This week The New York Times ran a draft of the soon to be published official Army history of the war in Afghanistan. The report complete contradicts the claims of neo-cons that they did not ignore Afghanistan while focusing on Iraq. The history details how the Bush administration ignored Afghanistan for Iraq.
The Army historians wrote that by late 2003, “It should have become increasingly clear to officials at Centcom and D.O.D. that the coalition presence in Afghanistan did not provide enough resources.”
The historians found that the roots of the problem were in the Bush administration’s disdain for nation building, “The single greatest obstacle to conceptualizing OEF in a holistic sense was the ambivalence among senior American political officials about what was often derogatorily referred to as “nation building,” the large scale, time-consuming reconstruction and governance building efforts such as those that had characterized American involvement in Bosniaˇ and Kosovo. When the Bush administration took power in 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other officials thought missions like those in the Balkans were essentially quagmires in which the combat power of the US military had become trapped. ‘The lack of clear objectives and vague timetables made nation-building efforts, anathema to proponents of a foreign policy that would rely on a military instrument that was highly responsive. The Rumsfeld DOD instead pushed hard to transform the military into a smaller, more agile force that would react quickly to’ contingencies and avoid nation building.”
In this context it is not surprising that the Bush administration directed the military on the ground in Afghanistan to avoid efforts to create long term political, social, and economic stability in Iraq, “Certainly, at the DOD and CENTCOM levels, the monumental tasks of projecting Coalition power into central Asia and using that power to overthrow the Taliban and destroy al- Qaeda dominated the planners’ thinking and energy. But even after the capture of Kabul and Kandahar, the installation of a new interim Afghan Government, and Operation ANACONDA, there was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social, and economic stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the message from senior DOD officials in Washington was for the US military to avoid such efforts.”
Even though many of the Bush administration’s screw ups in Afghanistan were known or greatly suspected, the official history of the first four years of the conflict should put to rest the claims by people like former vice president Dick Cheney that the administration did not ignore Afghanistan.
The truth is that administration chose to invade Iraq when they knew that more resources were needed in Afghanistan. This history sheds some light on Obama’s decision to send more forces to Afghanistan. Those on the left who disagree with this decision should read this manuscript, and then they will see that Afghanistan is another George W. Bush mess that Obama has to clean up.
Read the full manuscript of A Different Kind of War at The New York Times.