The US Congress wants to get to the bottom of the Afghanistan debacle.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have introduced bills to set up a non-partisan commission to report to the public on the mistakes made by the four presidential administrations that fought the war. The bills vary in detail, such as the number of commissioners and the commission period, but the intention is clear: to force a public inquiry into how and why the US project in Afghanistan failed.
The commission will be expensive. But it will be well spent if it thoroughly examines the relevant military, intelligence, development and diplomatic activities from 9/11 to the fall of Kabul, and then tells the story of the abuses and abuses of the Afghanistan adventure – what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff called a “strategic failure” – by examining some discrete issues, for example:
“Original Sin” from the Bonn Conference in 2001. Why did the United States block the participation of the Taliban delegation? Why was Washington opposed to a role in the new government of the well-respected former monarch, Zahir Shah, in favor of the US election, Hamid Karzai? Who was in favor of this policy and why?
Similarly, why did the United States not insist that the Kabul government participate in the Doha negotiations with the Taliban? Did the United States have any chance of pressuring the Taliban if it refused to trade with Kabul? If so, why were they not used?
After the first success in 2001-2002, what was the strategy and mission? How and why did the perceived mission evolve into the United States carrying out rebel operations? Why did the United States deploy a large number of troops after bin Laden was killed? Who made these decisions and why?
US interference in Afghanistan’s election ensured that Afghan leaders Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani were “elected, not elected.” What was the effect of the resulting credibility deficit on managers’ ability to manage? What was the propaganda value for the Taliban of American input?
What are the differences between sworn, public testimony from military and civilian officials and their private, off-the-record interviews with the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction, also known as the “Afghanistan Papers”? If there were differences, then officials corrected the public registration?
What was the impact of the escalating conflict on the readiness and material condition of the US forces? For example, the U.S. Navy assigned an aircraft carrier combat group near the conflict in duration. Was this intense deployment plan responsible for the deteriorating preparedness that caused the fatal collisions of U.S. Navy warships and merchant ships in 2017?
In 2017, the U.S. government classified information on the readiness and performance of Afghan security forces. Who controlled the classification and why? How does the contingency information align with the sworn testimony of senior officials, especially when the readiness of the Afghan forces was likely to be obvious to all Allied non-commissioned officers and the Taliban?
What are the true costs of the war? Brown University’s Costs of War project has benefited the public and Congress, but there is an official US government account of the costs of the Afghanistan conflict, including the cost of debt financing (interest payments) of the Afghanistan war will rise to 6, $ 5 trillion in 2050?
Does the US have an account of the equipment that was abandoned when US forces evacuated Afghanistan? How will it contribute to the military capabilities of the Taliban and other extremist groups in Afghanistan and the wider region? Have Afghan government officials sold or transferred equipment from the United States to the Taliban? Do these officials now live in the United States?
How many innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan were killed by drone strikes? Did the United States consider the impact on regional public opinion and Washington’s regional political strategy of misguided attacks? How does the US number of dead and wounded agree with studies conducted by independent groups such as Airwars? What corrective actions were taken in the wake of erroneous killings?
While the United States was planning the invasion of Iraq, did it then evaluate the impact of moving resources away from Afghanistan on the likely success or failure of the operation? Who was for and against the displacement of assets? What were their arguments?
In the last days of the US presence in Afghanistan, US officials said the Afghan forces numbered 300,000. Given the well-documented “ghost soldier” problem, how bloated was the 300,000s? Did the US government know the actual number of soldiers and police present at their places of service?
As for other cases of public corruption, did the United States overlook or ignore documented cases of corruption by Afghan government officials? Did the US government try to get the money back for the benefit of the Afghan people or US taxpayers? Has the US government facilitated the evacuation of known corrupt officials to the US?
How ready was the State Department to carry out an evacuation of U.S. citizens? Was the embassy’s F-77 “Report on potential evacuees” accurate?
Why could the intelligence service’s reporting not predict the Taliban’s quick victory? What corrective actions were taken to correct erroneous analysis techniques? Are the heads of the intelligence service that approved the misleading reporting still in positions of authority?
And what was the nature of the US government’s cooperation with Pakistan’s inter-service intelligence service, which is believed to be the patron of Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Haqqani network, which is believed to control the Taliban’s leadership structure?
The Commission will be an opportunity to explain what happened to the American and Afghan peoples, the Allied veterans who fought the war, and the citizens of Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, who will live with the aftermath of the war long after. the American forces returned to their safe haven in North America.
James Durso (@james_durso) is the CEO of Corsair LLC, a supply chain consulting firm. He was a Professional Fellow at the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Durso served as a U.S. Navy officer for 20 years, specializing in logistics and security assistance. His overseas military postings were in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and he served in Iraq as a civilian transport adviser to the coalition’s provisional authority. He served fluently as a supply officer for the submarine USS SKATE (SSN 578).