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Deconstructing Reconstruction

The U.S. established terrible spending patterns from the start of the war in Afghanistan that would plague the project until the end

Humvee on dirt road in mountainous terrain.
Source: Pixabay/ArmyAmber

It was 2002, and then-President Bush was already bored with Afghanistan. Leadership knew that they needed to move on to the reconstruction of the country and government but were hesitant to admit that reconstruction even needed to happen. This stalled any potential early success and eventually led to a much more prolonged and expensive effort than officials planned (or at least admitted.)

Those of us who have worked for the Department of Defense or related contractor companies know the following story all too well:

A new contractor company has taken over a long-term project. All of the old project administration…


Come join us on the right side of political history

Photo by Derick McKinney on Unsplash

There’s an interesting lie that has spread throughout our democracy — that the Democrats are working for you, the American citizen. The lie that they are the party of the working class and are champions of the downtrodden.

The truth, however, is that they are simply a corporate-owned political party that relies on token nods-without-real-action to minorities and cynical shout-outs to rainbow capitalism. They provide the illusion of caring for their base so that they can capture those votes. It’s textbook public relations messaging — say you support something, throw up a flag and a social media post, and reap…


Deconstructing Reconstruction

It’s hard enough to make a good plan, but it’s even harder when you don’t seem to care about the results

Close up image of a clock.
From the start, the clock was ticking. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Anyone with any experience dealing with project management issues should know just how hard it is to determine how much time a novel project should take to complete, what resources should be allocated to it, and who should be tasked with completing it. And project management is hard enough to pull off properly in a sleepy office building that only gets exciting during a Christmas office party where Bob from Accounting has one too many pumpkin-spice lagers.

But project requirement estimation in a poorly-controlled combat zone? That isn’t just a different ball game, that’s a completely different sport.

Let’s dig…


Our imagination is the only thing preventing us from ending the pandemic

Unfortunately, this is the situation we find ourselves in. Photo by Nadezhda Moryak from Pexels

This is going to be long, but you probably need to read it.

The broken economics part of my brain, upon learning of breakthrough infections in vaccinated people a while ago, knew that the pandemic game had been lost. Humans 0, COVID-19 like… 5 million or so?

Let’s be honest, the pandemic has been putting up some impressive numbers this season. It’s got a future hall of fame spot locked down.

Unfortunately, our response to the pandemic has been proof that humanity will not survive a true global crisis, one with a higher body count or bigger social impact than…


Blowing up innocent civilians that we call enemy combatants due to lazy military intelligence and cultural ignorance

The kids are alright, maybe. Source: Author

Hi there. I’m Dan. You probably don’t know me, but I used to be in the U.S. Army. In the infantry, to be more specific. I like to throw that out there because it helps set up the twist that comes in a few paragraphs, and I hope it will give a little clout to what I talk about later.

Anyway, the main reason I am here is to talk about the last military action taken by the U.S. on August 29th in our war in Afghanistan. A war that is thankfully, hopefully, finally… over.

I didn’t deploy to Afghanistan…


Deconstructing Reconstruction

Relying on military power as its only leverage, the U.S. was ill-equipped to handle diplomatic solutions and the negotiating table

Four men staring at a wrinkled sheet of paper together.
Probably what every meeting looked like when planning Afghanistan’s future. Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

In this final piece on the strategic failures of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan (though not even close to the series finale,) I continue my review of SIGAR’s What We Need to Learn report.

In 2009, the U.S. was seeing an increase in violence and a decrease in policy effectiveness in Afghanistan, so it did what it does best — send in the troops. When that failed, the U.S. did what it does second best — pull out the troops.

In 2011, then-President Obama noted that

“our mission [will now change] from combat to support. …


Deconstructing Reconstruction

Pushing and pulling from every direction resulted in a lot of wasted energy and no movement

Desert cliffs with man-made cutouts and caves.
The cliffs in Bamian, Afghanistan. Photo by Ali Yasser Arwand from Pexels

In the first piece in this series, I gave a brief summary of SIGAR’s findings in the United States’ failed Afghanistan reconstruction project. Below, I continue digging into the details of the first of seven areas of critique: strategy.

Let’s review how a lack of knowledge and experience on the side of the U.S. resulted in a fractured strategy due to misalignment of ends, ways, and means. As always, you will find relevant quotes from SIGAR’s What We Need to Learn report where appropriate.

The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped…


Deconstructing Reconstruction

You can never score a win if the goal keeps moving further and further away

Afghan men in back of truck.
Photo by Sohaib Ghyasi on Unsplash

In my previous piece, I detailed SIGAR’s critique of the strategic ownership of the U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan. In it, the Department of Defense became the default agency expected to develop strategy, despite not having any experience in building nations. It merely had the largest budget, and as such had the most resources available to commit to the objective.

But it should be noted that there is no shortage of talking heads at the Pentagon who will gladly eat through your budget, all while discussing the situation over catered lunches in expansive boardrooms and wearing suits that lobbyists bought…


Deconstructing Reconstruction

Did we ever plan on knowing who had the plan?

Morning in the city of Kabul with multiple people profiled in dust or fog.
Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

In a previous story, I mentioned SIGAR — the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction — and how the office detailed 7 key areas of failure in the United States’ attempt at rebuilding Afghanistan in one of its latest reports titled What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Let’s begin our examination of item number one on that list: Strategy.

What’s in a strategy?

SIGAR describes a strategy as “the ends, ways, and means of the mission.” It then further defines each of these terms:

  • Ends: Overarching goals of a mission, or what the strategy will achieve
  • Ways: Sequence…


Deconstructing Reconstruction

Across the U.S., pundits have been in the dark about Afghanistan, but one government office has been shining light on it for years

Children running along a road in Afghanistan.
Photo by Sohaib Ghyasi on Unsplash

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) office has been publishing reports for years detailing policy and departmental failures across the board during the United States’ longest war. These reports have described what can only be considered echoes of Vietnam — an obvious failure of the mission, an ever-expanding scope of war, and a history during the conflict of rampant fraud, ignorance, and abuse.

With the culmination of the war on Monday — or at least the end of our official mission — I decided to really start digging into these reports. …

Dan Brioli

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