always been at war in Central Asia.

As readers here know, I helped in a very minor role to kick off the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and then deployed there again in 2008 and 2009 as another staff weenie before I left active duty to come home.

I've been thinking a lot about that country for two decades. I've thought a lot about my role, and more importantly, the role of the uniformed and civilian leaders I worked for had in delivering todays status to us. There is one thing that keeps coming back to the top of my mind, especially since December of 2009 when we culminated there; generational failure.

We have failed the American people and the Afghanistan people. There were a few times in the last 20 years where we had an opportunity to do what needed to be done and go home, but in our arrogance and faculty lounge theory mongering, we just couldn't follow through.

One window was in early 2020 where we simply could have realized what we were looking at in Afghanistan - something any reader of Hopkirk could tell you - and then with a reasonable cold eye said, "We're just doing a punitive expedition. We don't need to stay here to kill Bin Laden. We have a $10 billion in gold bounty on his head ... and yes we require his head ... or $5 billion for the information leading to his capture by us. There will be double that bounty if either happens in the next 90 days." ... and then just left to the boos and hisses of the internationalists who would never put their life or the lives of their children on the line for Afghanistan. But no, we had the Bonn Agreement and all that followed instead.

Fast forward to the end of the decade, and we had an opportunity to actually deliver on what the internationalists wanted through Shape, Clear, Hold, Build with the surge ... but before the effects could start to set in place, the West Point December 2009 speech killed any opportunity for that. 

Since then, we have been running on Taliban time. As I stated at the time, they will do the smart thing and let time solve their problem. We have been just waiting for the music to stop ever since.

The Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers failed the younger generations. It really is that simple.
Nineteen years ago on Wednesday, a generation of Americans deployed to Afghanistan to root out the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks, believing that by fighting in the country more than 7,400 miles away, they would spare their children the need to do so too. But as the U.S. war in Afghanistan begins its 20th year, some of those same service members have watched as their sons and daughters have deployed to continue the fight. “When we started this, people asked why I was going, and my response was, ‘So my sons don’t have to fight this war,’” said Master Sgt. Trevor deBoer, who has deployed to Afghanistan three times with the 20th Special Forces Group since 2002. Nearly two decades later, deBoer’s son, Spc. Payton Sluss, also served in Afghanistan — including at Forward Operating Base Fenty, north of the city of Jalalabad, where deBoer had served.

In the USA, NATO and the general international community - all our leaders failed us. They did not know what they were doing, and lack the moral courage to admit it. They were always willing to play to not lose on their watch, pushing the timeline to the right so someone else would have the job when the music stopped.

They all need to be held to account, but they won't be - at least not yet.

Meanwhile, the Taliban wait with sure knowledge that they will step forward again. The Westernized and modern Afghans have either already moved out of the country, have plans to do so - or will stay to join with the Taliban when it is best ... or die to make a point.

Would the punitive expedition COA or giving SCHB a chance have resulted in any different outcome? A worse outcome? Hard to say, but in 2020 all we can say is that we have been engaged in an insurgency in Central Asia for over two decades with no realistic chance for a "W" ... and yet the blood and treasure keep flowing.

I was unkind to the Canadians and Dutch when they announced they were removing their maneuver forces in 2007 (though CAN & NLD forces are still there +/- in smaller support roles), but perhaps they were just smarter than us - or to be perhaps more accurate - their people let their political leaders know that enough was enough.

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