An Un-Named Officer Speaks Out

I am reposting this here because it is so important to discuss right now.


I ask that you not use my name. I am a currently serving General Officer and what I have to say is highly critical of our current military leadership. But it must be said.

I don’t blame President Biden for the catastrophe in Afghanistan. It was the right decision to leave, the proof of which is how quickly the country collapsed without US support. Twenty years of training and equipping the Afghan army and all that they were capable of was a few hours of delay in a country the size of Texas. As for his predecessor, the only blame I place on President Trump was that he didn’t withdraw sooner.

We should blame President Bush, not for the decision to attack into Afghanistan following 9-11, but for his decision to “shift the goalposts” and attempt to reform Afghanistan society. That was a fool’s errand any student of history would have recognized. And yes, we should place blame on President Obama for his decision to double down on failure when he “surged” in Afghanistan, rather than to withdraw.

However, most of the blame belongs to the leadership of the US military, and the Army in particular. The Washington Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” detailed years of US officials failing to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan, “making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” That report was two years ago, and the stories within it began more than a decade before that. Afghanistan was, and always will be, “unwinnable”.

Of course, I blame President Biden for the disastrous retrograde operation still unfolding. But let us not allow that to deflect us from heaping even more blame on military leaders. They stonewalled President Trump rather than beginning deliberate preparations to exit the country when he told them to. They thought that they could outlast him and then talk sense to his successor. Then after the inauguration, they pressed the new president to reverse course. He wisely chose withdrawal. Then and only then did the generals begin their preparations in earnest. But it was too late to do it well.

The war in Afghanistan lasted more than twice as long as the Vietnam War. Although the cost in terms of American blood was thankfully far smaller, the mistakes are the same: America got involved in a long land war in Asia, in a peripheral region, in order to prop up a floundering and unreliable government, and at a time when there was a much bigger looming threat. In fact, Afghanistan was worse than Vietnam in that at least the Vietnam War was tangentially related to the effort to stop the global spread of communism during the Cold War. Afghanistan was worse than Vietnam in another respect: the military’s leaders of the Vietnam era had no precedent to dissuade them from a disastrous path. Today’s military leadership has the precedent of not just Vietnam, but also Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. That much obtuseness must be punished and removed from the system.

General Milley must resign. Not only is he the Chairman of the Joint Staff, prior to that he was the Chief of Staff of the Army. While all services share the blame, the Army is the land domain proponent. The 20 years of failure in Afghanistan is an Army failure. Scores of other generals also deserve a thorough evaluation; many of them are complicit in the lies to protect a decades-long failed strategy.

Secretary of Defense Austin also must be fired. The recently retired Army general and former CENTCOM commander was, and still is, part of the culture that is impervious to the fact that 20 years of trying it their way did not work.

Just as it did after Vietnam, the military, and especially the Army, must conduct a comprehensive review of why it exists. The purpose of the Army is to visit profound violence on our nation’s enemies; it is not to rebuild failed states. We have decades of experience: counter-insurgencies and nation-building does not work for America. We do not have the stomach for long wars of occupation—and that is a good thing. We are a nation of commerce, not conflict. A constellation of retired stars will tell you that the two can coexist. They are wrong. Retired Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Jack Keane said only two months ago that because Afghanistan consumes just a small portion of the force, America “can afford the cost of fighting” there. What he does not see is that for 20 years, that “small portion” was the most important portion of the military. Everything else necessarily is subservient to the portion of the force in conflict. It has altered who the Army is and how it thinks. There exists only a handful of officers below the general officer ranks who served during the Cold War and who have lived through an era of great power conflict. From private through brigade commander, virtually every Army Soldier serving today has experienced little other than counterinsurgencies or nation-building while operating out of secure FOBs. Large scale combat operations and insurgencies require different cultures and mindsets. In a resource constrained environment, the same service cannot do both well. The Army today could not win a major war. Yet, winning a major war, is the number one reason why an Army exists. It will take a generation to break bad habits, to think in terms of closing with and destroying the enemy versus winning hearts and minds. Keane sees raw numbers (and ignores the stark evidence that there was no progress over 20 years) and thinks that America’s Army can sustain that level of commitment. It cannot, and the opportunity cost to the culture of the force is much too great. Ignore him. Ignore Petraeus, McMaster, Stavridis, and the rest of their ilk.

Concurrent with its review of purpose, the Army must reevaluate its size and how it is organized. The active component is much too large. That makes it too eager to get involved in irrelevant theaters where failure is likely or even preordained. It should be very difficult for an American president to deploy the Army without the National Guard performing most combat operations. You argue that that takes time? Yes, that’s the point: it should take time to make the case to the American people that war is worth it.

The Marine Corps must provide the nation’s rapid response forces. It is a self-contained deployable multi-domain force. Some would argue that the service has both insufficient combat power and staying power. However, that is a feature, and not a flaw, as it forces the nation to rely on its Army—and hence its reserve components—before engaging in heavy combat or lengthy operations. The current Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Berger, already seems to recognize his service’s role—hence his decision to eliminate armor from the Corps.

Congress must reevaluate the authorities contained within Sections 12301 through 12304 of Title X. The president has too much latitude to, on his own authority, mobilize tens or even hundreds of thousands of Guardsmen and Reservists without congressional approval. It must be the policy of the United States that we do not place our service members in harm’s way without first making the case to the American people. This also means ending the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force as well as strengthening Congress’ role in the War Powers Act such that, absent an actual declaration of war, there can be no war.

Some would argue that such a constraint would limit the nation’s ability to respond to a Russian incursion in the Baltics or a Chinese attack on Taiwan. However, recent open-source studies conclude that the US military already is unable to defend against either attack. Pretending otherwise while not having the means to back up our assurances unnecessarily emboldens our partners and allies, making such an attack more likely. We lose nothing by making the law match the reality.

Let us not forget the intelligence agencies. They reported that Kabul was at risk of falling in as little as 90 days. That report was from last Thursday! The capital fell in less than 90 hours. Failure must be punished. And punishment in a bureaucracy means mass firings and a smaller budget—not more money so that they might be better the next time. Congress must consolidate and collapse our intelligence agencies. And when its reorganization is done, if the overall size of the nation’s intelligence apparatus is a quarter of what it is now, that still is too large.

And while we are on the topic of “too large,” DoD must be halved. There are too many flag officers, too many agencies, departments, and directorates. It is the only secretariat with independent but supposedly subordinate secretaries. There are too many Geographic Component Commands—each led by a 4-star virtual proconsul whose budget dwarfs what the Department of State spends in their regions. The result is a foreign policy that is overly military and underly diplomatic, informational, and economic. Congress must revisit the 1947 National Security Act and the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. Both were good for their times, but after decades of experience, there clearly are new reforms necessary.

Unreformed, DoD is an inscrutable labyrinth which invites fraud, waste, and abuse. The excess attracts unscrupulous camp followers. Amazon did not choose Crystal City to locate its new headquarters because of low rents and ease of transportation access for its 25,000 employees. It chose the Arlington, Virginia neighborhood because it is two blocks from the Pentagon. That building controls the distribution of three-quarters of a trillion dollars every year. Most of it is wasted. The excess is apparent in the scores of class-A high rises housing defense contractors just blocks from the Pentagon. To end that waste, nothing so concentrates the senses as austerity.

Let me conclude with one last thought: the generals, the intelligence analysts, the defense contractors, and the pundits all leveraged America’s rarest resource: the American serviceman and woman. They are the ones who fought, and sweat, and bled, and died for what is now clearly a failed strategy and a doomed mission. Even after its failure was apparent to their leaders, they continued to enlist and reenlist, largely because their superiors—the experts—assured them that success was possible. It was not. It never was. Absent American support, Afghanistan collapsed over the length of a long weekend. That is proof enough that the last 20 years were in vain, and proof enough that the system is broken from within.

h/t to Instapundit

Couldn’t say it better. I have no idea who wrote this, but he is clearly a man who has indeed been there and done that.

My best regards to everyone,

w.

22 thoughts on “An Un-Named Officer Speaks Out

  1. In my opinion, President Obama laid foundations to this disaster in his 12/1/2009 speech: “After months of careful consideration, President Obama announced his newest Afghanistan policy last night. He will send an additional 30,000 troops in rapid fashion — giving General McChrystal most of what he asked for — but also announced an exit timetable that makes a successful counterinsurgency impossible.”
    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/obama_afghanistan_speech_worst_of_both_worlds/

    Giving Taliban a fixed US exit timetable was a great gift. It told them that our hearts were not with Afghani allies, especially women. It told them that all they had to do was to wait. They interpreted it correctly: “You have the watch, we have the time.”

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  2. I agree with a lot of what the officer has to say and would bow to experience. However, it would be great to hear some rebuttals to what is now being said to support, too late, being in Afghanistan. 1) we have managed to avoid terrorist attacks in part because of our involvement in Afghanistan and Al Queda may well return. 2) the Afghans actually have borne the brunt of the fighting since 2014-2015 and have given up because we trained them to rely on our contractor mechanics and air support. Basically they ran out of air supplied ammo, food, water and medical evac. 3) Bagram is an important launch point into China and Russia and we shouldn’t have given it up (even if we left it could be like Guantanamo). 4) Afghanistan could have been similar to S. Korea, Japan, German, etc., a base of operations in an important area (if not an important country). 5) Afghanistan is an important source of rare earth minerals which may go to the Chinese CCP now.
    I don’t necessarily agree with all these talking points bu some sound reasonable.

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    • Now, your show for 4), comes off the rails because the locals largely don’t want you there! The Japanese really don’t want American bases, as American servicemen commit crimes, serious crimes & many escape prosecution.
      As for 3), you’d have a lovely Khe San. Your idea of a launch point into China & Russia, is frankly laughable. You think the surrounding countries would grant overflight permission? You reckon the US could launch an attack on either country? Stick to playing video games.
      1) another joke. Where did the 9-11 terrorists come from? It was Afghanistan, Bin Laden wasn’t found living there either. If the rationale was just that, then you’d have been in, “kicked some ass”, then departed with an Arnie-ish “I’ll be back” if they were based there again.
      Plenty of Rare Earth mines in the US, just the extraction is such a dirty process, locals don’t want it. So you feel it’s OK to pollute other countries instead?

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  3. One of George W. Bush’s campaign promises (and half the reason I supported him) was that he explicitly stated that the U.S. WOULD NOT engage in “nation building.”

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  4. There is one quote from his statement that sums up the problem in toto: “The purpose of the Army is to visit profound violence on our nation’s enemies; it is not to rebuild failed states.” All of the other problems and failed solutions derive from that. And, I can’t argue with his assignments of responsibility for the screw-ups. Heads should roll.

    I’m afraid C. Northcote Parkinson was correct in his book “Parkinson’s Law’ on the growth of a bureaucracy. According to the wikipedia (yea, I know…), Title 10 of the United States Code now authorizes “the total number of active-duty general or flag officers is capped at 231 for the Army, 162 for the Navy, 198 for the Air Force, and 62 for the Marine Corps.” It appears that once someone reaches the level of flag officer the Inverse Peter Principal takes effect. After they have reached their level of incompetence they are then promoted to a level where it is no longer obvious. We use to joke in the Corp that the level of intelligence decreased with rank. That has become more obvious of late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OK, my knowledge of the US military comes from author Tom Clancy. But he wrote “The real purpose of an Army is to kill people and break things as efficiently as possible”. Now, does anyone think that the US Army meets that base requirement?

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  5. Thanks for posting this Willis. I know I’ll want to come back and reread it. I hope that Trump and DeSantis , and every other presidential hopeful with half a brain are also reading it.

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  6. As a Vietnam veteran and learning from that experience, I knew and declared from the outset the Afghanistan mission was going to be another fiasco at the expense of the American taxpayer. I just hugely underestimated the gullibility of the public to put up with the decades of nonsense and misinformation, but considering all the Covid bravo sierra stuff, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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  7. Another Vietnam vet, but it did not take that to understand the folly of increasing the mission in Afghanistan. It is know as the “graveyard of Empires” for a reason.
    As an aside, the book “Flashman” by GM Frasier is a great read.

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  8. Uhm, anybody hear Lara Logan on Tucker last night? A mouse does not fart in Pakistan or Afghanistan without the NSA knowing. Briefly (and paraphrasing), she said the military industrial complex (MIC) et al have control of all things – and in that region. The MIC/swamp/NSA whatever, fund the Pakistani ISI. The Pakistani ISI are the puppet masters of the Taliban. They recruit for them, feed them, supply them and direct them. Pakistan harbors the Taliban ‘leadership’. Supply lines come out of Pakistan into Afghanistan and maintain the Taliban…this is all known and permitted by the MIC. Further, she said all the US regimes Bush2, Obama, Trump and Biden have little control of this MIC and need to ‘work’ with it. Taliban could have been choked off by bombing their supply lines out of Pakistan – not done. The Pakistan ISI could have been choked off with ‘defunding’ – not done.

    Couple things – why would Lara Logan be fabricating any of this – for what purpose. Secondly, why would the US MIC want to do this – what is the end goal generating all this turmoil all the time – continuous destabilization to ensure kingdoms and fiefdoms prevail? It is a thought experiment – terribly sad if what Lara purports is true. The Biden Whitehouse is owning this but let us not forget the Biden puppet master is still Obama and regime (Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett et al). Why would they choose chaos vs an orderly extraction from a much better and secured Bagram AFB (that can hold 8-10 C17s vs 1 or 2 at the Kabul airport)….what purpose does the chaos serve…come on people let’s be imaginative here and tease this out – the MIC did not do this out of ‘wokeness’ though that may pervade deep into the military.

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  9. The involvement of the MIC is not a new concern.. below are paragraphs from Eisenhower’s 1961 speech upon leaving office; ironically he also speaks about the danger of the scientific/technological elite.. sadly our statesmen haven’t been up to the task.. I do hope the General’s comments above are followed thru, my cynical side says no, too much money and power will be lost lost by the “statesmen”..

    “A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

    Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

    Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

    Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

    It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower 1961..

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  10. The fate of Gen Shinseki, who as Army Chief of Staff testified that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq, explains much. He told the truth and was forced out of the service as a result.by
    Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, the Iraq invasion planners.
    The lesson that telling the truth is a career limiting move was not lost on the rest of the US military,.
    Afghanistan is one of the consequences, the more serious ones are still opaque.

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  11. I blame Biden for getting the leaving Afghanistan withdraw backwards. First you withdraw your civilians, Second remove any unused gear. Third you blow up any useful infrastructure of military value. Fourth you then you withdraw the few remaining troops. The dumb %^$% did number four first.

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    • I think you should put “Biden” in quotes because I don’t believe he’s really in charge of anything. I believe you have a valid evacuation order, I’d only add that the evacuation should have been organized around a non evacuated Bagram airbase. It’s been there a long time and I suspect fairly easily defended. Then the last soldier out turns off the lights.

      Kabul was going to fall as soon as the Afgans figured out the US was serious about leaving. Remember when Trump tried to pull out; we got the Russian bounty narrative and the generals more or less ignored Trump. I doubt “Biden” had the force of will to make the pull out happen. My tin foil is suspecting there may be more afoot than led to believe, particularly when the evacuation is so badly botched when .at least, better strategies were quite obvious.

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  12. I don’t trust the credibility of this anonymous source. Why? Something he said that was totally ingenuous. “or what is now clearly a failed strategy and a doomed mission. Even after its failure was apparent to their leaders, they continued to enlist and reenlist, largely because their superiors—the experts—assured them that success was possible. It was not. It never was. Absent American support, Afghanistan collapsed over the length of a long weekend. That is proof enough that the last 20 years were in vain, and proof enough that the system is broken from within.” How can that be uttered with any sense of honesty without mentioning the lack of air support which was crucial to our game plan and what the Afghan army would have needed? How can he not mention the abandonment of Ba gram to the Taliban? How can he not mention the training of the Afghan army was done my Millie, clearly a man more interested in ideology than training an army to fight.
    It could be that he hit the nail on the head but by being quite about these major issues when involved in assessing the Afghan army, it raises suspicions.

    Personally I like this statement that best. “The purpose of the Army is to visit profound violence on our nation’s enemies; it is not to rebuild failed states.”
    Simple yet profound. And clear.

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  13. I have a lot I would like to say on this subject but not the skill to put my thoughts coherently on paper ( just showing my age, I have no idea how to express that in the computer age). I served in the Navy from 1962 until1982, all in the Pacific. That includes a tour with the Marines in Viet Nam in 1967. Even though I was a junior officer at the time my billets required me to have access to a lot of high level intelligence. I agree that the Generals deserve blame; however most of the blame is with the State Department. All that nation building nonsense did not originate with the military but came from the State Department. If anyone wants an accurate account, so judged by one who lived through it, read “The Lost Mandate of Heaven” by Geoffrey D. T. Shaw

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  14. Can’t see how to correct a post once it is sent. The last sentence should read, ” If any one wants an accurate account of how we lost the Viet Nam War….”

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  15. This whole mess is just one of many shoddy irresponsible actions being taken by the Biden administration. The president is completely a walking fumbling idiot. The democratic party has done nothing at all to help the American people and all the slums in all the democrat run cities prove that they are big talkers with no substance or conscience for their neglect of all these minorities. That is the real racist action in this country that has affected millions of minorities. It has held them back with poor housing, poor schools, and bad job opportunities that has kept these people struggling. These democrats must be put out to pasture as they have done nothing but harm our country and people.

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  16. I missed the reason for giving the State Department a pass in this debacle. They have obviously been the ones driving the train. Yes to the military side of this, but more for acquiescing to the State Departments involvement in forcing the conditions on the ground that created this mess. And you can’t say the military was just following the President*’s guidance when the President* is not in control of damn thing.

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  17. I was discussing the Afghanistan debacle with a retired Colonel who is a good friend.
    He commented that if Biden’s actions were an orderly withdrawal, he wondered what a disorderly withdrawal would look like.

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  18. “I don’t blame President Biden for the catastrophe in Afghanistan.”

    It seems it was meant as a distraction from crisis at the southern border.
    There was not anything profitable about Afghanistan.

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