What Were Our Objectives in Afghanistan?

This post was inspired by this one at Outside the Beltway. I’m sure this is a topic that will be debated with some heat for the rest of my life. What were our objectives in Afghanistan? I think they were

  • Punish and/or destroy the people who were responsible for our being attacked on September 11, 2001.
  • Establish a government there willing and able to prevent those people or similar from setting up shop in the country again and which would be allied with us.
  • Be able to withdraw from the country within a fairly short timeframe, leaving the government we’d set up able to stand on its own.

It was obvious to me from the very first that those objectives could not be achieved. Oh, the first objective could be achieved but it could have been achieved on the afternoon of September 12, 2001 with ICBMs. We didn’t need to invade. We didn’t need to spend 20 years there. As soon as we put “boots on the ground”, as the saying goes, we accepted certain obligations which led inexorably to the other two objectives.

Here’s my follow-up question: what are the ethical obligations of an American general ordered to accomplish those objectives?

4 comments… add one
  • Andy Link

    “Here’s my follow-up question: what are the ethical obligations of an American general ordered to accomplish those objectives?”

    All military personnel take an oath and are legally required to follow the lawful orders of the chain-of-command which ends with the President. When asked, military personnel should give honest advice and/or opinions, but once a course is set, they are obligated to implement it.

    I think the problem is rather different than what the OTB post responded to. The problem is not the service academies but careerism, especially in the upper ranks, in a system that tends to breed “yes men,” and rewards a “can do” attitude that creates senior leaders that are experts in warfare but not war.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    The situation called for a Roman-style punitive expedition. Go in, annihilate the enemy, get out. We accomplished that, also evicting the Taliban in the process.

    Then we tried to nation-build. Establish a ‘democracy’ that none of the various tribes had ever experienced and which the tribal chieftains didn’t want as it would erode their power. Pakistan was terrified that India would get the upper hand in Afghanistan and sandwich them, so they supported the Taliban remnants that fled Afghanistan. It also became a jobs program for the corruptocrats both in America and worldwide. It’s now a Middle-Eastern Vietnam, no will to win, but no desire to lose. I think everybody’s waiting for a possible Iranian implosion before proceeding to the next step.

  • bob sykes Link

    By the Nuremberg principle, the American Generals who led and are leading the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are war criminals, just as the German and Japanese generals and admirals were in WW II, and for exactly the same reasons. They organized and led invasions of countries that were at peace with us, and that includes Afghanistan. Afghanistan had no part in 9/11, and its government offered to trial ben Laden.

    Of course, the Presidents, Secretaries of Defense and State, and other high ranking civilian leaders are also war criminal, again, in the sense that Hitler, Stalin, and Tojo were.

  • GreyShambler Link

    Don’t put it on the generals, their obligation is to Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. Until they’re told not to.

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