The Failed Search for Victory in Afghanistan
Dr. Stephen Biddle
ONLINE CONFERENCE EVENT
15 September, 2021 5pm - Zoom Online Service
The United States spent 20 years, $2 trillion, commanded at their peak 130,000 coalition troops, suffered 2400 dead, built an Afghan security force of nearly 300,000, and used the world’s most sophisticated and lethal air power. Still, it was unable to defeat an ill-equipped Taliban force of perhaps 75,000. Why?
Some see the answers in the nature of the project itself – that Afghans are too resistant to foreign occupation or perhaps that counterinsurgency is too hard for impatient casualty-averse democracies. If so, the war was hopeless from the start and the best approach would have been to avoid it. Others see the answers in the way Americans waged the war and the choices the United States made – that we tried to create an Afghan state in our own image or perhaps that we put too little emphasis on cultural awareness in our strategy and policies. If so, the war could have been won if only the United States had chosen differently. Was the war winnable? Why did we fail: Should we have waged it at all?
Historians will debate these questions for years to come, but it is not too early to begin to seek answers now. We are fortunate to have Dr. Stephen Biddle to sort through these issues and to assess whether a path might have been taken to avoid succumbing to the “Grave Yard of Empires”.
Dr. Biddle is Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, a member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served on the Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board, on General David Petraeus’ Joint Strategic Assessment Team, as a Senior Advisor to the Central Command Assessment Team in Washington in 2008-9, as a member of General Stanley McChrystal’s Initial Strategic Assessment Team in Kabul in 2009, and on a variety of other government advisory panels and analytical teams.
He lectures regularly at the US Army War College and other military schools, and has presented testimony before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; force planning; conventional net assessment; and European arms control. Biddle’s book Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle won four prizes, including the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Award Silver Medal for 2005, and the 2005 Huntington Prize from the Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. Before joining the Columbia faculty in fall 2018 Biddle was Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, and has held the Elihu Root chair in military studies at the US Army War College.
Online conference details will be shared with registered participants shortly before the event.