Afghanistan Study Commission Can Show Americans What Has Been Done on Their Behalf
The US Congress wants to get to the bottom of the Afghan debacle.
Members of the United States House of Representatives and the Senate introduced bills to establish a non-partisan commission to report to the public on the mistakes made by the four presidential administrations that fought the war. Bills vary in details, such as the number of commissioners and the length of the commission, but the intention is clear: to force a public scrutiny on how and why the US project in Afghanistan failed.
The commission will be expensive. But it will be money well spent if he takes an in-depth look at relevant military, intelligence, development and diplomatic activities from 9/11 to the fall of Kabul, and then tells the story of the misdeeds and misdeeds of the adventure. Afghan – what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called a “Strategic failure” – by examining a few discrete problems, for example:
The “original sin” of the 2001 Bonn Conference. Why did the United States block the presence of the Taliban delegation? Why has Washington objected to a role in the new government of the well-regarded ex-monarch Zahir Shah in favor of America’s choice Hamid Karzai? Who advocated this policy and why?
Likewise, why did the United States not insist that the government in Kabul join the Doha negotiations with the Taliban? Did the United States have the option of putting pressure on the Taliban if it refused to deal with Kabul? If so, why were they not used?
After the initial success in 2001-2002, what was the strategy and mission? How and why did the perceived mission evolve towards the United States conducting counterinsurgency operations? Why did the United States deploy large numbers of troops after bin Laden’s death? Who made these decisions and why?
US interference in the elections in Afghanistan allowed Afghan leaders Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani to be “selected, not elected”. What has been the effect of the resulting credibility deficit on the ability of leaders to govern? What was the propaganda value to the Taliban of the American machinations?
What are the differences between the sworn and public testimonies of military and civilian officials and their private and unofficial interviews with the Special Inspector General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, also known as the “Afghan papers”? If there were any differences, did the officials subsequently correct the public record?
What was the impact of the protracted conflict on the readiness and material state of US forces? For example, the US Navy has assigned an aircraft carrier battle group close to the conflict for the duration. Was this intense deployment schedule responsible for the deterioration in readiness that caused the fatal collisions of US warships and merchant ships in 2017?
In 2017, the US government filed information on the readiness and performance of the Afghan security forces. Who ran the ranking and why? How does readiness information match up with sworn testimony from senior officials, especially when the readiness of Afghan forces was likely evident to all Allied NCOs and the Taliban?
What is the real cost of war? Brown University Costs of the war project has been of benefit to the public and to Congress, but is there any official and public accounting by the US government of the cost of the conflict in Afghanistan, including the fact that the cost of debt financing (payment of interest) of the war in Afghanistan will amount to $ 6.5 trillion by 2050?
Does the United States have an account of the equipment that was abandoned when American forces evacuated Afghanistan? How will it contribute to the military capacity of the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan and the wider region? Have Afghan government officials sold or transferred US-supplied equipment to the Taliban? Are these officials now living in the United States?
How many innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been killed by drone strikes? Has the United States considered the impact on regional public opinion and Washington’s regional political strategy of the wandering attacks? How does the death and injury toll in the United States match up with studies by independent groups such as air wars? What corrective measures have been taken following murders committed in error?
As the United States planned the invasion of Iraq, did it assess the impact of the displacement of resources from Afghanistan on the likely success or failure of the effort? Who was for and against the asset transfer? What were their arguments?
In the final days of the US presence in Afghanistan, US officials said Afghan forces were numbered 300,000. Given the well documented “ghost soldier” problem, how inflated was the number 300,000? Did the US government know the actual number of soldiers and police present in their duty stations?
Regarding other instances of public corruption, has the United States overlooked or ignored documented cases of corruption of Afghan government officials? Has the US government attempted to recover the funds for the benefit of the Afghan people or US taxpayers? Did the US government facilitate the evacuation of known corrupt officials to the United States?
How prepared was the State Department to evacuate American citizens? Was the Embassy’s “Potential Evacuees Report” from the F-77 correct?
Why do intelligence agency reports not to foresee the rapid victory of the Taliban? What corrective actions have been taken to correct the faulty analytical techniques? Are those in charge of the intelligence agencies who approved the misleading reports still in a position of authority?
And what was the nature of the US government’s collaboration with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, believed to be the boss of Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Haqqani Network, who is supposed to control the leadership structure of the Taliban?
The commission will be an opportunity to explain what happened to the American and Afghan people, to the Allied veterans who waged the war, and to the citizens of Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East who will live with them. Aftershocks long after American forces returned to their safe redoubt in North America.
James Durso (@james_durso) is the Managing Director of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consulting firm. He was a professional member of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Iraq and Afghanistan War Contracts Commission. Mr. Durso served as a US Navy officer for 20 years and specialized in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military assignments were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. He served afloat as a supply officer for the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).