tv Lessons from Afghanistan Reconstruction CSPAN May 29, 2018 9:05am-10:37am EDT
colleague and fellow someone with deep experience in afghanistan and in many places around the world where conflict, organized crime, and terrorism combine to pose major challenges to security and instability. next to her is colonel bow, currently billeted as second officer to secretary of the army, but i think his most important affiliation is with the brookings institution, he's here in 2016-2017, and comes to this dias with three combat tours in afghanistan and one in iraq, and therefore, a lot of relevant experience and familiarity with the stablization challenges on the ground and you heard a little bit about the province where he was operating in afghanistan and we'll discuss that more today. to his left, delighted to welcome francis brown.
francis is a fellow at carnegie endowment for national peace and she joined carnegie after doing a lot of work at u.s. government at usicd and nst and is now writing work on stablization in syria and i'm sure we'll spend on our course. finally, not last or least, but first in our discussions this afternoon is david young. david is the cr offices team lead for lessons report that you're holding in your hands. that's david, i think it's fair to say, or at least one of them. he's an experienced analyst of governance and of stablization issues, both inside and outside the u.s. government. so, i am going to turn it over to david first, actually to
kind of clue us into some of the other findings and especially forward-looking lessons for the u.s. government on stablization issues many coming out of this report. david, inspector general sopko laid out one central finding in his remarks this morning, that urgency and intensitntensity. to win control in heavily contested areas. led in many cases to stablization operations where the pre conditions for success weren't there. there was too much violence and too contested. and i'm curious, first of all, were there cases of success? what were the conditions for success? and then, we can talk a little bit about this integrated military civilian tool kit that seems so critical to successful stablization, so, please.
>> sure, thank you for having us and moderating tamara. we found that some of the critical ingredients for success included as the inspector general mentioned in his speech. a willingness to collaborate among civilian and military officials both afghan and coalition, and willingness for those individuals on the ground to provide robust services and including what implementing partners sometimes did with direct implementation, and that you had to have the right people in the right places and so, we had that in a few places, but it's mostly, what we found most of all, was that stablization efforts across the country mostly failed and we trace that back to two critical decisions. the first was that we prioritized the most dangerous districts of the country first, and there was considerable debate about this throughout the campaign. and there's some belief that the best way to sequence stablization programing was to build out ink spots from
relatively stable areas, including provincial capitals and work your way to the more insecure areas and doing so in assess, build momentum toward that effort. this was tried in 2006 and 7 and mostly failed due to a lack of resources. and the idea was that these were tippingpoint districts, essentially, to go after the easier first and paves the way for the much more complicated place and and 2009 the model was flipped on its head and for the bulk of the campaign. the idea became going after prioritizing the most insecure parts of the country first, with the hope that, if you take the worst places out, if you mitigate in the worst places it would create what was called a cascading impact into the lower hanging fruit areas and the rest of the country would sort itself out if you take care of the problematic areas first. unformtunatel
unfortunately, what happened, we got bogged down in extremely insecure areas as the inspector general highlighted, the civil servants were afraid to work because widespread taliban assassination campaigns, civil servants that did work had trouble moving around in the country because of the danger of doing so. and implementing partners had trouble implementing projects, et cetera, et cetera. these areas that we prioritized were so dangerous that we had little hope to convince the population that they would, in fact, be able to be protected when the drawdown eventually occurred. so, and i want to emphasize that these were areas that were so dangerous, that many of them had seen little to no governance in years and they needed more time to actually come around and to accept and adjust to a new sense of normal. but there was no time, which brings me to the second critical decision, which was we drew down forces and civilians
timelines unrelated to conditions on the ground. so, we -- if you'll remember, there is a surge from 2000 -- a 18-month surge from 2010 to 2011 and a three-year transition period from about 2011 to 2014. and the obama administration had very good reasons for instituting these time-based timelines. we had the financial crisis and every spent in afghanistan would be a dollar less to spend in the united states in the economic recovery. there was a sense that the prolonged surge would give senior u.s. military officials more room to request for more extensions and more escalations down the road and finally, there was a sense that these open-ended timelines would allow a-- exacerbate afghan dependency on american aid and while these reasons were very good, in our analysis we found that they were just not good enough. a government in afghanistan's state simply cannot be reformed
on the timeline, and at the scale that we had envisioned and led to programming and staffing that nearly guaranteed the effort would fail in our eyes. for instance, military planners in kabul had to change to accommodate new timelines. as the inspector general mentioned, u.s. aid had problems with staffing and they weren't alone. department of defense had a shortage of civil affairs unit and they converted chemical warfare companies into civil affairs to implement their programs using four week-long training cycles that were entirely power point. the stability orangesganization dod sustained quickly because there was a pending sense of a
precipice at the end of a drawdown that would have to come and a sense that the clock was ticking and we had to make as much progress as we would. i want to highlight one last thing regarding the service delivery model. we talk about the services and the hope that the way stablization worked in afghanistan was that you provide services in order to convince the population that government rule is better. unfortunately, the services that we tried to help the government provide were far more ambitious than they needed to be and poorly suited to the afghan environment, to the afghan context. for instance, the taliban mostly secured the support of a population through coercion. just simple forced cooperation under threat of death. but in theory, it should not require a great deal of social service delivery to win the hearts and minds of a population that's being terrorized by the taliban. the far should be pretty low in
those circumstances for wning them over because they're looking for a safe alternative. they, you know, are looking for essentially rudimentary law and order as a prerequisite to anything else we might provide them. so, it's not clear that this robust service delivery model was necessary in many cases, where coercion was the main method for securing the population support. in other places, securing the-- in other places the taliban actually went beyond coercion though and provided limited service delivery, specifically security and dispute resolution. the-- but instead of us using that as a model, instead of us competing on the terms of the taliban, we tried to provide a diverse array of of relatively advanced services, ranging from agricultural guidance and advice to agricultural equipment to health care and
education, that went well beyond what the taliban had provided and in some cases, what the taliban had used to accrue legitimacy in the eyes of the population. so, in our eyes, or for instance, instead of doing dispute resolution or programming along dispute resolution, like the taliban was doing, we built courthouses. we trained prosecutors, in fiercely contested districts because even though afghan found them unfamiliar, slow, and corrupt, and so, and we did this despite the fact that 90% of afghans resolved their disputes through informal means because according to one senior u.s. aid official we talked to, we wanted to give them something they never had before. this was a chronic mismatch
between what we want today provide them. in our eyes it pointed to this need to pinpoint what the government's pitch should be based on what had been provided to them in the recent past and allowed them to accrue that legitimacy. >> david, thank you. and i think it's important to highlight here, segar's mandate is broad. what you've done in this lessons learned report and i think it's fair to say lessons learned report you're not only looking at implementation. in many ways what you've identified here, it sounds to me, is yes, some failures of implementation, but primarily a failure of design. a failure of the sort of theory of the case of stablization as applied in these circumstances. i want to turn to you for comment on precisely that point. one of the findings that david just laid out is this idea that the u.s. set the bar too high. it was trying to provide
governance at a level beyond where it should have been trying to compete with the taliban, which is really about basic security, basic law and order. do you agree with that? >> not fully. i think there was a more complicated mismatch of various sets of expectations and various sets of promises that were raised. i fundamentally agree with david that a key part of the taliban's entrenchment was fundamentally its ability to provide order. very brutal order, but nonetheless, an order. and in my many trips to afghanistan, i frequently encountered similar narrative for people about the taliban and the relationship of the taliban to the populations and afghan people would say, look, you don't like the taliban, we didn't like it, but the taliban in power, you could travel from
kandahar to kabul and no one would rob you. predictionable, universally, far more easier to develop coping mechanisms and adjust to than unpredictability. what happened with the u.s. intervention was not that we provided far more ambitious governance. the promised far more ambitious governance would be provided with really misgovernance by the associated officials. a tremendous amount of corruption and unpredictability and abuse and taking our partners and high problematic warlords on whom they relied because of the u.s. troops and u.s. and international troops, capacity to deliver crucial anti-taliban gains and they often proved highly territorial
towards local populations and abusive and highly unpredictable in their predatory behavior. and with often minimizing access to markets, for local populations, not simply resorting to generallylized fixation and importing a set of rules, but becoming exclusionary to how people could go about their everyday life. so, and i would also posit that a crucial element, however, is-- then applies in afghanistan, that people, people often have far greater expectations of what a government should provide than what an insurgent group should provide. there is the classic rise of expectations with a distant kind of entity to lure you. so, you know, my view is not that we gave them too much. we gave them actually far less than they got under the
taliban, but we promised far more. >> excellent summary. i have to ask you, as well, vanda, and we heard john allen and ig sopko talking about this earlier. how much of a problem here is the afghan government? >> actually, there is just a fundamental part of the problem. and this goes back to the relationship between pakistan and afghanistan. afghan people will often tell you that if only pakistan were not the problem, there would not be problems in afghanistan. indeed, pakistan has been a tremendous destabilizing, complex, complicated actor. no doubt about it. however, if never good in afghanistan, then stabilizing effects of pakistan would be far more limited affects than they have been. clearly, it's a new government. not so new now. it's for use into the
government, but it's the government that people had very high expectations, how much the government would deliver on cleaning up corruption and b better more predictable governance and it's a tremendous struggle for the unity government. a lot of disappointment, again, very high amount of expectations and because of the troops, continual reliance on highly problematic warlords, problematic power brokers, in rule and governance. i want to highlight one other set, not just the afghan government here, this is more broadly the afghan political class. it would be very inappropriate to put the blame stolely on the afghan government. a large part of afghanistan's continuing troubles is the fact
that the political class continues to see its role as constantly engaging in brinksmanship and rocking the boat of the state to gain a narrow parochial privileges and engaging in very narrow political competition for one's political and economic spoils. and never really coming together, even at times of great crisis and potential inflection points and put natural interest in capacity for governance to take place. so, instead, no one in afghanistan ever governs. people constantly engage in politicking. >> thank you. jd, i want to come to you on this question of expectations and shifting expectations. i've been thinking about this as well because iraq just went through parliamentary elections, very soon after the territorial defeat of isis in iraq, although there's still quite a bit of work to do. and one of the striking
outcomes of that election was that in the areas that isis held the hardest for the longest, there was the least sectarian voting. the most interest expressed in effective governance, in service delivery. so, i'm curious whether what vanda is talking about people's rising expectations, and does that ring true based on your experience? >> absolutely. first off, thank you for having me, it's showing that we're perpetrating academic fraud. [laughter]. we all are here. >> and managing expectations is challenging from a data level to strategic level and service delivery or the political framework. my vick case study in 2010 in the district in afghanistan works there for a couple of reasons. i wouldn't say it's a model for
everywhere, but i'll close in a minute or two with some of the i think salient lessons learned if we're looking for potential syria stablization or other places the military and the civilian apparatus would be involved in. so, quickly paint a narrative and i won't go over the entire case study. don't need that. you can read it thanks to david's great work, but in 2010, we came in at the start of the surge and the strategy and mission was to do counter insurgency of which the center of gravity are the people and winning them over. and the people gravitate to the side or sides that were winning. at that time, to paraphrase a former speaker of the house. all politics is local so you want to have people connected to their district government. i think that everybody in the audience gets their driver's license and most of their interaction with the government at a local level. i don't think you bang on the white house every day and you go get services, maybe you do. same thing in any other country. you want the connection
happening. you want that interaction. so, we had 13 districts in kuhner pro since. and at a very important district, there was two away from the capital islamabad. it didn't have anything going for it for services. by the way, it was a make r major transit wrote, south of the two key gateways to kabul. if they fall, kabul has fallen and the mujaheddin had fought off the soviets. and every insurgent or terrorist group there from al qaeda, to pakistan, little key taliban, a local taliban, capital key taliban, the capital leadership was in the area and all of that was up there and all of it wanted to take kunar. you had sanctuary, the terrain,
you had the capabilities. so we came in with some lessons learned in afghanistan previously and in iraq previously, the people in the unit had learned, this is a whole of of government problem, this is not a military problem. it's not for an infantry battalion, but a thousand people in a task force to solve. there are things to do to enable. in the months that we were there-- the case you read about in june of 2010. i lost nine soldiers. the conditions were that bad. there was a giant red arrow, if i could show you a map. was a giant red arrow in islamabad and we broke up suicide bombers that month, there's pressure everywhere. the whole let's try to win over the people wasn't going to work until we set the conditions for that. it was pretty bad. what we did, we got with our officers transition partners, so lucky to have them embedded with us with rebecca hummel and
her team. >> usid. >> and they're in there, surgical precision and quick effects by synchronizing tactical things on the ground. and they're kind of an advanced guard. very effective tool for us. a provincial reconstruction seem in islamabad, had aid folks there, agricultural department folks there so you could integrate the provincial and district capability government capabilities. we had to go in because woo he had to clear out some significant threats to not only the district, but the provincial capital. and, oh, boy, the military side of that was pretty effective because we were able to pull insurgents away from combat actions over 30 days, but the main effort and the integrated planning from jump street, from the continuing, was the ability for stablization efforts, contracts and the government to
own the problem. i mean, immediately. once hostilities ended and once we cleared the battlefield, trucks with suffer stuff were coming in. contracts were pre-written and we had a district government look where there would be work for walls that prevented flooding. for farm animals and veterinary to innoculate animals to show we're here and we'll stay here. it helped that the district governor was a former mujaheddin. a gregarious, and hated the soviets, he fought there, not only knew everybody, both sides, he knew the terrain which was helpful to us and knew and gave great advice how to meet expectations by underpromising and overdelivering. key point. so, at the end-state it's integrating people with-- we were lucky in a couple of
ways. in the army we say things are always about people, leadership and communication in between. the political will was there. coming up to the operation we had talked to some elders in the valleys, and surreptitiously and say we're here to help you. i was looked at me in the face and the taliban said do not ask us to high pressure you, we are the taliban and this is our government. that's shocking and how do you do something about that? that was a cry for help. they were getting dispute upper valley, that's my land, no, it's not. you pay me and i'll solve it right now, it's done. the afghan government could not compete with that, but the brutality aspect of it. to go into beheading elders in villages was too much, it was too much. so they're basically homes, we had to free that up. so some lessons learned, i think are applicable. and that whole military plan key from jump street.
a consistent plan over time that's not going to wax and wane because the political will waxes and wanes. you have to have that upfront. you have to have willing partners, you have to. you can't have somebody that's going to pull out and have somebody that's got one toe in the water and you have to have somebody that's all in. i will say that, this may not be re-- replicatable in other places, but you cannot want success more than the people you're trying to help. you cannot do that. i can go on with examples of that. i'll leave it for a bumper sticker there for you. persistence, the dialog, i've said before, you know, theresway a book "three cups of tea" and that's incorrect, it's three gallons of tea. socializing and talking to everybody all the time is part of it. the syrahs, the discussions
before and after operations. when the military is done, we go to the effort of stabilizing and it continues. and you don't just create a government, you've got it. it's going to require some effort, but they have to want it, too. seek out the true spheres of influence. learning who the power brokers are locally and operationally are a key essential, sometimes they're hidden. cultural standings, and sometimes of the cultural aspects, people who had gone into hiding and could pull them together. we had to figure out and bring them to the stable. that was hard. the human mapping of what we do in our business of human beings is difficult. measures of performance and mr. sopko measured this. measures of performance do not equal measures of effectiveness. handing out money for projects
as effectiveness is an incorrect. i spent a thousand dollars on a trash project, i'm successful. no you're not because nobody asked for that. and you pulled people out of the fields and the road is great, but the pumpkins are rotting in the fields. the road to hell is paved with good intentions. you're dealing with human interactive systems. you cannot predict how it's going to end. you have to be persistent. don't drop in, do the project and leave not from a security project about you to be there with the people you're helping to stabilize and your afghan government or your partner nation have to be the lead in that. they have to. everything is hard and it's hard all the time. many things are simple, but the simplest things are difficult. persistence pays off.
we had great leaders and partners who were persistent and wanted to see the outcome. and those, the nine soldiers i lost before, the first month we were there, nine soldiers. i lost another eight between the two operations keeping the districts stable. memorial day is coming up and we remember, it's not just barbecues for the summertime. there is a cost and you have to make sure the stablization is worth the cost of capital, human capital and you have to ask yourself how does this end. >> thank you, jb. i want to come back to this issue of integrating the civilian tool kit and how back here in washington we set that up for success. because i think that's a key policy question for the future. francis, i want to bring it to you now. i know you've been thinking a lot about serious stablization and it's going i've been working on with colleagues at the world bank and i think one
lesson they've taken away from their previous experience in places like iraq is, you know, less emphasis on physical infrastructure and more emphasis on the human infrastructure. and the problem is they're not well set up to do that kind of work. i think one of the grave challenges in these environments is that that human terrain is so shaped by the conflict, right? you essentially have a politics and an economy of civil war. and in afghanistan, after decades of civil war in syria now, after nearly a decade of civil war, this gets pretty entrenched. so, how do-- especially when you're not working through a central government, a central government that's not your partner in the syrian case. how can the united states or other outsiders come in and do this work without reinforcing
that war lordism and there by setting the conditions for conflict relapse as soon as we're gone? right? are you essentially kind of rewarding the guys who won with the most brutal tactics in their own areas and set up the systems to sustain themselves in power and you're essentially saying, okay, i now give you legitimacy with my money and my investment, and you know, and that's the deal that could break apart as soon as our money and investment are not there? so-- >> yeah, that's so important and i think that's a lesson that comes both from the recent syria experience and then also, loud and clear in this report on the afghan experience. but, if we are thinking about a stablization endeavor, we need to be thinking about it in terms of a realistic and political end state and that realistic and political end state needs to be local and to the extent applicable. in needs to pertain to national
governments. in the afghan case, as i think really it's made very clear in the report, the afghan case, we really had a transformative, almost fantastical political end statement in mind. it was a clearly stated political end state, but it had no bearing on the realistic time line that change would take, the karzai government's willingness to reform or decentralize and as you say, local power brokers willingness to cede responsibilities and a local level. it's a mismatch. our political desired end state it's a mismatch. in the syrian case we have a sort of different mismatch ongoing on the political end states, very much exacerbated by these war economies. so, in the syrian case, our problem hasn't been necessarily-- our problem has been both that we haven't had a realistically stated political end state, or a clearly stated political end
state that we're trying to stabilize toward. so stablization programs always need to be in service of a broader goal and i'd say in the syrian endeavor, it's been a remarkable progression of not clearly-stated end states. so, as you know, very well in the early years we had an outside must go statement and it wasn't backed up by security choices for many reasons, but it's in that fence sense, it wasn't a realistic political end state. in the middle years, 2013 to 2014, it became increasingly unclear what our stablization programs were stabilizing towards. we had a-- still a stated policy of outside must go, and we're planning for a post-day after. and from the u.s. standpoint we prioritized militarily the fight against isis. so, our revealed preferences are from this direction. we really saw this come through in the confusion on the ground
within our stablization program at that point. are we enpowering these local actors, more accountable actors in order to be responsive and advance a post-outside future or a counter-isis objective. >> or are we empowering the people really good at fighting isis? >> yes, precisely, precisely. and that begs all kinds of moral hazards. there's a real lack of clarity there. one thing i think we've learned time and again, you need clarity of objectives from every level in order to achieve the impacts we want, the effects we want. and fast forwarding to the current day, stablization programs are underway still. we have still less clear political end state we're driving towards. there has been, from the trump administration a sort of revealed preference for the counter isis fighter, even a declared one. former secretary tillerson
stated a much more ambitious, going back to the lack of-- much more ambitious set of operatives for syria, now since its departure it's manifestly unclear what our actual objectives are at this point. and meanwhile, we're sending mixed signals and the president himself have called on our forces in syria and backing up stablization efforts. >> so without a realistic and clearly stated political objective, i don't see any way of getting around some of these exact challenges you mentioned of confusion and perverse incentives on the ground. >> so, i want to turn to this question of how to build a better effort. and i think one of the big issues raised by the report is the insufficient capability on the civilian side, but also, the primary recommendation of the report to both to the executive branch and the congress is to compel the state
department to take the lead across the interagency and develop a comprehensive whole of government strategy that somehow somebody's got to direct, right? so, there's a capability problem, but also a leadership problem. and i was discussing this integrating the tool kit challenge with some colleagues last week and one of them challenged us to say, okay, what is a successful example of the united states ever fully integrating the tool kit on behalf of a major stablization mission? >> i think when we add to that the political will question, a lot of people in the american public. a lot of folks in congress question whether this is something we can effectively do. and so i'm curious for your thoughts on that, you know.
is there a successful mission that you would point to? and is this something that you can't fix merely by developing a strategy, but you need somebody who is given, perhaps congressional, you know, congressionally allocated authorities, presidentially injected authorities across that strategy to implement it and not just design it? i think in particular of the effort that was put into play after the fall of the berlin wall, you know? obviously, it's very different circumstances, but congress and the administration mobilized passed the seed act, pasted the freedom support act and those authorities and investments were directed by somebody who had congressional authority and a presidential letter to bring the interagency together.
and that office still exists in the state department today, although i think not necessarily with all of those original authorities. so, do we need a stablization czar? and i don't just mean that in terms of title, but in terms of legal authority as well? vanda, do you want to start? >> thank you. tammy. that's a fundamental question. i guess i'm not fully comfortable with the example and the crucial reason i'm -- is of course, our fundamental problem is not simply the lack of our coordination and the illusion of the whole of government approach, the difficulties. but far more-- i would say that the crux of the problem far more is the cross-purpose workings of our counterparts. so, when that was not an issue in germany, of course, is that the german leadership had a very strong vision of what it wanted to achieve as a country and had very strong commitment
to how to integrate east germany, and a vast amount of resources and still, what we are three decades now past, it's still the disparate between east and west, but nowhere the level of the disparate we would have. so, to me, the crucial problem is not our deficiencies, althou although, they are, of course, a problem. the crucial counterparts, their view a highly parochial and highly spoils rather than building a state. rather than building an accountable equitiable state with inclusion. and we have developed any adequate road map as to how to go about it. we fall-- and the obama administration and obama and george w administration terribly in afghanistan, but particularly obama administration would put pressure on karzai, karzai
would pull back, because we would constantly be afraid if we lose any kind of the connectivity or work, what would they do. and frankly, there have been real limitations with the unity government and what it had performed. so, you know, to me, that is the really crux of the problem, how do we get our local partners, despite all the rhetoric, the strive to embrace the same political vision of government inclusion and equity. and the more we build up, the warlords, the more we hand over military equipment, ironically, the more we are, in fact, often undermining that larger political goal. >> okay. thank you. and i take that point, but i'm not yet going to let go of the question of authorities and
washington decision making. so, david, let me turn to you and ask, did you consider when you were developing the recommendations here, whether congress might, you know, assign these authorities, legislatively? >> sure. well, and in 2004 and 5, these authorities specifically response core was out, and i think we talk to in the report. and can it work ever? i haven't seen any evidence that it can. and in these specific areas in places vietnam, iraq, afghanistan, but for the issue of who should be in the lead and the interagency disputes over that, we recommend that they should be in the lead and it's this recent stablization assistance review also says that they should be in the lead and usa lead implementing partner and the dod should support those efforts.
what's in paper is not always on practice. while we recommend it on paper, it's important to note the strategy at the end of 2009 was drafted by state. so, in theory, they were the lead drafter of this strategy, but the reason we're reinforcing it again and again is that once that strategy made it down the channel to in country, state was in control, in kabul and dod was in control outside of kabul. what that meant was that meant, inherently a political mission, the defense department is in charge of what areas need to be stabilized and how to go about stabilizing them. that's one of the things that caused these enormous rifts. it comes back to resources because how can we, included, how can we recommend that the state be in the lead of an effort that's poorly resource to execute and that's why we're recommending the revival of that response corps with necessary modifications because no credible state department
effort could be led on the ground. especially outside of kabul if it's thinly resourced with both personnel, training beforehand and if it stood up the day the strategy is launched rather than between the contingency operations where we feel it's so important to establish these institutions, so that we're prepared. so that in particular, state and aid are prepared. the military is accustomed to being prepared for the worse between consistencies. state and aid are not given the political bandwidth or the resources to do anything between these wars. >> and from a military perspective, these are inherently political missions and everything you were describing about the work you were doing on the ground is in essence, politics. you're doing local politics. but the military's mission there is a counterterrorism mission, right? the national interest that drove us there with the counter terrorists. and if you look at the syria case, that's even more
prominent in the way that frances was saying. is there a way to get past that fixation to really think about this in a broader way? >> short answer, yes. so, that the counterterror mission of going after transnational networks in the home areas, the away game so they don't come to our home game again. that's an aspect. what we're doing know counter insurgentry. a broader application of force against insurgents who would have kept that region so unstable that the terrorist groups to kin to have that, to project their violent extremism in other places. so, from a military perspective, there's a role that we have to play to enable the stablization to happen. i think the report did a great job of identifying what the military was trying to do too much of, in the political environment or stablization and i saw that at my level. the only thing that could get a lot of things done at a very
tactical level. no i don't think that state reached a thousand officials even during the surge. there was 120,000 multinational soldiers on the ground in the surge. so, just numbers and security is going to gravitate to the bigger bubble and security. we've got to be better that as we plan. how do we keep this consistent strategy over time wherever we are and it was a great description of syria's problems that there's no i'm a military officer. understanding the political end-state in syria first, identifying the program and where to go with that is important for the military in stablization. where has stablization been successful so far? in bosnia, kosovo, there are good aspects of that and some don't fit the stablization
model. and if we go broader we haven't done a good stablization effort since japan, korea. >> and bosnia is hardly-- a lot of combustible deep-down elements. >> although one must make these judgments in relative terms, right? good. i want to come back to you, vanda on this, but frances first. and the issue of integrating the two? >> yes, such a challenge and i agree with david that the stablization assistance review, i think, provides a really valuable, if long overdue who's is whose? the dod keeps track of what the department agencies would like to do. i think the challenge is that in most of these environments, we have to ask the question, which part of state. state is not a unitary action,
we have a breakdown in function functional expertise, you've got the ambassador, who is chief of missions, key to devising this, in washington, the stablization folks or regional folks, i don't need to tell this audience sometimes there's friction there. additionally from the nsc, having the functional perspective, i can certainly say that the functional person doesn't have for every country in which we're undertaking stablization. i think we're making progress thanks to reports like this and the assistance review, but i think it's always going to be challenging on that regard. >> thanks. so, vanda, you made the very worthy point that the -- one of the key challenges here is
persuading the governments of these places to embrace a different model of governance. that, you know, seeing the government as a mechanism for patronage and division of spoils is a recipe for continued instability. and i guess, number one, i want to challenge that a little bit. because i think we see some cases, lebanon is one, where the division of policies actually works very effectively to give all of the parties an incentive not to return to conflict, right? it's not-- it's not great in terms of delivering government services. civil society has developed alternative mechanisms to meet its needs, including that patronage system. but it works. right? so, number one, is that so bad if you can get to that place, maybe that's an okay place to get to, from warlordish division of spoils to a
peaceful division of spoils. but the second question is, you know, if you're sitting in front of the afghan political, what is the case that you make to them to persuades them that that shift is worthwhile? >> well, that's the tough one. that's what u.s. foreign policy has struggled with throughout the engagement. the case that i have tried to make is that the level of instability is too high for it to remain stable. and i know, in fact, the conversation that i have had often involved my interlocators says look at nepal. it's deeply troubling and the government is paralyzed and
deeply dysfunctional. but you don't have a very potent insurgency. so the spoils that you can extract in the time of peace is different than when you have an intense insurgency burning. nonetheless, there are two other elements for afghanistan. to me, a crucial inflection point that was missed was when -- when-- i'm not going to-- i'm sorry, the province in 2015 fell to the taliban, including the capital city and the taliban looked like they were going to take over another province in the north very quickly. there was panic along the afghan elite, with people being decamping and ready to get out of the country and everyone was liquefying assets. and ultimately, at first the
taliban was pushed out from there, and the taliban were surprised they took it so long, they kept it for several weeks. but this moment when -- there was a moment when the afghan elite was shook up, that the system was finally coming to a crash. and that moment was an opportunity to say, it's all going to come out. it's all falling apart unless you start behaving differently. and quickly, the moment that we have hit the brink dissipated and the same bad behavior, the same behavioral pattern set in. and it is this inflection point, i blame-- or i would identify probably one of the most distressing ones, the other aspect i would highlight is that, those are shrinking in afghanistan to be divided with the far more
limited u.s. presence and international presence, the amount of money to be handed out in bags, and otherwise, is far smaller. the afghan economy is doing better than a year ago, but nowhere to where it was in 2010, 2011, 2012 so there's a limited opportunity to divide the same amount of spoils, and if you take profit out. there won't be many to divide at all. it's not just the taliban that's critically involved in poppy, it's just about everyone in afghanistan, including political, and government elites, including the population. if you get the international money and poppy, the economists more broadly, what is there to divide? my point is that a crucial problem, unfortunately in places like afghanistan and pakistan, the elites have a way out. it's not just the taliban that owns large properties and
houses in dubai, who among the elite doesn't? it's this problem that they can leave and the people cannot, that you can play politics all the time to the brink, thinking it's not going to fall, it's not going to fall over, it's not going to go into the abyss, it's not going into the civil war again, in a full-blown civil war, but the moment it does you can decamp with your family. if they didn't not have this escape route, maybe they wouldn't have the behavior. >> and in afghanistan, the next year's presidential elections. >> okay it's time for me to open up this conversation to all of you, i'm going to follow my boss's lead, which is always wise, which is to ask you, please to identify yourself briefly before you ask your question and i did post that word in a singular, so restrict yourself to one question. you can direct it to a specific
member of our panel or to the panel in general. so, why don't we start right up here in the front. please wait for the microphone. >> thank you have etch. i'm marina, an african-american journalist. you've covered so many aspects of this, it's going to be hard to try and keep this question focused. i guess i'll start with the notion that i heard about afghans having-- the elite having an opportunity to pick up and leave. your commentary really summarized what has been the trouble of what was earlier termed the elephant in the room. i'm going to speak to you as an afghan now, not just as a journalist, having watched this whole saga unfold since i was nine years old when i watching the palace being bombed. while the west is on the brink
of a new rivalry with russia, while this lead democracy is trying to survive in the midst of being portrayed at least by your opponents, staged to look like it is-- we are now in the context of afghanistan talking about the flaws of that situation and you've just spelled out that the elite could just pick up and leave and parts of the flaws are in the way that they engage in rivalry. well, it seems like in the most modern corners of the world, and this democracy, political rivalry is well and alive and continues. >> and your question is? >> my question is, has this administration makes more clear what is its stance towards
afghanistan? while afghans are flood to s-- glad to see more commitments from afghanistan. afghans are anxious what will become of their country and with new rivalries, people are even more anxious about what this means, when will the u.s. reduce its involvement there, especially when we are all talking as experts about how much we should hand the problem ov over. ...
think there is sufficient well within the government, recognition within the government for the need to keep our hands on the power in afghanistan. and number two, how he make the case to the american people that we need to sustain that effort at this stage. who wants to pick that up? >> i think that as you say what we've learned in the last 15 plus years in afghanistan is the persistence of the need to unpredictability and that lassen has been learned across the u.s. government in reports like this help. we saw the new strategy that did lay out a commitment to afghanistan. i did not work on that strategy, but it was out there for all to
see and i think is a striking articulation of long-term commitments. i think we need to continue to push on the issue because what we've learned in the afghan case in the searing case on the iraqis as we need predictability peer of the matter of democracy is doing better, people make calculations based on what the rules of the game will be next year in the year after that in the situations in which they are not sure about that question, the rules of the game a year from now, there will hedge and that undermines afghanistan and elsewhere. i think we learned this lesson. of course learning is the easy part. implementation the next time is the hard part. maybe bondage is it's too soon to tell. >> let me make this forward-looking as well.
should the u.s. government were carter before taking on new missions and new places? >> from a military perspective alone i don't have those kinds of opinions. we are still maintaining a secure environment for world order every day. it is significant with what we do across the globe to maintain what we did decades ago. the more and more that happens and we continue to do that, it drains resources and capabilities. or secretary of defense the same thing but that is the cost of doing business as we are constantly engaged. totally engage with allies and partners announce good across the globe. every time something flares up,
those decisions trying to deal with the 50-meter target right there. i would argue the armed forces military doesn't have a great track record of getting the next conflict right every time. probably because we don't integrate the assets of national power in some of those things. president clinton told us we'd be in bosnia for a year. there's reasons why, but that comes at a cost. we have the way strategically will we be there longer than anticipated. >> in undertaking this report, and with how to accomplish two things specifically are midway
through started realizing the critical object is enough was first to raise red flags for the enormous investment necessary to make progress in these environments so there would be a one-stop shop every document we could look out 20 or 30 years from now when we are considering maybe the next big one. as deliberations unfold, the idea is that they have it they can sneak in better principles and policy makers have a better sense as to exactly what it would take and whether it is worth it or not to be able to ask the question is it worth it, even though if everything goes well in all things in our control we are able to affect and they're still uncertainty appeared with those risks, if and when they decide to pursue a
large-scale stabilization, like iraq or afghanistan from a second objective comes into play which is how you go about doing it in the best practices come in the ways in which everything from a strategic level of considering the will of the host station government, whether i'm strategy all the way down to watching the tactical level of how you cluster projects to make sure service delivery isn't a collection of one off and there's a real sense of a service provided in engaging with the government. the report we hope serves the purposes of giant red flags for caution as well as if you decide to pursue this coming are some ideas for how to go about doing that. >> here's the framework for thinking it not persuaded that e
white house is in fact is committed to long-term persistence in afghanistan as was announced. the white house was deeply conflicted last summer with the global tensions and how the decision will be made. i see various signs of impatience and if i mention the very difficult situation with the presidential elections that will require a lot of thinking on our side about how we handle that. do we want to have a replay of 2014 including the role of u.s. intervention in this point in the national government set up with all the problems that followed and what does that mean for u.s. engagement. the >> thank you. right in the mantle of a
gentleman with blue microphone. air. >> and james burdick, active-duty and army officer. there seems to be a reoccurring theme of the need to synchronize the triad of usaid in the state department and the army. what are some lessons learned are things we can do to redefine that together? >> i will start off. my personal opinion is that military does a great job of collecting lessons learned. at a training center is open. some patrollers tell you what you did right, wrong come in different. you get a take on package of stuff you've learned and it doesn't end. you run through the tape and prepare for a deployment or for war. specific to afghanistan stabilization, there's a bunch of aars they came out that i
think helpful. and if i can, what i see in the military right now our challenge is in the chairman will tell you they articulate differently the same kind of threat of global and regional areas and competitions to come back. military is not running away from south asia completely just to focus on now. we've inculcated lessons learned. i say that because my father's generation didn't do that so well. we didn't take some of the regional experiences serving up military operations. we were cracking up in the books after 2011. in 2002, wow, we've done a better job from a military thing i don't think are throwing everything out.
cyber, space, that is to integre an asymmetric threat so it's not just decisive action of combat at 3:00 in the morning. there's a whole human network and that's born of the lessons learned from iraq and afghanistan. >> i served with usaid in afghanistan as well. i think actually at the tactical level, often a poor nation integration goes really well. as you go further up the chain commanders divergent chain of command, many people coordinate about that and i can also lead to confusion with no ill will and communication. also frankly many coordinated manage manage level comparator military colleagues. a lot of organizational challenges they really come before.
>> thank you. let's go to the side of the room. stand that. they will microphone. >> my name is karen johnson a teacher au. at the state department i'm very happy to hear discussions about stabilization's review, which is quite a challenge anyway because of the particular division of labor in the real challenge is now trying to implement it. that is going to take a lot of time through this kind of rebound asymmetry resources in the demand for the state department will also have in terms of the response corps in everything. obviously no history of cso. my pointing question is, this will take a very long time in trying to redirect the sources for that division of labor to be able to be a fact is with the
arrangements and in everything. if the discussion and resources from dod to do some stabilization effort. for example, we could see whether that happens in our coalition. for example, materials government is limited. do not have the legal limitations or authorities. so what can we do in the interim tactically while we try to work on congress to the state department's more money, et cetera. thank you. >> how do we view this sort of stopped up work on the civilian side and is there a role coalition partners can play in
that? >> you a very well laid out the challenges in the effort underpinning it is now moving to the implementation plan and i think they realized as well. i think you always than a proof of concept and to start smaller is helpful. aspects of which maybe this division has been tried or is being tried. the other thing and maybe a relatively lower hanging fruit is we need to think of how we monitor and to find success on civilization. because as we all know, metrics drive how we operate in the u.s. government. what i mean by that is in the stabilization settings, and afghanistan and also serious and elsewhere, the edge towards
looking at several indicators of success rather than durable indicators of success but we always grab a tour doing. i'll give you a couple examples. during the height of the surge come a couple really turned it around on the stabilization friend and we would hear about these constantly. not only in home and, mara wara and these are areas that were genuine success from a government stabilization standpoint. the problem with this particular factors in these areas do know is generalized the broader efforts for the reasons described. they also didn't last beyond a couple rotations or that particular district governor who may have been fascinated or reassign. we gravitated towards these anecdotes. we looked at federal indicators.
for example, in afghanistan, we made great progress on added dudes of that is on the fundamental question which is the car is a government in a making lots of progress. inferior, we've seen a tremendous amount of monitoring and how are these processes work in india is very surrogate very granular level. and these have been meaningful indicators, the tragically in this tragically in a syrian case, they don't necessarily affect the outcome of the stabilization effort. ultimately military factors affect whether the local council get to stick around or not. so this is all the way of saying if we are going to start on the implementation side, we need to
relocate how we are finding success in measuring that because then i think your products move backwards from there. >> yeah, i will add a someone who ran an assistance program in the state department and had to make that case to congress, i think the development field has moved a long way. i think usaid has come a long way in terms of developing, monitoring and evaluation that can make a persuasive case. a lot of it is the fault to a compelling narrative. the great anecdote. a shining example of a provincial governor who's the best ever and can pour lots more money into that place. part of the problem is what persuades congress. the best social science is not necessarily going to be the story that brings them. >> in this year in case because we lacked the u.s. government
were codified u.s. government political and state, we had the u.s. government persuading congress in different ways and types of uncertainty hedges like anybody front. >> thank you very much. i would report stabilization -- that's an obvious. >> i don't think anyone here would disagree. >> if we were having a separate in scoble, and if were mainly an afghan audience, what do you think the reactions with each of the report? i'm actually curious have you discussed with them the feedback
session mark thank you. >> we among our many interviews interviewed 10, 20 senior afghan officials ranging from ministers to provincial governors to program managers involved in the stabilization effort. their feedback and insight are throughout our report. in the process of interviewing them we essentially socialist or fine very well. the days, the extent that 20 people sprinkled across the government is representative. their perspective was soft and that the u.s. government did not pay enough attention to their concerns, that they overestimated their ability to reform and that they misunderstood afghan capacity for willful. one example. on the district delivery
program, it was sort of in 2010 to be the program that employed civil servants to the key turning district so they can then have people that are surprising services necessary to stabilize the district. even the concept of stabilization. but funds and shut the program down after 2.3 million were dispersed out of 40 million attended.
this is probably the most egregious of this misinterpreting port capacity for willful corruption. it was hard and in fairness it's very difficult for foreigners coming into the country to discern capacity for correction. this was one of the casualties and not battle. afghans that point to a significant gap in the expect patience and communication of the people implementing it on the ground with the afghans who support was absolutely vital. >> did you want to try that at all? >> we've only got a few minutes left and i got a lot of chancel did the best i can and come back up to our panel. just wait for the microphone if you would.
>> jerry pinned friend gw law school. from late 2010 to early 2012 i worked first dates at the governance policy chief. my question is directed to david as an author of the report and written on this it's really to be called a kind of operational question strategic for results. chapter five of the report provides an excellent case study of the key challenges we face with the first initial focus on levels of government or government strengthening efforts, namely districts that were not sustainable in the medium term. secondly, the comment of bureaucratic inertia that prevented all the different parts of the u.s. effort and
elements of civilian efforts and military efforts from focusing on it. for making the shift away from the districts, which might've made sense from a stabilization is common is the difficulty in making a clear and coherent policy decision on what is a pretty straightforward question of whether we should be focusing our governance efforts at the district level or at the provincial level, which has giant implications. difficulty making a coherent decision like that in argument against stabilization as a whole? if not, is there something more that can be done to strengthen our ability to coherently make a policy decision like that. i suspect it is more likely to be at headquarters in kabul versus washington. >> we will collect a couple more
undecided. these two gentleman right here. >> banks. sean carberry with the dod office. as you mentioned in syria, sort of the evolving and state and how that affects what you're stabilizing towards, what is the end state in afghanistan? what if they been stabilize towards? is that realistic? have you no promises and expectations unrealistic and not achievable. >> thank you. >> of burke from the american chamber of commerce -- if the contract were to support these missions anyone an earful, go find out a lot of problems. in terms of vietnam and we did have a stabilization if you will dare with ambassador.
it's very successful. >> let's take one more on the i/o rate here. >> i am a retired former vice president. i know nothing at all about afghanistan. but this morning was very sensible. i wouldn't be surprised if i heard them 10 years ago, 12 years ago. and you're 15, 16 and 17. that comes through to me is nothing something must be terribly, terribly wrong.
my question is, so we don't have these lessons -- [inaudible] spirit that is a fantastic question to end on. i'm going to go straight down the line here and let david take that at the end. i think i would be a great note to wrap this up. >> one statement about afghanistan. i don't believe they define it. the announcement at this time of course the timelines, the process of view engagement will be conditioned space, with very little articulation. in fact, president trump made many statements to the effect will not tell the afghans how to run their stay. our goal is to degrade the
taliban. there are notions that both the george w. bush administration as well as the obama administration frequently flipped back and forth through the stabilization of a quiet, inclusive political governance or is it enough of the taliban. subsequently after the president's comments come in many u.s. officials were walking them back in emphasizing the need for the governance and the need for politics and the message was sort of loud and clear in afghanistan is dell has consequences with us today. also back and forth all the time on what is the importance of the taliban being part of the negotiations. so in recent months, we have gone back and forth on the purpose of the military -- resisting the military in afghanistan to try negotiations,
again, the president in various government officials have made statements that the taliban itself is making of course very contradictory statements. my take is that our strategy in afghanistan is waiting for the taliban to make mistakes. we are holding the bank. if we go out, full scale civil war takes place. however, we don't really have a strategy to break out of it. so we are holding and hoping that over time they will make enough mistakes that's not impossible. militant groups do themselves in. they do make mistakes. they make critical mistakes in colombia. those mistakes are not efficient without critical changes taking place on the part of the colombian state. nonetheless, the mistakes are very crucial.
fundamentally, someone could in the congress gives them the power, him or her the capabilities to pull that together. i would be rationally optimistic that you would get a better synchronized integrated approach because that person has been hired to do so. >> jeremy coming thank you for the question on the district level why the focus on what
we've done to alter that. in my view, the focus on the district level sat afghans local level being more responsive than the local level will undermine the insurgency. it also go as a romantic notion that things were similar on the local level and i think those didn't hold up and actually perpetuated some of the reasons. as you rightly point out, the right focus would have been the middle level of government. there's 34 of them. almost 400. getting now bubble first read him now bubble, would have been a much better way to go. why couldn't they correct in mid-chorus? this comes back to bureaucracy.
i'm glad it got brought up in reference to vietnam. i do think a lot of our inability to course correct when many sure people around government and outside of it for pointing out some of these problems have a lot to do with their own bureaucratic structures. so i think there is a lot there. in terms of what lessons we keep on returning to 2018, why should we take away. there's a lot of good in their nsa think about relation to this report in afghanistan, and struck or the fact that these are different paradigms, really different conflicts. afghanistan conflict was a stabilization campaign on a counterinsurgency logic. extending the rate of the government, legitimacy of the government. the serious stabilization effort was a counter counterinsurgency effort were spending the legitimacy of opposition outside
the government. there's also the binary logic and syria we now have the quadrilateral logic. we've got armed extremist groups. we want to marginalize the iranians and the russians. it is a much more complex dynamic. the differences between the two conflicts, what i take away from this report is the huge similarity within our inability of the u.s. government to address these efforts. in that sense, our best lesson is to focus on narrow disorganization and read the report. >> with that, we will turn of course as we were discussing, been there from the gate to. this is by no means the first report. this is one getting a lot of
attention for reasons francis just highlighted. what can you tell us about the sentencing of this particular report in the round of sigar's work and how do we think about getting the lessons we need early in the process. >> getting the lessons early, a lot of lessons and we document them. part of that problem was learning lessons we were on that the nature of the war changed so much that any lesson you might want to impose on the effort became moot thereafter because the new campaign, new agenda, and the previous reconstruction effort, et cetera. i also wanted to catch regarding stabilization's role with sigar, we feel the report coming out now because of the issues being
discussed regarding area and the u.s. government knew concerted effort to delineate roles regarding destabilization. it allows us hopefully to be able to provide admittedly anonymous case study of what implementing stabilization looks like a large scale of the stabilization assistance review can provide a small-scale scope and the beginning of a small-scale stabilization focus. so we provide that balance. a couple other things tera maye said if i could finish with those. for those of you who haven't gotten chapter five yet, the provincial level was often bypassed in terms of on budget assistance. the reasons come a couple of reasons for about as as francis mention the district level became the focus. the districts themselves only
had $15 to $20 monthly budget and was completely unrealistic to push on budget down to the district level. one of the most difficult reasons and difficult issues doing that was according to usda officials who spoke to, the best part is that enabled the governments to bypass the political entrenchment at the national levels and while understandable, bypassing the issues were all of the obstruction are happening is exactly the wrong way to go about it if in fact those are what or where the most reform is necessary. there were many examples of this throughout the campaign of working around afghan government structure problems to accommodate whatever priorities were on our plate. >> david, thank you. i want to thank you for bringing
the report to us stay in the opportunity for what i think was a fantastic conversation. i hope you'll join me in thanking our amazing panel. [applause] to be continued. thank you very much. trend time >> nasa administrator jim bridestine testifies before the subcommittee. a house committee reviews the operations of the u.s. capitol visitor center nearly 10 years after was open to the public. a look at the trump administration's counterterrorist effort.