Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rand study tries to focus on lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, but what have we learned? --- What lessons should we have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan? -- Put in current terms: Who wants to forecast the ultimate result of U.S. commitments to increasing military and economic support for selected insurgents in Syria and the new government of President Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine? -- President Obama, backed by Congress, is making these critical moves. -- My questions about it all arose while I was reading a Rand Corp. paper released Thursday: “Initial Thoughts on the Impact of the Iraq War on U.S. National Security Structures.” -- The United States, along with several allied countries, supported insurgents in Afghanistan in the 1980s who overthrew a Soviet-installed regime. Then Washington walked away. By 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by an extremist Taliban regime, supportive of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. -- After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, the United States collaborated with some Afghan insurgents to oust the Taliban, and with other countries helped establish what was hoped to be a more democratic government. This time we stayed. -- In 2003, Washington led another military coalition that ended the Iraqi dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and sought to install a more democratic system in Baghdad. -- By 2005, the United States found itself trying to remake the Kabul and Baghdad governments while fighting insurgents in both countries. In Iraq, about 4,500 Americans were killed and 32,000 wounded with direct costs of about $830 billion — plus billions more to come from veterans’ benefits. Afghanistan has seen 2,200 killed and 19,600 wounded, with a cost exceeding $700 billion and counting. -- The two commitments expanded far beyond what was contemplated. --- In Syria, the United States is again working with a group of nations in support of insurgents. But what will be Washington’s responsibility if Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is forced out and a new government emerges in Damascus? In Ukraine, we are giving support to its new government, which is facing armed, pro-Russian insurgents. Obama has offered financial support and recently announced $5 million worth of body armor and night-vision goggles to go along with already provided ready-to-eat meals and funds for non-lethal assistance — including clothing, sleeping bags and generators. -- What’s next for the United States in Syria and Ukraine? --- As the Rand paper points out, U.S. intervention, whether supporting insurgents or countering them, lead to unintended consequences. Speaking of support to Syrian groups fighting Assad’s forces, the Rand paper says, “It remains to be seen how far the lessons of fighting insurgents [as was done eventually in Iraq and is being done in Afghanistan] will go when it comes to the task of helping them topple their government.” -- The Rand paper focuses on several issues, starting with counterinsurgency operations. -- Whatever the U.S. military learned in the 1960s and 1970s in Vietnam about fighting insurgents was forgotten, requiring almost five years after the 2003 invasion of Iraq for the adoption of Gen. David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency doctrines. Transferred to Afghanistan, forms of the doctrines have become basic to the military. - More, Walter Pincus, Washingtonpost, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/rand-study-tries-to-focus-on-lessons-from-iraq-and-afghanistan-but-what-have-we-learned/2014/06/09/a92e990c-ee72-11e3-b84b-3393a45b80f1_story.html


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