Aug 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

20 years of getting Afghanistan all wrong

Taliban spokesman gives press conference

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid delivers his first news conference from Kabul. Photo: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released (by coincidence) a new "Lessons Learned" report on Tuesday. My heart sank when I read the seven takeaways in "What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction." (The 11th in a series)

Why it matters: It's like we never knew or learned anything.

  1. "The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve."
  2. "The U.S. government consistently underestimated the amount of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly."
  3. "Many of the institutions and infrastructure projects the United States built were not sustainable."
  4. "Counterproductive civilian and military personnel policies and practices thwarted the effort."
  5. "Persistent insecurity severely undermined reconstruction efforts."
  6. "The U.S. government did not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts accordingly."
  7. "U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts."

Go deeper: Interactive version ... Read the 140-page report.

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