We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal
The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), currently stalled in the Senate, calls for an independent bipartisan
That provision, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and others, is a good one. No doubt we can glean valuable lessons by looking at the totality of our Afghanistan experience, including our diplomatic,
But that sort of thoughtful, exhaustive undertaking would certainly take months, probably years, to collect, analyze and report on. And we need some answers sooner than that. Specifically, we need to answer questions about our deeply troubling pullout in August.
Congressional commissions don’t spring up overnight. The Republican and Democratic Party leadership and the chairs of the armed services, intelligence and foreign affairs/relations committees
Even as this commission gets
Such an independent, unclassified
Despite the herculean work and heroism of our service members and other U.S. government professionals on the ground and in the air in Afghanistan and beyond, few would argue that the August withdrawal was an unqualified success. Most would call it chaotic, at best, if not downright disastrous.
There are many questions that need to be answered soon. Among the most important:
· How did the interagency process to quit Afghanistan unfold within the Biden administration? Were there flaws in this process that could be improved upon to inform future contingencies?
· Why did we decide to withdraw all U.S. forces, leaving us and our allies blind to potential counterterror threats? Were other options discussed in the interagency and, if so, why weren’t they chosen?
· What was the intelligence community’s assessment of the situation and the potential fallout from the precipitous withdrawal?
· Why did we surrender Bagram Airfield, leaving U.S. forces to rely on Hamid Karzai International Airport as the sole point of departure? What was learned from the hasty
And so on.
Both a long-term study of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2021 and a short-term study of our 2021 withdrawal have merit. They should be undertaken as soon as practicable with the goal of improving our performance in future diplomatic and military contingencies.
These after-action studies
The results will be vital to informing current and future policymakers in Congress and the executive branch so that better outcomes in the future are within grasp.
Equally important, the American people, who shouldered so much of the burden of this conflict, deserve answers to these questions about Afghanistan. It’s time for bipartisan congressional
Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former congressional commission member.
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